She’s got balls!
Why are testicles (=balls) used as a metaphor for courage?
It would hardly create a useful chain of dialogue if you said to a guy “Hey, you got balls!” (“Yeah, I know. So what? Do you need one?”); you can only say this to a girl or a woman if you want to make it sound like a compliment.
So first of all, “Balls” are not exactly a metaphor for courage, but for male behavior in general.
Now – is courage a typical male behavior? To find out about this, let’s take a closer look on testicles from various perspectives:
While the primary female sexual organs are more or less (depending on design and hairdo) hidden to the observer, the male center of amusement is always directly exposed (which in fact sheds a light on why so many man consume porn or like to have the lights on during sex – it is the desire and delight to get a close up of something usually properly packed).
But not only is it exposed to vision – also to enemy attacks. If you think about it, the location of male reproduction devices is actually a kind of Achilles’ Heel, or as Le Chiffre says to James Bond in “Casino Royale”:
You know, I never understood all these elaborate tortures. It’s the simplest thing to cause more pain than a man can possibly endure. And of course, it’s not only the immediate agony, but the knowledge… that if you do not yield soon enough… there will be little left to identify you as a man.
So other than a woman, a man by design has a weak spot – one, that unless perfectly protected, will easily switch off his lights on trigger.
The inbuilt notification system
And not only is it exposed, it is also mounted in a really uncomfortable place, at least when it comes to nude biking, horse riding or leapfrogging. As the audience of [enter your country here]‘s Next Topmodel and any female acting student will certainly know, this mounting also has a significant effect on the way man walk.
Try it, girls – use a pair of stockings or a tennis ball, wear a male cut pair of trousers and see how long it takes until you stop noticing the thing below the belt … it will never happen. You can never entirely ignore it. As am man, you are constantly reminded that you are a man because of the steady motion of this carelessly attached gender identification bundle.
Testicles never come alone – usually there is a penis around, too.
Why is that important? Well, you never hear somebody say to a girl “Hey, you really got a penis!”, do you? Although P. and T.s always come together, the metaphor only concentrates on the T.s.
While the penis is more or less a multifunctional physical tool (conveyor-belt, drill bit, drawbridge, infusion hose, pastry tube), the testicles are a chemical plant. I will not go into the details on the variety of substances produced down there, but the couple of basic functions of the two mates is: they are an ammunition depot … and a battery pack!
They drive a huge part of the male operating system. They trigger hair growth (except for the scalp, unfortunately), bone and muscle building (growth and strength), deepening of voice, growth of the Adam’s apple (whatever that is good for) – and yes: they are responsible for penis activation and the sensation of libido, stamina and motivation. Lust!
Being a male, I do not and will never know how a woman experiences the feeling of sexual euphoria, and as it is hard to put that in words anyway, I will provide you with a short film sequence that from a male perspective “says it all”:
Males literally feel when their chemical plant goes online and hormone levels rise. The magical word is testosterone.
We have scientific proof that testosterone comes with some side effects, that some of us consider to be negative, too: it increases aggressiveness. If you start to treat female mammals with that substance, they will increasingly show attitudes like showing off, battle readiness and urge for copulation.
Now check these three mentioned behaviors: who would argue that they are typically male? But do they have something to do with courage? No – not even in the least! In fact, they are all about taking a risk:
- Showing off is risky, when you still have a vulnerable spot upfront
- Being ready for battle just means that you death-defyingly ignore the possibility of getting killed in action
- Following the desire to get laid at any cost can and will get you in an uncountable number of problems
None of these actions are rational. So you would probably not want to call them courageous – better call them careless, reckless, frivolous, imprudent.
That is what ball-istic behavior is about.
That is what males are considered to be.
Warriors, Combatants, Hunters.
Or to say it with the best line from the recent movie):
He drank, he fought, and he made his ancestors proud!
That’s what the archetype of male behavior is probably about.
Even if feminists like to argue otherwise: the reason that there are so comparably few known women active in leading management positions, in politics and contemporary arts may not be that men are trying to keep them down; it might rather be because they are far less ready to take a risk, which is exactly, what business, politics and arts are about. This is what testosterone, what “balls” cater for.
Now here are two interesting facts:
- As opposed to animals, recent scientific research also unveiled that female human mammals do not respond to testosterone infusions with an increase of aggressiveness but – and I am only quoting here, so don’t beat me up! – with an increase of fairness! That’s weird, isn’t it? Because it implies that women normally tend to be more unfair towards others than men. So testosterone also seems to be co-responsible for collegial behavior.
- Women do not require any chemical treatment whatsoever to show male attitudes like egoism and risk disposition! They can simply adapt these behaviors by will and/or physical work: substitutes like sports do just as well as placebos – the belief that something will have an effect is enough!
And this is what surprises us males (and occasionally females) and makes us say, that “a woman got balls”. Women can live up to acting like a man, just because they want it – whereas we are always somehow remote-controlled by our front-line unit.
However, I believe that there is one misconception about this remote-control, as you can see for example in‘s question comment on this (great!) discussion thread — Marie, I do not think we are slaves to our sex organs; it’s more like being junkies.