I live in a very dude household. It’s me, my two sons and my husband. One of our dogs is also male. So, there’s no way around it. I am surrounded by penises. I hear about them constantly too. While my kids are not loud-mouthed, crude boys (I’m often told after play dates that they are refreshingly polite and kind), they talk about penises in the privacy of our home A LOT. There is much discussion about and reference made to their penises. How could there not be with all of the names they have for them?
“Mom! He shook his dong at me!”
“Don’t be such a wang!”
“Get your junk away from me!”
The nicknames are never-ending. In addition to those above, we have johnson, peepee, winky, big papi, and on and on and on.
Freely touching themselves seems to go along with this. They appear incapable of existing without having at least one hand down their pants. I’ll be sitting around, watching tv or folding laundry, and the oldest, who is 12, will wander in.
“I forgot I need $5 for school tomorrow.”
I observe him standing before me and autonomically scrunch up my face. “I’m not talking to you while you’re touching your penis.”
He removes his hands from his pants and then repeats himself as though nothing happened.
I can’t even make this stuff up. And I give each of them this ultimatum at least once a night.
I am a mom with a sense of humor. But a woman can only take so much locker room talk. My kids forget that I am a woman, not just their mom. There’s a point where so much penis talk just makes me feel, I don’t know, disrespected, vulnerable, targeted, harassed, ignored, and triggered. I’m also just flat-out annoyed by the topic and presence and praise of the almighty goddamn penis. You’d think these kids were endowed with some kind of national treasure the way they rattle on and on about it. The “I’m not talking to you while your hand is down your pants” line has been my go-to, and more or less, it’s been helpful.
But one weekend I said, “Please take your hands out of your pants,” so many times that it went beyond annoyance. I became uncomfortable. It was one thing when my sons were little, but my oldest took sex ed last year. The hair on his legs is coarsening. He uses deodorant. It doesn’t feel so innocent when he’s singing about his privates anymore.
Not long after, I attended a school-fundraiser auction prize outing…a VIP experience at that High Temple of the Penis…The Chippendales. While nibbling crudités in our private box, another mom and I watched the troupe of men parade around in their underwear. Sadly, we realized, we were old enough to be their mothers. In the midst of the cavorting, I told my friend, also a mom of two sons, that this was doing nothing for me, as dudes scampering around in their skivvies was something I saw every night pre-bedtime. She cackled in acknowledgment.
It was the perfect place to ask the question of other moms, so I bravely queried, “Do your sons talk about their junk a lot?” It seems in households with two or more boys, the answer is a very definite yes. The multiple boy moms of the group filled the VIP box at House of Blues with bitching about how crude our sons could be. The consensus was that we can’t back down. As they say, you don’t negotiate with terrorists. Our attention was directed back to the stage as “It’s Raining Men” came on.
Afterward, I had a straightforward family discussion regarding my discomfort. It slackened the rate of offense for a few days, but I guess dick humor is just too funny. Why give it up when one word is going to make your brother keel over laughing and provoke your mother?
So I decided it was time to up the ante. The next time a kid started singing about his wang, I sang along but changed the lyrics to mention a vagina. The first time I did it, you could have heard a pin drop. “Mom!!!!!” echoed through the house. Huh. That got their attention. Now, that’s what I’m talking about.
One of them was joking about how, “My peepee feels so squishy!” I followed with, “So does my vagina.” Trust me, those were not easy words to spit out, but I did it and with a completely straight face. You could almost hear the “wah-wah” trombones playing in their heads.
But that’s bullshit. It’s not news that speaking of women’s private parts is somehow harder to do. But it’s certainly not fair and it pissed me off that I felt uncomfortable saying those words and that the boys had such a shocked reaction. But, that aside, the penis talk declined significantly as a result of my leveling of the crudeness playing-field.
I can’t argue with those results, and as time has passed, I’ve become less frustrated that I had to do it. Maybe it’s not so outlandish that, at 12 and 9, I need to teach my sons how their silly references to their body parts can make women feel. What I first thought was some kind of parenting failure might just be the way it is.
If nothing else, the #metoo movement has shown us that this lesson—being responsible men who live in their bodies, yet are still respectful to women—is one that many men in our culture haven’t mastered.