Friday, June 6, 2008

On Self-Inflicted Testicular Abuse and How It Changed Everything

Ever since the early days of America's Funniest Home Videos, the groin shot has occupied a special place in the heart of the country. Whether it be little kids with flailing arms, a mis-step at the pool, or a bike ride gone wrong, it seems as though the TV viewers of this nation have always rather gleefully embraced depictions of men injuring their manhood. Though this fascination seems outwardly sadistic, there is also a decidedly masochistic bent to the ritual, as any man can tell you of the uncomfortable tightening in his nether regions when he witnesses someone else get whacked in theirs.

The rise of Jackass saw an unusual (and somewhat alarming) intensification of the drive towards injured family jewels, with individuals not being unfortunate victims of testicular misfortune but active and willing participants in premeditated and outlandish methods of genital abuse. At times these antics extended into quite perverse realms, arguably even blurring the lines between mere adolescent pranksterism and the homoerotic. In a way, it is easy to understand why countless teenage boys would flock to graphic depictions of other men's genitals when the ultimate purpose was to watch those very genitals get injured in bold displays of fearlessness and impulsivity. Male nudity could be forgiven, even embraced, for the sake of such seemingly profound statements of rebellion and the unbridled spirit of manliness. Literally seeing your hero's balls as he applies electric shocks to them only reaffirms that he does indeed have the balls to do something so brazen and taboo. And so it seems that in many young minds, the level of bodily abuse that can be absorbed has a direct correlation to the strength of that body, and from this, one could argue that the amount of pain one's balls can endure says a lot about just how big one's metaphorical balls are when it's time to measure courage.

This could explain the proliferation of home-made videos of testicle injury that have spread across the internet in the years following the Jackass explosion. All across the web, teenagers can be observed leaping onto banisters, taking hits from see-saws and spring-loaded playground animals, or imploring their friends to take as many free shots as they'd like. Absent the above Jackassian explanation, such videos seem to defy all logic. What compels a group of youths to film each other actively attempting to injure the one part of their body no male in his right mind would want to have harmed? Who is this document for? Many times, these videos are shot in unpopulated areas, where the performer and the cameraman are the only souls present. What sort of tragic psychology implores someone to undertake such a freakishly impressive feat when there's no one around to witness it? Sure, the video makes a permanent document of the event, but even to those who enjoy watching such senseless film-making, the implications of smashing your balls for no audience and for no good reason doubtlessly spur some strange stabs of confusion or pity, if only subconsciously.

But these videos are feeding two different sets of desires in two different sets of individuals. First, they serve to reaffirm the impulsive and outward opinion-driven adolescent of his masculinity and his autonomy. Not only does he have the balls to hurt his balls, but he has the choice to hurt his balls, and he has chosen to hurt them. Second, the videos pander to the omnipresent show of morbidity that is the American fascination with testicle smashing. People still love to see other people get injured in truly heinous ways, but only if those ways are not gory and can be easily recovered from. It's sort of like laughing when seeing someone trip, providing the tripped person's head isn't bashed open.

A weird cycle is then formed, in which the parties contributing to the continuous motion of the cycle aren't even consciously aware of their participation. The people smashing their balls aren't showing others the video tape of the event because they think people like seeing hurt balls, but because they think people will be impressed with their recklessness and display of strength. Likewise, the people that actually just find it entertaining to see people get hit in the nuts don't think that those hitting their nuts are doing it to reaffirm their manliness, but only because they know people will find it humorous. Both parties still get what they want, despite having erroneous beliefs about the motivations of the other party. Such a loop couldn't exist in the days of America's Funniest Home Videos, because those experiencing scrotal injury weren't actively seeking it. Things were more straightforward in those days: everyone seemed to recognize that people just liked seeing hurt balls, so if someone happened to hurt their balls on film, it made sense to share it with others for the humor value. And yes, on the surface it does seem that simple still, but as shown above, the intentional injury factor actually changes the dynamics quite a bit.

But really, it all just boils down to the endless obsession males have with their own privates. Apparently, sometimes it's alright to extend that obsession to other people's privates, too. But in a way that's totally straight. Totally.

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