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GREAT Expectations

May 8, 2009

Penises. What’s manlier than a penis? A rod, a slong, a tool, a spike, a hose. A manly penis is hard and always ready to rise to the occasion like a solider on the frontlines of the gender war. Infallible. Primal. Bullshit.

What happens to the fragile male fascade when the expectations can never be fulfilled? When the glass house is brought down not by a rock but by a blank? What’s left in the wreckage? Real men don’t have metal between their legs but flesh and blood that doesn’t always stand at attention. Penises are as individual as the men they’re attached to. Some are small and some large. Some are thick. Some are thinner. Everyone functions a little differently, and every penis has experienced a situation where it fired too soon, too often, or not at all.

Penis as Rocket

So where does this idea of penis as rocket come from?


Advertisers have been feeding us images of the penile power in both obvious and subtle ways.


This ad makes me feel pecuilarly uncomfortable. Pay pecuilar attention to the way the product is described. Words and phases such as, hit her, blow in her face, oh yes appear in the description. The connection between sex and the product is obvious. If we take it the next step and interpret the cigarette to be represent the penis then my discomfort comes more clear. The smoke represents ejaculation.


The power of these penis symbols is sometimes portrayed through the power they have over women.


You can see this in the ad below as well.


Embodiment of the ideal penis/sausage



It’s like they’re saying, REAL men have REAL big packages. I wonder how much these have been photoshopped.

Trying to obtain the rod

After an unrealistic expecation established, our capitalist society steps in with a solution.


But that’s not all.

Much like women who go under the knife to be more feminine (read thinner, bigger busts etc), men also go under the knife for a more masculine presentation of the body. Phalloplasty is a procedure where men can go under the knife to have their penises either lengthen or given more girth. According to the following website which describes the procedure,

Between 2003 and 2005, 594 patients underwent phalloplasty at multiple surgical centers.

Some men do have medical issues preventing them from enjoying sex with their partner and for them these products and procedures are medical necessary. However, the real money comes from convincing healthy men that their penis, either it’s how they function or their dimensions, is inadequate. The same website above also reports that: “about 2% of men have penises with dimensions that are considered inadequate for successful sexual intercourse.” If only two percent of the male population was using Viagra then I wouldn’t see ads for it every time I turned on my television.

The most important symbol of masculinity is the penis. If we want to have an honest conversion about masculinity then let’s start down there. These penile myths hurt both men and women in different ways. I’ll explore more on how the penis as spike hurts women more in later posts.

(For more information on this topic, check out Susan Bordo’s book,

The Male Body A New Look at Men in Public and Private.

I’m Rebekah Carrow. I’m a sociologist and a feminist working in the anti-violence against women movement in Virginia.

  1. May 2, 2009 7:48 am

    It’s nice to know that many men are not confident with their bodies so that they need to have a certain surgery only to attract women. Women are not alone. 🙂 they are equal! 😀

  2. Emily permalink*
    May 11, 2009 11:12 am

    If only both men and women were confident about their bodies, then it really would be a perfect world. This just shows that while the culture says that women must adhere to feminine standards, men must adhere to masculine standards as well. If only people realized that every person: man, woman, male, and female, have masculine and feminine qualities in them!

  3. thomasmurphymusic permalink
    May 11, 2009 1:41 pm

    In her amazing essay, “In Our Present Day White Christian Culture”, Jacqueline Rose paraphrases Freud, saying, “We are most willing to go to extremes when our own self-love is threatened”. I have often thought that many men must have a similar terror towards their penises as I do, but their repression of this terror puts them in constant danger of their self-love being destroyed.

  4. Jay permalink
    May 11, 2009 4:07 pm

    Freud also said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

    • May 12, 2009 7:39 pm

      So do you think that the example above fits into that “sometimes”? If so, why?

      • Jay permalink
        May 19, 2009 5:05 pm

        Not necessarily, but possibly. You can apply a Freudian interpretation to just about anything and make it work. I think it is interesting to generally write Freud off as sexist bunk, except when it is convenient to do dime-store analysis on others’ various defense mechanisms (e.g. repression, denial). Freud conveniently left himself an out in the “cigar is just a cigar” idea. In response to the psychoanalysts reductionism, Frankl said he wasn’t willing to be reduced down to his reaction formations and denials. I think it is likely that those men who are allegedly repressing their own penis-terror are also more complex than a simple Freudian defense mechanism. It is not productive to reduce any group to a monolith (or a phallus, for that matter).

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