Gender Issues and sexuality09 Dec 2007 09:13 pm

In the next two posts I will discuss some sexual symbolism of both males and females.
In general most people are familiar with the more stereotypical and mainly negative male sexual symbols, while the female symbols have largely been ignored.

Today’s post will focus on the male symbols and the next one will focus on female symbols. Most people are familiar with the Freudian and post Freudian symbols of the phallus, where the penis has been seen as the weapon of mass destruction and the poster boy for male aggression.

The knife, gun, missile, sword and even the hatchet have been widely recognized as being symbolic duplications of the male phallus. Bullets, bombs and most destructive projectiles have commonly been associated with the semen as they are emitted from the symbolic male organs.

These phallic images are important to know, but they don’t depict the entire symbolic realm of the male gender. There are hundreds of objects which reflect the form and function of the phallus that aren’t captured in the above popular symbols. While many phallic symbols replicate the form of a penis many others duplicate its function. The function of the penis is to penetrate, and its shape is designed to accomplish this. It is important to realize that the penis is itself an instrument or tool which penetrates, probes and emits. Anything which serves these purposes should be up for consideration as a phallic symbol.

Many objects such as the pen, paint brush and telescope are obvious phallic images. When someone says that the pen is mightier than the sword they probably aren’t realizing that they are comparing phallic images, but they are. And yes, the pen is mightier than the sword and words are more influential than brute force, and the phallus is not just a device of violence and aggression.

Whenever the act of penetration is involved it is a likely candidate for phallic imagery. Now, penetration is a crucial part of violence, war and aggression, yet it also is a vital aspect of discovery, invention and science. Man has penetrated many things in his journey towards civilization and improving the quality of life.

Man has penetrated and probed the earth, sea, sky and outerspace. Early man used the hoe, plow and other phallic symbols to penetrate the earth to produce crops and help us survive. He has used the telescope and microscope (both phallic images) to probe the macro and micro universe. We have used philosophy and religion to penetrate the meaning of life, as well as psychology to penetrate the internal life of the self. We’ve used the scalpel to penetrate and learn about the human body, and later to develop reliable surgical techniques.

We have used trains, cars, planes and rockets to penetrate space and propel us forward. We have used telegraphs, telephones, radios and TV’s to penetrate the airwaves allowing us to communicate with each other over long distances.

Penetration can be used to wound or kill, but it also can be the instrument of progress and discovery. Just as we have found that the male sex drive has been negatively cast, we now see that the male gender has been negatively cast by the phallic symbols we have chosen to focus on.

My intention in this post is not to try to deny or minimize the reality of male aggression and violence. My goal, like in all my posts regarding the male sex drive, is to attempt to portray a balanced view of male energy and character. I have repeatedly stated the dangers of denial and repression in respect to the male sex drive. Denial and repression of natural drives more often than not lead to poor self-esteem, perversion, neurosis and depression.

Likewise the modern discussion regarding male sexual symbols has a tendency to portray men in a very negative light. In this caricature men are inherently violent and aggressive and generally incapable of resolving issues through any other means than violence and verbal battle. The reality of the matter is that men have many tools at their disposal. In fact most tools are literally and figuratively phallic symbols. Everything from drills, screwdrivers, hammers and pickaxes to lasers, hypodermic needles and flutes are phallic symbols. These tools can be used to resolve problems, heal, inspire and improve our lives.

Phallic symbols and the manhood they depict are not just about violence and aggression, but also progress, discovery and development. Ships that sailed around the world, submarines that explored the ocean depths are just as masculine as guns and missiles. The pen and paintbrush are fundamental to human expression and communication and are as valid to the male character as is the arrow or sledgehammer.

I think it is a shame that many male children growing up over the last few decades have been made to feel inherently bad about their masculinity. Many males have been told that they must overcome both their sex drive and their violent masculine nature. While I agree that men should limit if not completely outgrow their violent tendencies I do not think that male aggression is the sum total of their masculinity, or even its most salient quality.

My drive to learn, discover, penetrate, probe and understand is and always has been greater than my desire to hurt, harm or injure. My desire to communicate, share and grow has always been greater than my desire to control, win or defeat. One can penetrate the walls that separate in order to achieve intimate union as well as to rape and dominate. The real phallus as well as the symbolic one can be an instrument of intimacy and a creator of life and not just be an unwelcomed invader.

Phallic symbols should be used to inspire and not just to warn. Phallic symbols should be used to depict the positive elements of masculinity and not just as a means of exposing male vanity and his baser nature. Hopefully, a discussion such as this will help men embrace their nature and hone their strengths while remaining aware of their faults and potential negative qualities.

A healthy masculinity like a healthy male sex drive is found through acceptance and growth not through denial and repression. The masculine nature is neither evil nor perfect, it is an inherent energy to be understood and developed. Even though no two men or their sex drives are identical there is much to learn by gender analysis and the world of symbols.

Jim Guido

2 Responses to “Sexual Symbols: Male”

  1. on 14 Apr 2010 at 10:49 am Effie

    Wow you really are a true Freudian! Ever thought that referring to everything as a penis is a little bit out of context?

  2. on 14 Apr 2010 at 11:15 am Guido

    Actually I’m very far from being a Freudian. Yet, in this case I wanted to take the rather negative stereotype of masculinity as presented by the standard sexual image of the penis and show its positive pole and not just its popular negative associations with missiles, guns, knives and the like.
    Did you read my posts on the female genital sexual images which are often ignored as the focus has been on the male organ?
    I think it is only fair that any review of the possible symbolic significance of the male genitalia needs to be balanced by the female genitalia.
    Again, I attempted to pose the strengths and weaknesses of both images for I felt that so much negative focus has been placed on the masculine energy in modern discourse.
    I invite you to read my other posts on gender issues and the male sex drive written about the same time as the post you read. I think you’ll find they seldom if ever are posed in any Freudian context.

    Jim Guido

Trackback this Post | Feed on comments to this Post

Leave a Reply