There’s been a lot of ballyhoo over this list. Many major minds, most of them apparently Caucasian and male, have been consulted for their “most dangerous ideas.” Presumably the whole exercise will facilitate great intellectual discussion, limitless coffers poured into research and development, and several Slashdot threads that will carry on well into 2012.
Of course, nobody bothered to consult me. And while I am quite Caucasian and quite male, I’m not a scientist and I’ve yet to publish a book. Let’s the face the facts: I’m just some half-baked literary blogger and I still, with great guilt, heat up a frozen chimichanga from time to time.
However, let us postulate a parallel universe (those who have watched a few episodes of Sliders will understand) where Jared Diamond is working a day job and blogging like a maniac and I, on the other hand, am a nonfiction author beloved and adored by millions for meticulously researched yet highly pessimistic fat books. Let us further suggest that “The World Question Center” (a name which sounds suspiciously close to “Customer Service Center”) deigned to ask me about my “most dangerous idea.”
It really needs to be said. So here goes:
Penises in mainstream film.
Western society has reached a point where premarital sex is the norm. We have penises in locker rooms. We have them in boudoirs (or what sometimes passes for boudoirs in cramped apartments inhabited by multiple homo sapiens). In the presence of a lady, men will sooner divest themselves of their boxers rather than their black socks. What exactly does that say? Well, speaking as someone who enjoys being naked (particularly with other people) and who is quite guilty of the black socks crime (there are reasons; please don’t ask), I submit to scholars and casual anthropologists of all stripes that your typical Western male has a closet hankering to let it hang loose. For let us be clear on this: micturating in the open air is a fantastic sensation.
In other words, the penis has reached a point where it is more prominent in our everyday culture than the films which allegedly reflect this culture. And if films are intended as a verisimilitudinous medium (again don’t laugh), Hollywood endings notwithstanding, we must address the reality of the penis. It exists. It is seen. And it is not a harmful organ. Contrary to contemporary forms of homophobic paralogia, it will not corrupt a male heterosexual’s mind. (Proof positive: I have lived in San Francisco for eleven years and, while I have become slightly more perverse, I have no sexual or romantic interest in men — all this despite the fact that I am more likely to see an accidental penis in this town on any given day.) A penis will harm nobody really. Yes, it is capable of penetrating orifices or being tainted with genital warts. But if we’re talking about your garden variety one-eyed snake here, on what level is it pernicious?
Let us consider the double standard, which has frankly gone on far enough. So it’s perfectly okay for women to disrobe completely in an R-rated film, stopping just short of the full open labial shot frequently found and fawned over in hardcore porn. It is perfectly okay for the camera to dwell upon a slow-motion shot of jiggling breasts. Where however are the penises? Sure, there’s the odd Ewan McGregor or Harvey Keitel determined to get their John Thomases displayed in nearly every movie they appear in. But a real “actor” would never sully his reputation by exposing nothing more than his ass and bare chest.
If the idea here is that testicles and a cock represent a sensitive area and thus should not be displayed, then obviously the men who offer this bullshit excuse have clearly overlooked the sensitivity of the female mammary gland (in particular, the nip).
I submit to the American public that there are far more disturbing things to witness than naked people (violence, for starters) and, in particular, penises. In fact, the human body, as has been noted on more than one occasion by sundry dabblers and scriveners, is quite beautiful. And the idea that this beauty can’t sit squarely within R-rated territory like its mammary and outside labial counterparts is a crime against gender equality. And it’s really not much fun to boot.