My friend Kevin was in a business meeting the other day when a member of the sales team strayed a bit into the corporate red zone.
“We have to know what we’re dealing with before we walk into that negotiation,” he said. “Otherwise, you might as well just drop your drawers.”
Most people in the room just smiled through it, as they would any business cliché—if Mr. Sales Guy had insisted they “think outside the box” or “get the view from 30,000 feet” or “hit one out of the park.”
But Kevin was dumfounded. He wanted to give Sales Guy the benefit of the doubt. He even did a Google search later, just in case his interpretation of the phrase didn’t match what Sales Guy had meant. But pretty much everywhere he looked, the definition was the same: “drop your drawers” means “get fucked.”
It wasn’t the sexual connotation per se that disturbed Kevin. The PC police’s attempt to completely de-sex the American workplace is about as successful as George W. Bush’s attempt to de-Osama the Afghan hills.
What bothered Kevin was the subliminal message behind the expression: it suggests that getting fucked is somehow a bad thing, that the top is the one with all the power and the pleasure. (Something only a straight man could be naïve enough—or deep enough in denial—to believe.)
Kevin’s story got me thinking about the all-too-typical view of sex as a power struggle, the belief that bottoming is somehow humiliating—whether you’re a man or a woman. It’s the same way of thinking that leads people to use cocksucker as an insult. From what I hear, the vagina has become quite the delicacy of late, with more and more men welcoming the chance to boldly go head-on where they once let only their dicks explore. And yet, those very dicks—which, ironically, are attached to their own bodies—are the ultimate source of repulsion. It’s a wonder they can bear to touch the vile things to pee.
I think it’s time to acknowledge the elephant trunk in the room. For years, we’ve heard about body dysmorphia in women, the fact that the way many women see themselves is not the way they actually are. This phenomenon accounts for a number of disturbing trends—anorexia, bulimia, and capri pants chief among them.
But it’s high time to admit that women are not alone. Men, it seems to me, are just as disgusted by their own bodies. But in their case, the bloated bellies and man-boobs and nose hair aren’t really the problem (or else they’d do something about them). No, the dirty little secret is that man’s best friend—his constant companion, the little head that tells the big head what to do—can be a source of absolute horror.
I can certainly accept that straight men are driven by an attraction to women, but does that attraction necessitate distaste for their own gender? Lord knows, I have no interest in going to bed with a woman, but I wouldn’t say I find their bodies threatening. (No vagina dentata fears over here, thank you very much.) Of course, even if I did feel a twinge at the thought of labia, at least it could be understand as fear of the unfamiliar. On the other hand, while I might be turned off by the shape of someone’s nose or the size of his ass, I would be considered insane were I to express an open disdain for noses and asses in general, seeing as I have one of each myself.
The natural question then (so to speak) is this: when straight men masturbate, do they close their eyes and concentrate on the feeling alone, imagining only vaginas and breasts, because the sight of their own phallus is just too much to bear?
Or is it more complicated than that? Does every man think his own dick is beautiful—it’s just all the rest of them that are repugnant? Kind of like how he knows how to comb his own hair and how big to grow his biceps, but claims to be completely blind to how other men look. The hypocrisy at the heart of bravado.
With his kneejerk remark, Kevin’s Sales Guy seemed to be channeling every straight man’s nightmare: being at the mercy of someone else’s dick.
Of course, the gay world is also full of men with their own issues about bottoming, but that’s the subject for a whole other discussion. Their problem is also primarily about masculine power, but at least it isn’t based on any disgust with the dick itself: we might not all put our legs in the air, but rare is the gay man unwilling to get down on his knees.
My boyfriend posits that straight men aren’t repulsed by penises so much as indifferent to them. Or at least, he says, they aspire to indifference. Given the role of the penis in our culture, it’s hard to believe any man can walk through a locker room and not notice them, not be constantly on the lookout for comparisons and judgment. But that, too, is the topic for another column.
For years women have complained of sexual objectification. As a gay man, that’s a concept I’ve never been able to relate to. Objectification presupposes an other. When people of the same gender have sex, object and subject tend to blur. Whatever I do to my lover’s body, I can imagine him doing to mine: I know how it feels, and that knowledge actually helps me to please him.
I suppose heterosexuals have to rely more on imagination than experience: no straight man can really know how a woman feels, and god knows they’re not famous for their empathic skills to begin with. For a straight man, the idea of being penetrated is perhaps so foreign that it can’t be perceived as anything but an invasion, a dangerous threat—which is pretty much the way I feel about football.
Maybe we’re not so different, after all.