You can’t swing a stick without hitting a penis these days. Metaphorically, I mean. Think about it: everywhere you look on the Internet it’s Best Celebrity Bulges this and Top Dick Pics that. And of course, there’s poor Jon Hamm and his much-photographed “Little Hamm.” We should probably leave those two alone for a while.
Our newfound obsession with the male member is well documented, the question is why? Why this sudden fascination with the johnson? It’s not like they’re much to look at, especially when they’re clothed and showing up as trouser bulges. Seriously, who cares? A nice pair of breasts in a sweater is shapely and enticing, but the male counterpart glimpsed as an outline in some khakis? Not actually all that interesting. Even the most impressive penis is no more than a lump in your Levi’s. So what gives?
If I had to guess, I’d say third wave feminists probably had a little something to do with it. Third wavers are known for updating feminist ideas about race and class, but they really made their mark by being very sex-positive, and encouraging women to express sexual desires just like men always have. You ogle our asses? We’re gonna talk about your abs–and we won’t be whispering, if you know what I mean.
There’s a lot more to sex-positivity than women getting their own back by objectifying men. But there is definitely a playful element of one-upmanship in all these penis pictures, tweets and leering blog posts. It could be seen as women leveling the playing field in a very literal way, showing dudes what it’s like to be on the receiving end of catcalls and double entendres.
The thing is, these kinds of antics, while definitely entertaining, don’t actually do anything to counter sexism in a real way. The sexual playing field can’t be leveled even by a million pictures of James Franco in a leotard, shared on a million Tumblrs. At the end of the day, when we’ve all had a good laugh, women will still be penalized for having female parts in a way that men are never penalized for having dicks. When was the last time you heard a woman say “Jon Hamm’s schlong is so huge, I assume he must be an idiot”? Or read an article about companies suing for the right to deny men access to prostate exams? The answer to both of those questions is “never,” which is how you can tell we live in a male-dominated society.
So much for the dick pic as feminist score-settling. What else about it fascinates us, keeps us coming back for more? For one thing, it’s just kind of fun. Gender politics aside, there’s something a little thrilling about shattering taboos, and that’s what we’re doing when we pass around these crotch shots: pushing the envelope, toying with the forbidden. Can you blame us? In 21st-century America, in the age of tween sexting and the 24-hour Internet porn buffet, we have so few taboos left. We’ll take our illicit thrills wherever we can find them. In spite of the recent uptick in penis talk and penis-posting, we’re just a few short years into this brave new world of male objectification, and the guys’ team has a lot of catching up to do. Men’s full frontals are still pretty rare compared to all the upskirts floating around, so we still get a kick out of sighting one.
But what happens when even this becomes commonplace? How will get our thrills then? We are literally running out of human anatomical parts to exploit, people, and the future looks bleak. So think twice before you pass on the latest man-in-Speedo gif. Maybe save it for a rainy day.