“Most people are aware of a distinction between high and low art. High art is appreciated by those with the most cultivated taste. Low art is for the masses, accessible and easily comprehended. The concept of high and low can be traced back to 18th century ideas about fine art and craft.”
Marcel Duchamp turned the concept of high art on its ear when he signed a porcelain men’s urinal, R. Mutt, turned it on it’s back, called it “Fountain”, and entered it into the Society of Independent’s Artists exhibition of 1917 as a piece of sculpture. From his Dada roots Duchamp moved on to readymades, again raising questions about the very nature and definition of art.
Phallusy is a collision of high and low art. Libido, the human sex drive, is universal, pursued from the loftiest peaks of the social elites to the lowest gutters of the hoi polloi. Desire is classless.
High art is filled with phalluses, literally and metaphorically, images and representations of an erect penis, typically symbolizing fertility or potency, but often as displays of male power and dominance. It has been this way for millennia. This is no surprise given that definitions of cultural excellence and what is aesthetically pleasing have always been made by the gate keepers of male dominated cultural bastions. It’s not much of a revelation that “Art”, produced by men, to be bought and consumed by other men, should glorify the penis.
Even in historical and academic contexts, interpretations of representations of penises and vulvas as art objects or fetish items have been subject to male prejudices. And while depictions of both male and female genitalia in multitudinous cultures, past and present, are apparently valid subjects for academic interpretation and conjecture, there is a deafening silence around objects in archeology dating as far back as 30,000 years that in size, shape and appearance, and in many cases explicit symbolism, are obviously dildos. Palaeolithic sex toys for women are a no go zone.
A dildo is a sex toy, usually explicitly penis shaped in appearance, shaped for penetration and used for sex play. That is its purpose. A dildo is, in short (or long), a fake penis. A dick double. It is utilitarian. A tool. Constructed to be used for an express and very specific purpose. Even beautifully made and constructed, a dildo is low art as art has been traditionally defined. And again, it has been that way for millennia.
But need it be? There is art in a beautiful object. Even if it’s purpose is utilitarian. If couture and high fashion are wearable art, then the Phallusy dildos are fuckable art.
For the user, in the vast majority of cases women, a fake penis or false phallus has many advantages over the real McCoy. It is always erect, always in the mood, does not need to be fed, watered or wooed and almost certainly it will never send an unsolicited self-portrait. It is an object. It is controllable. And thus safe.
I’m fascinated by that part of human nature that, if you’re going to make a fake penis, elects to create one out of the latest and sleekest industrial materials, steel and glass, highly polished and coloured. This both obscures the true nature of the false phallus, rendering plausible deniability as to its purpose, and also serves to elevate its aesthetic appeal. We seek pleasure not only in the stimulation of our physical erogoneous zones, but in the visual stimulation of the brain’s aesthetic ideals. We manipulate our eyes and our aesthetic ideals in addition to our genitalia. We make high art of low art. And then we have sex with it.