Drawing Dicks: Military Phallic Foolishness

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April 26, 2024  
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We’ve known some true dick graffiti artists in our time. Chances are you have, too. From porta-shitters on COPs and FOBs to helmet covers to lockers and toolboxes, there are no limitations to the palettes a motivated Penis Picasso can leave drawings of dicks. The world is a penis graffiti palette. But… what’s the deal with military dudes always drawing dicks? Read and learn.   The Mad Duo

P.S. Wagner loves the cock. 

Phallic Graffiti: Military “Dick Pics” Are Nothing New

Phallic graffiti isn’t new. Soldiers have left drawings of dicks since before they were stacking bodies with bronze.

In 2017, a United States Navy aviator piloting an EA-18G Growler and his weapons officer decided to draw a penis over the clear blue skies of Washington State. The junior officers of Electronic Attack Squadron 130 (VAQ0139), also known as the “Zappers,” reportedly had sky time to kill and noticed the white contrails their jet – a variant of the two-seat Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet – was producing and the rest was aviation history.

Look up in the sky… that’s not Superman, its… Penis graffiti? Image: Social media

According to the U.S. Navy’s subsequent investigation, the aviators didn’t count on the contrails to linger long enough for those on the ground to see the phallic rendering.

Whether it was the first such graphic display created by an aircraft, it certainly wasn’t the last – as U.S. Air Force pilots attempted to go bigger with their distinctive rendering in the skies over Ramstein Air Base in Germany just a year later.

The penis contrail art dissipated, and today is only remembered because photos were taken from the ground. Yet, other military-made “dick pics” have endured for eons. Cocksure soldiers have left phallic graffiti across the world in their travels.

It is a tradition as old as warfare, a point made in a 2019 article from Task & Purpose that found that Roman soldiers drew penises on Hadrian’s Wall more than 1,800 years ago. More recently, U.S. soldiers left crude phallic drawings at a military outpost outside of Manbij, Syria, which they knew would be occupied by Russian military personnel.

U.S. soldiers left phallic graffiti as a greeting to Russian troops in a military outpost outside of Manbij, Syria, in 2019. Image: Telegram/Oleg Blokhin

U.S. soldiers left phallic graffiti as a greeting to Russian troops in a military outpost outside of Manbij, Syria, in 2019. Image: Telegram/Oleg Blokhin

More Than Penis Graffiti

Though Roman soldiers may have drawn penis graffiti on Hadrian’s Wall in what is now Northern England in the third century may have been more than mere graffiti.

Phallic graffiti from A.D. 207 that was discovered at a quarry near Hadrian’s Wall by archaeologists from the University of Newcastle. Image: University of Newcastle

Dick graffiti from A.D. 207 that was discovered at a quarry near Hadrian’s Wall by archaeologists from the University of Newcastle. Image: University of Newcastle

“There is definitely phallic graffiti, but much of it is not graffiti in the sense that it was not carved or scratched out as an after-thought,” explained Dr. Rob Collins, senior lecturer, material culture of the Northern Frontier in the School of History, Classics & Archaeology at Newcastle University.

“Many phallic carvings are substantial and in a clear publicly visible area, carved and displayed with intention by the owners or builders of a structure,” Collins told Breach-Bang-Clear. ” In that sense, there is graffiti, but there is also a clear tradition of phallic sculpture and carvings that are not graffiti. Also, these types of carvings were found across the entire empire but in varying degrees of archaeological survival. A phallus was a rather universal symbol across the Mediterranean world, and the Romans exported it through their empire. But they weren’t the only ones, the Egyptians and various Near Eastern societies also made use of phallic symbolism.”

Collins further noted that archaeologists often observe a strong correlation between penis graffiti and the Roman army and its soldiers.

“To some degree that is true, but that is in part because the Roman army is generally very well represented in the archaeological record, and often built in stone – that means there is a greater chance that phallic carvings surviving in the archaeological record,” he added.

Covering Up History

The fact that more isn’t known about phallic imagery isn’t all that surprising – largely because the rise of Christianity and then Islam made the display of such imagery rather taboo.

“There is a definite decline in the carving of phallic representations in the Roman world, particularly the early medieval world,” said Collins. “But this is not necessarily due exclusively to the rise of Christianity; different symbolism and artistic expression became more prevalent.”

Yet another issue is that many phallic carvings (or dick graffiti) are not well-dated archaeologically.

“It is often assumed that phallic carvings had stopped by the 4th century AD. But in those rare instances when we can date carvings, for example, with the assemblage along Hadrian’s Wall, there are a number of examples that were in use or on display during the 4th century,” Collins noted.

It can also be hard to tell what is a “dick pic” left by a soldier or other warrior and what was a legitimate form of artwork – as some cultures also saw the penis as a symbol of fertility, but also as an icon of power. For example, in the Medinet Habu, a temple in Luxor, Egypt, soldiers of Rameses III depict a scene of the penises of the vanquished being taken as trophies after a battle.

In the Middle Ages – when fornication and nakedness became wrapped up with Biblical ideas of sin in Europe – genitalia was still snuck into some art. There are reported to be at least 93 penises in the 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry, according to a count made by professors at the University of Oxford.

"A scene depicting penises being cut from enemies during battle, from Medinet Habu: the mortuary temple of Ramses III," from X, posted by @WhoresofYore

“A scene depicting penises being cut from enemies during battle, from Medinet Habu: the mortuary temple of Ramses III,” from X, posted by @WhoresofYore

The study and appreciation of such artwork – at least in polite company – was further obscured during the Victorian Era

“The study of such imagery has definitely been affected by Victorian sensibilities,” said Collins. “Phallic carvings, at least in Britain, were rarely destroyed, but they were often removed from their findspots and not necessarily studied or displayed. In this regard, scholars have often been aware of such carvings and representations, but they have not been studied as intensively, or even as a group, with research focusing instead on individual examples.”

In that regard, the assemblage from Hadrian’s Wall, across various sites, has taken on even greater importance.

“Many of those examples retain the archaeological context, which allows us as scholars to see where they were positioned within the Roman period, and therefore when they were carved and placed, and begin to understand how they were used/what the function of phallic carvings were,” Collins continued. “Such assemblages are rare and limited to places like Pompeii. From Hadrian’s Wall, we can see that phallic carvings had an apotropaic function – they effectively were used to create a forcefield against bad luck and ill fortune, whether publicly displayed or placed where hidden from view.”

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Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu

About the Author

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based freelance writer who regularly covers firearms related topics and military history. As a reporter, his work has appeared in dozens of magazines, newspapers, and websites. Among those are Homeland Security Today, Armchair General, Military Heritage, The Mag Life, Newsweek, The Federalist, AmmoLand, Breach-Bang-Clear, Newsweek, RECOILweb, Wired, and many (many) others. He has collected military small arms and military helmets most of his life, and just recently navigated his first NFA transfer to buy his first machine gun. He is co-author of the book A Gallery of Military Headdress, which was published in February 2019. It is his third book on the topic of military hats and helmets.

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