Phallocentric Space: Any Contest Over Power is a Contest Over Space


Torre Agbar in Barcelona. Photo from

In order to continue the recent thread of posts on sex and the city, I am sharing the following excerpt from an article I wrote in 2009 that can be found here.

The space of power has traditionally imitated the masculine form and has been occupied according to the logic of masculine values. The association of power with the male member finds expression in the city, as Lefebvre observes, through “the use and overuse of straight lines, right angles, and strict (rectilinear) perspective” (410). Not only is the space of power phallic in terms of form but also in terms of practice. According to Elizabeth Grosz, men occupy space “as territorialized, as mappable or explorable,” conceive space in terms “according to the logic of penetration, colonization and domination,” and do not “respect spaces and places which are not theirs” (57). Phallocentric thought as performed in space is violent and destructive. The penis, as representative of power, is weapon and wrecking ball. If capital reproduces itself by conquering space, as both Lefebvre and Harvey assert, the selling of place and the subsequent gentrification of neighborhoods are “screwing” the weak.

Grosz, Elizabeth. “Women, Chora, Dwelling.” Postmodern Cities and Spaces. Eds. Sophie Watson and Katherine Gibson. Oxford, UK and Cambridge, USA: Blackwell, 1995. 47-58.

Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991.