Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private The Male Body: A New Look at Men in Public and in Private by Susan Bordo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I can almost positively say I have never read or thought about the penis as I have in the last week. Usually I can find a focal point that sticks with me in my reading however Professor Bordo’s writing floods the mind with information, imagery, and because I am male reflection as well. I appreciate the difference she highlights between the phallus and the penis. The phallus in ancient times was a highly spiritual symbol and often represented by the sword or dagger while the counterpart the vagina was a cup.

The sword is like many images Bordo named hard and erect the counter symbol the cup open. These are spiritual symbols of fertility more then sex, while in ancient spiritually sex for pleasure was not given the negativity it would acquire with the western world after Judeo-Christian believes took hold. I grew up in urban neighborhoods that had a mix of cultures and I don’t remember the slang or reference for machismo having as much a focus on the penis as it did on the testicles. ”He’s got balls” or similar refrains were popular, men who had large families earned a kind of respect for being virile.

I did appreciate that men were also somewhat subjected to the junk cultural brainwashing inflicted on women as in the last decade we became the Viagra nation. Professor Bordo’s comparisons between male anatomy and machines were interesting in this context as men now sought to perform and be potent in bed.

If a man perceives him self as his penis and he experiences impotence, I would imagine this would be a large internal crisis that compounds itself by its nature as the more depression and anxiety it causes the worse the problem could become. I think if there is only one thing we all learn from this book it is the fact we are not our penis or our breast. We are not how thin we are or how muscular, we are what we are upstairs hidden from others scrutiny.

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