Sex Mix: Waves of Sexual Pleasure. Skyline Sex.
Sex on a Pole.Masturbation in a Porsche.
Social Dominance: Queen of the Pack
Sex: Making Waves
“I craved that gigantic dramatic orgasm that most
of us have been fed by movies, TV shows, and pop culture.
When I started entering more queer spaces and had
more open conversations about things like sex and
orgasms and likes and dislikes, I realized every
woman is different.
In the past I’d assumed I hadn’t orgasms with partners.
But once I paid attention, I realized I was experiencing
multiple short, subtle orgasms—around three or four
over the course of five minutes It was like a series of waves.
I didn’t come the first time I had sex
but it wasn’t long after – maybe the
sixth or seventh attempt.
I remember that fuck in a lot of detail:
the crisp, clean linen of someone else’s parents’
bed, the jeans hastily discarded on the floor.
The exact way I wrapped my legs round my
boyfriend, guiding him to thrust at the
perfect angle to get me off.
Having braced myself to expect sex
that was awkward, boring or downright
painful, the realisation that it could
be as climactic as masturbation was a
Sex on a Pole
Masturbation in a Porsche
Queen of the Pack
Power of the Cunt
Cunt: A Cultural History
Cunt used to be the most offensive word in the English language, and consequently it has never been researched in depth. Hugh Rawson’s Dictionary Of Invective contains the most detailed study of what he calls “The most heavily tabooed of all English words” (1989), though his article is only five pages long. Cunt: A Cultural History Of The C-Word is therefore intended as the first comprehensive analysis of this ancient and powerful word.
‘Cunt’ has been succinctly defined as “the bottom half of a woman or a very despicable person” (Pentti Olli, 1999). According to Francis Grose’s scurrilous definition, it is “a nasty name for a nasty thing” (1796). ‘Cunt’ is a synonym for ‘vagina’, though this is only its most familiar meaning.
As a noun, ‘cunt’ has numerous other senses: a woman (viewed as a sexual object), sexual intercourse, a (foolish) person, an infuriating device, an ironically affectionate term of address, the mouth as a sexual organ, the anus as a sexual organ, the buttocks, prostitution, a vein used for drug-injection, a synonym for ‘damn’, an attractive woman, an object or place, the essence of someone, and a difficult task.
It can also be used as an adjective (to describe a foolish person), a verb (meaning both to physically abuse someone and to call a woman a cunt), and an exclamation (to signify frustration). Despite its semantic flexibility, however, ‘cunt’ remains our highest linguistic taboo: “It has yet, if ever, to return to grace” (Jonathon Green, 2010).
‘Cunt’ is a short, monosyllabic word, though its brevity is deceptive. The word’s etymology is surprisingly complex and contentious. Like many swear words, it has been incorrectly dismissed as merely Anglo-Saxon slang:
“friend, heed this warning, beware the affront
Of aping a Saxon: don’t call it a cunt!” (—-).
In fact, the origins of ‘cunt’ can be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European ‘cu’, one of the oldest word-sounds in recorded language. ‘Cu’ is an expression quintessentially associated with femininity, and forms the basis of ‘cow’, ‘queen’, and ‘cunt’. The c-word’s second most significant influence is the Latin term ‘cuneus’, meaning ‘wedge’. The Old Dutch ‘kunte’ provides the plosive final consonant.
The Oxford English Dictionary clarifies the word’s commonest contexts as the two-fold “female external genital organs” and “term of vulgar abuse” (RW Burchfield, 1972). At the heart of this incongruity is our culture’s negative attitude towards femininity.
‘Cunt’ is a primary example of the multitude of tabooed words and phrases relating to female sexuality, and of the misogyny inherent in sexual discourse. Kate Millett sums up the word’s uniquely despised status:
“Somehow every indignity the female suffers ultimately comes to be symbolized in a sexuality that is held to be her responsibility, her shame […] It can be summarized in one four-letter word. And the word is not fuck, it’s cunt. Our self-contempt originates in this: in knowing we are cunt” (1973).
When used in a reductive, abusive context, female genital terms such as ‘cunt’ are notably more offensive than male equivalents such as ‘dick’. This linguistic inequality is mirrored by a cultural imbalance that sees images of the vagina obliterated from contemporary visual culture:
“The vagina, according to many feminist writers, is so taboo as to be virtually invisible in Western culture” (Lynn Holden, 2000).
Censorship of both the word ‘cunt’ and the organ to which it refers is symptomatic of a general fear of – and disgust for – the vagina itself.
The most literal manifestation of this fear is the myth of the ‘vagina dentata’, symbolising the male fear that the vagina is a tool of castration (the femme castratrice, a more specific manifestation of the Film Noir femme fatale).
There have been attempts, however, to reappropriate ‘cunt’, investing it with a positive meaning and removing it from the lexicon of offence, similar in effect to the transvaluation of ‘bad’, ‘sick’, and ‘wicked’.
These colloquial meanings have also been changed from negative to positive – what Jonathon Green calls “the bad equals good model” of oppositional slang (Jennifer Higgie, 1998).
The same process took place in Mexico when the offensive term ‘guey’/’buey’ was “co-opted by the cool, young set as a term of endearment” (Marc Lacey, 2009).
The Cunt-Art movement used traditional ‘feminine’ arenas such as sewing and cheerleading as artistic contexts in which to relocate the word.
A parallel ‘cunt-power’ ideology, seeking to reclaim the word more forcefully, was instigated by Germaine Greer – and later revived by Zoe Williams, who encouraged “Cunt Warriors” to reclaim the word (2006), the latest of the “various attempts over several hundred years of usage to “resignify” cunt to resume its original, feminine-anatomical status” (Jacqueline Z Wilson, 2008[b]).
What ‘cunt’ has in common with most other contemporary swear words is its connection to bodily functions. Genital, scatological, and sexual terms (such as, respectively, ‘cunt’, ‘shit’, and ‘fuck’) are our most powerful taboos, though this was not always the case.
Social taboos originally related to religion and ritual, and Philip Thody contrasts our contemporary bodily taboos with the ritual taboos of tribal cultures: “In our society, that of the industrialised West, the word ‘taboo’ has lost almost all its magical and religious associations” (1997).
In Totem Und Tabu, Sigmund Freud’s classic two-fold definition of ‘taboo’ encompasses both the sacred and the profane, both religion and defilement: “The meaning of ‘taboo’, as we see it, diverges in two contrary directions. To us it means, on the one hand, ‘sacred’, ‘consecrated’, and on the other ‘uncanny’, ‘dangerous’, ‘forbidden’, ‘unclean'” (1912).
Taboos relating to language are most readily associated with the transgressive lexicon of swearing. William Shakespeare, writing at the cusp of the Reformation, demonstrated the reduced potency of blasphemy and, with his thinly veiled ‘cunt’ puns, slyly circumvented the newfound intolerance towards sexual language.
Later, John Wilmot would remove the veil altogether, writing “some of the filthiest verses composed in English” (David Ward, 2003) with an astonishingly uninhibited sexual frankness and a blatant disregard for the prevailing Puritanism.
Establishment “prudery […] in the sphere of sex”, as documented by Peter Fryer (1963), continued until after the Victorian period, when sexually explicit language was prosecuted as obscene.
It was not until the latter half of the 20th century, after the sensational acquittal of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, that the tide finally turned, and sexual taboos – including that of ‘cunt’ – were challenged by the ‘permissive society’.
During the Lady Chatterley obscenity trial, the word ‘cunt’ became part of the national news agenda, and indeed the eventual publication of Lady Chatterley can be seen as something of a watershed for the word, marking the first widespread cultural dissemination of “arguably the most emotionally laden taboo term” (Ruth Wajnryb, 2004).
The word has since become increasingly prolific in the media, and its appearances can broadly be divided into two types: euphemism and repetition. Humorous, euphemistic references to ‘cunt’, punning on the word without actually using it in full, represent an attempt to undermine our taboo against it: by laughing at our inability to utter the word, we recognise the arcane nature of the taboo and begin to challenge it.
By contrast, the parallel trend towards repetitive usage of ‘cunt’ seeks to undermine the taboo through desensitisation. If ‘cunt’ is repeated ad infinitum, our sense of shock at initially encountering the word is rapidly dispelled.
With other swear words (notably ‘fuck’) gradually losing their potency, ‘cunt’ is left as the last linguistic taboo, though even the c-word can now be found adorning badges, t-shirts, and book covers. Its normalisation is now only a matter of time.