Academics Explain Penis Graffiti, Miss the Point

10.11.12 Marina Galperina

There’s an article in the Sydney Morning Herald getting down to the “cock and balls” history of graffiti wherein a female writer/psychotherapist and female restoration society rep simplify the significance of “graffiti genitalia.” To them, it’s all for the lulz and haw-haws. It’s look-at-my-dick level of sexual rebellion. It’s boys-will-be-boys. WRONG!

Granted, it’s an interesting read. Did you know dick graffiti was recently discovered on Renaissance painter Paolo da San Leocadio’s long-lost frescos in eastern Spain? Did you know that a cartoon phallus on a sacred wall means a lot more during the repressive yesteryears of early Christianity?

All right. But this slippery slope is getting dangerously close to defining “genitalia graffiti” and pompous vandalism in general as an exclusively masculine pursuit. That’s not cool. Ladies is pimps too. Go and brush your shoulder off. Am I right, MISS17?

It doesn’t help that the article (which, I repeat, is interesting!) declares that “the truth is that we have evolved very little,” drawing an arch from ancient graffiti to some little boy in modern day Berkshire that no one’s ever heard of drawing a dick on his parents’ roof “because it’s funny.” The article fails to mention the seminal graffiti piece/performance in contemporary art history — Voina’s Giant Galactic Space Dick.

Remember when a group of activists — male, female, infant — rushed past security of a prominent St. Petersburg drawbridge, drew a 213-foot-tall, 89-foot-wide phallus on it in 27 seconds flat and fled, leaving the bridge to be automatically drawn up, standing there erect with a rude insult pointing directly at the FSB (neu-KGB) headquarters for awhile? Long enough to send the message to the oppressive state authoritarians, even if that message was… Fuck you!

There is a certain aggressive strain to this sort of dissent, a punk rock up-yours in the purest anti-authoritarian sense — not to be confused with pure malevolence, pure vulgarity for vulgarity’s sake, and certainly not mere masculinity or boorishness.

Rebellious penises: They’re not just for boys, you know.

Sure, ancient and contemporary architecture is replete with phallus imagery — the Washington Monument, obelisks of all sorts, Cleopatra’s Needle, every skyscraper ever — and the art world is still dominated by men, and even Georgia O’Keeffe won’t admit she’s painting female sex organs. But I’m sorry, girls. It couldn’t have been a giant vagina on that bridge. It wouldn’t have been the same.

I suppose the trick would be to disassociate the meaningful phallus in architecture, art, graffiti and vandalism with the male gender and to see it, instead, merely as a symbol of its function — penetration, of strength through passion/drive/arousal, of seeding an environment and propagating itself. It is, after all, that biological object’s function. There’s no need to limit and subjugate that function’s metaphor to the gender it happens to sprout from in our species. Hail Galactic Space Dick! Dicks for everyone!