How Many Inches?

In the comments on “Eight Inches of Privacy”, Lynn Kendall picks up on the size joke: “Shouldn’t that be ‘a couple of inches of limp privacy and probably 5 or 6 if turgid’?”

What is it about our culture that makes this seem funny? Here’s part of what sociologist Michael Kimmel said about Laurie’s photographs in the introduction to Familiar Men:

“What we notice though is that the penises are flaccid, soft, and most of them appear rather small. It is an act of defiance, of resistance to traditional norms of masculinity, to appear so fragile, so soft.”

And, of course, it hasn’t always been this way.


Does anyone know when (and any of the sociology of why) public art stopped including male frontal nudity, flaccid penises, and real male bodies?


The next question is from the other comment we got to this entry, and is something we plan to discuss soon, including your responses.

Pearl asked:

“While I see what you mean about female bodies being more public, “hunk of the days” tend to be wearing jeans, or jeans and vest or shirt partly undone and pants but the female counterpart tends to be in short shorts or string bikini. Males tend to be more covered in films too whereas females bare more. Is it a ‘clothes is power’ issue?”

What’s your experience with the differences between male power and female power as expressed in clothing?

4 thoughts on “How Many Inches?

  1. Male clothing may be uncomfortable (ties, wool socks), but it rarely actually hurts or incapacitates the wearer (girdles or tight-laced corsets, high heels or bound lotus feet).

  2. I think that’s been true for at least the last 200 plus years. But even the historical exceptions for men (Francis the First’s red high heels) don’t include the body disfigurement that can accompany women’s fashions (Victorian removal of ribs to create smaller waists).

  3. Snopes has it that the Victorians didn’t remove ribs–there’s no evidence of it and their surgical skills weren’t up to doing it at all safely.

    On the other hand, footbinding really did happen, and women’s clothes tend to be more restrictive and dangerous than men’s clothes.

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