Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Rant about Body Parts

One of Sigmund Freud’s more famous theories is about penis envy, according to which the defining aspect of the sexual development of girls is the realisation that they don’t have a penis.  A lifetime of misery and inadequacy ensues.

There are various feminist and other criticisms of penis envy as a psychoanalytical theory.  My favourite is the one provided by the Finnish novelist and historian Kaari Utrio in her excellent Eevan tyttäret: Eurooppalaisen naisen, lapsen ja perheen historia (Daughters of Eve: The History of Women, Children and Families in Europe – unfortunately not translated).  Rather devastatingly for Herr Freud, Ms Utrio points out that as a matter of historical reality, societal norms were so strict at the time and in the social circles Freud was writing and theorising about that girl children simply had in all likelihood no idea what a penis was, and most certainly had never seen one.  It would therefore have been pretty difficult for them to have any thoughts or feelings on the lack of it. 

Yeah, take THAT, Freud!

But there is another theory, not exactly the opposite of, but different in nature from, penis envy.  It has been developed by yours truly.  I call it “breast envy”, or just “boob envy” among friends.

This is how it usually goes:  I’m sitting in a pub (the scene is inevitably a pub) with some female friends.  Male friends of someone in the group join, and conversation and merriment continue.  After a few drinks one of the men can no longer peel his eyes off the upper body of one of the women, usually someone well-endowed in that department and wearing a top that exposes a generous helping of cleavage.  Inspired by this vision, the man in question bursts out something along the lines of “man, if I had boobs (/breasts/tits), I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off them.  I’d be playing with them ALL THE TIME.”

While this would be unlikely to be the case (I haven’t seen lesbians, who are presumably attracted to female breasts, caress incessantly their own), it is quite a sweet pronouncement nonetheless.  It takes a rather obvious, defining attribute of the opposite sex and comments on its desirability – not just as something to fondle, or something to have, but something to have so as to fondle.  It doesn’t objectify a woman through her breasts like telling her he wants to have a squeeze of her pair would.  Nor does it take the lack of that attribute in the speaker himself as something that lessens him as a person, like penis envy does in the case of women.  Instead, it is “just” a compliment on how nice boobs are.

It is great to see in this world of double meanings, unintended (or intended) insults and constant battle between sexism and stifling political correctness something so unreservedly nice as boob envy. 

Any other examples?

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