The Vagenda

Penis Envy

Everyone’s got penis envy nowadays. It cropped up in Natalie Portman’s Saturday Night Live performance where she aggressively commanded male fans to ‘suck my dick’; it shot further into mainstream media with the quintessential nightmare girlfriend in The Hangover telling her boyfriend the same thing at a wedding; and it’s continued in a variety of forms throughout pop music, most notably through the often inspired and certainly genital-centric lyrics of Nicki Minaj (where there are so many ‘dicks’ and ‘balls’ self-attributed to her that even The Guardian mentioned it.)
So is it time for us to all grow a pair, or is this just a phallus-y (sorry)? It’s hard to tell whether we’re moving towards ‘dick’ as a general term for genitalia, irrespective of sex – and in the case of ‘balls’, it’s going to be pretty hard to swing it that they could also be ovaries. ‘Being ballsy’, ‘having bigger balls than you’ – it’s all good stuff; needless to say, ‘being a pussy’ doesn’t carry the same clout. Ballsy people are powerful; pussies are weak. Nicki Minaj says she has bigger balls than all the male rappers in the game, and who am I to argue with her? But do we now have to talk that talk to get ahead?I don’t cringe quite as much as when I hear actual women say to men: ‘You throw like a girl!’ when I hear teenage girls talk casually about their imaginary penises and accompanying testicles nowadays, but it is a feminist ‘progression’ that sits strangely with me. I mean, has everyone here actually seen balls? They’re ridiculously delicate, oddly textured little sacs that hang like skin-coloured chrysalises near a guy’s ass. I literally can’t think of anything less appropriate for a power symbol. Vaginas, on the other hand, can sometimes have teeth. TEETH. Case closed.

On an ever-so-slightly more serious level, this linguistic shift has a poignant undertone. It’s used with increasing frequency on the playground (the teenage playground mostly, hopefully) and it underscores how much girls don’t want to be girls and women don’t want to be women anymore. We’ve reached a time where there is no doubt in our collective female mind that we are clever, able, capable equals of the men who we study and work and share lives with, but society is lagging in its deliverance of results that reflect this. ‘Girl’ – or, by extension, ‘pussy’ – has therefore become a convenient ‘other’ to refer to, even if you’re a woman. If you get on board with insulting other people for ‘acting like a girl’ and talk loudly about your ‘massive balls’, you might just be OK with the guys around you. But every time you use language that way, someone out there has to be the girl.

Like ‘that’s so gay’, I don’t imagine ‘you’ve got balls’ is going to disappear anytime soon, although it might wear itself out. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a cultural overhang from the time, not so long ago, when my business advisor mother’s report sheets came back from a seminar and one man had written that she ‘clearly has penis envy.’ Yes, he was being serious, and was taken seriously – nowadays, we’d probably laugh in the face of that dude and tell him to ‘grow a pair.’ Which, in its own special way, is progress – albeit with room for improvement.

6 thoughts on “Penis Envy

  1. Precisely! Said balls are ridiculously sensitive and useful merely for producing sperm. In no way can they actually be considered ‘powerful’ in the physical sense. A vagina on the other hand now, popping out something the size of a watermelon through a space that accommodates a sausage. Now that’s something (Not my quote, it’s from We Need to Talk About Kevin). I’ve said as much whenever I have heard “Grow a pair” or “Oh you haven’t got the balls”. Well, guess what buster, your balls don’t effing stand up to my vagina.

    My problem with promoting usage of vagina-related power in a similar vein is that it cuts off half the population from having anything to do with it for biological reasons, just like the balls reference. Time was when one could simply say “Can’t stomach it” to convey the same meaning but clearly we live in a society which finds that a bit too gentle and needs a more graphic way of expression (I would have gone with gross but I am questioning why genitals are considered ‘gross’).

    I do think balls-related references will eventually um, grow out … it’s going to take time though.

  2. i recently have asked myself a similar question: if i’m trying to make an offhandedly exclamatory sentence involving genitals, why is it that i have to use men’s words? since, i have begun telling people to suck my clit when they’re being particularly awful. this feels great and empowering, and it is also ridiculously more offensive and shocking to other people, and thus the effect is all the more satisfying.

  3. Gonads refers to both female and male reproductive bits… so that can be used. Still, like its said… balls are delicate. I didn’t know teen girls were talking about having balls and dicks, bizarre.
    I think when we finally have inspiring female role models (and not the kardashians and the endless stream of infantilised girl-women out there) then girls will want to be women again..

  4. The tissue that forms both testes and ovaries is the same, altered only by varying levels of really quite chemically similar hormones, in-utero. Outside of their little handbag, testes are smooth, solid, white-ish and egg shaped, almost identical visually to ovaries and equally as powerful. They are both act as progenitors, creating coded and neatly packaged parcels which deliver our entire genetic content ready for fertilisation.

    I am proud to say that I don’t need to grow a pair… I already have a powerful and vibrant pair, ready to carry the code for our entire species.. ( with 2 fully formed X chromosomes. not a sign of a broken little Y!!) and mine aren’t dangling about rather dangerously in teeny tiny bags of left-over elbow skin ( to quote Billy).. but neatly and safely tucked away inside a life carrying bony structure, safe from harm!

    I am a strong proud happy woman, cheerfully self supporting with my own backbone, powered by an awesome pair of my own;))