Thousands of students at the University of Texas, Austin carried giant dildos around campus last week to protest the state’s lax gun laws. Student Jessica Jin created “Cocks Not Glocks” in response to a Texas bill, which, as of August, allows for the open carry of guns in all public Universities in the state. “We’re just going to normalize sex culture in the same way that they’re normalizing gun culture and see how they feel about it,” says Jin.
The thousands of veiny phalluses are meant to cause discomfort for pro-gun conservatives in the same way that an openly carried weapon would cause discomfort for those who fear for their safety, due to gun violence. Jin explained, “We want to force that kind of conscientiousness on people who are so ingrained in gun culture that they don’t understand the impact they’re having on the people around them.”
There’s only one problem with the basic premise of this protest: a dildo is hardly a foil to a gun. A gun is already a phallic object. It’s a symbol of power and a threat of violence. Many American males open carry for the very purpose of performing a threatening display of machismo. UT Austin students claim to be concerned with gun violence and the increase in mass shootings occurring in public places such as schools. Yet with nearly every single mass shooter being male, it is astounding that they have failed to sufficiently make the connection between gun violence and masculinity.
Cocks Not Glocks is meant to simultaneously protest Texas obscenity laws (both the University and state law prohibit displays of “obscene items”) which protesters characterize as restrictions on “free sexual expression.” Jin and co. position their movement for “sex-positivity” in contrast to the stodgy old pro-gun conservatives. But “sex culture” cannot be placed in opposition to “gun culture.” Between porn’s dominating male gaze and gun culture’s macho toxic masculinity, both are thoroughly pro-dick.
A writer at Bustle claims the protest uses “sexuality” as “an extremely powerful, norm-defying weapon in the face of injustice.” It makes sense that the liberal mainstream are fans of this style of activism — the Cocks Not Glocks protest perfectly exemplifies the ideology of queer activism, which celebrates “performances” that transgress social norms (such as public masturbation) as a revolutionary act for positive social change.
Foundational queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick lists several queer performances of “identity” as examples that challenge the normative “monolith” of religious, capitalist state power: “leatherfolk, ladies in tuxedoes… masturbators, bulldaggers, divas, Snap! queens, butch bottoms… lesbian-identified men or lesbians who sleep with men… ”
Who knew that BDSM leather fetishists and all those men masturbating on the subway were actually nobly challenging oppressive state power and capitalism — wow! And men obsessively trying to sleep with lesbians are probably just trying to subversively “queer” sexuality… by having heterosexual sex.
Cocks Not Glocks is yet another example of queer activism which touts itself as subversively challenging the status quo while actually doing nothing more than celebrating the mundane patriarchal phenomenon of sexualized transgression. Uncomfortable with my massive plastic penetration rod in your learning space? Get over it! The protest has gained enormous media coverage, as news outlets gleefully take the opportunity to run images of pretty young college women smiling while groping erect phalluses and wearing t-shirts that say “Take It and Come.” A golden chance for marketing to key demographics, porn companies such as Hustler have donated thousands of their products to be distributed on campus.
I have yet to see any media mention of the female UT students who are less than eager to playfully juggle colorful peens for the camera. It seems that Cocks Not Glocks forgot to consider the way survivors of sexual assault might be triggered by the omnipresent dildos. Instead, Jin encourages students who are less cool with the protest to “strap it on” anyway, and “deal with the discomfort” in the name of their sex-positive cause.
How in the world did we get here? It seems that somewhere along the way, the American liberal value of tolerance morphed into meaning tolerance for dicks shoved in your face — especially for women.
While Jessica Jin’s desire to combat gun violence is certainly a noble one, a campaign premised on equating safety and freedom with masculinity and male-centered sexuality seems like it would only serve to feed the culture of male sexual entitlement contributing to so many mass shootings. Aren’t women confronted with public erections enough? At the very least, let’s agree that, since we already live under a patriarchy, ensuring dicks have enough freedom of “sexual expression” is one issue we don’t need to stress over.