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Gender + Sexuality

The Week in Troubling Penises

Look, they’re everywhere right now. And the brash, egotistical leaders they’re attached to are wreaking havoc.

Dorothy Woodend 23 Oct 2020 | TheTyee.ca

Dorothy Woodend is culture editor of The Tyee. Reach her here.

First, a caveat. Before the possessors of penises (PPs for short) get all riled up, I have nothing against any of you personally. Well, except for a couple of ex-boyfriends, and your time is coming. It just seems, given the overwhelming amount of evidence on hand, that penises can be trouble.

Whether it’s getting suspended from work or ridiculed by Borat, these demanding organs have a way of inserting themselves into the most ridiculous situations.

This week we learned that New Yorker staff writer Jeffrey Toobin accidentally pulled out his wiener in a Zoom work meeting. After being suspended by the magazine, some fellow wankers under the handle #metoobins came to his sort-of-defense essentially saying, “Who amongst ye hast not done the same?” The answer, of course, is mostly no one.

Next up at the penile hijinks parade was Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani tucking in his shirt in Sacha Baron Cohen’s new film. For the scene, the former mayor of NYC was convinced to go into a hotel room with a young woman, where he was documented lying on the bed doing something inside his pants. Giuliani maintained that he was merely attending to parts of his wardrobe, but whatever shirt tales were happening, it was the money shot of the film.

The internet, with its immediate sense of comeuppance, wasted not a moment before going hog wild. The hashtag #Badtimetotakeviagra was out in front, but even more staid media couldn’t resist posting a cartoon of a man in the midst of a job interview with his pants pulled down. Where the offending organ might be was just a blank space. The search committee happily exclaim, “You’re hired!”

To be frank, I am occasionally surprised by the things that men will risk when it comes to serving the dictates of down below. Jobs, reputation, relationships. It doesn’t seem to matter what side of the political, cultural or religious spectrum one falls. Age also doesn’t seem to factor in. Police officers, priests, movie producers, gymnastics coaches, politicians, presidents — people in positions of authority are regularly caught with their pants down.

Whether you’ve sworn an oath to God or country, everything can be derailed by the whims of a single thing. One dinger to rule them all. (To be fair, women can also be gross when it comes to harassment and impropriety. But the sheer numbers alone indicate a clearly demarcated divide between male and female behaviour.)

As the rampage of rogue wieners evidenced this week, the risks don’t seem to matter all that much when the penises want to pop up and say YOLO! Maybe they’ve just been the centre of attention for such a long time, they don’t know how to sit and be quiet. Rather, they want to be consulted on every damn thing.

They’ve long directed the cultural flow, maintaining that they rightfully should be paid more, listened to and featured prominently in every film, sporting event, board room or political office. They always get more money and power than other genitals but are prone to throwing hissy fits when confronted with the inequities around things like effective birth control.

The comeback is always the same: women do dumb things too, and yes, they most certainly do. But given everything that’s at stake, the fate of the world and all, should people who have penises be allowed to hold public office if their sound judgement goes out the window every time a random breeze stirs their khakis? Should they ever be entrusted with anything?

I exaggerate, but as a spate of recent articles have pointed out, the conventional style of tough guy leadership has resulted in serious destruction for everyone. Toxic masculinity is just plain bad, even for the folks at the very tip of the heap.

Although I don’t have any sympathy for Giuliani or his boss, I do feel a lot for regular men who are bumbling their way through a rapidly changing landscape, a moment that a number of recent films and series have delicately explored.

Sex Education, for example, took on almost every conceivable fear and uncertainty about everything from masturbation to same-sex relationships. At the heart of the show was the simple idea that really, penises are quite sensitive, and I’m not even trying to make a joke. OK!?

And god bless the Guardian newspaper, which dedicated an entire series to the State of Men.

As writer Adam Gabbatt explains in an article that accompanies his film about attending a men’s weekend, “Courses like this — often dubbed 'man camps' — have grown in popularity in recent years, as the #MeToo movement, and numerous other high-profile examples of toxic masculinity, have brought the misconduct of numerous men to the fore. They aim to teach men how to become, well, better men.”

The idea of men being better also popped up recently in U.S. presidency hopeful Joe Biden’s final political campaign ad, voiced by none other than Sam Elliott and aired during the World Series. Elliott is a familiar presence in some of the most famously macho movies from Road House to The Big Lebowski.

An even blunter approach was taken in another ad from the Lincoln Project that made use of Elliott’s inimitable delivery. In gravely tones, rough as dirt road, the actor talked about how men must own up to past mistakes, take lessons from their fathers and pass them on to their sons. The implicit idea being that men will listen to other men. The spot ended, tellingly, with the image of Biden and his deceased son Beau.

The relationship between Biden and his kids has been at the forefront of the U.S. election, thanks in part to the concerted efforts of the Trump camp to attack Biden through his other son Hunter. Even something as innocent as an image of a father kissing his son on the cheek was circulated widely this week, with some guy tweeting, “Does this look like an appropriate father/son interaction to you?”

The answer is yes. As the Lincoln Project ad implies, it actually takes strength to be vulnerable.

The tough guy model has, in short, been a disaster, not just now, as the pandemic rages, but for millennia. No more proud boys playing with guns; it’s time to put away childish things and be a man. In the best sense of the word.  [Tyee]

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