Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Organic Banality

I got into a big argument with someone tonight over something so minimal. These moments punctuate my life. I'm not usually proud of them--I see them like binges, unhealthy episodes which mark, simultaneously, my passion about something and my inability to face something. Often when a relationship with someone enters a certain level of intimacy, a certain degree of importance, a stupid argument occurs. I must not be alone in this. But it's particularly frustrating when it feels like I'm unable to move beyond the banality that initiates the argument, to get to the level that actually matters to both of us.

My Indian flatmate says, Black men have big penises, Asian men have small ones. I can't begin to count the number of times this has come up in a conversation I've witnessed. It's come up so many times that the question itself has become a truism.

The relationship between race and sex is the most complicated part of this discussion, and the part I began to try to talk about. Public debates about integration in the United States would hinge, quite often, on the segregationist's question: "yes, but would you want your daughter marrying one?" For me, this question leads to the banal part of the discussion: was there not a more profane implication in this question? A question about your daughter's white vagina, and the black man's penis?

I objected to the way that she summoned this "simple fact," I guess because of the number of times I've seen it summoned, as though it was a reversal of racism, in itself, as though the person saying it was somehow correcting a wrong or doing someone a favor. I've heard people say that God cursed black people by taking everything from them but the consolation prize was the big penis. This is a joke, but there's something so deeply unfunny about it. A few people have pointed this out to me carefully, that people so easily accept the idea that a big penis is a good thing, a blessing, when so recently it meant an equivalence with animality, with banality, perversion and lowliness. This is why Michelangelo's David has a child-sized member.

It is as if the final undoing of racism is supposed to have begun in the most banal way, in the male sex organ, that all of a sudden the entire hierachical system of Western aesthetics will have been overturned, starting with the revaluation of a 'natural physical characteristic' of a homogeneous group named 'Blacks.' The most amazing part is that we actually accept this without thinking about it. Fanon explains this in Black Skin, White Masks. While castration of blacks is a common practice of white racists, the Jew (or the Asian) is not castrated by the racist--only killed or 'neutralized,' because it is not his physique but his mind that is a threat, his cognitive and technical capability to make money.

In this sense the supposedly small penis, of the Asian or of the white in relation to the black, stands for his actual dominance, economically, cognitively, and technically. The symbol stands in this case for the antithesis of the actual. This is the hidden, awful thesis in the penis size debate. It may be that blacks have the 'best' bodies, but we know very well that this is their only prize, and that this is not a social construct but an immutable biological fact.

So the penis size debate may seem to be an empirical one, a non-racial and non-political one. You can leave it at that if you don't want to ruffle someone's feathers. But it is also one of the many places where the importance of metaphor presents itself once again.


  1. Are you familiar with the Curse of Ham? The story in the Old Testament of Ham, son of Noah, goes, roughly, as follows. Noah gets drunk as a skunk one afternoon and passes out naked, basically the most possibly embarrassing thing. All of Noah's sons are too shameful or concerned with their father's pride or something like that. Ham says "this is ridiculous" and covers Noah up and takes care of him and all that jazz. Noah wakes and is like WTF DID YOU DO? and curses Ham such that his skin turns dark by the sun, his lips get big, his nose broad and his phallus is 'shamefully elongated.' Kind of a fucked up story.
    On another note, there's an episode of South Park (http://www.southparkstudios.com/guide/episodes/s11e14-the-list) that kinda touches on this (in an indirect way). Kyle wishes he was attractive but then finds out that attractive people get lazy and waste their lives while ugly people make something of themselves. I got into an argument with a stupid girl about something like this where she was like "no, a big dick is always better. Michaelangelo and company were trying to idealize the small penis because they were tiny and couldn't get women off." The problem with this idea, as you mentioned about Asians and Jews, stereotypically, is that they 'compensate.' We're so obsessed with penis size being a direct correlation with skill at sex that we feel that 'compensating' is pathetic. Man, as an animal, is a 'compensating creature.' We have no claws or fangs, so we gotta make it up somewhere (which corroborates, after a couple iterations, with your big penis -> animality idea).
    All in all, the penis size debate is a stupid one. Having a huge dick is great if you want to 'get a girl off without trying.' But if you want that, you at least care somewhat about getting a girl off, so why not actually care and put some effort into it. :) Sure, having a big dick will make you better if you put in the same effort as someone with a smaller one (up to a point, of course) but who cares? 'Natural talent' has a terrible tendency to make you lazy (LOL CORROBORATIVE BLACK STEREOTYPE). DURR HURR HURR.
    The concept of a consolation prize is ultimately for the prize giver, not for the recipient. There's a line from 3:10 to Yuma (fun movie, I recommend it) "they didn't pay me to walk away, they paid me so that they could walk away." Rant rant rant.

    TL;DR: you hit the nail pretty much right on the head.

  2. On another note, I got into a really banal argument the other day and left feeling completely fuzzy headed. Dunno how to describe it, but it felt the same as if I had played video games or beaten off all day. It's that feeling of compulsion, like picking at a scab. I'm still trying to work on this one. You gotta ask yourself; is this person gonna be convinced of their own idiocy? The problem with someone saying something stupid is that it usually stems from a stupid belief, which usually stems from a place of laziness or other weakness. You can't expect someone to see their laziness let alone be willing to grow out of it. Don't lose sleep over it :)