tagReviews & EssaysFeminist with a Penis

Feminist with a Penis


I'm a card-carrying feminist. I'm proud that women are gaining more of the equality they deserve, despite the world's past and current power structure. I get annoyed by phrases like "that takes balls" and "who wears the pants here?" I love that women are rediscovering and exploring their long-repressed sexualities—and I love that they do not need my help in doing this.

And no, I'm not a traitor to my own gender—I want all the same things for men.

Still, I sometimes find myself feeling a bit of guilt for being a man, since it's men who have made feminism so necessary. I know that I, personally, do not oppress women, any more than I held slaves or sold sheets laced with smallpox. At least, I don't think I do—the male role of oppressor might be so culturally ingrained that I do it without realizing it.

It's partly because of this that I feel I should do my part in the feminist movement—but it might seem to defeat the purpose to have a man helping women be independent from men. But wouldn't it actually help to have a man showing support and joining women at demonstrations? Wouldn't inclusive feminism help build mutual understanding between and among the genders? Isn't that the goal? Not everyone thinks so.

But to hell with those who don't. Part of feminism is not caring what others think about you, right? Just as pro-male feminists give the fuck-you to man-hating feminists all the time, I give the fuck-you—but not without your consent—to exclusionary feminists.

When I vote and live pro-choice and respect whichever choice is made, that's up to me. No one can stop me from thinking it's normal to have a female boss or from considering birth control my own responsibility. I respect women because they're strong and wise and independent, and not because they have breasts—and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Why do I feel this way about gender relations? I'm honestly not sure. I know it's not because of my patriarchal dad or my barefoot mother. Maybe it's because I've seen what women have been up against in most cultures throughout history, and how amazing it is that they're overcoming it. Or maybe I support gender equality for the same reason I support everything-else equality—I just know that it's right.

The goals of independence and self-actualization apply to me just as much as to any woman. There is one snag, though: despite the importance of the feminist reclamation of the body and sexuality, I'm not entirely comfortable with my own body.

I try to love my penis. But my genitals aren't beautiful, the way women's are. Where women have awe-inspiring layers of blooming, sweet-smelling skin and a clitoris—the true Happiest Place in on Earth—I have a fuzzy sack of potential agony and a strange-looking protrusion that is either soft, limp and slightly unwieldy, or an attention whore that has better posture than I do—usually depending on which is more awkward at the moment. Even my foreskin—the most sensitive part of my body, and as such, as close to a clitoris as I'll ever get—was cut off an hour after my birth without my permission, or even an apology, so that part's not going to do me much good, either.

Maybe it's just as well. I'm concerned that even if I did love my penis and scrotum -

I'm sorry—can you think of a worse word than "scrotum"? Seriously, it sounds even more awkward than "vagina."

- I wonder if it would lead me to become another phallus-worshiping oppressor of women. If I do like my penis, if I take pride in the size and firmness of my erection—is it buying into the same over-glorification of the cock that's helped oppress women for thousands of years?

There's been a lot said about the importance of women reclaiming their long-repressed sexuality, how it's a critical part of achieving self-knowledge and equality with men. I agree that it is—but what about the importance of male sexuality? How we express it, how we relate to it, how we identify ... It's just as important for men as it is for women—isn't it?

The problem here is that men have to reclaim our sexuality, as well, and a lot of us don't realize it. It hasn't been completely repressed, but it's been sold to us by religions and by the media as something guilty, cheap, thoughtless—even predatory. Hollywood tells us that every man's ideal woman is an anorexic combination of collagen and silicone devoid of commitment and intellectual depth. Popular television and magazines tell us to assume we agree that women are for our gratification, go have another manly beer, and embrace this shallow identity that's thrust at us. Most of the belief systems that America was founded with teach that sex is an ugly sin, mysterious and scary, and that acting on our natural inclinations is a shameful indulgence. Through it all, we're still supposed to believe that sex from women is something we're entitled to.

Maybe that's why I'm a feminist—feminism has a lot to teach us men, too. Just like women, men have to actively define ourselves, for ourselves, on an individual basis, despite our culture's efforts to do it for us. Like women, we need to really appreciate our sexuality as part of ourselves, instead of just having a dick-jerk reaction to Maxim magazine, and maybe feeling bad about it afterward. Like women, we have to realize that the genders—all of them—aren't so different, after all.

Maybe we can love our penises, too.

I'm working on it.

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