‘Koteka’, the Papuan Penis Gourd
As a variation on the codpiece, the ‘penis gourd’ is an item of clothing, and often the only one worn by men of the highland tribes of Papua New Guinea. They are typically made from a particular species of dried gourd, Lagenaria siceraria, for those who must know. Usually the long, funnel-like growth is worn over the penis, and secured by one loop of twine wrapped around the scrotum and another around the waist. Generally each tribe or clan, or even family, describe their particular Koteka, and the decorations added to it, differently, and so therefore the device has an identifying function too.
Added to that, if one searches the name, and studies the images that come up, it is clear that there is a strong symbolism implied, and it hardly takes a genius to conclude that ‘big’ and ‘long’ are the preferred styles.
We will not get into that. Obviously early anthropologists, when they noticed the phenomenon, were immediately interested, but the missionaries who also arrived on the island at the same time were scandalized. The anthropologists began immediately to catalogue and study the use of Koteka, and the letter set to work trying to stamp their use out. The native Papuans, however, would not give them up. They clung with particular tenacity to their cultural tradition, as they do to this day.
By the 1970s, the practice was still widespread enough that a reformist-minded government launched ‘Operation Penis Gourd’ to try and introduce western styles of dress to the traditional tribes. Some social force was applied in attempting to achieve this, but even that did not succeed in noticeably reducing the scope of the practice. All that could be mandated as a requirement of law was that a minimum of shorts and a buttoned shirt be worn in a court of law, or in any public building.
Some South American native tribes, mainly Amazonian, have also been reported to wear a style of penis gourd, and very rarely, in tropical Africa. In both of these regions, however, the practice has disappeared, although some compromise to modern life has taken place in Papua New Guinea, the Koteka is still very much around, and in use on a day to day basis.