my first guest columnist...


My blog is growing in popularity. I have a readership of at least two, and already I have submissions for a guest column.

Without further ado here is a recently published piece written by my brother (a lanky fellow in his late twenties). This charming article was featured in the final issue of good girl magazine, a quarterly dedicated to publishing ideas that challenge, critique, and break the rules of the status quo.

Fucking watch your oppressive language!
by Antonio L.

“Fuck white supremacy!” the slogan declares. Or is it a suggestion, a request? Now, I’m as much against white supremacy as the next guy*—but the question is, do I really want to fuck it? (*guy is to be interpreted in the non-gender-specific sense, of course.)
OK, I know that the slogan isn’t meant to be understood as an edict to perform sexual intercourse with white supremacy. Such an act would raise all kinds of issues in race and sexual politics, not to mention metaphysics. No, “fuck white supremacy” is that old familiar use of the word “fuck”: fuck this, fuck that, fuck it all. We all say it (well, a lot of us, anyways). But why, and what the fuck do we mean? And is it just me, or is there something odd about saying “fuck white supremacy?”
So we’re both on the same page here, originally, fucking simply referred to sex, and specifically to copulation. However, English being the annoyingly complicated and flexible language it is, those simple, unambiguous days of Middle English didn’t last long. "Fuck" has come to mean a lot more than just doing the nasty. Fuck is now pregnant with many meanings. We don’t usually think about these meanings, and we could be fucking ourselves over because of that. And it’s not just about the word “fuck.” If sexuality is important enough to us, and anyone in the advertising industry will tell you that it is, then it’s a good idea for us to think about how we talk about it—even when we don’t think we’re talking about it (that came out sounding like a Zen koan, sorry). Here, I’ll try to give you the basic thrust in this seminal work.
Sometimes we don’t really mean anything when we say “fuck.” It’s an expletive or intensifier, a slightly more eloquent alternative to yelling when we want to sound emphatic. Try these two versions: “I’M PISSED OFF!!” Or: “I’m fucking pissed off.” You can see the latter is far more sophisticated, and a safer bet to use during a job interview, for example. Similarly: “I don’t give a fuck.” “She knows fuck-all.” “Fuck off, you fucking fucker!”
Sometimes we’re talking about botching or ruining something. “I fucked up.” Or meddling: “Don’t fuck with that.” “No fucking around.”
Sometimes, we say “fuck you!” in the sense of “Damn you, I curse you, I invoke Holy Damnation upon thee.” Sometimes we don’t specifically have the fires of Hell in mind, we’re thinking of a more generic condemnation and denunciation, as in: “I damn you to some gross and stinky place, or whatever.”
Damnation, seeing as it involves eternal torment and whatnot, is a pretty serious form of victimization. So, “fuck” sometimes refers to victimization, oppression and abuse. “We’re getting fucked over.” Here, “fuck” is a transitive verb, where the subject is the oppressor and the object is the oppressed. This parallels the common use of “fuck” as a transitive verb where the subject is very often the sexual penetrator and the object is the penetrated.
Maybe you can see where I’m going here. Somehow a sentence “I’m getting fucked” that originally meant “I’m being penetrated in sexual intercourse” became a metaphor for “I’m being abused and oppressed.” You might say that nobody, neither speaker nor listener, is really thinking of sexual penetration in these figurative uses. Well, sometimes you hear more emphatic forms of “getting fucked” with less ambiguous, more vivid imagery: “Student loans is totally fucking me up the ass.” (which by the way is true for me—figuratively, I hasten to add.) Then there’s the “softer” synonyms which people often use: “We’re getting screwed.” “I got stiffed.”
In all of these expressions, sex has become equated somehow with violence, oppression and abuse. “Fuck white supremacy” is not to be translated as “Make luscious, voluptuous, sensuous love to white supremacy until it cries out again and again with sweet pleasure,” but as “Down with white supremacy, it has no right to exist, I’ll show it who’s boss, I’ll crush it.” It’s a call to arms, a righteous aggression, but an aggression all the same—all in a word that refers to sex.
Many other words that refer to sexuality have taken on negative connotations, and we blithely use many of these words, unconcerned about their background meanings. “What a dickhead!” “You cunt!” “Cocksucker!” “Motherfucker!” “You suck.” “That licks.” For variety, there are also slightly less well-known genitalia-insults: dork, putz, schmuck. Please refer to a thesaurus for more examples.
When I was a kid, this use of sexual references as insults and curses confused me. I thought that getting fucked was supposed to be a good thing, I would think. Little did I know how immense and complex is the world. Well, I’m old enough now to know that people often don’t think of the sexual meanings of these words when they use them pejoratively. So, if the speaker and the listener aren’t explicitly thinking Sex=Bad when using these words, what am I complaining about?
When we use sexual terms in a pejorative sense, we are implicitly condemning sexuality to some degree. Even a phrase like I used earlier, “doing the nasty,” can have negative implications about sex. Sexual terms are used as insults and curses because sex had/has a bad name, and continuing to use these terms this way continues to give sex a bad name.
That’s the way insults work. Calling someone a “pig,” say, a “capitalist pig,” is only an insult because pigs, the animals, have had a bad rap in the past. (Note that the insult isn’t “capitalist water buffalo” or “capitalist Vancouver Island marmot.”) And calling someone a “capitalist pig” reinforces the idea of “pig” being an appropriate insult, and therefore perpetuates oppression of pigs (hence, the growing global pig liberation and justice movement). Insulting someone by calling them a “cunt” implies that cunts are a bad thing—otherwise how could it be an insult? Criticizing something by saying “that’s so gay” implies that there’s something wrong with being gay. Complaining that you’re “getting fucked” implies that getting fucked is a bad thing. And declaring “Fuck homophobia!” implies that fucking is a good way to discard or destroy something.
I know what you’re thinking: “Jesus Christ, man! Next you’ll be saying the term ‘asshole’ unfairly demeans anuses, ‘shithead’ denigrates excrement… Is nothing unsacred? If you keep this up, we’ll have no bleedin’ cuss words left! What will there be left to live for?” A fine question (and example of slippery-slope argumentation too), one that I can’t answer. <>

But I’m not necessarily calling for the abolition of these colourful, expressive words. What’s a natural language without vulgar expletive intensifiers, as the saying goes. But if we want our words to be consistent with our values and the relationships we want to create, we might want to think twice about the language we use (as many women wymmyn and men have noted in recent history herstory). It’s often a good idea to change the way we express ourselves so as to not give others the wrong idea and perpetuate attitudes we disagree with. Because when we don’t think about the effects of the words we use, we all get the shaft.


Antonio, a self-proclaimed modern day Renaissance Man, is a student at the University of Victoria.


  1. Very insightful. As one of the two readers of this growing blog, I must say that this piece was very enjoyable. It made me laugh. I'm going to have to show it to some of my friends. Thanks dear sister for including it on your blog. Thanks dear brother for writing it. Ciao