Before giving someone the finger, it’s good to remember what it represents.
I’ve written elsewhere about my feelings about the way we insult people by using sexual terms and slang names for our privates. For me, the fact that we compare other people to the most interesting and appealing parts of our bodies (well, I think they are, anyway) when we want to demean them reveals that we still have a level of buried shame and fear about sex—which would be healthy for us to bring out into the light and let go of.
It occurred to me that giving the finger is the possibly strangest sex-linked insult of all. Basically, we are showing a symbol of our erection to somebody when we want to put them down. If it’s another man, I guess the underlying suggestion is that my c*ck is bigger and/or harder than his and that I’m showing him that as confirmation of my superiority. In the case of a woman, I’m proclaiming my intention to do what I want with her sexually as a way of asserting my authority over her. The implication is that the act of sex signifies a proud “victory” for me as a dominating man over a submissive woman.
And when a woman shows that middle digit to someone, it’s an even more powerful statement of disdain; because she’s showing the world that she’s assuming all the supposed phallic powers of masculinity, as well as her keeping her innate feminine energy. That’s a pretty powerful combination!
All this probably means that somewhere in our collective unconscious is the belief that for a man, having sex with a female partner is a way of reducing her to someone who exists to give him pleasure and to be a container for his sperm and possibly his child thereafter, rather than an act of mutual regard and intimacy. The idea that sex is an act of domination certainly doesn’t reflect the way that most of us feel about making love, or about the person we may be making it with.
So why are we still, albeit unintentionally, promoting this distorted and dysfunctional view?
Elements of our cultural behaviour often contain hidden attitudes and assumptions, and by becoming aware of them we can decide whether they fit with our core values, and if not, understand that we need to change or stop that particular behaviour. By understanding how everyday banter and insults may actually be unconsciously propagating an attitude of sexual aggression—which is in direct opposition to the gender equality that I try to put into practice in my life—I can make a commitment to changing that behaviour.
So next time I’m thinking of flipping somebody the bird, I’ll try and remember that my extended digit is a representation of a personal part of my body and think twice about whether that’s really something I want to be showing and sharing with them.
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