Amy Shchumer

To catch a dick

I’m 185 pounds, can catch a dick whenever I want, and feel pretty weird about the whole game. 

The internet’s been freaking out over Amy Schumer’s Glamour Trailblazer Award acceptance speech last week. As the internet should, because the speech was awesome.

When I first looked up from Judith Butler long enough to realize that female comedians are the trailblazers of feminist cultural expression (I was so late to the party everyone was already sloppy drunk, the booze was gone, and my new-shoe blister was the size of a grape tomato), I blew through two seasons of Inside Amy Schumer weeping in recognition and deliverance. Schumer is a person and a comedian and like all people and all comedians (these are not mutually exclusive categories) her work can make me feel weird sometimes. It can be racist, it can make me queer-uncomfortable, and all of this is extra-apparent because I often do, and really long to, identify with her.

This sketch perfectly encapsulates why. It’s about how when women do rad shit, people talk about how we look rather than said rad shit, and dismiss or laud us accordingly. How many times have you seen a dude, faced with a woman’s really good argument, call her unfuckable and move on like he just invented comebacks?

Maybe you’re right about rising sea levels, Laura, but I wouldn’t put my dick in you, so your argument is not important.

Your queer politics are cute, Joanne, but you probably wouldn’t be such a lesbian if dudes actually wanted to fuck you.

The amazing thing Schumer does, and that a lot of other female comedians do, and that I want to emulate, is turn around and say, What, you’re gonna talk about my body? That’s funny. I’m already talking about my body, and you being a dick about my body, and everyone’s laughing at you.

By using her own body and sexuality as a creative resource, Schumer takes back power, skewering the absurd standards that wrap our bodies like layer upon layer of tape.

This is exactly what Schumer is doing in what is probably the most-repeated line of the Glamour speech: “I’m probably, like, 160 pounds right now, and I can catch a dick whenever I want.”

Most immediately, the comment means that Schumer is fabulous and perfect in her own skin, a radiant hilarious hottie who can get laid whenever she feels like it, thank you very much internet randos who say otherwise.

This is true, and valid. We should all feel beautiful, and desirable, and absolutely at ease and sustained and pleasured in our bodies.

But I felt a lot more than empowerment in that line. I felt a critique of the the whole arduous complicated ridiculous game that is having to prove oneself through one’s ability to get laid — the game that says that female value is predicated on sex.

We are told that sex — excuse me, that sex with cis men — is a scarce commodity that we must work very, very hard to earn. We have to earn it through wearing certain things and dancing in certain ways and eating or not eating and talking or not talking or saying some things and not others. We have to show skin but also not show skin, put out but also not put out. Sex with men, we are taught, is very, very precious, and we are locked in competition with other women to obtain it.

Meanwhile — and in total contrast to this scarcity-economy thing — dick is pitched at us all the time. We walk out onto the street and we’re hit with a barrage of dick, a fusillade. It’s chucked at us in the hey-babys, in the subway gropes, in the aggressive uncles. It is assault. It is corrective rape. It is when you tell a dude at a party that you’re a lesbian and he will. not. back. off. Or when you don’t tell him you’re a lesbian, because you don’t want to face the ire that often comes when we are not standing with our softball gloves on, ready to catch whatever dick comes our way.

There’s a good bit about this — about the utter, total pervasiveness of dick — in Adrienne Rich’s 21 Love Poems, which are a masterwork and the Nicene Creed for the queer lapsed Catholic in me:

Whenever in this city, screens flicker

with pornography, with science-fiction vampires,

victimized hirelings bending to the lash,

we also have to walk…if simply as we walk

through the rainsoaked garbage, the tabloid cruelties

of our own neighborhoods.

We need to grasp our lives inseperable

from those rancid dreams, that blurt of metal, those disgraces….

If we do have access to dick, it is a victory, proof of our worth. If we don’t, it is a failure, a character flaw, a defeat. Dick is simultaneously pitched in abundance, and a scarce, precious resource of which we must prove ourselves worthy. That’s the tension that produces the entirely understandable, and entirely fucked-up, genre of thought, which I have certainly entertained, and which I’ve heard a lot of other women vocalize:

Why wasn’t I street harassed today — have I gained weight?

He didn’t even try to rape me a little bit. Do I look alright?

The double standard puts us into a bind that enables violence, that tells us that violence is better, after all, than no attention at all.

I weigh 185 pounds. I don’t always shave my legs, I have gap teeth that only some people think are adorable, and I tell jokes too loud.

Could I have caught dick today (like a cold, like salmonella)? Sure. There was the dude at Coney Island who asked for the time and then if I had a boyfriend, and the three men on the walk to my sister’s apartment who said they liked my dress, and between five to seven Tinder matches from all the bored subway-swiping, and could I have had sex with one of these people? Probably, yeah.

Would that sate the cultural voice that says I am totally unfuckable and thus valueless? Partially.

Would that actually get me out of the system that bases female worth on the arbitrary and always unsatisfiable metric of fuckability? Not a chance.

This is what the Schumer quote really does, for me at least. It doesn’t tell me that I’m beautiful and perfect in my skin, though that too is true, and present in the speech. It tells me — as does much of her other work — that the whole economy of fuckability, the whole inane, mind-numbing, boring, oppressive, contradictory set of notions about female sexuality that work to keep us in line is precisely that — a tool of control. A game that we cannot win, because it’s a bad game in the first place.

Knowing that this game is unwinnable makes me want feminism the way we’re supposed to want sex: Bad and hard and urgently. It makes me long for a world in which my work and my worth and my personhood can’t be reduced to a region of flesh and who wants to touch it.

I want us to imagine ourselves into existence as bodies and brains, complete unto ourselves. As Adrienne Rich writes, again in the 21 Love Poems:

No one has imagined us. We want to live like trees,

sycamores blazing through the sulfuric air,

dappled with scars, still exuberantly budding,

our animal passion rooted in the city.

Reina Gattuso is passionate about empowering conversations around queerness, sexual ethics, and social movements with equal parts rhapsody and sass. Her writing has appeared at Time, Bitch, attn:, and The Washington Post. She is currently pursuing her masters.

Reina Gattuso writes about her sex life for the good of human kind.

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