William J. Broad, “North Korea’s Performance Anxiety”, in yesterday’s NYT Sunday Review:
“It’s a boy,” Edward Teller exulted after the world’s first hydrogen bomb exploded in 1952 with a force 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
From the start, the nuclear era seethed with sexual allusions. Military officers joked about the phallic symbolism of their big missiles and warheads — and of emasculating the enemy. “Dr. Strangelove” mocked the idea with big cigars and an excited man [Major T.J. "King" Kong, played by Slim Pickens] riding into the thermonuclear sunset with a bomb tucked between his legs.
Helen Caldicott, the antinuclear activist, argued in the 1980s that male insecurity accounted for the cold war’s perilous spiral of arms. Her book? “Missile Envy.”
Today, the psychosexual lens helps explain why North Korea, in addition to dire poverty and other crippling woes, faces international giggles over its inability to “get it up” — a popular turn of phrase among bloggers and some headline writers.
“Things like this never go away,” Spencer R. Weart, an atomic historian and director emeritus of the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics, said in an interview. “There’s little doubt that missiles are phallic symbols. Everybody agrees on that.”
(It’s been a couple of weeks since my last phallicity posting — on AZBlogX, here — and now comes this timely piece on North Korea’s dysfunctional missiles.)
Slim Pickens on the missile:
And Wikipedia on Slim Pickens:
Louis Burton Lindley, Jr. (June 29, 1919 – December 8, 1983), better known by the stage name Slim Pickens, was an American rodeo performer and film and television actor who epitomized the profane, tough, sardonic cowboy, but who is best remembered for his comic roles, notably in Dr. Strangelove and Blazing Saddles.
Some comments from AZBlogX on phallic weaponry:
[in a phallicity posting] The association between men’s weaponry and their masculinity, via their penises, is subliminal, but still potent (perhaps laughably potent) in images like [the vintage postcard “Navy Gun”, shown in the posting].
[in a posting on the gay porn flick The Bombardier] The other part of the surrounding story is the weird stuff. It’s a story about the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan at the conclusion of WWII. Actually, about a third atomic bomb (nicknamed “Sissy Boy” — the name is clearly painted on the bomb, which is, incredibly, in the middle of that whole last sex scene, the climax of which takes place on top of the bomb; I said it was weird), intended for Hokkaido, with [Jason] Ridge and [Breck] Stewart as the crew for the mission.
Not at all subtle.