Sturm Und Wang: or, much ado about a great big phallic ice sculpture

You gotta love the Ivy League.

From the hallowed halls of Harvard come the future leaders of the Free World, young lions who will make the world safe from tyrants, the evil patriarchy, and...

...giant ice-penises?

In the wake of the Great Blizzard of 2003, in the second week of February, something truly amazing sprung up (ahem) in Harvard Yard. According to the Harvard Crimson, the university's daily newspaper, an "enormous phallus" made entirely of snow and "which had life-like veins, a urethral bulge, and a sizeable scrotum" was erected (ahem) by a group of unknown students. Not your run-of-the-mill snowman, to be sure.

Predictably, this nine foot tall (!!!) ice-wang caused a bit of a stir in the excruciatingly politically correct confines of Harvard. It seemed to inspire something akin to pagan worship in some people; in others, it provoked sheer fury. For an entire week the snowy scrotum stood proudly, tumescently glistening in the bright post-blizzard sun. It seemed destined to remain at full attention forever, or at least until Springtime. But alas, a great plot was brewing against the Great Icy Symbol of the Repressive Patriarchy.

Less than a week after the glorious erection (ahem) of the snowpenis, it was destroyed with extreme prejudice by parties unknown. Such a violent act of aggression against a defenseless, joyful symbol of All That Is Guyhood was the impetus for an impassioned, screamingly funny article subsequently published in the Crimson. Jonathan H. Esensten, the paper's executive editor, asked the anguished question:

why did the enormous phallus...elicit such iconoclastic fanaticism? And how could students who are normally so respectful of public art forms and self-expression react so violently to a harmless ice-covered phallus in their midst?

Why, indeed.

Esensten went on to mourn the fallen phallus, reminding readers that

Such questions are especially troubling given the long and distinguished history of phallic imagery in art. The greatest poets of ancient Greece, for example, used the phallus liberally. In Aristophanes’ comedy “Acharnians,” the protagonist Dikaiopolis holds a religious procession with a model phallus and sings a bawdy song called the phallikon in Greek. He instructs his slave to hold a “phallus-pole” up stiff and straight and sings an ode to the “midnight rambler and carouser.” The phallus procession was a celebration of a peace treaty that Dikaiopolis had personally arranged with the enemy Spartans. In “Lysistrata,” another comedy by Aristophanes, the women of Athens go on a sex strike to force their men to give up a ruinous war. Soon, the soldiers can no longer fight because of their chronically-swollen members. Since the phallus is a symbol of peace in both cases, the violence of the phallus-breakers is especially ironic.

Esenstan argued with great scholarly passion that the penis is an overwhelmingly positive symbol throughout religious and artistic history. He posited that perhaps the culprits "were reacting with bourgeois conventionality in labeling challenging art as subversive. Or maybe they were acting on some radical women’s liberation agenda that requires the destruction of visible symbols of male virility." The article concluded that though "the phallus might be threatening as a reminder of the subjugation of women by the hard-hearted, monolithic patriarchy," if such a happy circumstance was to ever again occur in Harvard Yard, "the phallus breakers should keep their hands off."

Surprisingly, the snowpenis' obituary inspired one of the perpetrators to confess to her actions. There is no way I could possibly do justice to the nobility of her cause, so here, in her own words and in full, is the Great Ballbreaker herself, Amy E. Keel:

To the editors:

I, Amy Elise Keel, proudly own up to the fact that it was indeed me—with my roommate—who dismantled the obscene snow penis “sculpture” in Tercentenary Theater. To call this a “cowardly act of vandalism,” as does Jonathan H. Esensten ’04 in his opinion piece, is absurd (Comment, “The Broken Phallus of Harvard Yard,” Feb. 19).

The penis “sculpture” was not an official Harvard installation, and the men who put it up had no permission to do so. It was perfectly within my rights to take down this object which was incredibly offensive to me. As a student of Harvard University, neither I, nor any other woman, should have to see this obscene and grossly inappropriate thing on my way to class. No one should have to be subjected to an erect penis without his or her express permission or consent.

Many women and men, including myself, are the victims of sexual assault, child sexual abuse and rape. The unwanted image of an erect penis is an implied threat; it means that we, as women, must be subject to erect penises whether we like it or not. There was nothing “challenging” or “subversive” about the penis. The only thing it did was create an uncomfortable environment for the women of Harvard University.

Once again-—what my roommate and I did was not cowardly, but instead quite brave.

This penis was not the “symbol of peace,” of which Esensten writes in his comment. These men felt that it was their right to build this pornographic sculpture whose only purpose could be to assert male dominance. I am dismayed that The Crimson chose to both publish the picture of the snow penis and Esensten’s commentary, both of which were extremely offensive.

Amy E. Keel ’04

Feb. 20, 2003

Let the record show that I very nearly wet my pants laughing as I read this. All of it. Every last passionate, earnest sentence of this, the Great Phallic Upheaval of 2003.

Let the record also show that I am glad that I can rest fully assured that the future leaders of the Free World will be able to prudently dispatch any menacing nine-foot ice-penises. The parents of these freedom fighters must be so proud to know that their 150,000 dollars in tuition fees are funding such heroic and laudable efforts!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have an ice sculpture to make...

For a picture and the latest news on the debate, check out But don't say I didn't warn you.
Update, 2007: I linked to this node for a daylog and found that the majority of really funny nodeshells and nodes I used for this writeup are gone. That's sad.

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