The epigrams of the Carmina Priapea comically celebrate the exploits of the ithyphallic god Priapus, most often seen lording over his garden threatening would-be thieves with rape. In so doing, they promote a phallocentric sex-gender ideology whose valorized position was reserved for the active man who could control himself and dominate others. But the physical experience of reading these poems runs counter to the codes of masculinity their content upholds. Their rhythms and sounds immerse the reader in a range of all-over pleasures that undermine the bodily comportment championed and embodied by Priapus himself. They thereby invite their readers to experience what I call the touch of the cinaedus, an expansive sensuality associated with this maligned sexual type. The Carmina Priapea's ongoing suggestion that entering this garden of verse will turn its readers into cinaedi might, then, be read as a promise as well as a threat. This promise is no less than the promise of poetry itself, a form of linguistic organization that invites all readers to revel in the cinaedus' liberating touch.
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