By Veronica Wells
In a lot of ways, I grew up in the “I’ll take your man” era. The sentiment was in the music. Terry McMillan was writing about it in Waiting To Exhale (which I read probably a little too early), and most importantly they were in the warnings from elders. For better or worse, my grandmother was preoccupied with the concept of jealousy and we received more than our fair share of warnings about people who masqueraded as friends but were secretly jealous of some aspect of your life.
Following the lead of my grandmother, it was my mother who told me that
if you have a man that’s good to you, you shouldn’t make a practice or
habit of bragging about him to just anyone. And I remember she shared a
story of her college roommate who outright told her, “If I like a guy, I
don’t care if he’s in a relationship, I’ll just take him from her.”
This woman’s admission shook my mother enough that she shared the story
with her daughters, decades later. And I can’t lie it stuck with me.
So imagine my utter horror when I heard two women having a discussion that violated the rules of my childhood.
Woman 1: Girl, I know this might be a little inappropriate, but my man has the prettiest d*ck.
Woman 2: Laughs.
Woman 1: I’m serious. It’s beautiful. Literally perfect.
It took everything in me not to drop my jaw. But there was no way I was going to tune out of this conversation.
Woman 1: You know what, let me just show you.
At this point, I’m convinced that woman 2 is going to object, call her homegirl crazy or insist that she’s taken things too far. But there was silence as she leaned in to her girlfriend’s phone waiting for the reveal.
Woman 2: Girl, you’re right! It is perfect. That’s a gorgeous d*ck.
I was looking around making sure I wasn’t the only one witnessing this. But I was. So there was no one to confirm my sense that this conversation was outta control, outta order, outta bounds. Since I heard it, I asked a couple of people if showing your partner’s genitalia to friends and family was normal. None of them thought it was. My fiancé said that he’d heard of men showing women they weren’t serious about to other men but once people were in a committed or serious relationship, those images were considered…private.
The issue of whether or not you have permission to show someone’s genitals to friends and family is certainly a huge part of this discussion. I doubt this woman’s boyfriend knew he was being displayed in this way. And just because there are more than a few men who like to brag on their d*ck, it doesn’t necessarily give their partners the right to, especially with photographic evidence. Maybe I’m overthinking but I’m sure there are a few men who would consider that a violation.
But in the weeks since I’d heard this conversation, I wondered if it was my own hang-ups that made this conversation so appalling to me. Had I been groomed to believe that female friendships would be characterized by envy and a desire to have what was “mine”? Should women be more upfront and honest about the good qualities of their man? And should they share said qualities with their friends?
Personally, I can’t see myself talking about my man’s penis or sex game with damn near anyone. I just view certain things as sacred and, in a monogamous relationship, meant for two people. And in a world where so many relationships are performative, I doubt I’ll be doing too much sharing about personality traits either. But I think it’s interesting to examine the ways in which we’ve been led to believe that women–the people who serve as the greatest support systems in our lives–have been painted as malicious and conniving.
Do you brag about your man to your girlfriends?