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Monday, November 14, 2005

Phallic symbolism

This blew my mind: in my comp class today I brought up a passage in one work we're reading that discusses phallic symbolism in recent movies and advertising. And we weren't too far into our conversation before it became clear that no one in my entire class had ever encountered the concept of the phallic symbol before (I then confirmed this by asking them outright).

Am I crazy for thinking this is weird? I thought the phallic symbol was a staple of the high school English class, but maybe those were just my high school English classes.

(And then, after explaining the concept and giving some examples, I said--thinking this would provoke nods of recognition--"well, you've all heard the term, 'penis rocket,' right? For a sports car?" And uh, no, actually, they hadn't.)


link | posted by La Lecturess at 11:45 PM |


15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous commented at 12:34 AM~  

Funny, I've never heard the term "penis rocket" before, and my sports car *looks* like a penis.

Although I'm not sure who on earth would not know the meaning of the term "phallic symbol." Maybe they just wanted to be amused by you explaining it.

-scr

Anonymous Anonymous commented at 2:24 AM~  

I went to high school in a very conservative/religious town and I think our teachers probably steered clear of ever explaining "phallic symbols" for the simple reason that they were terrified of parental complaints that they had destroyed our innocence. Maybe your students are all from conservative towns too...

Anonymous New Kid on the Hallway commented at 8:40 AM~  

I have to say that I never encountered phallic anything until college. At least, I don't think so... not that I wasn't familiar with the general idea, mind you, I'd just never heard the term.

And I've never heard "penis rocket" before either (though I consider that completely self-explanatory and think it's great!).

Blogger Ianqui commented at 8:51 AM~  

Were they mystified by the concept too, or did they at least think that it made sense?

Mostly I remember thinking in HS that there's an awful lot of phallic statuary out there.

Blogger Dr. Virago commented at 9:22 AM~  

Wow. I'm pretty sure I knew what a phallic symbol was in high school, but I probably learned it from my mom, who was psychology major back when Freud was just getting hot (my mother is surprisingly old). Perhaps my Catholic schools did not teach me this. It's hard for me to remember what I didn't know when.

But you'd think the students had come across the term in other classes, for pete's sake!

Blogger La Lecturess commented at 10:48 AM~  

No, they pretty much hadn't encountered the concept before, either (with the exception of one student, who exclaimed that oh! in her English class they had read this book? with a scene with a guy with a cigar who made his son smoke it? and her teacher had said that that was all about sex).

And to my surprise, given the hostility and charges of "reading too much into things" that these particular students often give me, they all seemed to really get the concept and to find it interesting when it was explained to them.

Anonymous Anonymous commented at 5:21 PM~  

My memory is a bit hazy about this, but I think I coined the term penis rocket a few years back when Ms. Ezra97 got her first penis rocket. I don't ever remember hearing the expression before then. The car really looked like a penis and could fly like a rocket! I googled "penis rocket" just in case but didn't find any meaningful results.
--marielle

Blogger What Now? commented at 5:27 PM~  

I haven't heard the phrase "penis rocket" before, although D. offers up the phrase "crotch rocket" for racing motorcycles.

My English professor talked about phallic symbols all.the.time. We thought she was sex-crazed, although we loved her. And other folks in my age bracket have said similar things about their high school English classes, but I think that there may have been a wave of Freudian literary criticism that came and went (or crested and subsided, or whatever waves do), and so our current students didn't have the benefit of all the sexual analysis that we did in HS.

Here's what I realized one year when I was teaching freshman comp: My students knew the term "phallic symbol," but they thought that it just referred to anything sexual. So a student wrote a paper about an ad in which a perfume bottle looked just like a breast, and referred to that breast-shaped bottle as a phallic symbol. Um, no.

Blogger La Lecturess commented at 9:38 PM~  

Marielle:

Is that possible? Damn, it just might be--I do know that you and brownra were two of the first people I heard using the term, but I feel SURE I've heard it elsewhere. Maybe I conflated the expression with "crotch rocket" (which I've definitely heard in numerous places), and assumed they were the same thing. . . ?

Gah. Well, now all my freshmen know the term, too!

Blogger La Lecturess commented at 9:51 PM~  

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Blogger Scrivener commented at 10:14 PM~  

Like What Now? I've heard of "crotch rockets" (which have the nice rhyme and all) but never "penis rockets." I did know about phallic symbols before I got to college, but I don't think any teacher ever explained them--I think that was from my own reading.

I'm just surprised there wasn't much tittering and blushing at the mention of the word "penis." That's how my students seem to respond.

Blogger La Lecturess commented at 10:43 PM~  

Oh, and WN: I *love* the generalized use of "phallic symbol"!

Scriv: we've been talking about penises for DAYS (note: I didn't design this syllabus or choose any of the readings), so my students have mostly gotten over it. I think they were actually relieved to be talking about things that are merely penis-SHAPED, rather than the things themselves. (That day discussing the metaphorical and psychological significance of hardness, softness, bigness, etc.? A tough day, let me tell ya.)

Anonymous Anonymous commented at 11:06 PM~  

How interesting to find out that my car, which I decided probably most aptly fits the term "penis rocket," is actually basically the car that INSPIRED the term.

"Crotch rocket" of course refers to sport bikes, generally of the Japanese, high-revving variety, as opposed to choppers or cruisers or touring bikes or whatever, which all have a pretty upright riding position. On a crotch rocket, well, the rocket part is self explanitory. The crotch part is not so much about it being between your legs, which of course all motorcycles are, but particularly the fact that you're leaning so far forward you're basically sitting on your crotch. The foot pegs are so far back that your feet are actually more or less behind your butt, and you're leaning forward. So that's obviously a very apt term. I wouldn't be surprised if you remembered penis rocket and at the same time remembered hearing a similar term (crotch rocket) your entire life, and managed to sorta merge the ideas.

-scr

Anonymous Anonymous commented at 1:25 PM~  

while some folks claim the term "penises" is acceptable, the true plural, "penes" is more fun, and correcter. It's just like the plural "theses," and you wouldn't write "parenthesises." New dissertation topic: Billie Holiday sings "Every time it rains, it rains penes from Heaven."

Anonymous Anonymous commented at 5:46 PM~  

On that note, i think of Peni, like the plural form of penis should be like the plural of octopus or ...

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