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Updated: Mar 6, 2023

And what they have to do with body image issues...

Hey friends,

Today I want to talk about penises!

This is a bit of a departure for me, as I’ve written about vulvas many times over the years, and I tend to direct my content toward femmes, women, and folks without penises.

But the thing is… body insecurities apply to everyone, and my body neutrality work has neither a gender, nor a particular type of genitals.

As a result, I am often invited to talk to folks with penises about their relationship to their penises– what they’re insecure about, what they worry over, and how it all relates to their sense of identity and worth.

A lot of this is said to me with humor and self-deprecation of course, but a lot of it is said with vulnerability and tears, too. (I’ve had clients come to me to work on this specifically!)

It also tends to feel like men are often dying to talk about this stuff, because there are so few avenues for doing so (outside of joke-y comments among peers and friends). After all, men have a standard of masculinity to uphold, right? Which means they can’t very well go around talking about their insecurities, as it might make them seem weak or overly emotional. And they especially can’t go around talking about their penis insecurities, because having the “ideal penis” is so linked to their status as a man.

And that’s part of the problem, really.

Body image issues are so often directly linked to gender, and the “ideal” gender expression for men and women. The “ideal woman” in our modern culture is thin, not because thin women are inherently more desirable, but because we have an association with thinness and femininity.

A thin woman represents a woman who is young, inexperienced, and easy to control; a woman who won’t be difficult, or take up too much space; a woman who knows her place, and understands that her value comes from providing pleasure and service to men.

In other words, an “ideal woman.” (Barf.)

Anyway, my point is that the socially constructed body ideal for women isn’t random; it’s an attempt to aesthetically signal femininity, with the idea being that a feminine woman is a desirable woman.

And likewise, the socially constructed body ideal for men isn’t random, either. It’s an attempt to aesthetically signal masculinity, with the idea being that a masculine man is a desirable man.

This is why the “ideal man” is big, muscular, lean, and powerful looking. Those aesthetic qualities are associated with our current cultural definition of masculinity, ie: the ability to dominate. (Again, barf.)

The penis is defined by the same ideal, and has a lot of pressure on it to “earn” its owner’s credibility and worthiness as a man.

And what happens when we give our bodies so much power and significance??

We develop body image issues.

This is the whole damn premise of body neutrality: that we have to strip away the added (and false!) meaning, significance, and power we’ve placed on our bodies in order to make peace with them.

And while this is a conversation that I have never before seen applied to penises– it really needs to be!

So while I’ve shied away from tackling this topic publicly, I want to change that– to take this topic out of the shadows, and into the light.

That’s why I actually made this week’s podcast episode all about penises!

I had a special guest on my podcast– my brother Jason– who is both the owner of his very own penis, and willing to unpack and explore all these topics publicly in service of the greater good!

This was my first guest episode, and, I think, my best ever.

I highly encourage you to listen to it, no matter your gender identity or genitals, as it’s packed with illuminating and important ideas that I think everyone would benefit from.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the episode.

Should I tackle this topic again? Any questions you have, or insights from listening you want to share? Just come on back here and hit reply to let me know if so.

(And if you like it, don’t forget to subscribe to my podcast– I put up new episodes every Monday!)

So much love,

Jessi Kneeland

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