Australian Channel Nine newsreader Samantha Heathwood has acquired celebrity status after images of her wearing a jacket with a penis-shaped neckline went viral in early January 2019. The jacket makes Heathwood appear as if she has a large phallus dangling from her neck with its tip nestling between her breasts.

Heathwood follows in the footsteps—if that is the right word—of fellow newsreader Natarsha Belling who achieved similar notoriety in 2016.

Writing for Yahoo! Lifestyle, Sarah Carty reported that the jacket “resembles a rather rude part of the male anatomy” and that respondents took to social media to mock Heathwood “for a laugh.” Carty reported one Twitter user as commenting, “I know I’m immature, but this cracks me up!”

Gossip

While seemingly just throwaway lifestyle gossip, these comments provide revealing insights into the underlying nature of sexuality in patriarchal society.

Carty’s description of the penis as a “rather rude part of the male anatomy” reveals a society unable to handle the basic fact that the penis is part of the reproductive process that creates human life. Any society that is emotionally cut off—an apt but unfortunate phrase—from its own reproductive process is a society adrift of its own basic reality and consequently of a healthy engagement with that reality.

That people gleefully went online to mock Heathwood “for a laugh” shows another toxic dimension of patriarchal society

That people gleefully went online to mock Heathwood “for a laugh” shows another toxic dimension of patriarchal society. While posters might argue that it is the jacket, not Heathwood, they are making fun of, the emotional reality is that the two cannot be separated. Heathwood will have experienced sexual shame and humiliation as these images went viral and the sexual slurs piled up.

Where is the empathy for Heathwood? Where is the recognition of the emotional damage inflicted on her through online shaming? Instead, a few moments of infantile amusement for social media trolls takes precedence.

Infantilism

This brings us to the Twitter user who tweeted, “I know I’m immature, but this cracks me up!” Here the infantilism of patriarchal sexuality is writ large. The tweeter acknowledges their own emotional immaturity without accepting responsibility for it—or even recognising their immaturity might be in any way unhealthy or irresponsible.

The remainder of the tweet—“this cracks me up”—may be a Freudian slip with a reference to a slang term for the vagina, ‘crack’. (The fact that the tweeter writes this in connection with a penis-shaped jacket provides reinforcement.) In terms of Freudian psychoanalysis this suggests emotional development stalled at the phallic stage with its genital focus. In Debugging the Universe, Laura Knight-Jadczyk writes that people stalled at this stage “use a lot of language that refers to sexual functions.”

For those interested in the shame-based emotional mechanics of patriarchy, even the slightest of sexually provocative incidents provides ample evidence of the infantilism, irresponsibility and emotional viciousness of so-called civilised society.