07 Nov Stop Pretending You Don’t Have Genitals
Let’s talk about bulges and the mass-produced underwear and clothing designed to disguise them.
I have something akin to a general, boilerplate rage about this topic stewing inside of me pretty much all the time. But there aren’t a ton of outlets for that rage, and I don’t think most people realize that it is actually representative of a larger problem.
The essence of it is twofold. One: (the smaller problem) it is slightly more cost effective to produce underwear with a flat front – less fabric, fewer seams, less overall production time. And two: (the real problem) it is not socially acceptable for men to display prominent physical characteristics associated with sexuality. Now, this turns out to be one of those you probably can’t understand it if you haven’t been male your whole life things (which is a shame, since that rarely leads to productive discourse), because whenever I’ve tried to discuss it with women, the conversations devolve into a listing of all the times they’ve “had to see” men’s bulges (*gasp!*) or witnessed men “adjusting themselves,” (the horror!) And all I can do is make this face:
My body is a reality. My penis is there whether our relationship involves you physically acknowledging it or not. I can’t and wouldn’t change that. I’m not the sort of guy to start a “movement” or organize some kind of protest or social something or other. It’s just not my style. But I can change what I do. And I can suggest to others that they do the same. So that’s what I’m doing.
Men: Stop smashing your genitals back into themselves for the comfort of women and society. I know that sounds sexist, but I genuinely believe that this is the core issue here: an acceptable, society-based genital shaming of men, by women. Disclaimer: This is entirely experience based – I’m not here to tell you that I have research or have done scientific studies. But I have talked with a lot of men about their feelings about their genitals. And a surprising number of women. And even women I know to be sex-positive and present in their thinking, sometimes acquire a knee-jerk shaming reaction when confronted with the uncompressed size and shape of my (or others) genitals under clothing. It looks something like this:
My working theory is that this isn’t necessarily based on me or my bulge. But on a lifetime of seeing all men in western society compressed and smashed into flat-front Ken doll simulacra. If you only knew men to look a certain way, a male presenting with a different physicality would seem exceptional. You might be inclined to think that someone was “doing” that – overblowing the size of their sexual organs for attention. And so maybe some of your superiority would be justified (I’m also not here to pretend that gay dudes in bars in Hell’s Kitchen on Friday nights aren’t doing exactly that – but it isn’t the focus of what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about day to day life – casual and business clothing worn in mixed company, in public).
But take that even a step further and contemplate how that face up there reflects to the man you’re aiming it at. Your disgust suggests that he should also be disgusted with his body. That others should be disgusted. And that the man should be ashamed for not restraining the natural shape of his genitals. Ashamed of not controlling his body to suit your needs or comfort.
I have zero interest in having discussions of power scale about this (i.e. “it’s not possible for women to shame men because of the imbalance of power between the genders,”). It is absolutely possible for women to shame men, and some do it without care or attention. That power discrepancy is a debate for another time and a different blog. I’m not here to stick up for men’s rights or the meninist movement, or to pretend that those aren’t just hate-mongering masquerading as rights messages. But the truth is, I can’t number the clients I have spent time with who – after taking off flat-front underwear – describe a lifetime of subtle ridicule from mothers, girlfriends, and wives, for any display of genital prominence in their lives. I have vivid memories of my own mother making fun of my bulge in a department store, during back to school shopping, and telling me to “fix that so it looks normal.”
I’m fed up. I’m done with it. I will not change my body because it makes prudish women on the bus *tsk* at me. I will not uncomfortably compress my penis and testicles so that you can pretend they aren’t there. I will point it out when people I know try to subtly shame me or other men. And I will not buy underwear or clothing that distorts my sexual organs in an effort to fit into polite society. I will do my best not to man-spread or consume space unnecessarily, but not at the expense of the comfort of my body. Because nobody – male, female, trans, or other – should be made to feel badly about the way their body naturally is.
I have external, adult-sized genitals. You can see that under my clothes. I don’t feel badly about that. I am proud of me.
Here are some interesting readings: