Alas, the phallus (again)

“Stop waving your dick around – we’ve all seen it now so you can put it away!” I had got particularly annoyed by an arrogant and patronising email sent by a male contact and a female work colleague was suggesting how I could respond – in an ideal world.

It did get me thinking that we would never say to a woman “stop waving your vagina around” if she had caused a similar reaction. In fact, we rarely use female body parts metaphorically – apart from the occasional ‘twat’ or ‘fanny’.

Yet, male bits crop up all the time. We frequently express anger or annoyance with: dick, dickhead, knob, knob head, bell end…etc. If we see a man driving like he owns the road in a flashy sports car, we may refer to his vehicle as a ‘penis enlargement’ or at the opposite end of the spectrum we may say of someone with an over-inflated ego that he ‘probably has a small penis’.

Freud also introduced the world of psychology to ‘penis envy’ and talked about phallic symbols in our dreams. In fact, phalluses are all over the place of you look at classic and modern architecture – The Gherkin in London,  the Torre Agbar in Barcelona, the Empire State Building, the Ypsilanti Water Tower in Michigan (nicknamed ‘brick dick’) and The International Finance Centre in Hong Kong to name a few.

Phalluses seem to have a place in ancient culture with the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset – a large man with a sizeable erect penis cut into a hillside – no one knows how long he’s been there, whether he dates back to the Iron Age or 17th Century. Ancient Greeks and Romans used penises everywhere in festivals celebrating fertility. Priapus was the Greek and Roman fertility God. He is portrayed in statues as extremely (maybe too) well-endowed.

This may be why I have vivid memories of novelty penis ‘gifts’ on sale in souvenir shops in Corfu, when I was taken there as a child. There was anything from penis key rings to rubber apples and oranges out of which popped a rubber penis when they were squeezed. My parents were horrified as my brother and I giggled and squished numerous pieces of ‘fruit’, before they dragged us out of the shop.

Of course the whole novelty penis gift thing has really taken off everywhere over the years and penis lollipops, chocolate penises and clockwork penises are a mainstay of many lingerie/sex store chains.

But what about lady bits? Boobs pop up in buildings (take the Millennium Dome), cakes and confectionary, but there are no vaginas. Maybe this is because the phallus is a better shape to play with (in all senses of the word). And it is hard to construct a vagina-shaped recess, unless you attach meaning to tunnels and caves.

I am not complaining about this apparent under- representation of female genitalia, as I for one am quite happy to look at dicks, penises, willies and knobs. But it does seem that when my work mate suggested the irritating email author stopped “waving his dick around”, we had already lost the war. Dicks have been waved around for thousands of years. And they will continue to be waved around until the end of time.