Note: Rating A – Contains explicit ‘adult’ textual content. For those incapable and intolerant, reading advised under the discretion of adults only.
Imagine you are this boy, playing football in this huge green grassy field. You are a defender and your team is losing 4-0. As a defender, you have evidently been responsible for letting the four goals past you. With two more minutes remaining, you are as determined as ever, and are not willing to be embarrassed any further (the girl you wanted to impress is at the sideline too!). But the opposition’s striker has started his run from the left, you are right back, he tries to dribble past your left, and then tries the right, you slip in the process. While trying to be back on your feet, the striker finds space and is ready to shoot at the goal!
What happened after this could be your worst nightmare, especially if you are a ‘guy’. The striker shoots with all his power, you try to block his shoot and in the process the ball hits right at the centre of your crotch. Ouch!
Leave aside the obvious heavy pain involved, you have also lost any hope of impressing any female species on the sideline whatsoever; such is what a deadly strike on the crotch means, for the average male and his masculine ambitions (although sadomasochism might have a different story to tell, but lack of experience here might force us to evade that story).
So is the penis, an object of utmost pride for the male species, which delivers instant pleasure at the blink of an eye, just like the cough syrup and cold tablets advertisements promise instant relief from cough and cold? Or is that just a shallow male chauvinist view of eulogizing your own grand dick?
Well we can look at the two questions above from two different angles. One way would be to problematize the concept of male masturbation in the context of premature ejaculation. The other would be to deproblematize the concept of female menstruation in the context of a patriarchal setup.
Masturbation is one of the most common activities indulged by the male species – as told to us by the psychologist giving sex education in school. So the obvious response to such a routine activity would be to chill about it and in some sense legitimize and even celebrate it in the most subtle way possible.
But this celebration of the phallus is not devoid of a specific historical context. The worship of the phallus is evident from its representations in art, right from ancient times or whenever patriarchy became the dominant discourse. (The famous “man-size” lingam in the Parashurameshwar Temple in the Chitoor Distirct of the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh, better known as the Gudimallam Lingam, is about 1.5mts in height, carved in polished granite!)
During the 20th century the phallus and its masculine symbolism has reached newer heights thanks to the efforts of one Papa Freud. Papa Freud considered the phallus as the ultimate source of power and highlighted the absence of such power in his female counterparts as a matter of remorse which he blatantly described as “penis envy”. Thus in the 20th century we see, an overdose of the representation of the phallus in everyday objects of male conspicuous consumption like pornography, cigarette ashtrays and as a common subject of other forms of masculine amusement and practical jokes.
One such example in art is “Princess X” by the Romanian modernist sculptor Constantin Brâncuşi. He created a scandal in the Salon in 1919 when he represented or caricatured Princess Marie Bonaparte as a large gleaming bronze phallus. This phallus as Papa Freud would put it, symbolizes Bonaparte’s obsession with the penis and her lifelong quest to achieve vaginal orgasm.
So here we see that historically the penis has been portrayed as an object, not just worshipped and celebrated by the male species, but also desired abjectly by the women folk.
But by taking off our masculine spectacles (which might make some of us even blind for a while!), we can realize the obvious hegemonic tendencies of our ‘transparent’ lenses. In a society predominated by a specific kind of discourse, any new or contending discourse becomes marginal and is pushed to the periphery by the hegemonic power. For instance, India which is overdosed by a ‘certain’ nationalist discourse; is full of statutes and symbols of Gandhi and Nehru, and when Mayawati constructs some Ambedkar statutes, all the loyal nationalist media is suddenly concerned about environmental disorders.
So of course, the representation and celebration of the phallus, historically, is nothing to rejoice, but an obvious reminder of the way patriarchy has dominated our society since time immemorial.
To come back to the point, without digressing further, let us consider male masturbation; which is seen by modern psychologists and scientists as a distressing, liberating act; in the context of premature ejaculation and other discomforts that some elite intellectuals would scoff at talking about. The fact is that among the common male masses who cannot assert their masculine capabilities as easily as their elite urban counterparts would; the penis has its own set of stigmas and pains involved with it.
Scientifically the problem of premature ejaculation and other penis related disorders are usually psychological and have nothing to do with the size or shape of the dick. But reading the countless letters written to ‘sex experts’ in newspapers and magazines, shows the obvious lack of awareness about this among most males. As you go along the highway in almost every state of India, you must have seen the advertisements of Dr. Bengali Baba, who will promise you relief from all your sexual problems and disorders instantly.
Mostly we look at these advertisements and joke about them, abusing Dr. Bengali and even to go to the extent of reasserting the stereotype of how annoying the whole Bengali community is, forgetting very easily that the sheer presence of these advertisements could also mean that there must be a whole set of customers waiting outside the clinic of Dr. Bengali Baba, depressed and suffering immensely.
In our elitist masculine discourse there is no place for the weak, sterile penis, the possession of which is portrayed as losing all your ‘mardangi’ and you are mockingly told to wear bangles and start learning how to cook.
If the penis is really the symbol of power and an object of deriving pleasure, how many in this country possess it in its ‘real’ sense? You can meet countless young boys in not just the rural, but also urban parts of this country, who have never masturbated ever in their life.
Pre marital sex has a narrow audience, which often ignores and mocks those who have not yet conquered this feat. I don’t want to make a sweeping generalization here, considering the widespread prevalence of HIV in this country, but the point I’m making here is that even if it is not a majority, there is a significant male population which does not always get to realize the pleasures that their penises have to offer.
Even those males who have tried their ‘hands’ at masturbation; the process is often accompanied by huge moral guilt, boosted by the stereotype of losing a certain spiritual energy whenever your penis releases the sticky, smelly, unhygienic fluid called semen.
Why I’m trying to describe all this, in harsh and crude terms; is my attempt to correlate and deproblematize the concept of menstruation among females.
Firstly I was surprised to see the surprise shown by some male friends when they heard of the existence of this very process among females. Due to the prohibited nature of the subject many males are not even aware that this is a periodical cycle among women, which involves great pain and cannot be whisked off by the use of certain antibiotics or pain killers. But as one of my female friend pointed out that, Aunt Simone had a very different way of looking at the whole process. Aunt Simone, unlike Papa Freud suggested, refuses to feel remorseful or envious when it comes to the process of menstruation. She wants us to look at this process also, as just another construction of the masculine world.
For instance let us hypothetically consider that instead of females, the whole process was reversed and only males had regular periods. In a still male dominated society, would periods be a hush-hush subject that you need to feel remorseful about?
What if sanitary tissues would have become the coolest things to possess? The pain and bloodshed that a male had to undergo during periods could have been valorized as a sacrifice that males make for the nation! Besides all the other numerous ways in which periods could have been seen as a ‘normal’ routine activity, the exploitation of women would have increased greatly. Men would have a great holiday every 8 days in a month on the pretext of their ‘painful’ periods.
What such a perspective achieves in showing us is that the same idea, emotion or physical organ can be seen as an object of pleasure or pain, all it depends on, is the discretion of who clutches the centre of power in any given society.
The over-representation of the phallus and the misrepresentation of the vagina are only some of the symbols which make the patriarchal dominance of our society quite evident.