From Academic Kids

The phallus usually refers to the male penis, or sex organ. The word may also refer to a type of fungi having the cap hanging free around the stem. Any object that visually resembles a penis may be referred to as a "phallus"; however, such objects are more correctly referred to as being "phallic."


In physical anatomy

The phallus refers to the male penis or, more rarely, the clitoris of a female; particularly during fetal development before sexual differentiation is evident.

In art

Ancient sculptures of phalli have been found in many parts of the world, notably among the vestiges of ancient Greece and Rome; it is also common in India where the phallus (i.e. lingam) is a symbol of Shiva. Shakespeare often incorporated phallic symbols into his plays. Swords and knives, for example, were phallic symbols representing the masculinity of its wielder.

In psychology

The symbolic version of the phallus, a phallic symbol is meant to represent male generative powers. According to the psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud, males possess a penis, but no one can possess the symbolic phallus. In Jacques Lacan's Ecrits: A Selection he includes an essay "The Signification of the Phallus," which articulates the difference between "being" and "having" the phallus. Men are positioned as men insofar as they are seen to have the phallus. Women, not having the phallus, are seen to "be" the phallus, within a heterosexual framework.

Sociopolitical usages

In cultural terms, phallocentrism is used to describe a male-centered doctrine or behavior, and sometimes refers to patriarchy. The term gynocentrism is sometimes used to describe female-centered doctrine or behavior, and sometimes refers to matriarchy.

In the theory of Judith Butler

In Judith Butler's Gender Trouble, she explores the Freud and Lacan discussions of the symbolic phallus by pointing out the connection that the phallus maintains to the penis. She writes, "The law requires conformity to its own notion of 'nature' and gains its legitimacy through the binary and asymmetrical naturalization of bodies in which the Phallus, though clearly not identical with the penis, nevertheless deploys the penis as its naturalized instrument and sign" (135). In Bodies that Matter, she further explores the possibilities for the phallus in her discussion of "The Lesbian Phallus." If, as she notes, "Freud enumerates a set of analogies and substitutions that rhetorically affirm the fundamental transferability of that property," that is, the transferability of the phallus from the penis elsewhere, then any number of other things might come to stand in for the phallus (62). de:Phallus


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