Show, don’t tell. The Brindley lecture on erectile dysfunction

So, if you’ve ever taken a creative writing class or workshop, you’ve undoubtedly been enjoined to “show,” rather than “tell.” It’s one of those writing rules that is commonplace to the point of being cliche. In fact, many instructors feel sufficiently self-conscious about offering that advice that they feel obliged to provide caveats. You know, sometimes telling is the right thing to do, and, of course, it depends on how you tell. Blah, blah, blah.

I’m hoping that this blog has at least one reader who has taken a writing course in Japan, because I’m curious as to what the analogous rule is there. Based on a non-comprehensive sampling of dating simulators, manga comics, and Murakami novels, I imagine generations of Japanese MFA students being told “Tell, don’t show!” You know, “Hi, my name is Haruki. I often come off as brash, but underneath it I am actually quite shy. Also, I had a good, healthy bowel movement this morning.”

Anyway, speaking of “show, don’t tell,” I just came across this brief memoir, published in 2005 by Laurence Klotz in the British Journal of Urology International. He fondly recalls a lecture by G. S. Brindley at the 1983 Urodynamics Society meeting in Las Vegas. Brindley had just made a breakthrough in the treatment of erectile dysfunction through self-injection with papaverine. [Note, I don’t know where the “self-injection” has to be.] After showing a series of photographs of erect penises, Brindley wanted to demonstrate that the effect was not the result of a confounding erotic environment:

The Professor wanted to make his case in the most convincing style possible. He indicated that, in his view, no normal person would find the experience of giving a lecture to a large audience to be erotically stimulating or erection-inducing. He had, he said, therefore injected himself with papaverine in his hotel room before coming to give the lecture, and deliberately wore loose clothes (hence the track-suit) to make it possible to exhibit the results. He stepped around the podium, and pulled his loose pants tight up around his genitalia in an attempt to demonstrate his erection.

At this point, I, and I believe everyone else in the room, was agog. I could scarcely believe what was occurring on stage. But Prof. Brindley was not satisfied. He looked down skeptically at his pants and shook his head with dismay. ‘Unfortunately, this doesn’t display the results clearly enough’. He then summarily dropped his trousers and shorts, revealing a long, thin, clearly erect penis. There was not a sound in the room. Everyone had stopped breathing.

But the mere public showing of his erection from the podium was not sufficient. He paused, and seemed to ponder his next move. The sense of drama in the room was palpable. He then said, with gravity, ‘I’d like to give some of the audience the opportunity to confirm the degree of tumescence’. With his pants at his knees, he waddled down the stairs, approaching (to their horror) the urologists and their partners in the front row. As he approached them, erection waggling before him, four or five of the women in the front rows threw their arms up in the air, seemingly in unison, and screamed loudly. 

“I’d like to give some of the audience the opportunity to confirm the degree of tumescence.” Scientific meetings used to be so awesome.

I believe that I found this a couple of days ago via a Twitter or Google+ link, but I’ve lost the origin now. Apologies to the original poster/tweeter. If you know who it is (e.g., if it’s you), please let me know in the comments, and I’ll update with credit.

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