Akron's Phallic Symbols

With today’s fast-paced information society, many groups and concepts are often represented by simple, easily and quickly recognizable symbols.

But many things that were not, at least with conscious intention, meant to represent anything are often interpreted by the human brain being symbolic in nature. As social creatures, we especially tend to look for patterns that recall the human form, like vague faces on toasted bread or penises, well, anywhere.


With today’s fast-paced information society, many groups and concepts are often represented by simple, easily and quickly recognizable symbols.

But many things that were not, at least with conscious intention, meant to represent anything are often interpreted by the human brain being symbolic in nature. As social creatures, we especially tend to look for patterns that recall the human form, like vague faces on toasted bread or penises, well, anywhere.

Maybe that tower wasn’t supposed to be another temple to the penis gods, but misinterpretation happens almost every day. Everyone can agree that at least once in a person’s life, there will be an instance of double take — looking back at an object that strangely resembles a man’s or, less often, woman’s sexual anatomy.

This phenomenon is completely natural, whether or not the building or monument in question just happened to organically take such a tall, erect form in the architect’s mind. Phallic symbols have appeared across cultures and throughout time.  While it can be more difficult to find female counterparts, or yonic symbols, they do show up on occasion.

For our culture, sexual symbolization could be considered second nature. This happens because society simultaneously glorifies sex and tells you not to think about. And certainly engaging in actual sex is a serious taboo according to various social sects. We may thus internalize sex in such a way that results in it morphing into symbolic expression. We have clear symbols that strongly represent what a man’s penis is and what a woman’s breasts and vagina are. Because these symbols are universally recognizable, it is easy to interpret any object sharing the same shape as human genitalia to be a symbol for sex when it is not consciously intended as such.

Considering that thought, I could not help but wonder — do people in the 21st century wear phallic-colored glasses: glasses that make an act as innocent as regarding a tree and turning that object into a representative sex symbol? Does this happen to everybody? And how often do people mistakenly see phallic or yonic symbols when there was no intention of creating the object to reflect naughty bits? On the other hand, how often is an object that appears symbolically sexual an actual manifestation of internalized perceptions of sexuality, however unaware its creator may be of such perceptions?

Walking freely around campus searching for phallic and yonic symbols, I came across 14 different items that could, in the slightest, call to mind a penis, breasts or a vagina, ranging from trees, bushes, rocks, sewage drains, statues and one manmade structure which we all see Monday through Friday while walking from building to building on our campus. The range includes those that are obvious and ones that are almost impossible to see, until a cocked head and some concentration are applied to the subject.

The whole idea of phallic and yonic symbols is that they are often found in each person’s interpretation, or misinterpretation, of the world. The saying beauty is in the eye of the beholder fits perfectly with the idea of sexual symbolism, except, in this case, genitals are in the eye of the beholder. Next time you are walking from class to class, make sure to keep an open eye out for some representations of penises and vaginas; you may just get lucky and spot a peep show from a tree along the way.