TED Talker Al Vernacchio Presents the Dangers of ‘Penis Pride’

You are having a fabulous day.

But you get to lunch, only to discover that your genitals have fallen off.

You panic. Retracing your steps seems utterly impossible.

The only place you can think to look is the “Office of Lost and Missing Genitals.”

Once there, you tell the receptionist that you … lost something.

She leads you to a back room, and you cringe, realizing you are not the only one.

Al Vernacchio, sexuality educator at Friends’ Central school, says he proposes this situation to his students and asks them whether they would be able to differentiate between their own privates and the rest.

The boys in his class would burst into laughter – they knew exactly how to find theirs.

The girls, however, kept quiet and looked uncomfortable.

This is how Vernacchio introduced the idea of “penis pride.” It’s awesome, however, there is a fine line between penis pride and penis arrogance. The latter, Vernacchio clarified, can lead to sexual assault and sexual abuse.

“The fact that we’re so comfortable talking about rape culture seems to suggest that we’ve normalized it,  and that can’t happen,” Vernacchio said. “We need more than outrage and activism, although we do need those. We also need systemic education about the basics of justice, gender equity, communication about sex, and the impact of alcohol abuse.”

And what about the quiet girls in the class? Many would not know how to find theirs because a girl’s relationship with her vagina is often different due to social stigmas.

Vernacchio said this misconception needs to change for the sake of female empowerment,  better sex and a safer environment for all genders.

A crowd of about 150 gathered in Stamp’s Baltimore Room Friday afternoon to hear Al Vernacchio discuss new ways of approaching sex and consent.

Vernacchio embraces sexl education that extends beyond preaching abstinence. He prefers a more comprehensive approach. He grew up in an Irish-Catholic household that called sex the “marriage act.” He is an English teacher, a married gay man and a spokesperson for the LGBTQA+ community.

On his desk at school sits a small sign: “Leave me alone I’m having a sexual fantasy,” available for reference any time he does not want to talk to someone.

He explained the need to revolutionize how we talk about sex. The traditional metaphor is baseball, but Vernacchio believes the baseball analogy is sexist not only because it favors the penis; it does not allow individuals to speak their minds about what is happening within their relationships.

According to Vernacchio, a girl’s relationship with her vagina is often one of mystery and self-consciousness. He stated the obvious: it’s harder to see. But there are societal roots as well. For example, in the baseball analogy, boys are represented by the “bat” while girls are the “nappy dugout.” Vaginas can be seen as “smelly,” or “unclean” he explained.

A baseball game never ends in a tie. It is only played to win, and there is no chance at second base to say: “I like it here. I think I’m going to stay,” Vernacchio said.

Instead Vernacchio offered a new model based on pizza.

He said while ordering pizza, friends always ask what the other wants first.

Even after doing this for years, friends still ask if the other wants “the regular,” or should they do it differently this time?

Unlike the baseball analogy, this normalizes both variety and consent, without necessitating a “bat” or a “catcher,” a penis or a vagina. What makes this model even better is that everyone wins.

Surbhi Sardana, a junior community health major, agreed.

“I think it makes so much more sense, and I love it,” Sardana said. “Especially because I think a lot of people think that having sex like he said means penis, vagina, and that’s not necessarily true, especially when you’re talking about the LGBT community. I think this is a really great way of transitioning from that penis / vagina model.”

It is great to take pride in your penis, Vernacchio said.

“[However], it is not a light saber, nor does it spew forth the cure for cancer.” It does not give you a ticket to have any girl that you want.

And the vagina is not, and will never be, a “nappy dugout.”

Do not be ashamed of you genitals. Take pride in your privates.

headshot_rayeRaye Weigel is a freshman English and community health double major and can be reached at rayanneweigel@gmail.com.

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