I wanted to make a brief reply to Sannion’s recent post in response to mine, regarding a very particular point that he drew out–guess what that was about? (And, since he no longer allows comments on his entries, and this seemed like something I should clarify publicly rather than in a private e-mail with him, here we aare!)
For the record: I have no problem with phalloi (whether of the kinds nature makes or the kinds that humans fashion themselves)–and, in fact, I wish I could see more of them (and not just pictures!) of both the kinds referred to previously…and, I also wish I could *ahem* do other things with them more often than I get to…
But, not to put too fine a point on it: there’s a very big difference between having a penis and being a dick. I fully approve of the former, in whatever form that might take; I entirely disapprove of the latter.
While I do have a variety of disagreements and critiques with some aspects of feminism, one thing I think feminist theorists got spot-on is the phallocentric nature of patriarchal society, and the manners in which this is a source of many social ills, including: the oppression of women and the realities of rape culture, the stigmatization of homoeroticism (because it is “improper” phallic usage on the male side, and “inadequate” phallic usage on the female side) and in particular the degradation it presupposes of passive male partners (known now in modern gay culture as “bottom shaming”) as well as the assumption that gay men are “assassins” and “terrorists” with their phallic obsessions, the problems with transphobia on all sides (why would “men” ever give up their penises to become women, and how could “women” ever become men without “real” penises), and so forth…and, mind you, I DO NOT REMOTELY AGREE WITH THESE VIEWPOINTS, I’m only mentioning them as examples!
There are better and healthier, less neurotic, and less damaging ways of relating to and valuing and enjoying phalloi than what patriarchal phallocentric cultures have done, certainly; but, some of these excesses did start in the ancient world, and while I can’t say that there is any kind of one-to-one correspondence between any of the ancient polytheistic cults (of Dionysos, Hermes, Priapus [with whom I have some major issues, admittedly], Fascinus, etc.; and, in other areas of the world, Shiva, Sarutahiko-no-Okami, etc.) and the origins and propagations of some of these harmful cultural ideas, nor with the continuation of some virulent forms of sexism and oppression in the cultures which still revere some of these gods, at the same time I think we have to tread very carefully with all of this.
I’ve always thought that there was some geek somewhere sitting in a basement, chuckling to himself after all of these years, about the terms “hard drive” and “floppy drive,” even when a “floppy drive” became a 3 1/2″ disk made of hard plastic rather than a softer one…but, even then, that it was 3 1/2 inches “floppy” still would have been a matter for chuckling for the right kind of geek, I think.
Likewise with this notion of “hard polytheism” vs. “soft polytheism” (whether the latter is monism, duotheism, syncretism, or what-have-you). I suspect that some pseudo-ubermensch from one of the more sexist forms of modern polytheism (perhaps some form of heathenry) coined the term “hard polytheist” to show how extreme and so forth they were in comparison to the lighter, “fluffier,” often-goddess-centric forms of paganism that emphasized a more-or-less squishy Triple Goddess or One Goddess, etc. (That would actually be an interesting project to research: when did the term “hard polytheist” first come about? I didn’t hear it until about 2005 or 2006…And, it probably came about on the internet, I suspect.) “Stiff” polytheism, “erect” polytheism (though I often think that the insistence that we are “orthopraxic” and thus in some sense “upstanding” almost has that same effect), “tumescent” poltyehsim, and so forth would have given the game away too much; so, why not “hard” instead?
Notice something about Antinous here, and in every full-figure statue of him that exists (excepting, of course, the many that have his penis broken off): he’s not “standing proud” by any stretch of the imagination, and I don’t think that’s just Greek aesthetics playing into how he’s portrayed.
There is an important lesson in this: the default ways that male anatomy works is that one is not “at full extension” at all times, and if one was, it would be difficult if not impossible to concentrate on anything or get any work done whatsoever. And that, dear friends, is how devotional polytheism operates best, I think: assuming that most of the time, you’re not going to be at the “heights” of ecstatic engorgement (though there’s nothing wrong about getting there occasionally, by any means!), and that you’ll have to do a variety of other things, including thinking and feeling clearly, to practice most usefully. It’s not easy to do that when you’re half-a-stroke away from orgasm. And, most of the time (and not unlike almost all sorts of human relationships), devotional polytheism isn’t orgasm, it’s simply doing what you know you have to in order to maintain your relationships, so that when the orgasms arrive, they’re that much better and more meaningful and less likely to simply be mechanical, one-night-stand sorts of affairs.
The sexual metaphors possible in theology generally speaking are rather infinite, but when you are dealing with matters that are rather directly phallic, one has to just grab the satyr by the cock and prepare to be dragged along for a while (and, knowing satyrs, it can be a very long while). So, I hope that makes my own position on these matters clearer, even if it says absolutely nothing about what positions I prefer in terms of other matters (and that’s something that you can only learn by direct experience…not unlike a great deal of things in polytheism).