Most writing on genital shame is focused on women. Yet, I find genital shame in many men too. Genital shame takes many different forms but I’ve noticed some similarities. First of all many men have a distanced relationship with our genitals. We often treat our penis as separate from the rest of our body. Some of us even give a name to the penis. How many other parts of the body are named? This distance, even when done in a humorous way, increases the distance and detachment from our genitals.
Sometimes these names are an attempt to acknowledge erection concerns. Sometimes it does seem that our penis has a mind of it’s own. Most guys have had that experience of getting uncontrolled erections. We’re embarrassed about being called in class if we have an erection. Then, later in life, we wonder where those erections went. We spend the first half of our life running away from erections and the second half chasing after them! The comon theme is that we blame our penis.
Many of us had experiences that our penises are “dirtier” than the other parts of our body. We don’t notice when a little body absent mindedly rubs his arm. Yet many parents get quite upset if a little boy absent-mindedly (or deliberately) starts rubbing his genitals. Yet, we are aware that it feels good and are confused why there’s so much fuss when we rub “down there.” Much of the time, the “Don’t do that, that’s dirty” will only come from mom or dad when he touches himself in one particular spot. Most little boys don’t see their testicles and their penises as entirely separate entities. By the time a boy is six or seven, he’s probably learned from his family that his genitals are dirty. We learn to keep this part of our body concealed and hidden.
Of course, the big issue is around penis size – more about this for the next post.