Why We Need To Stop Joking About Small Penises

by Kristen Mae
Originally Published: 

I am very much in favor of criticizing men. When a guy mansplains, doesn’t do his share around the house, or is racist, homophobic, or generally intolerant of any marginalized group, I have zero problem with anyone verbally eviscerating him. Take that mothereffer down. I even wrote an article recently in which I sympathized with the views in Pauline Harmange’s book, “I Hate Men.” I deeply related to what she wrote about hating men as a social group, though not necessarily as individuals. My default position with men is distrust, because it’s better to be pleasantly surprised than continuously disappointed.

And yet there is one criticism of men that I really can’t stand. It’s a low-hanging fruit, so to speak, that people easily grab for as the most cutting insult they can hurl:

He must have a tiny penis.

Folks, please don’t do this.

First of all, it’s dehumanizing — and probably not for the person at whom you’re aiming the insult. Especially if this insult is made on social media, other men, possibly perfectly wonderful, feminist men who are our allies and biggest supporters but who maybe aren’t so huge in the penis department. They see those insults, and it cuts them too. Trans men, who may already experience dysphoria related to their small penis or lack of a penis, may see it and feel invalidated as men. Intersex people may feel shame surrounding their genitals that don’t fit heteronormative expectations.

I get the impulse to do this, believe me. Especially in those moments when I witness a man spewing all the very worst aspects of toxic masculinity. I want to slice and dice that massive ego. I want to make him feel as tiny and insignificant as possible — not because I think anyone should be made to feel small, but because bringing that particular man’s disproportionately large ego down a few notches would place him on a more realistic wrung of the ego ladder. When people talk about the inflated confidence of the mediocre white man, I imagine this unearned confidence as a balloon that I would like to pop with a needle. See how aggressively intolerant of men’s bullshit I am?

And yet you won’t catch me commenting snarkily about anyone’s tiny penis. I’m not going to accuse the guy down the street with his stupid jacked-up truck and Trump flags flapping in the wind of overcompensating for his tiny dick. The truth is, he’s just a self-absorbed, ignorant dumbass who was given the impression by too many people that everyone gives a fuck what he thinks. I couldn’t give a shit about his penis.

Insulting a person’s body parts reduces their entire worth to that part. And that is a super un-feminist thing to do. Women, of all people, ought to know better than to use a person’s body, or a part of their body, as an insult.

Joking about a guy’s penis size as a way to cut him down isn’t the ultimate clapback to toxic masculinity you think it is. On the contrary, it contributes to it — it reinforces the false idea that size matters and that size correlates with masculinity.

Joking about penis size reinforces the idea that a penis is what makes a man a man. It reinforces the idea that a trans man who doesn’t have a penis is less of a man. It reinforces the idea that a trans woman who has a penis is not a woman. It reinforces the idea that a man with a large penis is more of a man. It reinforces the idea that a man with a small penis, or no penis at all, is less of a man. All of these are ideas straight out of the toxic masculinity playbook.

Also, it needs to be said that a large penis also doesn’t make a man more impressive or desirable to women. Sorry, straight cis guys with big dicks, but most women don’t actually give a flying fuck about the size of your dick. Sure, there are women out there who will flat-out tell you they love a large penis, but the vast majority of women don’t care one bit about penis size. Most women can’t orgasm with penetration alone anyway. What they very much prefer is a smart, sensitive partner who pays attention and just generally cares about their pleasure. In terms of sex, penis size is literally a non-issue.

A person’s body is not up for your judgment or criticism no matter how poorly they behave. Every time we hurl an insult based on the part of a person we perceive as flawed or less-than, we hurl that same insult at every other person who has that same “flaw.”

When men behave like egomaniacal, oblivious shitheads, absolutely call them out. Criticize their behavior. Criticize the obvious gaps in their thinking, their entitlement, their overconfidence. But, when it comes to cutting people down to size, body parts — all body parts — need to be taken off the chopping block.

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