Why the size of your testicles has nothing to do with your courage

Driving home today I heard the wonderful news story of the rescue of the three young women in Cleveland.

Amanda Berry

Amanda Berry (pictured above with her sister), Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were kidnapped separately in 2002, 2003 and 2004 but kept together by their captor, presumably the man who was arrested. It's reasonable to assume that the three young women were detained as sex slaves of some description. 

I was moved nearly to tears as I heard the story. I could imagine their relief at finding freedom after 10 years and the joy of their families as they heard the news of their precious daughters and sisters being found after so long.

And then I heard Charles Ramsey, the neighbour being interviewed.

Let me say first up, that this guy seems more than nice. He's a regular guy who found himself in an extraordinary situation when he heard screaming from the house opposite and he was the one who helped to rescue Amanda Berry and who called the police. I loved every part of his interview, except for this:

"...he must have had some big testicles to pull this off, bro..."

Presumably what he meant to say was this: "He was a very daring person with a great deal of audacity to pull this off."

But that's not how it came out.

Whenever I've heard anyone say, "Grow a pair" or, "Get some balls" what they mean is, "get some courage. Be brave. Take a risk. The Online Slang Dictionary defines the phrase "grow a pair" as meaning 'to act with fortitude, strength, determination. To man up'. 

Talking about testicles (apart from when you're at the doctor) usually has something to do with being strong, brave, tough, doing the hard thing, taking the difficult decisions. 

So in my tears of joy at hearing of young women escaping from a hell of a life at the disposal of some creepy, cruel sadistic abuser and whoever else he chose to bring into his house, I nearly vomited when I heard the perpetrator described as 'having balls'. 

Because I don't know about you, but it's not brave, courageous, strong or determined to enslave young girls for your own sexual pleasure. It's cruel, it's pathetic and it's cowardly. 

And personally, I get offended by the idea that it's a particularly masculine quality to act with fortitude, strength and determination.

As though the only way to be brave is to have testicles.

Apart from being just plain crass and unnecessary, the phrase automatically excludes half the population from the qualities of courage and perseverance just because of their anatomy. 

The question here is: who was braver? The guy with testicles who stole three little girls and used and abused them, or the young women without them who broke out of their prison, having had their innocence and freedom taken from them and having survived ten horrific years of trauma?