I had a laughingly light discussion with my wife this morning about the equipment we respectively sport “down below.” It started with me teasing her about the fact that her panties matched her toenails/ she laughed and said, “Well the bra is about to do the same.”
Then she looped the bra around her chest so that the cups were facing backward, clasped the bra shut and spun it around into its designed position. I said, “You women have to do a lot of things that guys don’t.”
“Oh,” she chuckled. “You guys have plenty of your own stuff to deal with.” That led to a very brief discussion about the vagaries of what guys and women respectively have to deal with down below.
One of the things I most love about my wife is body honesty. As an athlete she shifts in and out of clothes on a regular basis. That’s a necessity, and as a rule of existence, athletes get used to getting naked into order to transition to the next stage of training or getting back to work. Those are practical realities
These days, and to its credit, the women’s athletic wear industry actually makes gear designed to compliment and support women’s bodies in all their shapes and forms.
For guys or gals, it’s all about clothing that compliments performance. Thus there are subtle yet quite important differences in the design of certain critical pieces of equipment, such as bike shorts for men and women. The chamois for women tends to be a bit wider to accommodate sit bones while men have an extension that protects the genitals up the front.
We all learn how to best manager our own junk. It is likely difficult for a man to imagine the tricks and trysts of managing a vagina. For women, the male penis might seem like an obstacle of sorts, particularly when compressed against a bike seat. Is there really such as thing as Penis Envy?
Women clearly have their issues down there too. The rub of a set of bike shorts can make things sore for a woman in a hurry.
But men have some odd challenges. I’ve gone numb in the penis several times when the bike seat or my riding posture are positioned wrong. That’s an odd feeling, to have no feeling at all in that most sensitive and typically responsive part of your body. It’s like “Hello, Anyone Home?”
That’s when the Joy Stick no longer feels joyful. That’s no fun at all. After all, for many men, whether they will confess it publicly or not, their penis is like a lifetime playmate or a feelgood friend. You don’t want to let the poor guy go numb and stay numb.
Which brings us to sensuality, the flip side of raw equipment management. And as the world has discovered through the likes of Cosmo magazine and other pro-liberation media, women have as much or more capacity for joy down there than do men. Multiple orgasms are the Holy Grail or female sexuality, and whether they’ll admit it or not, men are fabulously jealous of that incredible capacity. Turns out that Vagina Envy may be more real than we might like to think.
But again, there’s no joy down there when things are roughed up or abraded by sweat and friction. Sensuality ducks and covers under those circumstances.
So while male and female anatomy down there (and up there too) seems so vastly different, we also know there are people who possess both male and female characteristics. Either they possess physical attributes or their gender identity is malleable. Both are actually legitimate outcomes of human evolution.
It is disturbing to see how many people in American society are determined to shove these people aside or force them to choose on category or another, only to criticize them when they do. Talk about gender hypocrisy and false clarity. Yet it isn’t always an easy determination to decide whether certain athletes are more male than female when they clearly exist somewhere in between. The world of sports continues to struggle with those human dimensions.
I know several transgender people. One of them bears the same name as me. They’re just Chris. Leave it at that.
I recall being a kid and worrying that my first and middle name were a bit gender neutral. To make matters worse, my mother often called me Chrissy. She did this all the way through my high school cross country and track career. My competitors would hear my mom calling out that brand of encouragement and mutter cynically to me during races, “Go Chrissy go!”
And my middle name is Lynn. Not much help in the machismo department. I was always worried people would not consider me macho enough. Peers were always testing the will to stand up to teasing and bullying. Friends and foes alike.
That said, most of us athletes in the 70s and early 80s waltzed around naked without a thought about other people seeing us in the buff. We didn’t obsess about penis size either. And Man Grooming? Wasn’t on the radar back then. The same went for women in the “down there” department anyway. In retrospect it all looks a little funky. Those Playboy photos from forty years ago bear testament to the need for the little trim that kept things in shape, as it were. But that was far from the often bareback preferences of the present age.
Let’s not forget how skimpy athletic fashions and general clothing wear sometimes became in the early 1970s. Short shorts rolled into fashion for women and the body revelation had begun. I clearly recall standing across from a particularly well-built classmate in our little high school out in the cornfield. At the age of fifteen, I could not help admiring her crotch in tight-fitting white shorts. Those years were like one giant hormone rush. I don’t even recall going to class some days because my brain was a thick ball of testosterone. Could. Not. Think.
Yet I still knew so little about female anatomy the mysteries of it all just about killed me. With no sisters of my own to witness through their blossoming years, the female anatomy might as well have been a nebula forty million light years away. Until, of course, the whole sexual exploration thing began. Bob Seger captured the glory of all that in his sing Night Moves:
I was a little too tall
Could’ve used a few pounds
Tight pants points hardly reknown
She was a black-haired beauty with big dark eyes
And points all her own sitting way up high
Way up firm and high
But for all that cross-gender mystery, interactions within our own gender were well-adjusted to social dynamics such as taking public showers. That was before culture was browbeaten by conservative fears that our chastity and privacy were at risk. As a result, kids have reportedly retreated from public showers in high schools across the country. My high school teacher friends say that taking showers together just isn’t done these days. Pity. That was a great place to sing songs together.
Nowadays the public forum of social media is like one giant shower stall. The human body is exposed more than ever. And that’s okay. Bared asses and breasts (but not nipples) appear every day on Instagram, and none’s the harm. Even the risk of a little male or female Camel Toe is a statement that our respective brand of genitals do not define us. What you have down there isn’t so important as what you make of it in terms of celebrating the power of whatever gender you possess. And that’s the way it should be.