I'm Afraid We Have To Talk About "Her Penis"
Totalitarianism always begins with a monstrous lie
This remarkable essay is taken from Brendan O’Neill’s stirring new book, A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays On The Unsayable, which I urge you to buy and read. I finished it in one sitting. It’s the best book I’ve read all year. I’ll have more to say about it later, and we’ll publish a podcast with Brendan soon. Until then, enjoy this vitally important piece — MS
by Brendan O’Neill
We need to talk about her penis. Not about any specific individual’s private parts. That would be weird. No, we need to talk about the union of those two words. The smashing together of the female pronoun and the noun for the male genital organ. Her penis. Nothing better captures the irrationalism of our age, and also the slippery authoritarianism of it, than the fact that this nonsensical phrase is frequently uttered, and as much in the respectable press as in the gender Bedlam of internet discussion forums. If anyone tries to tell you the culture war is a myth, show them her penis.
Her penis is everywhere. It regularly pops up in news reports. You’ll see it in The Times and on the BBC. It’s inescapable. “Ex-soldier exposed her penis and used wheelie bin as a sex toy in public,” said a headline in Metro in April 2022. “A Glasgow-born sex offender has admitted exposing her penis,” said the Daily Record in that same story. Teesside Live, which covers Middlesbrough, the part of the UK in which this minimalistic anomaly reportedly whipped out her phallus, went all out. “Teesside woman accused of exposing penis,” its headline declared. “She is charged with committing a public nuisance by indecently exposing her penis to other members of the public while masturbating from a property window,” readers were informed. Readers, I’m sure, will have been more startled by the news that there exists a woman with a penis than by the claims that she flashed it at unsuspecting passers-by.
Speaking of flashing, the Daily Mail informed us in September 2021 that an individual “exposed her penis” at Wi Spa, a spa in Los Angeles. What’s more, “her penis” was “partially erect” at the time. A woman with a boner? More proof that there’s nothing men can do that women can’t. In September 2022, the Mail reported on allegations that American college swimmer Lia Thomas “took out her penis” in the women’s locker room.
In 2018, the Daily Mirror published a hagiographic piece about a “woman who spent thousands of pounds transforming her body” but who decided to “keep her penis.” She then “realiz[ed] that she is a lesbian.” Is anyone else confused? The media are meant to report facts clearly and pithily, but that Mirror piece left me bewildered. A woman with a penis who has sex with other women? You mean a straight man?
Her penis even makes an appearance in institutions of longstanding repute. The British Film Institute published a review of the 2018 Belgian film Girl, in which it said one of the characters “tucks her penis between her legs with tape during strenuous ballet rehearsals.” A few years back, the BBC reported on the “transgender woman [who] says she was held at an airport because her penis showed up as an ‘anomaly’ when she was going through security.” I bet it did.
Even The Times, the newspaper of record, occasionally features her penis. Its review of trans activist Grace Lavery’s memoir, Please Miss: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Penis, referred to as “her penis.” The author of that review at least had enough of a grip on reality, however feeble, to say “her penis” is “a phrase I pray I never get used to writing.” Though this does raise the question of why it was written in the first place. Why Britain’s most esteemed newspaper, renowned for its publication of vital information, would publish those two little words which, when placed in succession, become misleading and outright fraudulent: her penis.
At times, the appearance of her penis isn’t just strange or spurious — it’s sinister. Consider the trial of Karen White. White is a man, a rapist, and a pedophile. Despite this, he was sent, following his conviction for his grim crimes, to a women’s prison: HMP New Hall in West Yorkshire. He says he’s a woman, and the prison estate believes him. There, he sexually assaulted two inmates. At his trial for those assaults, the prosecuting lawyer described White’s approach to one of the female inmates as follows: “Her penis was erect and sticking out the top of her trousers.” Her penis. Her trousers. Even the violent, rapacious tormentors of women are afforded the titles “she” and “her” if that is what they desire. Even the assaulters of females are addressed in feminine terms, as they, please. They rape you, and they get your pronouns. Even in a courtroom, where all swear to speak the truth, that strangulated act of Newspeak – her penis – is spoken and taken seriously.
Her penis is all the rage with the police, too. At the end of 2021, Police Scotland said rapes would be recorded as having been committed by women “where a person, born male but who identifies as a female… commits [the] rape.” In 2019, Freedom of Information requests were submitted to UK police forces regarding their attitude toward men who identify as women. Sixteen forces said they recorded data according to the accused’s self-declared gender rather than his or her birth sex, and eight of those forces said they do this even when the crime in question is rape. Britain’s National Police Chiefs Council likewise advised that people should be referred to by their self-identified gender rather than their natal sex. So there will be cops in the UK who say her penis. Who say that an individual used her penis to rape a woman. Who lie even as they seek the truth.
Her penis. Say those two words to yourself. They are a falsehood, aren’t they? Certainly, all the examples cited above were lies masquerading as news. That “woman” in Teesside who exposed “her penis” and wanked it in front of strangers — that was a man called Andrew McNab, who now goes by the name Chloe Thompson. That person who allegedly exposed “her” partially erect penis in a spa in Los Angeles — that was a man called Darren Agee Merager, who reportedly has a history of indecent exposure.
Swimmer Lia Thomas, who allegedly “took out her penis” in the women’s changing room — that was a man whose original name was Will Thomas, who went from being an average male US college swimmer to being among the top female college swimmers when he decided to become Lia. That prisoner, Karen White, who approached a fellow inmate with “her penis” sticking out of the top of “her trousers” — that is a man called Stephen Terence Wood whose crimes include indecently assaulting two boys aged nine and 12 and raping a pregnant woman.
His penis, his penis, his penis. That’s the phrase you’re looking for. “His” is the only possessive pronoun that should ever appear before the word penis. But, of course, we are dealing with more than a failure of grammar here. A refresher course on English will not be enough to fix the strange 21st-century tendency of both the mainstream media and the judicial system to say “her penis.” No, this is a failure of reason. It’s a failure of rationalism.
That “her penis” appears everywhere now — from The Times to court proceedings to the deliberations of police forces investigating allegations of rape – speaks to the modern era’s abandonment of reality and its acquiesence to a new form of cultural authoritarianism that demands the sanctification of people’s subjective delusions over and above objective truth. The untruth of “her penis” is reflective of the legion untruths we are all forced to labor under in this era of linguistic and moral tyranny.