This week, the Cut published “Darkness on the Edge of Cougartown,” an essay by Sarah Miller about the experience of being a woman in a relationship with a younger male partner. In it, Miller writes about how, when she began dating a man nine years younger than her, she started noticing other “cougars” everywhere — like Demi Moore, who was then married to Ashton Kutcher, a man 15 years her junior. When Moore and Kutcher’s divorce was finalized in 2013, Miller says, “it seemed like scientific proof we would break up too.”
Miller and her boyfriend didn’t break up, but she still harbored anxieties that their age gap would one day prove too much, that her boyfriend would leave her, and she would be alone: “Just like Demi Moore, except without that new young guy she got after Ashton — the Australian pearl heir, who had a real pearl embedded in his penis.”
Well, that Australian pearl heir with a bejeweled penis has a name, he would like you to know, and it is Will Hanigan. After Miller’s essay was published, Hanigan reached out to the Cut, asking that his name being used “in conjunction with body part references to enlighten readers to my pearl embedded jewelry designs, as well as my pearl enhanced paraphernalia.”
Hanigan, who briefly dated Demi Moore in 2013, when he was 30 and she was 50, comes from a long line of pearl divers, and grew up diving and harvesting the precious gems in northwestern Australia. Now in his mid-30s, he says he’s too old for pearl diving, but he has his own pearl business, and sells gems and necklaces in stores and trunk shows around the world.
After we received his email, the Cut asked Hanigan if we could ask him some questions about his “pearl enhanced paraphernalia.” He graciously accepted, and on Friday morning, we spoke on the phone while he waited to board a flight to L.A. from Paris, where he had been selling his pearls for Fashion Week.
Let’s jump right into it. And please stop me if any of the questions make you uncomfortable or you don’t want to answer them. So, you have a pearl in your penis.
Can you tell me a little bit about that? I read in the New York Daily News that it’s a family tradition.
Oh no, my dad disputes that. I’m the only one who’s crazy enough to do it in my whole family. It’s a pearling tradition, and it was started originally by the Japanese pearl divers, and it’s been adopted by mainly the Yakuza back in Japan. So it’s a really small market of people. Apparently Polynesians have been known to do it as well. I got into it through being around all the other pearl divers. I grew up on the pearling boat. And so, guys did that, and I thought it seemed like kind of a funny thing to do.
How did you find someone to do the procedure?
I witnessed it happening on the pearling boat, and the boys would just do it to each other. They’re using a sharp knife, and pearl opening tools, or the tools that the Japanese were using to operate on the pearl shell. I didn’t think that that was very sanitary. When you’re pearl diving, you’re wet all day, and you’re in a wetsuit, and very prone to infection. So I waited until the off-season, in the summertime, and I found a doctor in Sydney. I started selling him pearls to do the procedures on other people, and then I decided to do it myself.
And what makes a good penis pearl?
I think location. I started with two, and I lost one. Just to infection, I guess. It probably wasn’t set deeply enough, or far enough back along the shaft. But it’s all about location. The idea is that it sits like a dorsal fin on a shark, and when you’re in missionary or cowgirl, then it would be stimulating the G-spot. That’s the whole theory behind it.
Have you found that to be accurate?
Yeah. It was more of a thing for my 20s [laughing]. I’m pretty settled down now.
How long did recovery take?
He gave me a month, but I couldn’t wait a month [to have sex]. I failed. The first one I lost it in about two weeks. It was a bit further towards the end, and wore through. It just kind of popped out.
Oh! Was that painful?
No, because the skin was dead by then. It’s like inserting an implant, so you have to cut a pocket under the skin and separate the skin from the fascial tissue. And then you insert the pearl, and then you put four stitches per pearl. The time frame is really just for those stitches to heal and to make sure you don’t get infection.
Would you tell women about it before you got intimate? Or was it a surprise?
Well, this was in my 20s, and quite often my friends would just go around and tell all the girls at the bar because they thought it was funny, and to pique interest. So often people found out about it before I even told them. And yeah, I would generally tell someone, otherwise they might think that it was a genital wart or something.
And do you still have the pearl?
Do you ever plan to take it out, or is it a forever thing?
No, it’s still there, it’s still doing its job. In its time, it was something that might be a point of difference, something to intrigue and incite. But I guess now it’s more to do with my pearling tradition. It’s a cultural thing.
How did you hear about Sarah Miller’s essay, and what made you want to reach out to us?
I’m well-read, and I have a lot of friends that are writers. They said, Oh, there’s this great quote about you. And I read it, and it’s good, but you know … I thought, if they’re gonna talk about my manhood, they should at least talk about my name. I think it’s worthy. But it is a nice image, a nice portrait. So I reached out. It’s funny that that’s how I was described. It’s accurate.