We’re celebrating the end of the year with our most popular posts from 2013, plus a few of our favorites tossed in. Enjoy!
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, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
LynneSkysong — February 6, 2013
I do try and avoid using certain insults, but for me it's hard because when I get upset, I'll typically start saying things that I hear people around me say, most of which I'm not proud of. When you hear certain language so often, you can say things without really meaning, which makes change hard.
Also wondering... is it as bad to use a word, such as scumbag, whose original meaning is mostly lost and has only survived as an insult? Or is it really impossible to decouple insults from their original beginnings?
Gman E Willikers — February 6, 2013
Sex with no commitment, no bond, no affection has for a very long time been viewed as either sinful or potentially demeaning. Even when consensual (and whether "given," "received" or "witheld") it has been employed as punishment and to reinforce power structures. Could that be one of the reasons that many, including non-religious or agnostic individuals, find so-called "hookup" culture troubling?
Jamie Riehl — February 6, 2013
The thing that strikes me about that email is the massive ambivalence shown towards fellatio. It is presented as something that you should do because it will help you calm down, something he is instructing you to do to him (presumably as a sign of submission), and something he accuses you of already doing as a shared adjective with your feminazidom.
The phrase "feminazi" just always makes me titter. It reveals such a dramatic lack of sense of scale on the part of the user. If there is a just God, the author of that email will spend eternity trapped listening to Valerie Solanas.
TK — February 6, 2013
I've actually embraced 'douche' and 'douchebag' because, in the 21st century, most women have gotten the message that douching is harmful to your vagina. As are the douches who catcall at you on the street.
Vampie — February 6, 2013
"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)."
I'm not sure about scumbag - isn't it rather meant to mean a prostitute?
And douchebag, I think, comes from time when douching was used as a contraceptive. I'm not sure if it wasn't meant to mean something like 'bastard' or 'son of a whore'. Douching was rather used by 'loose' women as contraceptive.
oofstar — February 6, 2013
the bizarre thing about those insults is how much people like oral sex. a cocksucker is actually a pretty nice person.
Tom Megginson — February 6, 2013
Thanks for your thoughts on this, Lisa. I really love colourful insults. But as you point out, they are often used with violent intent. Worth considering the context, whatever our own motives are when we use them.
Naomi Bell — February 6, 2013
I have recently started attempting to use the word "crotch" as an insult instead of "dick" or "cunt". That way it is sex neutral but has the same connotation. For example: "Stop being such a crotch and give me my cinnamon roll back!" It doesn't have the same sting (of course), but I'm working on it.
pj2236 — February 6, 2013
Do the "feminazis" at SI have elephant hides? That email made me cringe. Still cringing!! And it was a response to women's contributions to science?? Thanks, Rush Limbaugh for informing America!
Sex as Power in the South Korean Military | The Grand Narrative — February 6, 2013
[...] 2, February 2013: See Sociological Images for more on sexualized [...]
Quib — February 6, 2013
" we are exposing you" Not exposure! What could be worse for an educational publication than exposure!
People seeing your ideas and paying attention to them, oof, he really knows how to hit a blog where it hurts.
mimimur — February 6, 2013
All the more paradoxal in that the sucking and fucking means that the supposedly superior part exposes the most sensitive part of their bodies and have to trust that the supposedly infeior part doesn't bite, grab or twist it in rough way. There's never any logic to these things.
YourName — February 7, 2013
I always thought that oral sex was perceived in one way no matter if it was performed on a man or on a woman, but now when I think about it I'm not so sure. Usually the passive part is degraded, but here it's the opposite. Maybe it's because of the shame and dirt we associate with those organs. And maybe fellatio is worse because of the way we perceive sex itself.
Thank you for the part for the gay/bi men. I always get angry when men start insulting gay men and I know they like their lesbo porn/fantasy. When people complain about that, they point objectification as the sole reason for this, but "getting fucked" has a major influence. This doesn't mean that lesbianism isn't seen as degrading, men like to degrade women, it's just not seen as degrading as homosexuality between men.
Lola — February 7, 2013
Am I the only one who finds it ironic that no man would consider a woman inferior who enjoyed performing this act?
Or that he might consider a woman inferior if she weren't willing to perform this act?
Saoriviola — February 7, 2013
Why did you redact his name and organization? Any potential case of invasion of privacy could be countered by the stronger argument of intentional infliction of emotional distress and harassment. I'd like to know what "men's rights" magazine he's speaking for.
feimineach — February 10, 2013
I'm not sure that hate-commenter was quite clear enough with zir feelings. Perhaps we should ask hir to clarify.
Which way to Moria? — February 15, 2013
I was under the impression that "suck" as a pejorative was related to "suck[ing] eggs", which was something that weakened, elderly, or otherwise toothless people did for nourishment a few centuries back. Unfortunately, since I read this somewhere and filed it in my brain's trivia storage section, I don't have any references to back it up.
ABCs: what you didn’t even know you wanted to know about me! | Happy is the new healthy — June 27, 2013
[...] I’m realizing doesn’t make me sound quite as classy as I’d like and might even be a bigger deal than that. X. Xray or Ultrasound? I dislike needing either and am pretty glad to have left the whole [...]
Phil Fish — August 1, 2013
But apple is inferior. Its products, be it the iphone all the way to the iMac are ridiculously constrictive in comparison to superior OS's like Windows 7/Android/Linux etc.
Ruben Anderson — October 16, 2013
I have never understood how cocksucker could be a negative, and I say that on every jobsite. Also, motherfucker. If MILFs are good, how can motherfucking be bad?
mb133 — December 29, 2013
It doesn't matter if a guy is getting head from a girl, or a girl is getting head from a guy. The implication is servicing. Obviously you don't get this because you don't want to get this because you need to feel that women are victimized by men because of depictations of fellatio. This is to a lack of self-esteem, not due to inherent sexism in depecitions of oral sex.
Before you pretend to be outraged by my comments, explain how you know that the apple graphic in that neon sign is female?
Poor Baby... - Page 9 - PeachParts Mercedes ShopForum — June 12, 2014
[…] the same CV owner was considered bossy if named Heidi and successful if named Howard. And here's an article you might find interesting on fellatio based insults. It's all connected. __________________ […]
Looks line CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, and NBC have picked Hillary as their candidate - Page 8 - PeachParts Mercedes ShopForum — June 20, 2014
[…] the role of the intern he cheated with, fellating Vladimir Putin. For fellatio as insult see this link. […]