Random House: Bringing You the Best in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Children's Books
Newletters and Alerts

Buy now from Random House

  • Hung
  • Written by Scott Poulson-Bryant
  • Format: eBook | ISBN: 9780307781413
  • Our Price: $9.99
  • Quantity:
See more online stores - Hung


A Meditation on the Measure of Black Men in America

Written by Scott Poulson-BryantAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Scott Poulson-Bryant


List Price: $9.99


On Sale: February 23, 2011
Pages: 224 | ISBN: 978-0-307-78141-3
Published by : Broadway Books Crown/Archetype
Hung Cover

Share & Shelve:

  • Add This - Hung
  • Email this page - Hung
  • Print this page - Hung
This book has no tags.
You can add some at Library Thing.


Following in the footsteps of such bestselling, taboo-breaking books as Randall Kennedy’s Nigger and J. L. King’s On the Down Low, Hung brings a topic previously discussed only in intimate settings out into the open. In a brilliant, multilayered look at the pervasive belief that African American men are prodigiously endowed, Scott Poulson-Bryant interweaves his own experiences as a black man in America with witty analyses of how black male sexuality is expressed in books, film, television, sports, and pornography. “Hung” is a double entendre, referring not only to penis size but to the fact that black men were once literally hung from trees, often for their perceived sexual prowess and the supposed risk it posed to white women. As a poignant reminder, he begins his book with a letter to Emmett Till, the teenager who was lynched in Mississippi in the mid-1950s for whistling at a white woman. For Poulson-Bryant and other men of his generation, society’s deep-seated obsession with the sexual powers of black men has had an enormous, if often deceptive, influence on how they perceive themselves and on the assumptions made by others. His tales of his sexual encounters with both sexes, along with anecdotes about the lives of various friends and colleagues, are wryly and at times shockingly revealing. Enduring racial perceptions have shaped popular culture as well, and Poulson-Bryant offers a thorough, thought-provoking look at media-created images of the “Well-Hung Black Male.” He deftly deconstructs movies like Mandingo and Shaft, articles in the popular press, and edgy works like Robert Mapplethorpe’s Black Book, while also providing distinctive profiles of icons like porn star Lexington Steele and rapper L.L. Cool J.A scintillating mixture of memoir and cultural commentary, Hung is the first and only book to take on phallic fixation and uncover what lies below. Readers may be scandalized, but they’ll also have plenty to ponder about America’s views on how black men measure up.



Measuring Up

Allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Scott and I am a black man in America. I've never done hard time. I've never been arrested. I don't have any kids. I know I'm invisible to many, but I also know that I'm highly visible to more.

I've been told that I am a success story.

I like to think that I measure up.

I'm a suburban kid. I was educated at an Ivy League university that at the time was dubbed the "hot college" because everyone wanted to go there. I've had some success in the Manhattan media world, and don't they say that if you can make it in New York, New York, you can make it anywhere? I've even been a "first black"-I was, I've been told, the first black music journalist to have a national column in a major music magazine. I named Vibe magazine Vibe, and I've interviewed everyone from Michael Jackson (when I was a suburban twelve-year-old kid) to Prince (when he wasn't doing interviews) to Mike Tyson to Dennis Rodman. I've been a regular on a TV chat show. I've done Charlie Rose three times. I've been mentored by some of the best my field has to offer and I've mentored some successful folks in my field. It's been said that I foresaw the success of Puff Daddy before anyone else in the forward-looking world of New York journalism. I live in NYC in the summer and Miami's South Beach in the winter, because I want to and because I can. I've had successful relationships, and I love my parents and my parents love me.

Sure, I like to think that, in the grand American rat race that is life, I measure up.

But even with a laundry list of accomplishments that makes my résumé attractive, there are still days when I go to the gym and I get out of the shower and wrap my towel close around me, because I am a black man, and for a black man I just may not-in the swinging-dick sense of the words-"measure up."

That's because, you see, I'm what people call a grow-er and not a show-er. In other words, my soft hanging dick is not the monster of Mapplethorpean proportions that draws looks of wonder and awe. Of course many men are grow-ers rather than show-ers, but that doesn't mean I'm not still conscious of it. Partly because I'm a man-and men are concerned about those things-but also partly because I am a black man.

In other words, I should be hung like a horse. I should be the cock of the locker-room walk, singing and swinging and getting merry like every day is, for hung brothers, Christmas.

But I'm not. I guess I could spend the last few seconds of my shower doing my own fluff job, spanking little Scott into some semierect state that speaks more to the size of my actual sex-ready self. But would it be worth it? To let that towel fly free just in case I get some stares from the dudes lining the room, stepping into their own boxers and briefs and bikinis? Of course it would be worth it, because I am a black man and black men are hung like horses. I'm not. So what kind of black man am I?

But here's the thing. I don't want to measure up in the locker room. I don't want to be the stereotype. I don't want to be Mister Myth, because if I am, then I'm just a dick; the big dick in the locker room; the recipient of the real, live, guy-on-guy penis envy no one talks about; the guy white boys hate yet want to be; the brother other black dudes recognize as representative of their gender; the stone-cold stud with a dick of doom. I think of black-man dick and I think that once upon a time we were hung from trees for being, well, hung. The sexual beast, the loin-engorged predator, the big-dicked destroyer not just of pure pristine white women but also of white men's sense of themselves. That's where black men have found themselves, culturally speaking: hung. Strung up from trees; lynched to protect the demure pureness of white women; dissed to soothe the memory sin of slave-raping white masters; castrated to save the community from the sexual brutality black men trail behind them like a scent-the scent of the stereotypical boogeyman created by the fears of a nation. And I don't want anything to do with that ugly American history, the stereotypes that have been created to control me-do I?

Hell yeah, my inner ear tells me, I do. Fuck history. Let's be real here: Who doesn't want to have the biggest dick in the room?

Speaking of history, here's a flashback, my own first history lesson, if you will.

The place: Providence, Rhode Island. The time: spring 1986, my sophomore year in college.

I'm dancing at the RISD Tap Room, a smoky second-floor dive just down the hill from Brown University, a sorta rathskeller hangout for the artsy students who attend the Rhode Island School of Design and the local beer drinkers who love them. I'm dancing, like I said, a plastic cup of beer in my hand, a baseball cap on my head, wearing a cotton Oxford shirt and a pair of Levi's jeans. I'm sorta buzzed and I want a cigarette. I look around for a smoker because I hadn't yet reached that point where I was buying my own cigs; I was still arrogant enough to think that if I bummed all the butts I smoked, I wasn't really a smoker.

There's one, a white girl in a plain T-shirt with a bushy crown of brown curls, nodding her head to the synthesizer beat of Depeche Mode while she sits at a bruised-up little wooden table behind me and my crew. She smiles at me and holds open the soggy red-and-white box of Marlboros sitting on the table among the cups of beer. I take a cig. She flicks her Bic. I lean in to light the smoke. Before I can pull away, she says, "You are so cute." And I say, "Thanks" and start dancing again. By the time the next record starts, she's standing next to me, dancing next to me, sustaining eye contact with a vengeance.

We dance. We talk. We laugh. Her name is Kelly and she's from Michigan and she was a student in Providence but she's dropped out to work and "experience life." She asks me at one point, apropos of, it seems to me at the time, nothing, "What size shoe do you wear?" I look down at my Nikes, wondering where that question came from, and that's what I say to her: "Where does that question come from?" She shrugs and smiles and says, "I just noticed, that's all. Then again, you are a big guy." We dance some more. And drink some more beer. And laugh some more. By the time she's grinding against me, to a song that doesn't exactly require any sort of grinding, I'm beginning to see the light. This girl wants me. She wants me bad. Here I was, dancing and drinking in the RISD Tap Room, feeling cooler than cool, a Brown sophomore in Levi's and a button-down shirt, dancing with a white girl to the guitar strains of the Cure, and she wants to bed me. Not that I went out looking for it-which, when you're a well-raised young black man like me, is what you tell yourself when a white girl comes on to you.

When you're a well-raised young black man like me the voice in your inner ear sometimes sounds like your dad, your dad who grew up in the South in the forties and fifties, who knew what it was like to live life on the front lines of the constant battle for black male respect. When you're a well-raised young black man like me, you check yourself when a white girl's dangling the come-on, and you wonder what it is about you that made her seek you out. Are you just black enough to nab a white chick? Or are you, like she says, just a cute guy who likes to dance and smoke in the Tap Room because the Tap Room is the cool place to be?

Cut to Kelly's off-campus apartment, where we can hear her roommate watching late-night TV in the living room, laughing at a stand-up comic. We can hear her roommate because there is no door to Kelly's room, just some Indian-type fabric hanging across the doorway, blowing in the slight breeze from the open window near her bed.

We're done, me and Kelly. I'm a little new to this, this meeting a strange girl and going to her spot and getting some ass. I'm also new to sex with white girls. I didn't do it in high school and the only girl I'd fooled around with at Brown was a black chick who, I'd later find out, didn't really want to be with dudes anyway. But we're done, me and Kelly, and we're lying there, twisted in the sheets, sweating, postorgasmic, passing a cigarette between us like we're in some French New Wave movie.

She turns to me, reaches down, and touches my dick. And she smiles. "That was really good," she says. And then she says, "I thought you'd be bigger than you are."

I look down at myself, turn to her, and shake my head. "So did I."

Which was true.

"Why?" I ask her.

"Because you're black," she replied. "Black guys have big penises."

I didn't know what to say to that. Inside, I felt this sudden explosion of self-doubt. Partly because I'd had a cousin who'd explained to me when I was a kid that if you have a little dick, you're not a man. I knew I didn't have a little dick, but apparently I didn't measure up to expectations, for myself and this chick at least. So this is what happens when you fool around with white girls? Later a buddy of mine, upon hearing this story, says yes, it is, telling me, "You got White-Girl-ed."

Which in his mind meant I'd been dragged home with Kelly because I was black, because she was white, and because she was experiencing a little of what Spike Lee would soon popularize as Jungle Fever.

See, White-Girl-ed meant that I hadn't been out there trolling to bed a white chick. White-Girl-ed meant that I hadn't had to go out there trolling for a white chick. I didn't have to, my buddy explained, because there were enough of them out there trolling for us, for black men, for the big black dick of their fantasies, for the big black dick they had probably been warned their whole lives against seeking out. And why was that exactly? The flip side of fantasy, the other side of desire, was the distorted fun-house-mirror image of black men as objects of fear; the myth of the black man as the big-dicked beast, always on the lookout for vulnerable white girls and eager to purloin them of their purity, had been so culturally enforced that trolling for white girls was pointless: endowed with the enduring myth of sexual aggressor, demonized by it though we may be, black men only end up being more attractive to them.

"White people believe in myths," he said. "They have to, or else they couldn't exist. Nor could we," he added, "in their eyes, at least."

This was the beginning of an education for me, an education in the twisted ways in which race and sex rage through American culture, fanning the flames that are constantly charring the walls of America, the place James Baldwin called "this burning house of ours." Sure, I'd seen Roots. Sure, I knew my black history, all the names and dates and events that built the totems of black pride that defined my community and myself. I'd been educated in the ways of white folks, about the hurtling inevitability of racism rearing its ugly head, even in a world where some of my best friends were white. I'd even heard my father's words about dating white women, about the very real possibility of some white people (and some black people) taking issue with such behavior. I'd heard all that.

What I didn't have was any insight into the potential for self-discovery that occurs when all the discordant strands of lessons I'd learned were braided into one big cohesive lesson. Because it wasn't only Kelly's bold forthrightness that bothered me, her "white" way of making me feel "black" when all I was trying to be was a guy. I was also bothered by my response to what she'd said to me. For me, through all the lessons learned up to then, there had never been an intersection of race and sex before I'd lain down with the white chick in Providence. I'd risen from her bed a changed man.

"So did I." That had been my response to her statement. "So did I," as in: I agree, I thought I'd have a bigger dick, too. There was shame in that response but also a nagging question, as in: Why the shame? What had seeped into my consciousness about my emotional self that could be so affected by a quantitative judgment about my physical self? I partly knew the answer to that. The same cousin who'd told me about the lack of masculinity that came with a little dick had also once told me-when I was about thirteen-that eight and a half inches was average. And I knew I wasn't packing an eight-and-a-half-inch dick, and since I was probably about to stop growing, I never would be packing an eight-and-a-half-inch dick. I thought of myself as damaged and I was ashamed of it. Of course some of this also had to do with my thorough lack of sexual experience. I had no idea what women wanted and I had no idea whether I'd be able to satisfy them with whatever size dick I had. I'd had sex before but I was, essentially, an emotional virgin. And an idiot, truth be told, still carrying around my cousin's Guide to Sex in my teenaged brain.

I ultimately had to figure out that my cousin's lectures to me were all about us being guys. Black guys, yes, but guys nonetheless. Now I had my experience with Kelly and my college buddy's White-Girl-ed education to add a race element to that. What was it about my "guyness" that was truly supposed to be defined by my "blackness"?

More sex with Kelly didn't exactly answer all the questions I suddenly had-except one: that I wasn't the first black guy she'd slept with. More sex with Kelly did, however, change both my sexual and racial relationship to her. I knew now that I was a "black" guy having sex with a "white" woman. And there was something actually liberating about that. All the cards were on the table and there was nothing political or cultural to bluff through anymore. The well-raised young black guy in me didn't behave in such a well-raised way when we got together two more times. Somehow I'd figured out that even if I didn't have the huge black penis of her fantasy I could still fuck her like I did. We were louder, rougher, tougher, blacker. We never met each other's friends. We only screwed like animals in the room with the Indian-print cloth across the door. She thought I'd be bigger and so had I. But it was enough for both of us. Because, I suppose, at the end of the day, in the sweaty, postcoital silence poked through with cigarette puffs, we both sort of suspected about my dick what James Baldwin had written in Just Above My Head: "It was more a matter of its color than its size . . . its color was its size."

From the Hardcover edition.
Scott Poulson-Bryant|Author Q&A

About Scott Poulson-Bryant

Scott Poulson-Bryant - Hung
SCOTT POULSON-BRYANT was one of the founding editors of Vibe magazine. He has also written for Spin, Rolling Stone, the New York Times, The Source, and Essence. He lives in New York.

Author Q&A

Pop culture journalist Scott Poulson-Bryant explores a belief that has captured the American imagination–namely, the idea that African American men are bigger and therefore better when it comes to their prized member.Scott recently took some time to explore with BLACK INK the controversy of how Black men measure up in America:Black Ink: HUNG deals with a concept that many people have privately dealt with but has rarely found a public forum. What made you decide to create a work that would put the notion of Black male endowment in a more public setting? Scott Poulson-Bryant: To tell you the truth, the notion of Black male endowment already is in a public setting. We just like to act like it’s not. I was reading in the paper just the other day that Mike Tyson was reportedly looking to star in a porn film. Okay. Fine, if you say so. But then the article went on to mention the exact supposed dimensions of Tyson’s penis size. Why? Because people seem fascinated by the idea of it. I was watching Big Brother on TV the other night and the sole Black guy in the house was taking a shower. One by one, almost every person in the house, starting with one of the masculine heterosexual white guys, went over to the shower to get a glimpse of the black guy’s “big chocolate pee-pee.” Ya don’t get more public than national TV, you know what I mean?Seriously, though, the idea of how Black men swing has long occupied a place in the public imagination, almost as long as Black men have been part of the American community as slaves, when we were bred to be big and virile and still subservient.I just thought that with HUNG, it was time to give the idea its literary spin. It is something people talk about. Why wouldn’t it be something people might wanna read about?BI: What are some of the ideas around the hung myth that you explore in the book? Which was the most compelling for you to write about? The most difficult? What did you have the most fun with?SPB: The fun thing about writing HUNG was that I could use so many different styles and discourses to discuss such a controversial topic. There are parts of the book that read as memoir, when I talk directly to the reader about my own sexual experiences to highlight certain issues. Then there are parts of the book that are literary and media criticism, where I tackle subjects like the film Mandingo and the O.J. Simpson murder case and the world of pornography.Speaking of porn, I might have had the most fun interviewing Lexington Steele, the famous porn star, who gave me a complete education on what it’s like for Black men in that industry, the power they have and the power they don’t have. I’ve spent my whole career talking to Black men about the work they do–how people behave professionally and creatively has always interested me–but this time I got more than an earful, as you can probably imagine! I think folks will find that section of the book very interesting.The difficult parts of the book were probably the historical elements, where I had to directly address the idea of lynching and slavery and Jim Crow. My research took me to some dark places, and when it came time to actually sit down and write about them, I had to really gear myself up. But that was also a great challenge–to render those ideas with gravity and grace and still be entertaining to the reader.And I have to say, talking to some friends and acquaintances about sex and their experiences was always fun, partly because I so enjoy interviewing people but also because some stuff was just so illuminating. I interviewed one guy with a massive penis who seems almost ashamed of it. I had to wrap my head around that one. But once I did, I got a good sense of where he was coming from. Most people who’ve read the book find his story really interesting.BI: You quote a line from James Baldwin and use it as a connective thread throughout the book: “The color was its size. The size was its color.” Comment on that.SPB: James is a real totem for me, as a writer and as a Black man. I actually quote him quite a bit in the book because he’s such an inspiration. The line that you mentioned is from his last novel, Just Above My Head (which everyone in the world should read!), and it refers to a character, a Black man, who experiences a bit of sex with White women and comes to realize that they all seem amazed by the size of his Johnson. He surmises that it is the color they are most astonished by, most awed by. Metaphorically speaking, it had occurred to me that of course that would be the case: so many people just assume that all Black men are prodigiously endowed that the expectation becomes the rule, the fantasy becomes the reality. The notion of the Black dick” almost doesn’t exist without the signifier “big” before it. “The color was its size; its size was its color” was so, to speak, that germ of an idea that grew HUNG into a book.BI: You interviewed quite a few folks regarding how they view the hung myth. How open were people to talking about this issue? You also reveal how hung you are. How did that feel, to reveal yourself (pun intended) in such a way on the page?SPB: “Hello? My name is Scott Poulson-Bryant. I’m a writer working on a book about penis size and Black men, and I was wondering if–uh, hello? Are you there? Did you hang up on me?”That’s how it was sometimes. Other times people’s responses were so cool and chill that you forget that all this stuff is considered taboo by so many people. I talked to men, women, straight, gay, all races, classes. I found that there were certain very entrenched notions, and I found wildly divergent ideas. Most people, however open they were, did want their names changed in the book. I guess all that dick-talk wouldn’t really make their bosses or significant others all that happy? Who knows. But it was fun.As far as revealing stuff about myself, sexually and emotionally, that’s always been a part of my writing. I’ve been criticized or chastised by people in my writing career for being “too honest” (which I deal with a bit in the book), but I don’t think of it that way. I just think when you call yourself a writer it’s imperative that you cut deep into the vein and bleed as much of the truth onto the page as you can. That’s a sorta gross metaphor but it’s the right one, I think. What’s the point in writing about something so ripe with potential, then pull your punches? As far as talking about the size of my own penis, well, it’s sorta hard to talk about other dudes’ penises and not at least share something about myself, you know? That would be bad sharing and I’ve always been good at sharing, ever since Pre-K. No, to be serious, I try not to have any shame in my game. You can’t or you’d never really accomplish anything in life. Around the same time I realized that I’d never have the biggest dick in the room I started to understand that I also had crazy skills. And at the end of the day, what you show off to the masses in the locker room has nothing on how you prove yourself to one special person in the bedroom.BI: How do you hope the public will react to HUNG?SPB: I hope people discuss the book amongst their friends. I hope people appreciate that I tried to be as honest as I could. I hope that people get my sense of humor. I hope people, especially Black folks, understand that sometimes you got to put some dirty laundry in the street to ensure that the place we call home stays really, really clean. I just hope folks buy it, learn, and laugh.

From the Hardcover edition.



Hung is deeply compelling, disturbing, complex . . . Brave Scott Poulson-Bryant, for putting his size on the line and truly measuring up.” —Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues

Praise for Hung

“Like a new lover, Hung is seductive, startling, smart, and seditious.” —Jill Nelson, author of Sexual Healing

“In Hung, Scott really goes there, talking honestly and telling secrets about the black phallus and its, uh, massive impact on America.” —Touré, author of Never Drank the Kool-Aid

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Your E-Mail Address
send me a copy

Recipient's E-Mail Address
(multiple addresses may be separated by commas)

A personal message: