Reading between the words

It seemed like a lame assignment. “Write all the words you can think of for the sex act.” It couldn’t be too hard, right?

I could only think of ten.

There were more I remembered as the class shared their own responses; some of them evoked silliness or fun (horizontal mambo), a very few evoked romance (“making love”). Some evoked violence (“hit that”) or a sense of female submission. Most of mine evoked shame and secrecy.

A lot of other people’s words did, but *all* of mine (save the obvious “f” word) had a sense of something hidden and secret; euphemisms and code words. Things that sounded like they were from a bad movies from the early 80’s. Words you would never really say to another person.

I firmly grew up in the time period where sex was held up as something transformational – where people would talk about (and write) how people would “become one” in some kind of blissful union. And yet it was simultaneously something dirty, secret, and shameful — and the words I could think about reflected the latter far far more than the former.

Maybe this was supposed to be an exercise in exposing socialized norms; for me it was even more of an exercise in armchair psychoanalysis. It’s startling to find that you have more hangups than you realized; that shadow prejudices and obfuscated assumptions have shaped things far more than you’ve acknowledged.

Despite the discomfort, I’m glad. I’d rather work through the baggage than simply keep carrying it. I’m not sure what else this kind of activity can uncover… but I think I’ll give it a try.

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  1. January 7, 2009

    Interesting. I think people (at least the ones I know) are more uptight about sex than they think they are. Maybe it’s an American thing.

  2. January 8, 2009

    I’ve heard that from a lot of people. Additionally, the same prof (in a totally different class) had us draw what popped into our heads when we heard “criminal”… and then pointed out similar correlations.

    My guy* was skinny*, white*, and in a “wife beater” t-shirt*. You could just imagine the double-wide* behind him.

    (* indicates a factor influenced by being exposed to COPS (the TV show) and not necessarily relating to anything real)

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