Monday, January 27, 2014

Penis Envy, Or, I Can Haz Fluffer Plz?

Freud's famous couch.

When I was a kid I thought the concept of penis envy made no sense. I looked at boys, and I thought, "Penis? Envy? No." Why would I prefer a dangling, unpredictable, extremely vulnerable, extra body part to my attractive, self-contained, and subtle vulva? Mystifying.
   
When I got older and started reading porn, I still didn't envy penises, but I developed a theory about why the idea of penis envy might have gotten the traction it has. It's not that women envy penises. It's that men envy men's penises for women. I mean, men sort of wish women had penises.

I formed this idea because of the omnipresence in modern written porn of male metaphors for female sexual excitement. Clits get "huge" and "huger" the more excited women get. Women try desperately to "hold back" their orgasms, but the "force" of the pleasure is just "too strong" for them and they come anyway. When they do come, their "juices" suddenly flow out of them.

Um, guys? I hate to break this to you but that's you you're talking about, not us. OK, I'm sure there are women who have to hold back orgasm but find they cannot, since there are women of all kinds. And it's true: clits get big. But overall this is much more a description of what it's like to have sex with a man than a woman. My theory was that men want the girl, but they also want the whole external apparatus -- balls, penis, etc. -- to play with and enjoy. And in classic form they project that feeling onto us. And they call it penis envy.

But then a penis-owner explained it to me this way: it's not that men want the external apparatus itself. It's that they want the visual cues -- the evidence, if you want to put it that way -- that the woman in question is genuinely aroused, really into it. Because as we all know, it's not always clear what is going on with women. As a woman, I can tell you: it's not always clear to me what's going on with myself.

And here I'm basically with the guys: it'd be nice to have a little clarity and straightforwardness. I don't want to give up my elegant and complicated vulval apparatus, but I've come to see the appeal of having a penis of my own. Even sophisticated men -- even sophisticated women -- need instructions to locate the clitoris and make it work properly. It'd be nice to have a sex organ that works on a more basic "touch here" principle.

Penises, like the men they're attached to, have a kind of no-nonsense way of responding to the world, and I like that. It's a penile pattern of desire. The penis wants what it wants. If what you got it doesn't want: sorry, no can do. There's no negotiating, no if-only-you-cared, if-you-were-nicer, if-only-you'd-let-me. 

Of course, there is performance anxiety. But in a way that allows the penis to be even more in charge than it would be otherwise. When I'm in a reductive mood I sometimes think of how astonishing it is that the continuation of the human race depends on men getting erections. When you look at it that way, you can sort of see how it might have happened that patriarchal structures function so relentless in favor of bucking up the male ego. Gotta keep those egos bucked! The future of the humanity hangs on men being in a comfortable, reasonably confident, and unthreatened mood. That's bizarre to me, but also kind of hilarious. 

Women, of course, have a wide range of sexual performance that can take place with or without genuine desire. That's nice, in a way. You can be all super into it, or you can not be too into it and do it anyway, or you can just see how it goes and see if you get really into it later, and all that is fine. But the flip side of that is dealing with complexity. Have you been following the whole Viagra-for-women business? Obviously, this is something everyone wants to make, the new holy grail of pharmaceuticals. They haven't succeeded. The main reason they haven't succeeded is that women are really complicated. They experience desire and arousal differently, with different mechanisms, and respond to different things in different ways. All that complexity: it wears a girl out. It makes me wish I had a penis.

The appeal of having a penis crystallized for me when I learned about the concept of a fluffer. A fluffer is a person who stays out of camera range on a porn movie and does whatever's necessary to keep the guy hard in between scenes. Hand job, blow job, whatever he needs.

That there is even such a thing as a fluffer is where the penis reaches its peak of appeal for me. In this interaction, the penis is king: whatever it wants, it gets. And what it wants is so simple: a cute nice girl, or a cute nice guy, with soft hands and a warm mouth. No one asks the guy to make do with a vibrator or whatever the way you know they'd make a woman do if there were some relevantly switched situation. Because this sexual interaction needs a penis that is genuinely highly aroused -- something no one really needs from a woman, except the woman in question herself.

So I'd like to have a fluffer, and I'd like to have the penis necessary to enjoy one. Sometimes when I'm not paying attention I think I'm getting an exciting offer for one in my inbox: "pmarino," the email subject line says, "Grow Your Penis Safely and Naturally!"

And I think, "Really? OK. Sign me up!"

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