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‘Big Dick Energy’: the controversial route of a pop and political expression


What is ‘Big Dick Energy’ or ‘BDE’? According to the urban dictionary, it’s about self-confidence without cockiness. It is never misplaced and it cannot be simulated. In the Collins dictionary, it is the attractive aura exuded by a person who has understated but unshakeable self-confidence.

Where does the expression ‘Big Dick Energy’ come from?

The term was first used in June 2018 by African-American feminist author Kyrell Grant in reaction to the death of famous chef Anthony Bourdain.

An Internet user took it up again a year later to describe the actor Pete Davidson, who was also the subject of flattering rumours. The singer Ariana Grande, then his fiancée, seems to confirm, in a controversial tweet – since deleted.

Pete davidson is 6’3 with dark circles, exudes big dick energy, looks evil but apparently is an angel, and loves his girl publicly the only thing wrong w him is that he’s a scorpio but anyway… married him within a month too— Teen (@babyvietcong) June 23, 2018

In the days that followed, discussions on social networks and press articles questioned the relevance of the anatomical reference, and a consensus seemed to be reached to consider that it is not necessary to be particularly well endowed or even to be a man, to ooze confidence. It’s not the size that matters, it’s the attitude, the vibe.

The ‘BDE’ would therefore be gender-neutral. Lists of celebrities, men and women, are drawn up and debated. Among the elected: Harry Styles, Adam Driver, Cate Blanchett, Justin Bieber, Carrie Fisher, Bruce Springsteen, Cher, David Bowie, Johnny Cash, Tilda Swinton, Tom Hardy, Robert Downey Jr, Rihanna, Beyonce, Dwayne Johnson, Idris Elba, Cardi B, Chris Evans, Justin Theroux, Lindsay Lohan, Prince, Bobby Carnavale, Jeff Goldblum, Martha Stewart, Timothée Chalamet, Paul Giamatti, Diplo, LeBron James, Serena Williams, swimmer Katie Ledecky, but also judges Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, or even Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Christiane Taubira, Angela Merkel, some Nobel Prize winners, and Jesus …

On the other hand, some fail entry: David Beckham, Brad Pitt and George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Chris Hemsworth, Justin Timberlake, Drake, Kanye West, Booba, Emmanuel Macron, Donald Trump, or his daughter Ivanka as well as his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Why would ‘Big Dick Energy’ be ‘problematic’?

Although coined by a feminist about a man who publicly supported the #MeToo movement, the expression has irritated a number of female commentators who consider it unbearable to systematically associate attributes of power or success with the male gender.

Having so far eluded the d… competition, now women are invited to compare the size of a metaphorical penis to assess their respective mojo. However, no feminine characteristic is used to value access to power, the modalities for its exercise, or the qualities of its holders. It’s annoying.

An alternative expression was born as a reaction, ‘Horse Girl Energy’, but did not enjoy the same success.

How would ‘Big Dick Energy’ ultimately be progressive?

It would suffice to take a step back: the image would not be intended to celebrate vigorous members, but to mock the male obsession around the size of his organ!

Some also happily consider that BDE assumes, in addition to charisma, an immediate ability to make others feel good, which is the antithesis of toxic masculinity. It is by comparing themselves to men deploying their BDE, that people angry at being unable to feel such self-confidence would develop toxic masculinity. And to recall that ostensibly showing off your muscles, or behaving like a bully, are definitely not BDE attitudes.

Others consider that survival in the modern, male-dominated world requires a huge Big Dick Energy from women. And that instead of discussing the sexism of the concept, we would do better to celebrate all the heroines who demonstrate it on a daily basis to keep society going.

So it’s all right then?

Not really, because the subject could be considered sexist and could contribute to the bodyshaming to which men who are less spoiled by nature feel victims. Their confidence would be damaged, as would their energy, thus confirming, through no fault of their own, the relevance of a literal interpretation of the expression.

But no need to cancel everything. While some feminists find that reducing men to their bodies is undesirable, they also consider the harm to be less than that done to women. The assumption that there could be an oppressive systemic sexism for men, which is reinforced by a few comments on the supposed BDE of this or that personality, seems to them utterly absurd.

The phallic reference may not reinforce a system that discriminates against men, but it would lead, according to others, to toxic masculinity. Even by stating that women can, like men, shine with their Big Dick Energy, the use of this term contributes to the persistence of lexical and metaphorical fields of male chauvinism (such as the association of ‘balls’ with courage). And these are not neutral in terms of values. In particular, women, who are increasingly accustomed to gender-neutral language, may find it difficult to project themselves into a representation whose words exclude them from the outset.

The weight of words

Social psychology researcher Sharon Presley, a feminist and libertarian, believes that sexist language defines women by “putting them in their place”. This could be considered a way to support gender inequalities by perpetuating images of domination and submission, stereotypes of weak, objectified, sexualized women, and powerful men. In her view, for society to change, stereotypes have to evolve, so the language must change.

Vox magazine comes to the conclusion that the little Big Dick Energy phenomenon is as fascinating as it is frustrating, having fun with the relationship between men and their sex, being satisfied to see Rihanna at the top of the list of the biggest penises, but regretting that when it comes to power and success, the semantics always revolve around the underwear region.

A digital pop culture phenomenon, the expression BDE has become an object in itself, with its derivative products. And on Etsy, militant merchants offer alternative goodies: Big Uterus Energy, Big Fallopian Energy, Big Vag Energy, Big Clit Energy, Big Tit Energy or Big Dyke Energy.

Small Dick Energy

2020, confidence is at half mast. Rather, current news points more towards SDE, which mirrors impudence without quality. The expression is thus used to denounce police violence, the police itself, racism, or the fact of not wearing a mask

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