Speaking of Dirty Words
Simon Sheppard, QSyndicate.com
"Hey, babe, talk dirty to me!"
Fuck yeah! Naughty words have a sexual power all their own, and it's fucking
puzzling why that should be so. They are, after all, only words, symbolic
scribbles on a page or collections of sounds that, by common consent, mean
something. Yet people have been fired, fined, and fucked over for uttering
them. What gives?
The easy answer is that dirty words refer to sexual (and excretory)
subjects. Though "fellatio" and "cocksucking" both refer to pole-smoking,
one is "dirty," the other's not. Is it bluntness, then, that makes a word
unspeakable? Maybe not - "crap" and "shit" are equally abrupt, but one is
"printable" where the other's not.
Clearly, cultural tradition plays a big part. Take the word "fanny," for
instance. In America it's a cute word for the rump; in the U.K., a much
ruder word for the female genitalia. And the French baiser, which
literally means " to kiss," is common slang for "to screw," so be careful
trotting out your high school French on your next trip to Gay Paree. Watch
your fanny. Or not.
Interestingly, taboo words are often unmoored from their literal meanings
but forbidden nonetheless. "That guy is a fucking idiot" rarely means that
the fellow in question is ignorant about intercourse, and "Don't give me
that shit" has little to do with fecal Christmas presents. Most interesting
of all (at least in English) is the history of "bloody."
A mere century ago,
the word was, in England, so obscene that it was unspeakable in polite
society. "Polite" is the operative word here. The Oxford English Dictionary
(second edition) notes it was " constantly in the mouths of the lowest
classes, but by respectable people considered a horrid word." Clearly, crass
has to do with class – heaven forbid we should use the slang of the earthy
Even the class angle is tricky, though. The distinctly high-toned New
Yorker magazine regularly prints words in full that your local newspaper
most likely censors through the use of dashes. (So perhaps censorship has
now become the tool of the supposedly less-educated, less-liberal lower
And speaking of that dash device. Isn't it odd that omitting some
of the letters in words like "f--k" should be somehow acceptable, when it's
f---ing obvious what's being said? It's almost as if the squiggles of
letters themselves are deemed to have malevolent magic power. Perversely,
it's partly the banning that gives banned words their transgressive power.
"Bloody," after all, is now widely used as a mild swear word, nothing more.
And what does all this have to do with hard dicks and throbbing assholes?
Well, clearly, even in this enlightened age, dirty words retain power, and
dirty talk is part of many a guy's bedroom repertoire. It need not be
balls-out verbal abuse; just murmuring a nasty word at the right time can
sure spice things up.
"When I'm with a bottom," says one obscenity
enthusiast, "I love to call his butthole a 'cunt.' Not only does it play
with gender – and use a really, really forbidden word – it also sexualizes
his hole like no other word I know."
Clearly, some guys would object to the c-word during sex, while others will
lap it up. As with many another edgy move, initiating the use of dirty words
can be a matter of feedback. Say something naughty and wait for a response.
If it's enthusiastic ("Oh, yeah. Fuck that cunt!"), then charge ahead,
upping the ante. If your sex buddy is perceptibly cold, then it's back to
After all, even fucking without fuck-words can be fucking marvelous, no?
Simon Sheppard is the author of Kinkorama: Dispatches from the Front Lines
Sex Talk: Other Subjects
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