The Metaphor of Pegging

Inam

The...uh...what?

So, as I start writing this, I feel like I need to start off with the context that led me to uhh "coin" the phrase "the metaphor of pegging." Me and a friend were talking and at some point they sent me a few pegging memes, at which point they asked me "which one is more you?" I, then, in my infinite wisdom, responded with this:

"oh damn hard question, that one is more me but tbh I'm not really into pegging. So it's like, they're me in the sense that I agree with the metaphor of pegging...omfg I can't believe I just said that"

I then promptly promised to write a mini-essay about the "metaphor of pegging" so here we are.

What is pegging?

So, first, let's take a step back and examine the meaning and origin of 'pegging.' The meaning, as it were, is quite clear. Pegging is when a woman anally penetrates a man with a strap-on dildo. The term 'pegging' was coined by US sex advice columnist Dan Savage and his readers in 2001. Something interesting to note is that when the term was coined, sodomy laws were still in effect in roughly 14-17 states in the United States (three states got rid of their sodomy laws in 2001 and the other 14 in 2003 with the Lawrence v. Texas case). So, in theory, pegging was illegal in those states until 2003. Lauren Stewart talks about this in her dissertation [1]:

However, heterosexuals were also offered possibilities of sexual liberation through the repeal of sodomy laws. This perspective has not been as critically theorized or researched. That is, we know much more about how the repeal of sodomy laws affected the sex practices of homosexuals than heterosexuals. It is important to note that until 2003 there was only one set of sex acts legal in all 50 states, PiV heterosexual sex in private. This means that prior to 2003 a lot of heterosexuals were having illegal sex. Though it was rare that heterosexuals were charged with sodomy laws for engaging in non-procreative sex, these laws played a significant role in shaping heterosexual ideology. Sodomy laws clearly linked religious ideology (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism most specifically) with America’s legal system and thus formed a critical nexus of power shaping America’s sexual culture. The demands of the Gay Liberationist and Women’s Movements significantly transformed dominant sexual culture and the ultimate repeal of these laws. And so in 2003 all consensual sex between adults in private became legal.

It is important to highlight the complicated relationship between pegging and heteronormativity. When Dan Savage was originally coining the term, one reader wrote [2]:

When you first suggested a term be coined for a sexual act that specifically applied to a woman doing something to a man, I wondered why we had to be so specific? After all, the terms fucking or fisting or kissing don't specify the gender of the actors. Then I saw the advantage. My husband (like most straight men) can't break the connection between being fucked in the ass and being gay – but a gender-specific term might help! If you’re gay and another man is fucking you in the ass, he isn't ‘punting’ you. You have to be straight to get punted. A woman has to do the job. I vote punt! – Positively Uninhibited Newly Turned-on Effeminate Radical.

(The word punt ultimately lost out to 'peg,' but the point stands).

Alright, so having introduced pegging, I'll try to explain my initial metaphor of pegging, and why as I did more research the more murky it became.

The Metaphor of Pegging

The metaphor itself is relatively simple. When I say I agree with the 'metaphor of pegging,' what I mean is that I would be down with playing a submissive role in a sexual interaction, especially in a manner that flips traditional gender expectations. In a sense, for me, pegging was supposedly an avenue of male liberation. But...this is where my research countered my expectations. My expectation was that men who engaged in pegging also engaged in the theoretically submissive nature of it, but this turned out to be untrue? Here are two excerpts [2]:

Culturally, in both homo- and hetero-penetrative sex, the ‘penetrator’ is viewed as ‘masculine’ and ‘dominant’ and the ‘penetrated’ as ‘feminine’ and ‘submissive’. However, in the case of pegging, both women and men viewed their role as ‘dominant’ and ‘masculine’, even though there is only one pene-trator.
Likely in response to the fears men have of emasculation (feminization) and gayness that come from taking pleasure in anal penetration, male writers reasserted their masculinity by using aggressive sexual language in regards to being pegged. The letters are filled with vivid descriptors – ‘take it like a man’, ‘she was pounding my ass like a pro’, ‘woman-on-man ass banging’ and more

Now, that being said, the amount of research on pegging is extremely limited, there are only two academic articles on pegging, one of which is on pegging pornography and the other on Christian men justifying their behavior in a Protestant Evangelical framework [2]; so it is possible the male liberation aspect of pegging has not been seen yet. It is also fully possible that the tone around pegging has shifted in the last 1-2 years in a way that my research doesn't reflect. But as of now, the research I did find did not look favorably towards the cultural impact of pegging at all, for example, [2]:

Despite the increasing popularity of pegging, and the eagerness of straights to not be too ‘straight’ anymore, these heterosexuals want to co-opt queer activism for their own pleasure while still benefiting from straight privilege. Unlike many in the LGBTQ community who have pushed for a rejection of assimilation into heteropatriarchal norms and fought for pride in their deviant status, these straight peggers are not deliberately knocking down the false constructs of what counts as appropriate ‘straight sex’. Instead, they are carefully and deliberately manoeuvring the definition of heterosexuality to include them, using normative gender ideologies to justify their case.

But, there has at least been a degree of role reversal in pornography related to pegging, as seen in [3]:

Gender role reversal is the central theme of Bend Over Boyfriend and pegging pornography more generally. At a minimum, the active/insertive male, passive/insertee female paradigm is reversed.

So, who knows, maybe my metaphor of pegging and male liberation still has hope to manifest, but we'll have to wait and see. Thanks for reading 🙂.

Works Cited

If you are having trouble getting access to any of these articles please send me an email (linked at the top of the page) and I'll send over the files or some such.
  1. Stewart, Power and Pleasure: Heteronormativity and Homophobia in Heterosexual Sex
  2. Aguilar, Pegging and the heterosexualization of anal sex: An analysis of Savage Love advice
  3. Nault, Bend Over Boyfriend to Take it Like a Man: pegging pornography and the queer representation of straight sex