SEX AND SPIRIT
2. A Little 'Cock Talk'
Why is full frontal female nudity more common and more acceptable to the public than full frontal male nudity?
The answer is simply that the female sex organs are concealed from view. The ovaries are inside the body, and the principal organs of sexual pleasure which are designed to attract, accept, and stimulate the penis are of necessity 'enclosed' in the outer labia which keeps them from view. These open like the petals of a flower when the woman becomes both stimulated and receptive. The female nude, unless she is posed with her legs apart, is not really exposed. Her sex organs, and therefore her 'sexuality' remain her private sanctuary. A woman's sexuality, and therefore both her sense of self-identity and her spiritual identity remain private, secret, mysterious, the 'inner sanctuary of her Being.' I see in this metaphor a deep and meaningful connection with ancient religions which were based on the importance of the female principle as manifest in the role of the High Priestess and the image of the Goddess. Even the architectual symbolism which defines the sacred inner sanctuary of the temple manifested this archetype. I also think of Laerte's advice to his sister Ophelia about 'opening her chaste treasure' to Hamlet in this regard. A woman, even when naked, still remains to 'be opened,' still remains secret, mysterious. And the word 'mystery' has as one of its primary meanings the concept of being beyond understanding except by Divine Revelation. It's a very old word.
A man, on the other hand, standing naked, hides nothing, and a circumsized man hides even less. Naked, a man's most sensitive and private part is fully exposed. It dangles out of the nest of pubic hair, along with the rest of the 'crown jewels', for all to see. As for those two other jewels, their symbolic significance is equally important: a man who 'has balls' is far up the scale of masculinity, at least socially speaking, but even this recognition of the sexual power of a man is an intimation of meanings that go beyond common stereotypes.
And there's more.
A man has no 'inner sanctuary' in which his spiritual and sexual Being can remain private in spite of his being naked. This is not to complain, but to address a fact: as the 'active principle' in the process of procreation and therefore the act of sexual union, the man's intention or will is symbolized by his cock. In other words, his intention must be made known, and, as he presents himself to the woman, this presentation of Self is indicated by how well, as the Gravedigger in Hamlet put it, he 'stands forth.' A man's erection is indeed the sign of his manly intentions. And the responsive, accepting female draws him into her Self. As the 'passive principle,' whether it is an act of recreation or an act of procreation, she remains the eternal mystery which can be known only by her acceptance of his penetration. Because men are designed by Great Nature to fulfill this purpose, they, in contrast to women, are always on view, whether they have an erection or not.
Come back to the word 'cock.' There's something about it that goes much deeper than what locker room talk is all about. As mentioned earlier, it's an old word, used in English literature with an open robustness that long pre-dated the Latin, 'penis,' even though Latin was still being spoken long after 'modern languages' came to be. It is connected with the very essence of what makes a man, and therefore, the use of the word 'cock' in the place of 'penis' in 'genteel society' is akin to the actual exposure of one's cock in public. Men sense this to varying degrees, and if you observe yourself carefully as you read this discourse, you will begin to grasp what I am talking about. Imagine yourself going to the doctor with a 'personal concern' and saying, "Yeah, Doc, I'm okay, but there's this dark spot that seems to be growing on the underside of my cock." (There is a vast number of men who would not do that; they'd let the spot bother them for years rather than bring attention to it, even in a doctor's office.) Somehow, the word 'cock' in this instance is grossly out of place. In such a situation, even the gruffest, toughest of men would use the word 'penis,' and if not that, then a euphemism. And the result would be to do what the medical vocabulary is intended to do: depersonalize the issue, and by depersonalizing it, desexualize it. 'Cock,' in other words, is a sexual word that conveys the idea of power and energy with much more force than its Latin synonym.
Well, that part of the discussion is about the word, the name of the object we're talking about. What about the actual cock itself?
Men's attitudes towards their cocks seem to be far more varied than their concern about what word they use to refer to this part of the body. The range is, of course, from being extremely sensitive to being totally insensitive - and that depends upon many factors that 'make the man' in question.
Some men who are less sensitive to their inner nature, just don't give a damn. They have no modesty, no apparent personal concerns, and they'll wag their cock at anything they see. They'll shake it at another man in defiance, daring him to do the same. They'll stand three feet from the urinal to take a leak, in order to show the world they don't give a damn what anybody thinks. Other men are much more modest, and regard their private parts as private, knowing no reason why they should be or need to be seen by other men. This modesty goes down scale to embarrassment, and the many men in that category invent all kinds of manoeuvres to conceal their cocks from the view of other men. There doesn't need to be a lot of scientific research on this question; all that is needed is a few trips to a public washroom where there are two or more urinals lining the wall.
But even further down the scale, the sense of privacy and modesty give way to intense shame and chronic fear; many men experience this. Guilt also becomes part of the psychic framework for some men, because the shame, embarrassment, fear, or moral confusion infect their thinking, and they begin to feel inadequate with regard to their manliness. For such a man, his very manhood is at stake, and rather than confront the fear of exposing himself, he will let the fear carry him into complete avoidance behaviours, some of which are represented in the men's comments which appear in the next section of this discourse. It becomes a matter of size.
Fear of inadequacy and shame of self that is centred on a man's perception of the size of his own sex organs, can become so strong that sexual dysfunction results, and there are thousands, if not millions, of men who live for many years of their lives as the victims of sexual impotence - or, erectile dysfunction as it is now known - simply because they do not have an intelligent relationship with their own cocks, and don't even suspect that they could. Erectile dysfunction, along with other disorders, has many various causes (both physiological and psychological), but shame at the size of one's own cock, and shame at being seen naked by other men are major contributors to this dysfunction. The men who suffer from it suffer a pain far worse, far more damaging, than the 'secure male' can ever comprehend. This inability to comprehend the problem on the part of some men accounts for the fact that penis size ends up being a popular joke in our society, rather than an issue that needs to be addressed.
Looking at a man's cock is like looking him in the eye. We're all afraid of eye contact, or at least we're all acutely aware of our discomfort when eye contact occurs outside the limits we have set for it. The eyes are the 'windows to the soul,' and if there's no soul at home, then looking someone in the eye will make that known. We don't want others to see that there's nobody home. We look away in embarrassment. It's the same for a naked man; when you 'look him in the cock,' so to speak, you see who he is; you see his manhood, his masculinity, his inner self. It's all hanging there in front of him - his whole identity, from body to soul. It is no wonder that so many men are so guarded and self-conscious about their cocks and so obsessive about their size. To have one's manhood judged on the basis of a fraction of an inch of flesh is a painful and unfair burden for a man to bear, and it speaks ill of the society that does nothing to address this illness.
I've talked with social workers and male counsellors about this problem, and have been more than just puzzled about the fact that most don't seem to take it seriously - at least not as seriously as the group participants who have spoken up about it. It's a blind spot even in the eyes of the men who study men's issues.
Many of the men I've worked with, however, have opened up about it, and some with such great relief at having its importance validated that I've almost been bowled over by their response. What follows is a simple catalogue of their comments, personal disclosures about their own cocks, gleaned from many meetings, discussions, and therapy sessions. (Some have been edited to protect the identity of the speaker.)