A Gun Won’t Make Your Penis Larger

full_metal_rifle_gunThere’s a brief scene in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket in which the new recruits, led by Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, chant in unison, “This is my rifle, this is my gun. This is for fighting, this is for fun.” On the words “gun” and “fun” the privates grab their, well, privates, letting the audience know that there’s a Marine-Corp-specific semantic distinction between the words “rifle” and “gun.”

Unfortunately, too many pro-gun American men don’t know the difference and this is a central problem in the process of redefining the purpose and availability of firearms in America. Men, whether intentional or not, tend to confuse their guns for their penises. The bigger the gun/penis, the more masculine they are. Guns have become penis extensions, if not penis substitutes, and the phallic similarities are obvious.

Consequently, our gun culture too often blurs the line between masculinity and firearms, even among people who ought to know better. If you own, hunt, shoot, or generally fetishize firearms, it’s considered to be synonymous with being a tough, virile guy. Likewise, if you’re opposed to guns or, dare I say, afraid of guns, you’re considered girlish or — heaven forbid — gay. From a very early age, men are taught that guns are a manly-man guy thing. Hunting and shooting are manly activities, we’re told, and any dude who’s packing heat is a total badass because guns are badass. (Killing animals for pure sport is another issue for another day.)

That’s exactly why politicians often stage photo-ops in which they’re trucked off to a gray field somewhere in garishly-colored regalia pretending to shoot at something that lacks the brain stem and opposable thumbs to shoot back. I’m old enough to remember John Kerry’s photo-op in 2004, which, next to his windsurfing photo, was nothing less than another Dukakis-in-a-tank photo. In fact, there’s another one: Dukakis in a tank. Good Lord. He went all out on that one. His staffers thought of the biggest, heaviest metallic penis he could find and plunked Dukakis inside of it wearing a helmet that actually made him look like a penis. Of course, his intentions were good and, at the time, Republicans had falsely tagged Democrats as being soft on the military. But Kerry didn’t need to go hunting because he was a decorated and thrice-wounded Vietnam veteran. He did his duty with a firearm in Southest Asia, unlike badass chickenhawk Dick Cheney or badass chickenhawk Rush Limbaugh or badass chickenhawk Ted Nugent. Leave it to the Bush era Republicans, led mainly by guys who dodged the draft, to accuse a war veteran, Silver Star and Purple Heart recipient, of being effete, “French” and unpatriotic, to a point when that veteran had to go out and pretend to hunt in order to make himself seem tougher. (Every time I recall that era, I can’t help but to think how badly all of America was in the throes of a totally batshit nervous breakdown.)

And you know what? At the end of the day, conservatives who were inclined to believe Kerry was kind of gay (the ultimate message of Karl Rove’s campaign against him) didn’t think he was any less gay because he went hunting. In fact, they thought he was cartoonish and awkward. And still kind of gay.

Which leads us to this past weekend when President Obama stepped into a similar trap. In an interview with The New Republic, there was this exchange:

FF: Have you ever fired a gun?

Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time.

FF: The whole family?

Not the girls, but oftentimes guests of mine go up there.

And then he segued into a thing about respecting the traditions of hunting. Obviously the skeet shooting remark was a pander to gun owners but, like Kerry and Dukakis, gun people thought it was fake and weak. Hell, I’m as anti-gun as they come and I thought it sounded weird. It’s like saying, “I respect rock music. I sometimes listen to Nickelback on my Bose Wave Radio when I’m playing tennis at the country club.”

Naturally, though, the far-right had a blast with it today. Drudge and Breitbart.com posted photos of the president shooting a water gun at a backyard pool, and the general right-wing reaction was that he was lying. Plus, they suggested, is skeet shooting supposed to make him seem more pro-gun when he’s clearly plotting to take their guns away? On one hand, there’s the president saying he occasionally shoots skeet at Camp David. On the other hand, there’s this rampant myth that the president is a tyrannical overlord who’s going to seize everyone’s firearms just before declaring himself to be the new Soviet Premier. The latter is way more powerful than the former, and so the skeet shooting thing seems a little silly to gun people who don’t view the Second Amendment as protecting hunters or sportsmen; it’s about self-defense against the government. (It’s not about that, but that’s what they say.)

Yes, I realize there are responsible gun owners in the middle who have one or two firearms for hunting or sport. The president addressed those people by saying, “And I have a profound respect for the traditions of hunting that trace back in this country for generations. And I think those who dismiss that out of hand make a big mistake.”

“Profound” is a little much, but that’s fine. He can win some support from moderate gun-owners with this kind of talk, but there’s simply no need to toss in the look-at-me-I’m-shooting-stuff-with-a-gun imagery.

We simply have to get beyond this expectation that the phallical over-compensatory gun fetishists need to be appeased and won over with stunts and pandering. In fact, the masculine equivalence of guns and gun ownership needs to be phased out, which is to say manhood and firearms must be divorced from each other if we’re going to get beyond the deadly gun culture. Guns should eventually be regarded as nothing more than a tool — stripped of mystique and Freudian symbolism — for people who need to hunt their own food or to defend themselves in law-enforcement or military situations. Nothing more.

It’s not going to be a quick or easy task. But the anti-tobacco people accomplished amazing things in just two decades, marginalizing the “coolness” of smoking and turning smokers into societal refugees. The same can be done with firearms. The first step is making it clear that a rifle isn’t a “gun” (in the Sgt. Hartman sense), and if you have a small penis, no firearm will ever make it bigger, Mr. Nugent.

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  • Michael Ejercito

    Apparently, Bob Cesca needs a magnifying glass to see his penis.

  • awfwgwe

    Ive always been curious about this. Since we seem to have a penis
    compesentation expert in the house maybe ill finally get an answer.

    How
    exactly does the penis size correlate to firearms ownership without
    entering “compensating”? Obviously if im packing a 1 inch microcock I
    can have a fully decked out AssaultRifle-15 with extended clipazines and
    babby seeking bullets. But what about the rest of us? Is a dude with a
    3incher still allowed a rifle, but maybe with 10 round mags and no
    pistol grip? Average clocking in at a 40cal-9mm handgun? Is a dude with a
    python down there limited to little .22 derringers or is he not allowed
    to have a gun at all?

    These are questions that need answering

  • Bob Johnson

    Ad Hominem is the highest form of debate. OH WAIT, I mean lowest. When you cant argue with reason use emotion and logical fallacies. When all else fails try volume.

  • Dislekseyuh .

    The author of this article sure loves to play armchair psychologist and talk a whole lot about guns and penises.

    Bob Cesca, do you spend a lot of time thinking about guns and penis? Do you want to come out of the closet as a Republican NRA member? It’s okay, Bob, we’re here for you.

  • Arzachel

    Someone spends a lot of time thinking about penis size

    • Michael Ejercito

      That is one of his shortcomings.

  • k 65

    And what about female gun owners????
    I have several!

  • Apathetic_Crusader

    Is this really the state of the discourse? Insulting your opposition with an extended sexist ad hominem based on your guesses about their genitals, and discredited psychological theories?

    • Christopher Foxx

      Discredited? Where?

      • Apathetic_Crusader

        Since 1980, at least. Freudian gender theory is unfalsifiable (see Popper), and therefore outside the realm of science. Further, Freud’s theories on gender are highly sexist, and not the sort of thing you want to casually endorse to make a point.

        You see, firearms are indeed phallic symbols in Freudian symbolism. But then, so (by definition) are all weapons or tools. That applies whether or not it’s actually penis-shaped–a plane is every bit as phallic as an awl, despite being not particularly cock shaped. Freud figured that the implements you’d use to effect a change on the world are inherently male.

        Freud also figured that female symbols included containers, doors, rooms, buildings–anything you might put something into or through. Because Freud was a giant sexist, and figured that was what women were for.

        So maybe it’s best not to rely on deeply sexist and bullshit ideology in order to take cheap shots at people with whom you disagree politically.

        • Aaron Litz

          That is HARDLY the crux of his argument. What he is saying is that the there are a large number of male gun fetishists out there who DO focus their masculinity on firearms, and use guns as symbols of their manhood. It hardly matters whether Freudian phallic imagery has anything to do with it or not, these men DO identify their masculinity so strongly with guns that it IS a big problem, and that is why they cling so strongly to their weapons; it isn’t really because of all their bullshit arguments about the 2nd Amendment and their rights, it’s because, to these guys, guns and violence are so mixed up with masculinity in their minds that to them, guns ARE their manhood. And they react to people trying to (again, in their minds) take away their guns the same way they would to people trying to castrate them.

          THAT is his argument, and he is RIGHT. And anyone trying to claim otherwise is being willing disingenuous.

          • Apathetic_Crusader

            Well, he asked how it was debunked, I filled him in.

            To call his position an argument seems awfully generous. It’s an ad hominem, and a sexist one at that. “People would agree with us, if not for their tiny, tiny dicks”. If the only reason you can think of why people might disagree with you on a controversial issue is psychological issues related to penis size, you’re not really examining the issues.

            It also reveals a tremendous arrogance to presume that your argument is so demonstrably right that you don’t even need to support your ultimate position, and the only reason people could be opposing your position is that they have tiny penises.

            It’s hardly productive, in that it’s hard to claim that you’re looking for a reasonable compromise when you’re coming at it like “I am the emissary of the shining bastion of reason, here to work out a truce with you small-dicked rednecks”. And needless to say, that just generates animosity between the sides, rather than moving towards a useful position.

            It also makes you a bad person if you’re willing to rely on sexism or racism or whatever to try to win an argument, which includes comments suggesting people are compensating (in much the same way that hinting a woman is taking a particular position because she’s menstruating, or isn’t getting laid would be sexist), or when people throw around the redneck stereotype.

            Not to mention how weak it makes a position seem, if you have to rely on shit like that.

            And, if that is what you’re relying on, it’d be better to support it with more than assertions and movie references.

            As an argument, it’s weak, unhelpful, and reprehensible. I support stronger gun control in the U.S., but stuff like this is abhorrent. Maybe we could get a little further if we weren’t behaving like people we revile.

          • cargosquid

            He doesn’t have an argument. He’s just trying to insult gun owners. And he’s trying to hide his fetish for seeing male genitalia in unrelated objects. This is a thing with gun controllers. Its sad.

          • leeada47

            Wow! He’s right because you say so, and we know that you must be RIGHT because You can use CAPS to tell us that.
            You have removed all doubts of your decerebracy.