Photography via Emma McIntyre/Getty

What’s This Big Dick Energy I Keep Hearing About?

You've got Big Questions about the latest meme, we've got Big Answers

We need to talk about Big Dick Energy. While it will likely be forgotten by next week, right now it’s the meme of the moment. As far as memes go, it’s not half bad. It’s a bit problematic, but not as problematic as you might think. If you happened to miss its genesis it can be a pretty confusing topic. And since no one likes asking for help with Internet things for fear of coming off old and out of touch, especially ones that in any way involve dicks (of any size), we’ll take the pressure off. Here, we have the only male on FASHION’s editorial staff to answer the BDE questions you might have. It’s only fair.

What is this Big Dick Energy? It sounds like an energy drink you’d buy at nightclubs or dusty convenience stores inexplicably filled with products that aren’t sold in Canada.

It does! Probably because there is an energy drink called Bawls—or at least, there was. It wasn’t great.

Big Dick Energy, or BDE, is essentially a way of denoting some mixture of confidence, talent, indefatigability, and decency. Ironic as it may seem, one who possesses Big Dick Energy, whether they are male or female, is a badass but isn’t a dick about it.

Do I want to know where this new category of descriptor came from?

It first gained popularity in a June 6 tweet by Vampire Workday (@imbobswaget) discussing Anthony Bourdain after his death. He was described as having it. Then, it popped up in discussions about Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande as a possible justification for their super fast engagement. And while rumour has it that it describes Davidson literally as well as metaphorically, in practice it’s actually not about penises at all.

How could something called Big Dick Energy not be about male genitalia?

Well, in the same way that having guts doesn’t actually have anything to do with one’s digestive tract.

The fact that it was first used to describe Anthony Bourdain is instructive. If he is a prototypical example of BDE then we can use him to kind of reverse engineer a profile of those with Big Dick Energy. In their Big Dick Explainer, Vox described Bourdain as having “pure grit coursing through his veins, and the courage to try to change the way we look at the world.” That should give an idea of what BDE describes.

Okay. But it’s still equating positive, non-gendered attributes to the male sex organ, thereby reinforcing the idea that manliness is best. Or am I missing something?

No, it’s true. It’s a problematic term, for sure.

Some people have started to use Ovaries as a replacement for balls when discussing bravery, but it’s certainly not ubiquitous. And vagina synonyms are still basically 100% pejorative. Do we really need another term equating not just dicks, but big dicks, with value?

Probably not, no. But the bright side of this meme, at least, is that BDE is essentially the opposite of toxic masculinity. In a way, it’s reclaiming the male genitalia—in an ironic, tongue-in-cheek way—from dude bros who really do believe their worth comes from the size of their penis, along with the frequency with which they use it.

If you have to brag about your BD, then you don’t have BDE. If you are aggressive, misogynistic, douchey, or just seem like you try too hard to impress people with your manliness, you don’t have BDE.

To put it in presidential terms: Trump has zero BDE. Obama has it in spades. Michelle Obama, I mean. Though Barack has it, too.

Is this all about Trump?

No, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a think piece to be written making that argument. After all, you’ll recall that during the presidential campaign, when the subject of his small hands came up, Trump used it as an opportunity to brag about his Don. Jr (not his son). So, it makes sense that, in response to a leader obsessed with some gross, parodic definition of toughness, we’d land on a concept that refutes everything about him, while using language that he would love to have associated with him.

It’s mostly just a fun way of categorizing celebs then. Like the way Chuck Klosterman wrote about whether things were over-or underrated?

Exactly. For example: that Vox article referenced above claims that of all the Hollywood Chrises, Chris Evans has BDE but the others ones don’t (with the possible exception of Pine). While I have no problem with including Evans in the BDE camp, I would definitely include Hemsworth before including Pine.


For sure.

Gal Gadot?

Oh, most definitely.

President Bartlett?

Of the fictional presidents, he may just have the most BDE. Well, him and Andrew Shepherd, but they are kind of the same person.

Did you just want to reference The West Wing?

I always want to reference The West Wing. If I’m going to carry on a conversation with myself, I’ll talk about what I want to talk about.

Fair enough.