**A note from the author: In this article, I discuss bachelorette parties for heterosexual women since that has been my personal, lived experience. I discuss "penises" and "penis decorations" in this context and with the assumption that many who use penis decorations at bachelorette parties believe that penises are only associated with men. I know and acknowledge that people of many different gender identities are penis owners.
My partner and I got engaged in December of 2015. Wanting to have plenty of time to plan a wedding, we set our date for June 3, 2017. The first year of our engagement flew by and before I knew it, it was time to start thinking about a bachelorette party.
I was arguably more excited about this event than the actual wedding. Having all of my friends—who are scattered across the country living in Nashville, DC, New York, Boulder, and Charlotte—together for an entire weekend was the dream.
A few months before the wedding, I started receiving texts and emails from members of the wedding party, asking what I wanted to do for a bachelorette weekend. Since I had been using Pinterest to find wedding inspiration, I started searching there for ideas.
After an initial search of "bachelorette party ideas," I quickly realized that Pinterest—or any other mainstream source—would not be the place for me to plan the feminist weekend with friends I had been dreaming about.
Among the first results that popped up were:
- DIY "Bride Tribe" shirts (Maybe let's not appropriate tribal culture for the sake of rhyming during a bachelorette party?)
- A pack of 20 penis straws for $15 (...why can't we use regular straws?)
- Recipe: How to make your own penis cookies (Penises again?)
- Pin the penis on the hunk and other fun bachelorette games! (Seriously, what is up with all of the penises?)
After trying a few other searches and eventually throwing in the towel, I started reflecting on the bachelorette parties and weekends I had attended over the past few years. There were two things that they all had in common: 1) The ultimate goal was to drink as much as possible, and 2) There was a huge focus on penises. I can understand and rationalize the first commonality—who doesn't love a weekend with unlimited booze? But the obsession with and exploitation of an external reproductive organ was puzzling to me. Why do women find humor and gratification in covering everything—from the walls of the rental house to the cups they are drinking out of—in penises?
I view this tradition in one way as continuing and perpetuating the notion that women are not in touch with their sexuality until after marriage.
I view this tradition in one way as continuing and perpetuating the notion that women are not in touch with their sexuality until after marriage. I have learned that this antiquated idea is unfortunately alive and well in our culture, with comments from others leading up to my own wedding about the "wedding night" and "never leaving the room" during the honeymoon. Perhaps the penis bachelorette tradition dates back to a time before feminism and sexual freedom, when the wedding night was meant to be a woman's ultimate sexual awakening and first encounter with a penis? Or maybe now, in 2017, we are so penis-obsessed during bachelorette parties because it's fun to pretend like we have never seen one before?
I also believe that women find humor in objectifying the penis. When you see a bachelorette party walking down Broadway in Nashville, all wearing light-up penis-shaped plastic tiaras, your head automatically turns to look. And the group erupts in laughter. Sometimes, it's fun to be viewed as scandalous, outrageous, and even inappropriate. I can appreciate this on some level, considering how often breasts are objectified by men. However, objectifying penises for revenge or in rebellion against the men of the world who are sporting Hooters t-shirts is not what feminism looks like. All bodies and body parts should be honored and celebrated, not objectified.
The most common rationale for the use of penises at bachelorette parties is likely peer and cultural pressure. If you have a bachelorette party as a woman, people have come to expect to see penis decorations in your Instagram photos, Snapchat stories, and Facebook albums. Even with being adamantly against this tradition, I felt a tiny bit of pressure to have some penis decor when I saw photos from other bachelorette weekends during the months leading up to mine.
After having these discussions with my friends, I landed on this question: What if I let go of what everyone expects a bachelorette party to be and had a joyful weekend filled with all of my favorite things? What would that look like?
The first weekend of May, we all packed our bags and headed to an Airbnb in my favorite city—Asheville, North Carolina. Instead of "Bride Tribe" shirts, there were "The Last Single Girl Hike" tank tops. Instead of "pin the penis on the hunk" games, my friends put together a slideshow with photos of all of us together, commemorating and celebrating our friendships. Since I love backpacking and the Blue Ridge Mountains, our activity on Saturday was a hike to my favorite summit and a picnic. Instead of a typical lingerie shower, my friends first asked if I needed or wanted any new bras or underwear and then gifted me with comfy new PJs, bras, and underwear to replace my falling apart cotton ones back home. The focus wasn't on drinking or penises, but on the special relationships that I had with a group of incredible women.
If your goal is to have a "Pinterest" bachelorette party, there are ways to accomplish this without dishonoring bodies.
You can celebrate your sexuality with your friends by taking a burlesque 101 class together, visiting a safe and reputable sex toy shop, or taking turns sharing a sex tip or story.
If you want to draw attention to yourselves while you are out and about, you can wear matching t-shirts (be sure not to appropriate!), colorful outfits, or all pin the same flower in your hair.
If you want the decorations to look like something out of a magazine, go with the giant gold letter balloons, cover the walls in your favorite color, or have your friends blow up photos of all of you together.
Above all, your bachelorette party should reflect your personal values, interests, and true self. Grab your best friends, plan your dream weekend, and ditch the penis straws.
Alexandra "Alex" Hollifield is the statewide Prevention Coordinator at the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs. She is also a trained sexuality educator and facilitates healthy sexuality and healthy relationships programming throughout Central Kentucky. Alex is originally from North Carolina and hopes to make her way back to live in the Blue Ridge Mountains someday. She is a vinyl collector, bluegrass lover, backpacker, traveler, and recovering perfect girl.