[DASH of SAS] In search of a penis and equality
I wanted to see what a penis looks like.
That is the only defense I have for my intensely curious 11-year old self who scoured through girly magazines (my uncle’s stash - isn’t it always?) looking for a penis.
That and the fact that I was growing up in the early 80s in San Francisco, the epicenter of the gay rights movement and where residents included the likes of Naomi Wolf before she became a feminist icon.
Needless to say, the girly magazines disappointed me. All I saw were women displayed in all their glory with an occasional glimpse of a guy’s butt here and there. I already knew what girly parts looked like. I only had to look on my own, or more accurately, wait for my own parts to develop.
Looking around for an actual human - not drawn or illustrated - penis and finding only vaginas was my first lesson in inequality between men and women. Only I didn't call it inequality then. My 11-year old self was bummed and wailed about how unfair it was that boys got the lowdown all the time.
As Ms. Wolf wrote in her 1991 book The Beauty Myth, “To live in a culture in which women are routinely naked where men aren’t is to learn inequality in little ways all day long.”
In the flesh
I’m not exactly sure when I felt the ground of inequality shift beneath me. May be it was during the first Cosmo Bachelor Bash that I was invited to. It was many years ago, but when I close my eyes, I can still hear the music thumping, can still sense the anticipation that was so strong you could smell it in the air, can still remember how the lights went out and then… BOOM, without so much as an introduction, beautiful specimens of the male form came marching out—toned, buffed and glistening with possibly baby oil… hopefully baby oil.
I think it was supposed to be the female version of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show because the models wore angel wings and black jeans that were so tight that only fantasy - the space between imagination and reality - was left.
When the last model strutted away and lights went off, the hot-blooded women who gathered that evening were flushed and giddy. And we went home with a silly smile on our face and an ominous glow.
It was more than a celebration of the fine packages men come in. It was a celebration of the fact that was finally ostentatiously and deliciously acknowledged: that women like looking at men, enjoy fantasizing about them and think it’s fun to playfully lust after them with your girlfriends.
It was like - Light bulb! Hot flash! - women have desires. We’re human, too.
So much of the oppression of women can be traced back to the total disregard of her sensuality and the absolute denial of the existence of her sexuality.
With Internet and social media, it is no long a struggle to find a penis or other similar phallic symbols. It may be more difficult to avoid having one pop up in your feed or SMS, but overall, the conversation is becoming much more balanced.
Men and women can be appreciated in various states of dress and undress [think about the range of fashion and porn and where those two meet] by both men and women alike. More importantly, the conversation has widened to include discussions like different body types, different skin tones and the whole wonderful rainbow of humanity.
We can now enjoy and celebrate the little victories like Alice Dixson rockin’ it at 40 fuckin’ five. Ms. Dixson and an ever-growing list of women like her have broadened the definition of beauty to exclude another element: age.
This is the growing group of women who, in their 20s to their 40s and beyond, are defining beauty according to a new standard: their own. In this new emerging normal, the only common denominator and mandatory minimum is panache.
Confidence is simply too pedestrian a term to use when describing the oomph, power and presence these women bring into a room or a stage. It is what happens when you liberate yourself from the burden of caring so much about what other people think. Because when that happens, you can work on being the best possible version of you rather than trying to fit into the cookie cutter set of expectations of others. (READ: I am not pretty for your pleasure)
With this conversation now underway, let’s go on and talk and do something about the other things that continue to skew the imbalance between men and women in the Philippines: the absence of divorce, the inconsistent availability of birth control for both men and women, and keeping our young people in the dark about sex and sexuality.
Along with many others, I will continue to fight for all that - tooth and red polished, stiletto heeled toenail (I’ve had to give up the polished finger nails for my writing career but, hey, life is full of trade offs). But give me a minute to relish the last remaining moments of World Cup fever. I did not watch a single game, but as you can imagine, I did get to know a lot about the players. -Rappler.com
Ana P. Santos writes about sex and gender issues. She is a regular contributor for Rappler apart for her DASH of SAS column, which is a spin off of her website, www.SexAndSensibilities.com (SAS). Follow her on Twitter at @iamAnaSantos.