Last week, the Internet went ballistic (pun intended) when a tweet about Anthony Bourdain, followed by a genius piece by The Cut, finally put a name to that certain…aura some people give off. Yes, I’m talking about Big Dick Energy. Our team group message blew up instantly after someone posted about it, and before long, BDE had become a main topic of conversation (or, let’s be real, time-waster) at the office. Who has it? Who doesn’t have it? Where do you draw the line between cockiness and BDE? And most importantly, why does everyone find it so funny?
For us, and I think for most people, BDE became the much-needed comic relief in a week full of hard-to-digest news. Then, a few published “BDE roundups” later, we got to thinking…if the #MeToo movement is redefining the ways we understand sex and consent, how does BDE fit into the way we talk about sex and power? We LOLed as much as everybody else, but after a couple of days, we couldn’t quite shake off the question. After all, we would never in a million years be okay with men talking about women’s bodies (or energies) in the same way.
So, to test the waters of what BDE truly means, we decided to send out an anonymous poll to our male friends about how they understand Big Dick Energy and how it could potentially help (or hurt) their self-esteem. Many of them laughed the whole thing off as one big joke.”What is so great about Big Dick Energy is that not having it isn’t an insult, which is what makes it so good to use as a descriptor, because it shouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings,” one of them explained.
Some of them, however, did feel like the joke fell on the sexist side, and they raised questions about how women would feel if we were put in their shoes. And one answer in particular really stood out:
“It’s hypocritical to discuss things like body shaming and belonging, then promote a term that deems someone’s self-confidence directly related to their dick size,” reads the response. “I understand the whole article is a joke and it’s meant to be taken lightly, but isn’t there a better way to say ‘confidence’ than referring to a penis? Or balls? I admit I’m not totally caught up on this, but [the] perpetuation [that] big dick = confidence and anything less means less is something I don’t feel should be something, right now, people should be promoting.” *mic drop*
Sure, BDE is not actually about the physical size of someone’s dick. And no, it’s not only being applied to men—most lists also include Rihanna, Beyonce, and Meryl Streep. As one of our poll-takers responded, “I know some women who walk around like they got a 12-incher swinging free inside some grey sweats.” But, at the (always good) risk of sounding too much like my feminist film theories professor, what does it say that we’re still directly aligning power and confidence with penises? Even as a harmless Internet joke, isn’t this exactly the kind of thinking that women’s movements have been trying to debunk for decades? Don’t look at me, man, I don’t have all the answers. But in search of them, I consulted with Body Coach Katie Winnen about where we draw the line between what’s funny and what’s potentially harmful.
“When we start using [BDE] to treat other peoples bodies as our own business, that’s where we need to check ourselves,” Winnen told me. “From what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen, I feel like it’s definitely a confidence or a vibe that somebody gives out. I don’t think it’s something that needs to be directly related to your dick size. When I think of Big Dick Energy, I think of some women that I know, that self-assuredness; they’re feeling really good and confident in their own skin.”
So, I asked Winnen, how do we go about refilling our confidence prescription? She says it all comes down to knowing that the only person you have to make happy is yourself. Instead of worrying about what other people might be saying or thinking about you, turn inwards and reflect on how you see yourself. At the end of the day, it’s your opinion on your own body (and the ~energy~ you carry) that matters most. “What it really comes down to is knowing, who are you making decisions for? Who are you wearing this outfit for? Who are you choosing this path for?” Winnen explains.
Whether you choose to call it Big Dick Energy, Big Uterus Energy, or something else, just remember: do what feels right for you, and you’ll have no problem feeling like the badass boss that you are (with or without a penis).
Feature image via Nino Muñoz