Year of the Peg

Image of a peace sign.

Image by Candice Seplow.

It will come back to you”
—Peg, Steely Dan

“I Am The Person You Need To Impress Right Now.”
—Peggy Olson, Mad Men

“So, what horny little obsessions will dominate the discourse (and/or our actual sex lives) in 2023? Only time will tell, but if you ask us, our money’s on pegging—aka anal penetration involving a strap-on. And if you don’t wanna take it from us (kind of rude, TBH, but I’ll try not to take it personally), take it from Clips4Sale, the largest online platform for kink and fetish content, which just named pegging 2023’s “Fetish of the Year.” That’s right, it’s officially the Year of the Peg.” —Kayla Kibbe, Cosmopolitan

Let’s address the grumpy socialist critique. By writing an article about pegging I will be accused of being unserious. But this is going to be a far more serious exercise than the typical socialist infighting about which historical tendency of Marxism to follow. Felix Biederman of Chapo Trap House put it best. These arguments, given the state of actually existing socialism, are like little kids arguing over whether Superman or Spiderman is better. Ask one of these socialists what pegging is and they either won’t know or they will dismiss it as cultural Marxism.

The second critique which I will not try to overcome at the present time is that my analysis is to put it in a pun, about anal cis. In other words, I am making heteronormative observations. This is true but for now I will stick to what I know because we have serious socialism to get to.

The most glaring contradiction we have to overcome is that when a woman pegs a man, only the man is getting sexual pleasure directly. The woman may enjoy it but pegging in and of itself continues to put the male orgasm first. In fact, without other modes in play, pegging a man by a woman could be a step back for the female orgasm, which is the last thing we need right now.

The second contradiction we have to deal with is that if a woman pegs a man we say she is playing the dominant role. This is us privileging the phallus. Why does possessing the phallus automatically indicate greater power?

There is going to be a temptation to blame Sigmund Freud’s penis envy for this. Let’s go deeper. Freud is mostly hated because he talks about sex, or anything about real life, at all. If he got some of his ideas wrong, we should be critical, but we also should give him credit for bringing us forward.

Pegging proves the male’s penis envy. But we shouldn’t cancel Freud entirely. He was partly trying to explain why women aren’t treated equally to men and specifically why the female orgasm took a back seat. In Shakespeare the pun for a woman’s vagina being nothing was also a reference to the lack of a penis. So these ideas were misogynistic and must be overcome. But we have to give marginalized communities the right to use these historical thinkers too, even if these dead guys must eventually be intellectually cancelled on our road of progress.

The Hegelian Master-Slave dialectic describes how it is the slave, not the master, who is essential to society. This fact makes slavery even worse than we think it is. We should resist putting the slave on a pedestal. But we also should get to the bottom of why the slave is put in this position by the master. Ron DeSantis’ outrageous claims that Black people benefited from slavery accurately portray the attitude of the master and the position he puts himself in when he enslaves others.

The master resents the slave because the slave, unlike the master, is necessary for holding society together. The master hates the slave because without the slave, slavery would not exist. The prison guard hates the prisoner for this reason. The capitalist hates the working class for this reason. Men certainly hate women for this reason.

Imagine a man tells himself in the morning that he is going to the job he hates to provide for a woman, who is kept out of high paying work by men. He will not blame men who oppress women generally, but rather the woman who he sees as oppressing him singularly.

Even worse, he relies on her to hold him together, and this allows him to go back to the job he hates the next day, furthering his hatred of her. When he falls apart and can no longer achieve for the woman what he said she was making him achieve, he blames her for his failure at the present moment, leaving aside that she is accepting him in the unemployed state he feared in the first place. Woman is always blamed for man’s next problem, not the current one she is solving which will “cause” him to create his next problem.

The history of capitalism is much the same. Even much of the left blames the working class for capitalism because without the working class capitalism would die. But who among us have the courage to face that? We have so little courage that we force the working class to keep our crisis going through coercion and violence.

Every time the working class bails out the capitalist through her work she further entrenches inequality and destroys the environment we need to reproduce said conditions, or any conditions of life . But if she doesn’t do this, she will suffer and die. So while only the worker can keep the situation going in the mind of the hateful capitalist, only the capitalist can truly stop the madness.

What must change are the conditions of coercion and punishment. If a woman is killed for leaving her marriage, society has failed to provide the conditions, she hasn’t failed. The same is true for the working class. If the working class doesn’t have at least a manageable alternative to capitalism, we have failed, and the worker has not.

Marx, if anything, was not Hegelian enough, but we can’t blame Marx either. He was doing the work of bringing Hegel into the real world and upon doing so it is only natural for us to try to solve his contradictions because practically speaking we all make these compromises daily.

Again I am not trying to kink shame. The genuine pegging has always been going on and ignorant over-educated useless normie leftists like me have no idea. My question here is why do the normies like the idea of pegging because that’s all I can honestly answer.

Why pegging? If we can only think of women as having a lack of a penis we resent her because we have a penis and we have built a prison based on phallic expectations. The substance of a penis is our limit. The women and the “nothing” between their legs can be anything. Even a man!

But here is where we need to unpack relationships between people, especially between men. Those who have hate are oppressed and not entirely or even mostly responsible for their oppression. But we can and should be responsible for our hatred. We can choose to hate and choose to love.

One ideal option for some of us is to find out what is between the woman’s legs. Find the clit, as the kids say. But at the very least we could recognize that we are putting the idea of a “nothing” onto the figure of a woman. She is something as long as we are labeling her. The radical freedom in her lack is gone precisely because we have labeled her lack. She now has a burden to carry. Not just the phallus hanging between her legs but also the man behind (or underneath) the phallus.

The mainstreaming of pegging, at least to me, hasn’t answered everything. It has taught me more about what normal men want. But not exactly what women want.

We should be careful about diminishing the real violence upon women, the slave, the working class, in the name of blaming them for present conditions, imagining they are the puppets controlling a society we hate. But on the other hand we have to remain Hegelian and not make a Stalinist turn away from Marx.

We should be saying that the master needs the slave and that in this way the slave does not have more power but rather more of the power we care about. We don’t care about the power to reproduce present conditions, which relies on the slave and wherein the slave has no power to change.

Where the slave does have power is through its authenticity. The clitoris remains a clitoris. The phallus is polluted by its oppression of the clitoris. There is no real phallus and this is why some of us want women to wear the phallus. We think if women wear the phallus, it will become real.

I am not against this. But we have to do more for society and more for women. Proceed your pegging with caution and with an open mind.

If pegging is the new fucking, then we cannot be against it. But if pegging is the new fucking we must listen to a woman who tells us to go “peg ourselves”. Women do make phalluses better just as the working class does make capitalism better. But our goal is more radical. We want to overcome these systems. We want to put a square peg in a round hole.

The seeming impossibility of overcoming contradictions like a square going through a circle is exactly what drives us. Every moment of every day we achieve the impossible and get no credit for it. The gains of our feats go to the top of society. The question is not whether or not we can fit a square peg into a round hole. We must do it and we do.

But in the long run the contradictions of achieving the impossible come back to bite all of us. The world has physical limits being taken to the brink. Human beings are not machines and must not act as such no matter how little agency we have to do otherwise. We can be forced one way but we always become ourselves eventually, often more violently so than before. If we don’t, we wither and die.

I certainly am more skeptical of the critics of pegging than of those doing the pegging. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be a pegging ally while also trying to use the lessons of dead theorists who are in a different world than modern day pegging. There has to be some kind of through line. Some kind of authentic human essence that sneaks through all the counter-tendencies of our modern directionless world.

On an individual level the master has more power than the slave. On the collective level the slave has more power than the master. Neither slave and master are real, but the slave has a more unified group because the master is defined only by its creation of the slave, while the slave is defined not only by its shared history of tasks from the master but also by its real role in history as an agent either in opposition to or fulfillment of said tasks. The slave has lived a real life and is prepared for the next step while the master makes it up as he goes along.

The master’s freedom is limited to his possession of the slave while the slave’s freedom is limitless, but only because it is yet to be achieved. Leftists are right to say that Blackness is a creation of whiteness but we should also admit that Blackness, when controlled by Black people, has changed society for the better, not only on race, but in many other ways.

Many will accuse me of sounding like Ron DeSantis. But I think the left is losing because the left pities people rather than takes them seriously. Everyone is an agent of history. Some have the power to direct immediate change but they don’t know why they do what they do or how to do it. Others may have no power to change history on their own or immediately but they know how the world works, and if given the chance, will lead us to make it better.

There is nothing to praise about the relative authenticity when it comes to questions of justice or fairness. It is not the grand prize or even a consolation one. But to be freed of artificial ideas about the world and oneself is a good thing. A peg may not be literally freedom but it is at least not a penis. The limit of the penis is that it defines itself by what it tries to control and we live in an uncontrollable world.

Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at