Sacred and profane

I hesitated to write the word cunt on my Facebook profile yesterday, because my mother was likely to be reading. Apart from being quaintly old fashioned, this struck me later as being pretty silly.

Sure, it can be offensive – if I shouted “I hate you, you stupid cunt,” at my sister, she’d be right to be upset. But I could shout “I hate you, you pygmy toad,” with equal malice and that would hurt too. In that case it wouldn’t be the words used, but the sentiment conveyed that would be distressing.

When we break it down, we generally agree that no letters have mystical powers. Yet this particular combination of them produces one of the most powerfully offensives sounds an Anglophone can make. How odd, when you think of it like that.

Of course, I realise it’s not the sound, it’s what the sound represents that we find offensive. But again, when you really think about it, it’s pretty strange. Other body parts fail to elicit the same reaction – mouths can be just as dark and wet as your common or garden cunt, but no one quails at the word ‘gob’.

I think we, the sacred feminine, the proud possessors of the mighty cunt, must be partly to blame. Even ardent non-feminists chastise people fiercely for using the word, perpetuating the myth that a sound or a label can be a dangerous thing.

Perhaps you could argue that gender-specific abuse is derogatory to one sex or another, yet male genitalia provide us with a host of insults without engendering the same hullabaloo – dick, prick, knob, cock are all cheerfully offensive.

Perhaps because Englishmen have been making fun of their cocks since at least Shakespeare, they are now inured to the shock of referencing them.

Who knows, if grown men paled and swooned when reminded that they have genitalia, maybe I’d suddenly be a whole lot more cautious about using the term knob-jockey in front of my mum.

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1 Comment»

  elle wrote @

Ooh, I think I’ve just written the synposis for my PhD. Another 79,671 words and a few references to de Beauvoir and Bataille (and a conclusion about Foucault, of course) and I’d be off and away.

I’d have to change the title though, that one’s far too corny. Although I did (I blush to recall) entitle my masters thesis “Hype and hyperbole”. Oh dear.


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