“Cocks Not Glocks:” Protesting and the Phallus by Sara Frykenberg


Sara FrykenbergIn the past month, Feminism and Religion has posted important pieces regarding the serious debate in the United States over gun control in the wake of mass shootings at our schools, including “Its Okay to Kill Each Other,” by Kate Brunner, and “It’s Mom’s Fault,” by Esther Nelson. Both of these authors give powerful insights into this discussion, pointing to the humanity (or inhumanity) involved, and challenging assumptions/ attitudes underlining this debate and corresponding inaction.

Preparing for motherhood these past nine months, a state of being that both authors also discuss when considering the larger issue of gun control, I have found myself hoping for hope—looking for something positive: progressive action in this sea of violence and inaction. I wanted to share one of my discoveries in light of this national (and international) discussion of gun control, something that gave me hope, a protest that made me smile even when given such great cause to despair.

#CocksNotGlocks is a demonstration organized by former University of Texas (UT) student Jessica Jin, to protest concealed carry legislation that would allow students to carry guns on campus, specifically, “into classrooms, dormitories and other buildings at public and private universities.” As a professor, I will say that such legislation really scares me. I cannot imagine teaching a class, worrying that one of my student’s was packing a gun; or holding office hours with a student that is unhappy with her or his grade in the private space of my office under such conditions. Yet, Texas is not the only state to legalize such action—seven other states already have such campus carry laws (Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Utah, Wisconsin and Oregon).

Taking a slightly different tact in their protest, organizers from the UT are drawing attention to the seeming hypocrisy of policies that will allow students to arm themselves on campus (which presumably allows them to protect themselves from others who might be carrying), but prohibit and fine them for displaying other items that might ‘harm’ their innocence, like “obscene” sexual paraphernalia. Jin invites students, other members of the UT, those in Texas, and those outside of Texas, to join her in open carrying their dildos on campus, August 24th, 2016, responding to the double standard that considers sexuality dangerous, but not actual weapons.

In an interview with The Guardian, Jin states:

The dildo has proven itself to be interesting fodder for commentary on what our society does and does not consider ‘obscene.’ The narratives surrounding sexuality (or just dildos, in this case) and guns are more intertwined than one would expect, and more similarities seem to unfold every minute.

I am reminded here of an article I use in my classes frequently by Marie Fortune, entitled, “Violence Against Women: The Way Things Are Is Not The Way They Have to Be” form the 1994 anthology, Sexuality and the Sacred: Sources for Theological Reflection. In this piece, Fortune remembers a workshop she hosted, wherein participants viewed part of a horror film, the beginning scene of which showed a woman masturbating in her bath before she was murdered. After watching this clip, one man in the audience voiced his protest: how could this movie show a woman masturbating?!? My students are regularly horrified by this comment and the reality it reflects. What do we consider obscene, indeed—particularly as in this process of normalizing violence, the dominant culture usually only makes particular peoples’ or groups’ sexualities obscene, reinforcing its own supremacy.

Stating that the “Cocks Not Glocks” protest will spotlight the masturbatory nature of the power which people derive from gun ownership,” Jin highlights a connection between violence and sexual dominance. Sex as power, power as pleasure and power as control are okay; but vulnerable, creative and transgressive sexual pleasure is finable, ban-able and ultimately, should be controlled. The phallus as power is acceptable, but not the phallus or penis as a body part, vulnerable member or erotic partner. As Jin chides on the movement’s Facebook page,

The State of Texas has decided that it is not at all obnoxious to allow deadly concealed weapons in classrooms, however it DOES have strict rules about free sexual expression, to protect your innocence. You would receive a citation for taking a DILDO to class before you would get in trouble for taking a gun to class. Heaven forbid the penis. (Emphasis mine.)

In her 2004 book, The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love, bell hooks discusses the way in which even little boys are taught that their penises are weapons: “rods,” “guns with bullets,” etc. Dominant culture tells us: “Heaven forbid the penis,” unless it is the penis-as-phallus of patriarchal (or kyriarchal) dominance.

But perhaps this is why I find the “Cocks Not Glocks,” protest so powerful. Not only does this demonstration highlight the unfair demonization of sexuality and corresponding glorification of violence, but it also reclaims the penis. The slogan does not juxtapose two opposing forces, but rather, two phallic images—one violent (the glocks), and one’s (the cock’s) violent signification challenged in the hands of protestors for peace.

When I think about this demonstration, I imagine a rainbow of dildos in all shapes and sizes among a sea of people who enjoy these tools, who care about campus safety, and who are, by their physical presence, challenging discourses around sexuality and evil which permeate so many cultures and religions. It’s a spectacle: fun, transgressively “obscene,” pleasurable, and perhaps, as I asked some friends of mine, ‘queer’ in its ability to differently ‘penetrate’ or ‘queer-y’ dominant hetero-patriarchal discourses of power. Dildos can be cute and funny, large and intimidating, demure, stealthy, conspicuous. Dildos are carried, used and enjoyed by those in all walks of life.

The campus carry law, which goes into effect on the anniversary of the University of Texas Austin Tower Shooting, is steeped in death for me. So much dialogue around campus shootings suggests we should arm ourselves to protect ourselves from those who are also armed—which I read as: fear “the other,” protect yourself from others, you are most safe when most well guarded. I will be honest and say that I sometimes think this way, particularly in light of today’s turbulent political climate, climate change, the war on women, and the deep radicalism/ fundamentalism surfacing in response to these social and global tensions. I am sometimes afraid.

However, the #CocksNotGlocks protest challenges this paradigm, facing the threat of violence with pleasure and embodiment. It gives me joy and laughter—qualities of justice-making that I want to share with my daughter, reasons for hope.

(Featured image sourced from here.)

Sara Frykenberg, Ph.D.: Graduate of the Women’s Studies in Religion program at Claremont Graduate University, Sara’s research considers the way in which process feminist theo/alogies reveal a kind transitory violence present in the liminal space between abusive paradigms and new non-abusive creations: a counter-necessary violence.  In addition to her feminist, theo/alogical and pedagogical pursuits, Sara is also an avid fan of science fiction and fantasy literature, and a level one Kundalini yoga teacher.

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Categories: Activism, Gun Control, Sexuality

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8 replies

  1. Kudos to Jessica Jin for coming up with such a clever campaign and thank you for letting the FAR readers know about it!

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  2. humour is sometimes the most powerful antidote to violence. I saw this in the recent Canadian election, when Justin Trudeau turned Harper’s attack ads into comic videos about himself (Justin). Some other groups have also used comedy to make strong statements. And this one that Jessica Jin has birthed is so badly needed. I hope it catches on at every campus in every Country and spreads far and wide. Thanks for letting us know, Sara

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  3. I remember that glorious humor in the our early feminist days, sometimes the way we dressed, sometimes our ideas — what comes instantly to mind is that classic slogan by Gloria Steinem — “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.”

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    • This quote has always stood out to me for many reasons. One of which is that my mother, a grammar teacher for many, many years, used a quote that Steinem’s is probably responding to in order to teach the importance of commas.
      The quote my mother used:
      “A woman without her man is nothing.”
      Add commas:
      “A woman, without her, man is nothing.”
      I think, aside from teaching grammar, it was also her fun way to poke holes in the syntax of male dominance with a group of junior high students.

      Had to share this story! Thank you for you comments!

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  4. What a provocative title, and interesting article. Today I have started writing a series of articles about the place of violence in our society, and your article is very timely. Thanks. https://moreenigma.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/beyond-punishment/

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  5. Wow – fascinating, clever, very creative! Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Sara!

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