Over at his blog, The Ethical Adman, Tom Megginson asks us to consider the “power symbolism of fellatio.” His post was prompted by this sign for an Android store (next door to an Apple store) in China:
Get it? Apple is fellating Android, so Apple is inferior. <sarcasm> Obvious right? </sarcasm>
The variations on the insult “you suck” — “suck it,” “suck my balls,” “suck my dick,” “cocksucker,” and Tom’s colorful addition, “this sucks donkey balls!” — are so commonplace that it’s easy to forget where it comes from. Like the sign implies, and the more elaborate insults make clear, “you suck” works as an insult by positioning the male or female receiver in a position in which they are sexually servicing a man.
This cultural association of power and sex is pervasive throughout our insult vocabulary. ”Fuck you” is an excellent example, as is “fuck off,” “motherfucker,” and “go fuck yourself.” Sexualized body parts used as insults are part of this too: “cunt,” “pussy,” “dick,” and “prick.” ”Scumbag” is a word that originally meant condom and suggests that sperm is somehow contaminating; sexual partners who receive or are covered with sperm can be seen as exposed to a disgusting or filthy substance. Even “douchbag” may fall into this category (think about it).
People get pretty creative (or not) with this stuff. Here’s one of my very favorite pieces of hate mail (in response to this post):
Just a tipoff, to let you filthy feminazi CUNTS know that we are exposing you, you fucking pieces of shit… see [name and organization redacted], a leading men’s rights magazine site, and boy does it expose you and your fucking feminazi cunt blog for what you are…. nothing but awful screaming feminazi harpy cunts who need to suck a dick and calm down… you evil twats…
Aside from this tipoff, all I will say to such feminazi CUNTS like you is, suck my fucking dick you awful feminazi cunts. FUCK I HATE YOU, AND EVERYTHING YOU STAND FOR!!!!! DOWN WITH FEMINAZI COCKSUCKING CUNTS WHO I HOPE GET BREAST CANCER.
So it’s interesting, right, to notice how often attempts to hurt other people come in the language of sexuality. This reveals why sex can be scary, especially for women who are so often positioned as the one who “gets fucked.” And this, of course, is what rape is all-too-often about. It’s also part of how we demean and marginalize gay and bisexual men. In the language of sex/power, they’ve voluntarily made themselves into lesser human beings, making homophobes feel justified in denigrating or assaulting them.
For my part, I try to avoid all of this language and I encourage you to do so too.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.