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Dickrolled by Carl Jung

August 30, 2011

It’s funny. I mean, actually it’s hilarious. The link says, “Hey check out …” and whoop. There it is. A picture of some dude’s privates, standing at attention. Even when the member in question doesn’t belong to a Member of Congress — the government kind, not the other kind of congress — it’s disconcerting.

Some people think it’s hilarious. I think it’s funny, but, like most practical pranks, funnier for the planner than the punked. It’s virtual streaking. It’s a phenomenon that takes many forms, my favorite being the No Pants Subway Ride.

Laugh-your-pants-off funny, indeed.

Or is it?

In general, I am a fan of public nudity and the chuckles it brings, but getting dickrolled makes me shudder. It’s a feeling similar to the nausea of pregnancy or chemotherapy, a sort of full-body disgust. There’s a word in Spanish that describes it perfectly: asco. Ugh.

I can think of a perfect parallel. It’s a little rambling, and a little insensitive, but bear with me.

Thrice, I’ve heard the same story. It’s a story about a particular facial expression, an expression that is part of the Maori culture. The first time I heard about this was when Chris and I were on vacation in the Cook Islands. We were at the officially-sanctioned cultural education tourist place, where the tables were decorated with spray-painted golden coconuts (seriously) and the female dancers wore modest tops, not coconut bras. We, along with a smattering of other tourists, were being taught how to dance. The women were taught the hip roll (obvious) and the men were taught the spear thrust (not what you’re thinking). To do the spear thrust move, the men hold a staff or a spear, pantomime stabbing a “wild boar” on the ground, make what I call “the man noise” — humhh — and then stare ferociously with their mouth open and their tongue sticking out as far as possible. I wish I had gotten Chris on video doing this. We have a Maori wooden carved spear around the house — if I can film him, I’ll post it.

We found out more about the facial expression later from a guy named Pa who led a hike up the old volcano that forms the island of Rarotonga. As we hiked, he told us stories about the Cook Islands including his opinion of colonialism. “A lot of bad things happened during the colonial era,” he admitted. “The Europeans did terrible things all over the world, but not here. Before John Williams came to us, we were cannibals, and now we are Christians.”

When Pa said, “We were cannibals,” he grimaced at us over his shoulder with his eyes staring and his tongue sticking out. It’s not an image that I’m likely to forget.

Years later, Chris and I were in Chicago without our children so of course I made him take me to go look at dinosaurs The Field Museum. He really is a good sport even if he doesn’t let me film him grunting with a wooden spear for this blog.

We saw the dinosaurs, and we saw a great exhibit on the wreck of the Whydah, and then we had a few minutes before the museum closed so I dragged him to the Oceania floor where the Field has an A-frame wooden structure, a marae, called Ruatepupuke II. It’s pretty cool, and even cooler was the tour guide, a Maori New Zealander who explained all about the work of art we were standing in, in our sock feet. He pointed out one of the carvings, a face with glaring eyes, teeth, and the tongue sticking out.

See that?

He made the face.

Then he looked at the kids in the room.

That’s a face you make on the playground, isn’t it? He made it again. In our culture, it means a lot more. Then he stood up straight. He was an old man, but suddenly he had much more of a presence than when we first walked in the room and, from a stool in the corner, he told us we were in a holy house, and to please take off our shoes. I got the sense he was about to impart a great truth. I wasn’t disappointed.

The Maori are a people of warriors. All over the Pacific Ocean, paddling from island to island in our outrigger canoes, we were warriors, fierce warriors, during a history not so long ago. And one of the things we did, as a warrior people, was to eat our enemies. That’s what that face is all about. It doesn’t mean to us what it means to you. It means, I am about to eat you and this mouth is the last thing you’ll ever see.

For a fraction of a second, I was as scared as I’ve ever been, and since then, I’ve looked at the traditional Maori sticking-my-tongue-out-at-you in a whole new light.

It’s the light source that sheds light on my uncomfortable reaction to being dickrolled. It’s not, “Hey, Look, It’s a Penis!” which is the reaction I have when someone streaks by. I don’t look at streakers’ privates anyway. I look at their faces. It’s much funnier. And that’s why the dickroll, at least to me, isn’t funny at all. Nor is it titillating. To my way of thinking, the only way an erect phallus, entirely devoid of context, would ever be arousing would be if it were an mp3 player loaded with Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On” or anything by Luther Vandross or Barry White. Not only would that be laugh-your-pants-off funny, it would be kinda sexy, which the dickroll patently is not.

It’s violent.

In a culture where sexual violence against women is endemic and epidemic, it says, “Hey, I am ready to rape you.”

I don’t know any woman who doesn’t have the fear of sexual violence lurking at the back of her mind, every minute of every day. When, as happened recently to someone I know well, a woman who has escaped from an abusive marriage gets a text of her ex-husband’s erect penis, it doesn’t mean wants to try again, to love her and to cherish her. It’s a threat.

“Oh, but that’s not what I mean,” is the response I would imagine I would get if I were to let a dickroller know I find his actions offensive. “Relax a little.” But it’s hard not to get all het up when I stumble across articles like this one, in last week’s NY Times, talking about sexism on college campuses like Duke, Yale, and Princeton. The author Lisa Belkin, herself a Princetonian, asks, “Why has the pendulum swung back to a feeling that sexualization of women is fun and funny rather than insulting and uncomfortable? Why are so many women O.K. with that?” It’s hard not to seethe when I happen across things like this film called Very Young Girls,  a documentary that sheds light on the prevalence of trafficking girls as young as 12 years old. The girls in the film, like the vast majority of commercially sexually exploited children, are girls from lower socio-economic urban areas who have fallen through the cracks of our social safety network. From the ivy league to the ‘hood and everywhere in between, sexual violence, or the fear of it, affects all women, and we don’t need to be dickrolled to remind us of our ubiquitous terror.

I told Chris that I wanted to see if I could put together a post on dickrolling. “What’s your take?” I asked him.

“It’s disgusting.”

“Why? It’s not like you find the image per se disgusting?”

“It’s that I didn’t ask for it.”

What makes it disgusting is that I didn’t ask for it.

I know what I think of it. Gene Simmons captures it perfectly.

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5 Comments
  1. I’m a little concerned that I come across as being in favor of colonialism (I’m emphatically not) and I’m also worried that I’m dissing the Maori. That was not my intention, and if I came across wrong, I’m hoping someone will tell me how to be clearer. Furthermore, I posted a few months ago about the history of cannibalism in Europe — a more recent history than cannibalism in Oceania, in fact. I think my brush with cancer has made me a lot more aware of the fact that all of us are fundamentally made of meat.

  2. 1) No
    2) The video camera batteries are dead
    3) You couldn’t work it anyway
    4) You wouldn’t be able to get the video from the camera to a computer
    5) You might accidentally film my penis

  3. Abigail Carlton permalink

    A) I don’t think you came across as being in favor of colonialism — but I am aware that there are some people for whom any mention of it is endorsement, and anytime you don’t stick a bit in there about how colonialism was the worst thing ever in every way then you must be in favor of it. I am related to those people and they are annoying in other areas of life.

    B) Chris summed it up perfectly with “I didn’t ask for it.” Pornoish pic from someone you *want* to have sex and asked to see necked is fine (until the breakup then those pics will go float around the internet for ever)

    C) I find it disturbing that this is common enough to have a name.

    D) Just read this, http://jezebel.com/wtf/ about a site that lists people people have wanked off to — without their consent! Icky.

  4. Great post, as per usual. And I fundamentally agree with the comparisons you draw.

    Every time I see a “haka” performed I get goosebumps and want to cry.

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  1. Dickrolled by Carl Jung « Dance with the Reaper | Cais de Abrigo

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