My Genitals Are Not Junk, And Neither Are Yours
Because talking about our genitals matter-of-factly seems to be beyond us, there seems to be a virtual requirement that we euphemize these parts of our bodies. I’m not a fan of that. We seem to have three bad options: clinical/technical, vulgar and cutesy. I don’t like any of those, but on the whole I can best live with clinical/technical. The terms are often latinate and strange to our eyes and ears, though that’s mostly because their use has been limited to technical discussions and that might not remain true of they were used more. Cutesy bothers me because of the infantilization, the dismissiveness, the notion that sex isn’t a subject for real grown-up thoughts. But what’s really problematic is to default to the vulgar, and in particular a certain kind of vulgar.
If anybody touches my junk, they better be in the waste hauling industry, because that term does not refer to my genitals. My penis is not junk. Me testicles are not junk. They have served me well, they have served my partners well, they have created and been the locus for a lifetime of pleasure. How do I repay them? By insulting them? Not me. They are not junk, they are not shit, they are not dirty, they are not worthless. The Romans called the genitals “pudenda,” parts of shame, and they can tell that shit walking, because I am not ashamed of my penis or my testicles.
This manner of reference is the worst of all worlds. When we’re fucking, if we fuck, or stroking, if we stroke, or referring to others who do, we have our vulgar terms: cock, prick, dick, balls, sack. Pussy, cunt, clit. It’s a different vulgarity, isn’t it, the complicit vulgarity that the user shares by saying the word? The vulgarity of the participant. But “junk” — there’s a distance in it. It’s the worst of all worlds, the association with the dirty and the worthless, without the immediacy of the wetness and sweat and the smells and tastes and textures of touching and rubbing and joining those sensitive parts. Which, when some of us think about how fun that can be, makes us inclined to value our genitals all the more.
[Other people, and recently Jeff Jarvis, have called out this particular form of euphemism in the last week]
[Edited to add: on Tumblr, many folks have pointed out that I presume to police how they feel about their own genitals. I realize that’s a bridge too far. Our bodies are each our own.]