Suzanne Moore’s slightly patronising rules were off-beam, but we do need to bring the male member down a peg or two
I may not have been the first and certainly wasn’t the last to react to Suzanne Moore’s 10 rules for managing your penis by tweeting the Comment is free team: Could I bagsie the follow-up piece on how to manage your vagina? I’ll admit it was less in expectation than in the prevailing spirit of trollolol but anyway, a few moments later I had realised my list would be pretty simple and (yes, I know, not for the first time) scarcely justify the commissioning fee.
However those who argued “you would never let a man write something like this about women’s bits” are quite spectacularly wrong. Our cuture, media and politics have, for thousands of years, positively bubbled with men telling women what to do with their reproductive organs, whether it is instructing against using them too often or too rarely, using them too young, leaving them until they are too old, or medically intervening in their natural and/or God-given functions. Pertinently, many of those voices have been backed by the machineries of state, politics and religion.
I shall not argue that two wrongs make a right, but it would be petty to complain too much about Moore’s patronising advice that I should refrain from trapping my todger in a toaster. Personally, the only item on her list which really made me wince is the recommendation not to be gay, which goes through so many ironic spin cycles it could wring out a hipster’s duffle coat.
Perhaps the penis does need to be brought down a peg or two. Throughout known history the phallus has been invested with symbolic and even magical significance to fertility, strength, domination and conquest. It is a marker of masculine status, and discussed in terms of violent weaponry by braggart men and radical feminists alike. It is the only part of the male body that is commonly ritually mutilated for religious and cultural reasons. It is hardly surprising that those few inches of dilating flesh occasionally swell and burst with pride. You can thank me for that image later.
It is obvious why “small penis” is the go-to insult for anyone wishing to puncture manly hubris. Concerns over size and girth do often dominate men’s – especially adolescent and younger men’s – body image concerns, and comical though it may seem, it causes real distress to some. Very few of those anxieties about length and girth originate in women’s (or gay partners’) concerns, preferences or desires. They mostly boil down to inter-male rivalries and hierarchies of masculinity – the pecker pecking order, if you will: the bigger the mister, the bigger the man.
Wouldn’t it be a relief if after all these millennia we could begin to see the penis as what it is – a rather simple and elegant organ of the body? If you enjoy having one that’s great, and if you don’t have one or don’t want one on you or near you, that’s great too, it’s no big deal either way. Humanity is rich like that.
In my experience, having a penis is excellent. Indeed if I were to list my own 10 favourite bodily organs it would certainly be in the top one. A large proportion of humanity enjoys playing with at least one of them from time to time. They are also very funny, particularly when bathing in a politician’s wine glass. It is good to laugh at penises, but only when they’re together, never, ever when you catch one alone – a bit like the cast of Friends, come to think of it.
The penis is just an organ and an organ is morally neutral. It does not make conquests or win battles, nor does it commit assaults or harass people. Penises do no harm, they just sometimes have the misfortune to be attached to people who do. It’s not the dick between the hip joints that’s the problem, but the dick between the ears.
While we’re about it, after we’ve divested our dicks of dickishness, perhaps we can move on to such ideas as “having balls”, and “growing a pair”. That metaphor is deeply sexist against women and also hits men heavily in shaming them into harmful roles. Much more significantly, it would be a strange kind of courage that could be reduced to a quivering, whimpering puddle of sludge by sitting down too quickly in the wrong underwear. Let’s face it, testicles are rubbish.
To conclude, a few pieces of advice of my own. Check for lumps and blotches; try not to let anyone near your foreskin with a knife without good reason until you’re old enough to know that is what you want; stick to soap and water rather than chemical gunk – and listen to Suzanne about the toaster thing. They’re really not designed for the purpose and anyway, you’ll get much better pressure and heat control with the Breville panini maker.