After seeing the few clips of My Penis and Everyone Else’s in class, I could not help but watch the rest of the documentary later. Although the film’s narrator admitted that he had a small penis and had struggled with it, he started the project as a way to create an open dialogue about penis size. Even though I think starting a conversation about penis size is important, I am not sure if discussing the size of genitals alone really gets at the core of the issue. Ultimately, I think this conversation needs to be part of a greater dialogue about the way a man views both his body and sexuality.
In “Does Size Matter,” Susan Bordo explores several of these same issues about masculinity and penis size. She pointed out that many men equate larger penises to greater masculinity. This connection is fueled by a consumer culture that capitalizes on male insecurities. Don’t believe me? Check your spam folder! Although those “little” pesky enlargement messages certainly get annoying, using email is a great marketing tool because the Internet gives a false sense of privacy that going to a clinic does not. Beyond explanations that link penis size to masculinity and insecurities, I think one of the main reasons that so much emotion surrounds penis size is because men have very few outlets to express their sexuality and explore their bodies. Women face a similar lack of avenues to express and explore themselves but are at least allowed to wear clothes that enhance their bodies in ways that men cannot.
On a similar note, Gill et al. interviewed people in the United Kingdom about conforming versus maintaining individuality in their daily lives. In short, they found that most people are motivated to do things because they want to express individuality. Within this freedom of expression, though, are certain boundaries for men. Ultimately, men could only express their individualities within the bounds of acceptable masculinity. If they transgressed social taboos, they were quickly labeled vain because they seemed to care too much about their individual appearances. This conclusion directly supports my assertion that women are able to find some space to express and explore their bodies through clothing and other more intimate activities – like yoga, dance, etc. – while men who act in the same way would be labeled feminine or vain.
In the end, Bordo maintained that perceptions of penis size and masculinity were specific cultural constructions – as much a mental creation as a physical object. Although I understand where she is coming from, this position does little to ease the anxiety many men feel about their penis sizes. Quite frankly, we are surrounded in everything we do by an overarching culture that is inescapable. Rather than highlight these issues as culturally derived, I think real solutions can only be found by promoting self exploration and understanding among all sexes that can result in greater awareness, acceptance, and confidence in one’s own body.
Until then, we can always laugh (for all the Curb Your Enthusiasm fans).