The counterculture icon of 2020 who scrawled their enigmatic tagline “Penis Man” across all manner of structures has penetrated a new area beyond the tag’s origins in Tempe.
Like Indiana Jones finding cave art in Raiders of the Lost Ark, we noticed the unforgettable “Penis Man” catchline scribbled on the lid of a garbage can just outside The Green Woodpecker bar at Park Central in Midtown in late January.
The new craft beer and taco bar is only a few miles from the West Phoenix home of a man who was nabbed in 2020 on 33 charges including criminal damage, aggravated criminal damage, and criminal trespassing — one count for every “Penis Man” tag that Tempe police found throughout the city and on the campus of Arizona State University.
Tempe cops said at the time that they believed Dustin Shomer, then 38, was the mastermind behind the entire “Penis Man” stunt. Shomer’s seminal art made international news in 2020, even inspiring an online “Penis Man” merchandise store.
Shomer said he was arrested by “25 heavily armed SWAT officers" at his Phoenix home in January 2020. One year later, he pleaded guilty to two felonies — aggravated criminal damage/defacing a school and attempt to commit trespassing in a critical public service facility. He was sentenced to three years of supervised probation, $8,000 in restitution, and 500 hours of community service.
He hasn’t been in legal trouble since, according to police and court records. We tried getting in touch with him, but his phone number has been disconnected, and his social media accounts have been dormant for a couple of years.
But Shomer told Phoenix New Times in 2020 that he was “just a copycat.” And cops aren’t keen on who’s responsible for the latest tagging in Phoenix.
Phoenix police Sergeant Philip Krynsky said Monday that the latest tagging incident wasn’t reported to law enforcement. "I checked with our Property Crimes Bureau, and they have not located any related reports," he said. And Tempe police Sergeant Hector Encinas told us that, “at this time, I do not believe that we do have any reports” of "Penis Man" graffiti in Tempe since Shomer’s arrest.
Veteran local journalist Ray Stern, who authored no less than half a dozen stories about "Penis Man" in the New Times, said he can't speculate if the recent penile presentation at Park Central reminds him of Shomer's handiwork.
But he vividly remembers Shomer's antics and conversations with him.
"Everyone was talking about it," Stern reflected. "Rebellious spirits were moved by the idea of a Banksy-esque character scrawling this PG-13 message, sometimes with populist political statements, on Tempe City Hall and other noteworthy locations. And it was a ready source of outrage for haters."
Will the Real‘Penis Man’ Please Stand Up?
Shomer isn’t alone in claiming that he’s not the only phallic tagger. An anonymous Instagram user who goes by “menispan” posted a screenshot of a New Times article in 2020 and promised to write us “a zodiac-style Penis Manifesto to let ’em know what’s really real.”
Sadly, we never received the Penis Manifesto. But the person behind the “menispan” account sent a blogger a video of himself wearing a pink mask and scrawling “Penis Man” onto a piece of paper with an olive green paint marker. The anon claimed the video was proof that he was the original Penis Man.
But recent speculation about the true identity of "Penis Man" is more bizarre.
One theory floating around claims that Awsten Knight, the frontman of the Houston rock band Waterparks, is the real "Penis Man." Some Twitter and Reddit users including Knight himself have shared a doctored image of a news article about "Penis Man," in which Shomer’s mugshot has been swapped for Knight’s — the most recent was posted this week.
Last year, Knight signed a printed image of the fake article for an Arizona fan.
"thats awsten...? from waterparks right? he Might be the arizona penis man." WHAT— wil (@intltweexcore) November 9, 2022
Otto wood may be a serial killer but Awsten knight is the Arizona penis man and honestly that might be worse— lili (@lilitimess) July 13, 2022
Shomer, however, believes that the original "Penis Man" is one of his high school friends from Tempe. That individual, he said, "coerced" him into doing the tags. And after his arrest, Tempe cops said there were other "Penis Men" still at large.
just saying i've never seen awsten knight and the penis man in the same room together— tulip (@tehetulip) July 13, 2022
Apparently, the movement isn’t quite dead yet. So keep your eyes out for the unmistakable calling card of "Penis Man."
"If you are aware of a victim of [Penis Man], please have them contact our nonemergency number so we can come out and take a report," Krynsky said. "They can make an online report through our website."
Tempe :) pic.twitter.com/OBYF4ZIoum— Penis Man Appreciation Society (@fansofpenisman) August 27, 2021