Thursday, April 25, 2019

Review: Bent but Not Broken by Don Cummings

If you have ever had or been around a baby boy, you probably noticed as soon as he discovered his penis. Hands down the diaper, fiddling with this most intriguing of toys. And this fascination (fixation?) doesn't seem to abate much as boys grow up. Perhaps the only thing that eclipses the penis in importance as most boys grow up is the idea and then the reality of sex. But what happens when a man is faced with penis problems? Of course there's Viagra or Cialis but impotence is not the only ill that can befall a man. In Don Cummings' honest and open memoir, he discusses his experience living with and treating Peyronie's disease, a condition where scar tissue and/or plaque build up in the penis causing a painful penile curvature.

Cummings is a middle aged, gay man whose hitherto perfectly normal, average penis suddenly becomes curved, making erections painful and sex with his partner all but impossible. Cummings definitely identifies himself very much in terms of his sexuality and sexual life. He is very focused on his looks and his perceived desirability to others. The unexplained onset of this condition leaves him reeling and searching for answers not only to how it happened to him but also how to fix it. Without his ability to have sex, who is he really?

Cummings shares very honestly about the emotional turmoil this is putting him through and details the excruciating sounding (thank heaven for numbing medication!) physical treatments he undergoes to try and combat and prevent the calcification of the plaque causing the bending and constricting of his penis. But in addition to his treatment experience, the failures, the successes, and the acceptance, he also weaves in details from his childhood, memories of growing up, coming out, his sexual experiences along the way, and the stress of Peyronie's on his many years long relationship with his boyfriend and eventual husband. The memoir can be a little overly graphic such as when his penis becomes too bent to achieve penetration or when he details a specific sexual encounter and he uses a lot of penis slang I thought was only the purview of middle school boys: rocket, rod, tube steak, tuber, member, Celtic tiger, etc. There is no doubt that this condition was incredibly hard for him (pun intended), especially given his heavily weighted focus on himself as a sexual being. He comes across as a little arrogant and certainly cocksure until Peyronie's strikes, when his repeated assertion of his previous desirability becomes more a plea than a certainty. Perhaps as a woman I will never understand the central importance of the penis to any man, but especially to a man like Cummings who knows its measurements before and after being afflicted, who has felt like he wielded it as a gift during his sexual prime, and who is so intimately and emotionally connected with his penis. In fact, the most relatable piece of this memoir to me was that this condition appears to be related to Dupuytren's contracture, a condition my dad had in both of his hands, the surgical repair of which was apparently quite painful. Does this mean I need to warn my sons to watch their penises even more than I suspect they already do? Cummings' memoir may aim to take away the shame or embarrassment about penis imperfections and to raise awareness about issues we rarely or never discuss but I still suspect my boys would rather not have this conversation with their mother.  In any case, although I didn't love it, this is an occasionally funny, informative memoir on a topic I never would have known about otherwise.

For more information about Don Cummings and the book, check our his author website, like his author page on Facebook or follow him on Instagram or Twitter, look at the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and Heliotrope Books for sending me a copy of this book to review.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, I had no idea this was even a thing so this book was definitely enlightening on the topic. Thank you for being on the tour! Sara @ TLC Book tours


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