Question #179: So, what is it about the penis exactly?

August 25, 2013

I have to say that this is one of those conundrums for me.

In my quest to continually question the imbalance of our existence – I wanted to explore why we continue to shroud this illusive appendage in such an opposing way to women’s objectification.

I was listening to Triple J the other morning and comedian Wil Anderson was on the radio.
He was discussing the rule with men – that you never look at another man’s penis whilst at the urinal.

OK I get that. It would be an invasion of privacy.

But it just made me wonder – what’s the big hoo-ha about the penis, anyway?
Why all the mystery?

At the beach last summer,  I saw quite a few three-quarter length board shorts being worn – protecting its owners from exposing even the hint of a bulge.

No more speedos anymore. No sir-ee.


Is it to hide its size?
Or protect boys and men from the gaze of other men?
Is that something that’s feared?

Surely if it were for the gaze of women, there wouldn’t be a problem…right?

I know it’s the fashion at the beach – but you can’t disagree with the juxtaposition; that men seem to be more and more covered, whilst women are more and more exposed.

And not just on the beach.

In the movies – for example – we NEVER see the penis.

Why are men afforded such privacy?

Why are women not?

We have fully naked women on the screens (the big screen as well as the smallest) and yet it doesn’t matter how much time passes – how much we ‘evolve’ – the penis remains mystically cloaked from human gaze.

It must be nice to know – if you’re male and in the movie industry – that you’ll never have to make that choice, whether to have your penis filmed or not.


Men are not vulnerable; like women are vulnerable.
And a man’s vulnerability – it seems – is his penis.
A woman’s? Her near or complete nudity.

The second issue I have with the penis, is its massive (no un intended) irony.

As much as it is used and wielded as a weapon throughout the world and is seen as the symbol of manhood – it is also a man’s Achilles Heel, so to speak – is it not?

As Betty White says:

“Why do people say,
‘Grow some balls’?
Balls are weak and sensitive.
If you wanna be tough,
Grow a vagina.
Those things can take a pounding.”


Is this post an attack on manhood?

No – it is not.

Do I want to see penises plastered all over our screens?

No – but there shouldn’t be a Holier-than-thou style, cover-up either.

A penis is just a penis.

Or is it?

So, I ask again – what’s the big deal?

14 Responses to “Question #179: So, what is it about the penis exactly?”

  1. Derek said

    Generally the laws of indecent exposure state that the sexual organs should not be publically exposed. The female genitalia being internal enables the naked female form to sidestep these laws with only the pubic region usually being displayed. Another reason that the penis is kept covered is the fact that they are bloody ugly, I’d rather look at a naked woman than at a bloody dick.

    • questionsforwomen said

      Yay Derek! Your comment was the 1000th on the blog!
      I was hoping a guy would write.
      Yes, I get that we just can’t have them flashing willy-nilly – but in a movie the efforts that are made to ensure all is covered whilst there’s a fully naked woman beside the fully clothed guy is unrealistic.
      Agreed, they are not a pretty sight but women are left quite vulnerable (by their choice at times too, of course) whereas men are always protected, so to speak.
      I was just wondering why the cover up – more so now than in the past.
      …while women get more naked.
      Thank you so much for your comment.
      If I had a lucky 1000th comment prize, I’d SO send it.

  2. Derek said

    Yay for Derek 🙂

  3. Jon said

    Hi, the thing about the penis is men want to cover up their size. I have a small penis so the most vulnerable thing I could do is go to a beach with tight trunks (speedos etc) were my lack of size would be obvious for the world to see.
    Women are used to being vulnerable as their breast size is apparent to the world and they can be judged (positively or negatively) by their bra size. Men can look/drool whatever if she’s big or maybe snigger if she’s small.
    I assume women just learn to accept that vulnerability. A man would never subject himself to that level of vulnerability 🙂

    • Fair enough. I guess men are lucky; in that you have a support system that allows you to navigate through life within the boundaries you wish – as you clearly state in your last sentence. A pretty amazing privilege.
      I don’t know about women being *used* to vulnerability – that’s a feeling no human being enjoys. Sadly it’s probably more likely to be a ‘limited choice’ situation – damned if we do; damned if we don’t.
      Thanks heaps for your comment.

      • Jon said

        I agree it is a privilege, to be honest I’m not sure how men have been able to get away with it for so long 🙂
        In theory a man’s penis should be a bigger vulnerability to him than a woman’s breasts are to her. Imagine if men’s penises where on show for women’s approval in the same way as women’s breasts are on show for male approval 🙂

      • Exactly.
        The thing is, though, I wouldn’t want a world like that either – one where we add the exploitation of men to the mix to make things more ‘equal’.
        No, the answer is to eliminate that bullshit all together.
        I know – it’s a ridiculously naive concept, but a girl can dream, right?…or at least write about it in a blog.

  4. Jon said

    Well I wouldn’t be in favour of men being exploited either, purely out of self-interest 🙂
    Men are very good at controlling women and conditioning women to accept that control. It’s a con job basically – like a guy with a pair of 2s in a poker hand bluffing a guy with 4 kings. If I was a woman I’d counter that by making men crave approval.
    Women are too fair minded to do that – therein lies the difference between the sexes 🙂

    • Spot on.
      So many entrenched behaviours to combat; the weariness of it all.
      It’s all so dumb and pedestrian.

      • Jon said

        I think your article is spot on in identifying the penis as a man’s biggest vulnerability. Men have done well in hiding that vulnerability over time.
        Part of it is probably that there’s very little male nudity on TV etc. If women don’t see men’s penises they can’t objectify men/compare men etc in the way men objectify women.
        I wonder of that’s because women aren’t interested in men’s bodies or they just haven’t had the chance to be because they never see men naked?
        Certainly as a man I am more than happy that my penis is never on show 🙂

      • Thanks for your comment, Jon.
        I don’t particularly want men to have to feel the vulnerability women do – I hope for a world that nurtures its children into simply respecting all people.
        Unfortunately, it’s so completely out of balance, that it’s become a dangerous world for females because of the vulnerability that has been thrust upon them.
        I think most would agree the penis is not a pretty sight (hahaha!) and don’t want to see them ‘out there’ so we just need to work on the toxic perceptions of females.
        It’s all so complicated, though.
        Thanks again for your comment -it’s always awesome to get a male’s perspective.
        Paula 🙂
        PS Have you read my latest post on porn and prostitution? Would love your thoughts (and other males)

  5. Kent said

    As a male I do not “get” the north american society’s aversion to the male form. I agree with you, I do not believe in “parading” the penis; however, I do believe (and hope) that society would respect a man wearing a form fitting swimming suit like our society “respects” (accepts) a woman wearing a form fitting swimming suit. Men should cover their penises but should not be made to feel embarrassed for their form (soft or hard) being seen. — I say “hard” because erections are not always sexual and are very natural and common. As a young man I seemed to have an erection more often than not; I believe I damaged my penis as a teenager by pulling my erection to the side to avoid it being noticed. I much rather wear a form fitting suit because I do not get as cold, I chafe less, it supports and lifts, it drys faster, and it does not drag air and water. I too wish our society was more accepting of seeing the male form and not being labeled “gay” or indecent.

    • I agree, Kent.
      It’s getting ridiculous, isn’t it? And it’s not just a north American thing – it’s most definitely alive and well in Australia too.
      I’m not a male but I think the way we view all bodies – regardless of sex – is becoming so warped.
      I really appreciate your perspective. Thanks for writing.

      • Kent said

        Paula, thank you for your efforts sharing our thoughts. I too believe society is healthier in accepting (but not exploiting) the human form.

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