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Antiwan Walker

29, 2018

Susan Bordo’s what is a phallus?

Before reading Susan Bordo’s work
whenever I heard the word phallus I would automatically think of the anatomical
penis.  However, I have learned that the
phallus is actually a social construct. Phallus pertains to a male’s dominance
and superiority. In today’s society it feels as though males are trying to
achieve this unattainable goal of manhood. Trying to reach this goal has caused
a lot of men to exhibit toxic masculinity. I feel as though the idea of the
phallus plays into the construct of toxic masculinity. “…The phallus stands for
the a superiority that is distinctively connected with maleness. But unlike
them, the phallus stands, not for the superior fitness of an individual male
over other men, but for generic male superiority- not only over females but
also over other species.” (Bordo, p89) This goes to show that the phallus is in
competition with everyone, in order to feel superior or good about oneself the
male must exert their dominance over all sexes.

Men are not born with this phallus
worship thinking they are taught it if not by their fathers then by society.

Phallic worshipping is evident in ads, books, movies, television, etc. When it
comes to advertising they are not showing off the anatomical penis but the
concept of the phallus, something that is big, curious, and exciting. Bordo
goes on to say that this type of advertising is damaging to men because it
holds their manhood to an impossible ideal. I found this interesting because
when we think of ads and models we generally think of the impossible standards
that they bring on women but not men. Before this reading I just looked at an
of a male model as hot, but now I can look at it and think about what this ad
is saying to men who may not have the abs or the bulge that the model is

A portion of the reading that I found
interesting is how women can adopt a phallus mentality as well as men. Women in
the gay community who may use dildos can experience a sense of dominance or
women who have proven themselves in a male dominated setting can find their
phallus. For example, in G.I. Jane
when Demi Moore’s character says “Suck my dick!” to her superior after taking a
beating. She knew she was not wanted, but she stood her ground and took a
beating “like a man” and because of that she felt as though she earned her
phallus, in that moment she was the dominant one. Bordo goes on to speak about
one of her students who cross-dressed and how it changed her personality. Thinking
back to my senior year of high school when we had gender bender day, I dressed
up as a male. Realizing that my actions were completely different than when I
dressed as myself. I walked differently, sat differently, I was quieter and
when I did talk it was at a slower pace, my whole demeanor was opposite to my
femme self.







point: The Phallus is a social construct. It’s an impossible standard that
males try to live up to, in order to show their superiority and dominance. But
the phallus is not real  



1)    Males use their bodies as advertisement

2)    In the beginning construct of the phallus
is was worshipped for its “bio” qualities

3)    The anatomical penis is hidden away in
our culture, but phallic symbolism is everywhere.

4)    Phallic symbolism is subjective.

5)    The phallus and penis work against each

6)    The penis is considered a phallus once it
becomes an object of respect or awe.

7)    When one tries to over display their
masculinity they are no longer taken seriously, they become a joke. Which is
ironic because that is the opposite reaction they are trying to receive.

8)    The “masculinist phallus” is
self-absorbed and narcissistic.

9)    The “butch phallus” considers the other
persons needs and feelings.

10) You don’t need to have a penis in order
to possess phallic authority. It requires cultural acceptance and the exercise
of attitude.



1)    Males use their bodies as advertisement.

For instance, “unless one is a manual laborer, muscles have little use value in
our management and service-oriented culture, the potency of muscles resides
largely in their cultural meanings.” (Bordo, p88)

2)    In the beginning construct of the phallus
was worshipped for its “bio” qualities. For example, the ancient meaning of the
phallus by the American Heritage Dictionary is “representation of the penis and
testes as an embodiment of generative power.”  (Bordo, p89)

3)    The anatomical penis is hidden away in
our culture, but phallic symbolism is everywhere. For instance, when grown men
build skyscrapers or rockets that closely resemble erect penises. Also,
scientists and defense intellectuals speaking in penile metaphors when
describing bombs and rockets. “…The mushroom top was even more alive than he
pillar, seething and boiling white fury of creamy foam, sizzling upward and
then descending downward…”  (Bordo,

4)    Phallic symbolism is subjective. For
instance, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. To others the cigar is a symbol of

5)    The phallus and penis work against each
other. For example, the phallus is ” a majestic imaginary member, against which
no man’s penis can ever measure up.” “Paradoxically, at the same time the
penis- is capable of being soft as well as hard, helpless as well as proud,
emotionally needy as well as masterful sexual performer- also haunts phallic
authority, threatens its undoing.” (Bordo, p95)



Jargon- “special words or expressions that are used by a
particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand”

Reverence- “deep respect for something or someone”

Ostentatious- “characterized by vulgar or pretentious
display; designed to impress or attract notice”

Banal- “lacking in originality as to be obvious and

Omnipotent- “having unlimited power; able to do



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