George Carlin is a heavy influence in my understanding of humanity and our workings within the universe. Man was brilliantly on top of our interconnections with each other, our own behavior, and our environment. He was also unbelievably, sharply observant of realities and truths that no one else seems to have been able to match in terms of being able to articulate them in a way that the rest of us could appreciate without being steeped in shame or fear of repercussion because he knew we are all subject to the culture and environment we live in. He was on drugs sometimes too, but his astuteness was not terribly diminished by that. At any rate, one time he got so riled up, he just stopped and said “well I get pissed off Goddamnit!” thus the title of this post.
I’ve been salty as all get-out in my life, pissed off beyond belief, or whatever other fun terms you care to apply to fits of rage or aggravation… and like most folks from my general cultural area, I eventually resort to what’s affectionately known as the “F-bomb”. And at least for me as an adult, I wanted an expletive that captures the sentiment I felt, so as not to act out in an even worse way, like starting physical altercations. I’ve screamed the F bomb at the top of my lungs, spat it out in disgust and used it in jokes as part of youthfully excessive vernacular, aside from using it as filler or decoration.
Lots of recent cultural changes have led to a satisfying challenge of cultural norms that have been dubbed “rape culture”. And I’ve got to be honest, even freakishly liberal as I am, I felt like that was an inflammatory choice of words when I first heard it. To me, it seemed over the top, and in my mind I minimized some very prominent cultural factors that led to the creation of the term. It’s partly from my own acculturation into accepting sexism, and partly from a place of wishful thinking that “we” had somehow evolved or developed “beyond” that type of mentality and behavior. I’m not going to speculate too hard on the remaining amount or placement of sexism in society, but I’ll say that it isn’t gone enough to warrant disregarding any amount of this entirely unacceptable behavior.
I despise language policing by and large, because I firmly believe that we can typically determine context and/or the general intention the person has or is attempting to express. I believe that most of us are not using our language in the offensive without making that clear from the outset, which is a different scenario from everyday conversation. I also believe that when we’re not clearly on the offensive, that we should enjoy the benefit of our audience giving us the latitude to express ourselves using language that is familiar to us, and the courtesy of recognizing our underlying message while overlooking minor differences in phrasing. It’s part of effective communication – everyone is different and as long as the person’s intent comes through, let’s not worry about the exact shades of connotation that may differ between us. We can always clarify as needed, and please do so whenever possible! George Carlin remains my example in this case… I saw him eject the word “faggot” during a set once, and saw his face fall for just a moment before continuing, because this was simply a remnant from his past, but he never intended it to be derogatory to gays, it was a reflection of his cultural upbringing: language is firmly established early in our lives and it’s difficult to adjust without essentially learning a new language. We can go on and on about how he should never have said that, but the point is that we should look at his intent and recognize he wasn’t being deliberately hateful; the language pathways of his youth had deep ruts and his wheels went down an old path for a moment.
We who are familiar with the “F” bomb know it is a term referencing a type of sex. It can be used as various parts of speech, but is normally some conjugation of the verb form. We’re not confused as to its meaning – whether someone is the subject or object, the operative function remains. There are plenty of terms that are just plain vulgar, describing or referencing things that are considered inappropriate or distasteful, and the “F” word reigns supreme as the most offensive one, at least here in ‘merica. It’s not because it references sex itself – goodness knows sex is the bee’s knees, and I’m no prude. I’m more than good with sex and talking about it openly. However I came to realize something about the usage of the “F” word, and how consistently the underlying message comes through. It’s never meant to make love, or even rough-but-fun sex. It means rape. It means without consent or comfort. It’s obvious in the way that it’s used that even when a friend of mine recalled their drug-filled youthful past, saying “I used to love to get all coked up and F***” that it wasn’t an endearing, fond look back on days of glory. It was obviously a demoralizing, creepy description of forcing sex upon themselves. When we say the word about someone else’s mom, be it “F” your mama, or “mother F-er” it’s not meant lightheartedly, no matter what put-on people trot out. When we say “F” that, we mean rape it. We mean no lube, no kissing, no love, just rape.
Now, I’m not going to speak for others or ask anyone else to change a thing about their communication, but I’m announcing here a change that I’m making for myself. I’m not going to use the F bomb anymore. Because I don’t “F” things when I’m angry. I don’t even engage in make-up sex after anger, but I digress. I don’t want to “F” that, or you, or this, or my life. I don’t want to wish it upon anyone from another source. I don’t think it’s funny, and I don’t think it’s empty. I believe it’s a level of dehumanizing ourselves or others to a state of emotional disrepair that serves only one purpose; to cut to the core of violation and violence. At the deepest levels it strikes at everything we have come to hold sacred: our physical and emotional security from unwanted transgressions. This term is used purely to highlight one of the deepest fears we have, which is that someone will not just go against our desires, but forever ruin a delicate physical and emotional activity that informs the highest bond between consenting adults: trust. Rape is often seen as worse than death, because we are forever scarred by its very existence, let alone being subject to it. That’s why “F’ed up” means completely wrecked, because that’s what rape does.
I had expected to have more to say after this, but I’ve read through it a couple of times and this is it. I’m not going to perpetuate a cultural norm that says if I’m angry enough I’m willing to be violent at all, but especially not in this way. I won’t do it. Others are welcome to speak as they see fit, and I’ll continue to abide by my general policy of giving people the latitude to express themselves in a way that is familiar to them. And I will look for their intent over taking their casual word choice with too much seriousness, because I do understand and acknowledge that we all have habits, cultural affectations, and socialized norms. I get that other people aren’t examining or analyzing this term every time they use it; to most, it’s just a handy word that’s broadly known and used. I’m not accusing anyone else or calling for a linguistic revolution. But I’m also no longer going to use terminology that comes from and promotes culturally accepted violence, especially in relation to sex.
Good riddance F word, may your usage decline rapidly and your intent be forever buried in the ugly past that we shouldn’t gloss over but certainly never re-enact either.