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February 3, 2012 5:07 PM   Subscribe

Let's please not call people c**ksuckers.

This post about a litigious darts player quotes an affected board-member as calling the subject a "cocksucker".

This comment and then this comment repeated and endorsed the insult, and when people pointed out that this isn't really okay, Hoopo dismissed the concern with this comment.

Cocksucker is a pretty hateful word to use; it hurts people other than the intended recipient. Like faggot, bitch and slut it implies that the subject is bad, despicable, disgusting, and contemptible by comparing them women and gay people, even if the subject isn't one of those. This is a technique that, in history and the present day, is used to marginalise and degrade these groups. It is different from a more generic but still forceful insult like asshole, dick, motherfucker etc., because those aren't terms that were, and are still used as hatespeech. I don't care about Zaffina's feelings, but I do care about those of people who want to participate in the discussion without being inherently put down by the language being used.

I have no problem with the article reflecting the language that the interviewees actually used. The article doesn't endorse the use of "cocksucker," it merely reports it. But on Metafilter, which is supposed to be a respectful, mature and accomodating space for discussion, I don't think it's appropriate to deliberately use it against other people, even if they're not in the thread.

Thanks.
posted by Drexen to Etiquette/Policy at 5:07 PM (488 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

Anyone hungry?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:10 PM on February 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


Al Swearingen, where the hell are you when we need you?
posted by jonmc at 5:11 PM on February 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


I never liked the term before I watched the series "Deadwood," now I like it. I don't use it pejoratively unless someone cuts me of in traffic.

Here's a picture of me in a "Cocksucker" hat the city of Deadwood sent me. Yes, I live an odd life.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:12 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, yeah, I know, Deadwood. Great show, got no problem with the language in it. Got no problem with people talking about the word or using it in a joke. Am pointing out that just going ahead and dropping it as a genuine insult, in a MeFi thread, is not really a cool thing to do. And we all want to be cool, right?
posted by Drexen at 5:16 PM on February 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


If a fictional version of a historic pimp and murderer can use the word in a television show when talking with other ficitonalizations of historic murderers and illegal squatters on Indian lands, anybody should be able to use it at any time.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:23 PM on February 3, 2012 [27 favorites]


I agree with you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:23 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Cocksucker" has always struck me (whenever I've actually thought about it) as one of those words that has become oddly divorced from its "literal" meaning. If I hear someone call someone a "cocksucker" the last thing that occurs to my mind is that they're somehow calling into question his sexuality or suggesting something about his or her sexual proclivities (just as "motherfucker" is just as likely to be used of an inanimate object as a person). If someone in a movie, say, was called a "cocksucker" because he was actually sucking someone's cock I'd respond to it as a pun--like calling Oedipus "that motherfucker." I guess in part this is because it's never been, to my knowledge, a favored term for homophobic bullies (unlike "faggot," say).

I guess it's always going to be difficult to know where to draw the line in these kinds of cases. On paper you're obviously right--if you call someone a "cocksucker" by way of insulting them then at some level you're suggesting that sucking cocks is something only bad people would do; or, more accurately, you are leaving open the possibility that someone else reading your comment will draw that inference and it could be hurtful for them to do so. And there's not much point in hurting people, no matter how unintentionally, if you can easily avoid it.
posted by yoink at 5:28 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I propose bringing back the term "assclown", or perhaps "fucknugget".
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:31 PM on February 3, 2012 [21 favorites]


I'm not a big fan of the word as a generic insult for exactly the reasons you mention, and in general aiming profanity directly at one another is likely to get deleted. That said, we don't delete comments because they use bad language, and discussing the use of language in the linked article seems pretty normal and ok to me.

I think the sort of jokey "wonder if he meant this guy actually smoked pole" callout is not a bad way to draw attention to the connotations. Not everyone is going to pick up on it, and not everyone is going to care, but it at least opens up the discussion.

(I have a dear friend who is inventively foulmouthed and every time I've heard her use "cocksucker" she immediately follows up with "not to impugn the sucking of cocks, which is a noble pastime and one I myself occasionally enjoy." Never fails to crack me up.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:32 PM on February 3, 2012 [42 favorites]


Fair enough, though I will in all likelihood continue to use "cockmongler," since it doesn't so much insult one for performing fellatio as for being piss poor at it.
posted by Mooski at 5:32 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


"shit-for-brains" is overdue for a revival as well, I think.
posted by jonmc at 5:32 PM on February 3, 2012 [14 favorites]


The article doesn't endorse the use of "cocksucker," it merely reports it.

I don't really endorse it either, for the record, and I'm not about to start using it. I just found the comment I responded to passive-aggressive and sarcastic in a way that rubs me the wrong way and I got angry. It was a needlessly dismissive response to what I thought was a fairly reasonable interpretation from Fnarf.
posted by Hoopo at 5:37 PM on February 3, 2012


I wish "beetle brain!" would make a comeback, especially if it's said in a Hanna-Barbera Villain voice whilst shaking a scepter at a stooge.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:47 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cocksucker is a pretty hateful word to use

Ever since Deadwood, it feels like it's just another way of saying 'asshole'.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:50 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a shitty slur. I hate it.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 5:55 PM on February 3, 2012


I guess in part this is because it's never been, to my knowledge, a favored term for homophobic bullies (unlike "faggot," say).

But it is. To a lesser extent, maybe, especially among the newer generation. But still, like faggot, I don't think it works to say 'oh, it has nothing to do with actual gay people or women, it's just a generic insult'. It is a very specific and damaging insult, a potent part of the culture of homophobia, and you can't divorce it from the implications it carries even if you are intending to use it as a generic insult.

restless_nomad: I see what you're saying, and I'm not especially calling for the comments to be deleted. But to me, the ones I highlighted seem to be crossing over into using, rather than just discussing the language.

Hoopo: Fair enough, and thanks for the clarification. I and, presumably, This alludes to you were calling out the commenters rather than the board-member, but I can see how there could be confusion.
posted by Drexen at 5:55 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Asshole(s), we all got 'em, fair game.*



*Potent swears are about transgression, being an adult with a measure of compassion and respect for the experiences of others, however, means you gotta read the room. Not easy.
posted by Divine_Wino at 5:55 PM on February 3, 2012


That last post wasn't a 100% endorsement of sodomy. Still might toss my hat in the ring for POTUS 2016, I assume after 2016 the only people who aren't 100% asshole obsessed will be unreconstructed hipsters - I'm into missionary for the purposes of procreation, you probably haven't heard of it- and then the whole thing just collapses in on itself, have I mentioned I've been reading a bunch about Buddhism recently?
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:00 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


The only times I've heard it used with any hint of etymological origin were in referring to Omar on The Wire, and even there it was jarring to me most times.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:05 PM on February 3, 2012


I insist everyone stop using "Motherfucker" as well.

It is a very specific and damaging insult, a potent part of the culture of Oedipus Complex-phobia, and you can't divorce it from the implications it carries even if you are intending to use it as a generic insult.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:05 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


When I described Kelsey Grammer's character in Boss as "a certified cocksucker" a few months ago I was called out in the comments and asked if Grammar was paling a n openly gay person.

I replied with the dictionary definition:
cocksucker |ˈkäkˌsəkər| noun
a contemptible person (used as a generalized term of abuse).


To which a member replied:
Yes. Us faggots are known for being overly fond of having one of the slurs often directed at us taken in a more general way, particularly as a term of abuse.

Love it. Please use it more


Another poster replied:
Wait... Grammar's character in Boss is openly gay?
I was using the term in its nonsexual sense.
cocksucker |ˈkäkˌsəkər| noun
a contemptible person (used as a generalized term of abuse).

The 'non-sexual sense' is straight out homophobic, man.


I was going to take the word cocksucker to Meta since my comment became a derail for two members and I was very angry that based on one word choice two people called me a homophobe and that years of participation on this site was boiled down to a word. A word I probably hear and use so much because I consort with homosexual men. Sure, they say faggot a lot but I know I can't use that term in mixed company.

I decided to take a week off and added it to my list of words I can't say on Metafilter.

My friend (who happens to be gay) has taken to calling me "straight out homophobic, man" any time he wants to tease me about my heterosexual lifestyle. He says it like the Dude in the Big Lebowski would say it.
posted by birdherder at 6:06 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


a potent part of the culture of Oedipus Complex-phobia

Ho ho. I know you're joking, but seriously, there isn't such a culture, or if there is, it's nothing like the widespread and entrenched cultures of homophobia and misogyny that worsen many peoples' lives every day.
posted by Drexen at 6:09 PM on February 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


Hooplehead is still fine, right?

The problem I have with word prohibitions is that I think pretty much any word can be used in an acceptable manner. There are few words that I've excised from my vocabulary. I understand not everyone carries the same baggage with the same words. I have a gradation of offense. I don't even like discussing certain words and I absolutely won't use some of them ever, others depends on context and usage. So it's a bit unrealistic to hope for people to conform to my sense of sensibilities.

Cocksucker doesn't even land on my radar of offense.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:09 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I gotta agree and think that the word has been divorced from any real sexual meaning. I think it was really originally contemptuous of someone who would assume a submissive or subservient role, someone who would get down on their knees.

That being said, if it bugs people, there really is no reason to use it.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:11 PM on February 3, 2012


By the way, the whole thing about calling someone a cocksucker and it being a synonym for someone contemptible isn't that they're gay but that they're willing to give head to get what they're after. I rarely hear cocksucker being used outside the context of someone who's gotten something undeservedly.

For example: "that little cocksucker shouldn't have been allowed to go away to Bali while we're stuck here at our busiest time of year".

But I've found wanker to be far more effective and gentler with "dickhead" reserved for the more annoying of those I'm trying to insult. Is everyone ok with those?
posted by Talez at 6:12 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Cocksucker doesn't even land on my radar of offense.

The suitcase of dominant cultural baggage which leads someone to say this is greatly worthy of unpacking, but I think it's obvious enough why that I'll let everyone open their own suitcase and sort through the contents without outlining the general, universal gist of them here.
posted by hippybear at 6:14 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


The problem I have with word prohibitions is that I think pretty much any word can be used in an acceptable manner.

Okay, sure. But as with other slurs like nigger, it's pretty damned hard for it to be used acceptably except by the communities who are affected by them, and even then, it has to be used in a certain way. That wasn't the case in this thread.

Cocksucker doesn't even land on my radar of offense.

Good for you. Not the case for a large number of people.
posted by Drexen at 6:15 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I propose bringing back the term "assclown", or perhaps "fucknugget".


ITYM "fuck-knuckle". Don't mention it.
posted by facetious at 6:18 PM on February 3, 2012


this thread

(By which I mean, the original Mefi thread.)

posted by Drexen at 6:23 PM on February 3, 2012


"cockmongler,"

Surely you mean either "cockmonger" -- as in the famous lyrics, "Crying, 'Cocks and muscles, alive, alive, oh!'" -- or "cockmangler," which hurts to even think about.
posted by Forktine at 6:23 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


"shit-for-brains" is overdue for a revival as well, I think.

Shitass was a favorite Idahoan term of abuse when I was a child. That one seems way overdue for one as well.
posted by y2karl at 6:25 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


'Cocksucker' is a homophobic and misogynistic slur. I personally don't feel that it's OK.

Since there are some many other great non-bigoted slurs, I suggest we got with one of those.

Motherfucker is a classic. And no one cares about hurting the feelings of the incest community, if such a thing exists. Which I recall hope it doesn't.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:26 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, whenever my Dad wanted to express utter disdain for someone, he'd refer to them as a 'lightweight,' but it loses something without the complete dismissal in the old man's voice.
posted by jonmc at 6:28 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I suggest "jackhole." It totally sounds filthy dirty, but technically isn't!
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:31 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


One thing which my time spent on this site has provided me with is a better insight into how my casual behavior might be genuinely hurtful to others. I hadn't thought about the implications of this expression before. It's pejorative usage has certainly become more general, but it's roots in gay-bashing disqualify it as a term that thinking users would employ.

It's pretty easy to avoid, and common decency suggests that since I now understand how hurtful it might be to others, that I would then eschew it's use. In this tiny way, I have once again achieved a useful insight from this community.

Thanks for pointing this out, Drexen.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:33 PM on February 3, 2012 [24 favorites]


On MeFi anyway, I've found that sarcastically calling someone 'genius,' usually has the desired insultin effect.
posted by jonmc at 6:33 PM on February 3, 2012


insulting. 'Insultin' sounds like a drug for emotionally sensitive diabetics.
posted by jonmc at 6:34 PM on February 3, 2012 [20 favorites]


I despise that word because I've heard it used soooooo many times to bash on gay guys.

Not subservient guys, or guys that were trying to get ahead (ass-kissers), but gay guys. My awesome friends, being threatened and bullied by punks screaming "COCKSUCKERS!".

As part of a bi-racial couple in a mostly white area, (with a high concentration of jerks), I've had my day ruined by people hollering out of their cars NIGGERLOVER! I've felt threatened when people used the N word, because you just never know what they're going to do. We've been harassed, threatened, screamed at, made fun of and spat on.

When I hear NIGGERLOVER, I have to kind of wait for the other shoe to drop. Are you going to come attack us? Is a beer bottle going to come flying out of nowhere? Do you really mean that you'd "string us up" if you had the chance? Is mob mentality going to take over and something bad going to happen? Do you really hate us that bad?

When it's a word that's used while you're getting your ass kicked by some racist or homophobic fuckhead, it's reallllllllly hard to say, it's "just a word". It's not, it's another way to call someone a faggot. It's a gay slur all day long.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 6:35 PM on February 3, 2012 [26 favorites]


Yeah, I gotta agree and think that the word has been divorced from any real sexual meaning.

The problem with this line of argument is that it is exactly the same argument used by people who say the term "gay" as a generic word for "stupid" or "bad". And with exactly the same amount of justification.
posted by Justinian at 6:37 PM on February 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


My father swore a lot, as in Jesus Cocksuckerin' fuckin' H. Christ! Who the fuck.... & etc, and like other men of his so-called Greatest generation, the words motherfucker and cocksucker sounded infinitely dirtier than they coming from the mouths of today's postmodern young people. Even fuck has lost the juice it had in the 50s. And, honestly, then or now, I have long had my fill of hearing people swear.
posted by y2karl at 6:38 PM on February 3, 2012


The suitcase of dominant cultural...

Blah blah blah. Yup, I'm the ignorant asshole repressing the rest of the world.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:45 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


.... I'll let everyone open their own suitcase and sort through the contents without outlining the general, universal gist of them here.

Alright, which one of you son's of bitches has my lucky jeans? The black one, not the blue ones. Seriously, wtf I have a date tonight.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:49 PM on February 3, 2012


The homophobic reality of the word is really a shame because otherwise it's such a great curse word. The double-k sound and the -er ending (or -a ending, I guess is more accurate) is a potent combination.
posted by mullacc at 6:51 PM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yup, I'm the ignorant asshole repressing the rest of the world.

I'd say that any and every use of a word such as "cocksucker" which has been used as a pejorative against a class of people, which ignores the weight of decades if not a century or more of use to keep that group marginalized and even abused within the dominant culture, does in fact contribute to continued repression of that group no matter what progress they may have made in the past couple of decades.

Perhaps you see it differently. But reinforcing or challenging cultural norms through language is one of the tools in the hands of both sides during times of controversial change.

Not really calling you out personally, cjorgensen, as plenty of people use the word without any more thought than you give it.. I like you and appreciate much of what you have to share here on MeFi. But in this instance, I do ask that you at least consider putting "cocksucker" on your radar of potentially offensive terms. Even if you keep using it, just having you use it knowing that it's offensive would, according to what you've said, be personal progress for you.
posted by hippybear at 6:51 PM on February 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


Hooplehead is still fine, right?


HEY!
posted by Hoopo at 6:58 PM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


We go through this once in a while. Insult x, commonly and thoughtlessly used by the majority, is offensive to minority group y.

I'm certainly not going to try to defend "cocksucker" as not being rooted in homophobia and misogyny. I can say that, for those of us not in the target groups, it's too easy to turn these words into meaningless clichés that are actually divorced from their pejorative meanings. I personally don't immediately think about gay people or women when I hear the word. I think of someone who is a raging asshole. However, I can definitely see how gay people and women don't divorce it from its pejorative meaning, so I'll add it to my List of Things Not to Say on Metafilter.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:04 PM on February 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


While it may be a colorful Wild West noun, we don't live in Deadwood, and so it's pretty easy to argue for withholding from using it unless in a context where the reference is clear (e.g., using "Yankton cocksuckers" to refer to modern-day political corruption, etc.).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:05 PM on February 3, 2012


I must be remembering it wrong. I thought it was seven words you can't say on television.
posted by sambosambo at 7:15 PM on February 3, 2012


I don't use "cocksucker" anymore. Partially, the reason is the misogyny and homophobia already and eloquently explained. But also, I don't know, it just doesn't seem strong enough to me. In my connotative language space, "cocksucker" always sounds like some kid trying to act tough and failing. It's the expletive people fall back on when they want to use an extra-strength curseword, but then suddenly realize they don't really know any or how to deliver one with the sufficient heat and vitriol. You have to mean it, Potter. So people turn to the one that "everyone knows" is stronger than usual, allowing cultural inertia to stand in for their own emphasis. It almost always just sounds weak to me.

And the thing is, if you do manage to say it in such a way as to really mean it and imbue it with strength, it sounds exactly like the misogynistic and homophobic slur that it is. So, yeah, I'm not really a fan.
posted by Errant at 7:18 PM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Here is a guide to proper cursing I found when first googling "metafilter" when I was deciding whether to join or not: How to curse like a hipster.

The rules. Learn them. Love them. Live them.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:42 PM on February 3, 2012


it may be a colorful Wild West noun,

Was it actually? For some reason I remember hearing that the swearing on Deadwood was sort of updated to words the audience would be familiar with instead of the type of foul language used in times contemporameous to the show's setting.
posted by Hoopo at 7:46 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Everyone who's adding "cocksucker" to your list of words not to say on Metafilter: can you please do the world a favor and put it on your list of words not to say ANYWHERE? It's not any more hilarious or any less offensive in person.
posted by Plutor at 7:48 PM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was trying to point out how easy it is to trivialise something. IRL, my go-to words are "dumb-ass", "jackass", and "Republican".
posted by double block and bleed at 7:59 PM on February 3, 2012


Misogyny? I've never heard it in anything but a homophobic context.

And while I agree that it's not a nice word, I have to agree with mollacc. It is such a great word, I wish I could wish away the nasty externalities of it. It absolutely *made* the movie "Nixon" the way he said it through so much spittle and rage.
posted by gjc at 8:02 PM on February 3, 2012


Radio announcer: "I've never seen Crash so angry. Frankly, sports fans, he used a certain word that's a no-no with umpires."

Millie: "Crash must've called the guy a cocksucker."

Annie: "MMmmm, he's so romantic."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:03 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know who's worse than a cocksucker? A MeTa poster.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:06 PM on February 3, 2012


I personally don't immediately think about gay people or women when I hear the word. I think of someone who is a raging asshole

So why don't we just call such people assholes (perhaps raging), as it seems a more neutral word? Everybody's got one and they all stink.
posted by philip-random at 8:07 PM on February 3, 2012


Also the insult "motherfucker" is obviously offensive to those of us who like to fuck mothers.
posted by dgaicun at 8:10 PM on February 3, 2012


Ugh, this is not what LGBT rights takes a stand over. It cheapens the entire endeavor. Get over it, dude.

Some swear words sound SO GOOD even if their context sucks. Off the top of my head they are fuck, cock (any word using it), faggot and cunt.

I leave you with this Louis CK skit on the word faggot
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:11 PM on February 3, 2012


So I don't call anyone a faggot even though I think it is one of the most fantastic sounding words I've ever head. Note I said SOUNDING removed from context.

Sorry, that's the writer in me.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:13 PM on February 3, 2012


Was it actually? For some reason I remember hearing that the swearing on Deadwood was sort of updated to words the audience would be familiar with instead of the type of foul language used in times contemporameous to the show's setting.

They would have said "gosh darn", etc. which would have just made modern audiences laugh.

So they updated it for similar effect to what it was in the past.

It was completely the right call.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:14 PM on February 3, 2012


I have only one problem with profanity, usually. It's when it's used by thudding slug-dullards as a blunt instrument.

The point of the profanity in Deadwood is not there is a lot of it, but that it is used in creative and lyrical ways, ways that surprise and even elevate.

You stupid cock-wallaby shitpigeons.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:23 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I leave you with this Louis CK skit on the word faggot

Cf. Chris Rock on the word 'faggot'.

Cuss words are too fun to discontinue, sorry. All of them are precious.
posted by dgaicun at 8:24 PM on February 3, 2012


(I have a dear friend who is inventively foulmouthed and every time I've heard her use "cocksucker" she immediately follows up with "not to impugn the sucking of cocks, which is a noble pastime and one I myself occasionally enjoy." Never fails to crack me up.)

Yeah, it is funny: if you were to survey a representative section of those who own cocks, you would find about 110% in favour of the idea of having them sucked, but to actually suggest someone would ever do such a thing is a grave insult. No wonder we as a group are so fucked up.

The point of the profanity in Deadwood is not there is a lot of it, but that it is used in creative and lyrical ways, ways that surprise and even elevate.

Those who disagree with this idea suck cock by choice.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:26 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Those who disagree with this idea suck cock by choice.

WTF?
posted by hippybear at 8:30 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's a Deadwood quote, well known to fans. I once got a comment flagged and pulled for quoting it too.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:37 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not hard not hard to reach, we can hitch a ride to rockaway beach.

Nothing to do with the conversation people are having, because i don't care about that.

i'm listening to the ramones and kinda missing the east coast.

THEY BLAST DISCO ON THE RADIO!
posted by Afroblanco at 8:39 PM on February 3, 2012


I should clarify that wasn't a complaint, just underscoring that fans of the show usually give a knowing chuckle and everyone else is generally horrified.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:40 PM on February 3, 2012


What kind of a cunt would call someone a cocksucker?
posted by unSane at 8:44 PM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ugh, this is not what LGBT rights takes a stand over. It cheapens the entire endeavor. Get over it, dude.

Your comment only makes sense if had to choose one thing and one thing alone to ever take a stand over, forever. I felt this was an issue here in this particular context, so I raised it, and it seems to have been of some use within the domain of Mefi posting etiquette. We are all still free to carry on with the larger, more important issues. No endeavours were cheapened in the making of this MeTa post.
posted by Drexen at 8:45 PM on February 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


The suitcase of dominant cultural baggage which leads someone to say this is greatly worthy of unpacking, but I think it's obvious enough why that I'll let everyone open their own suitcase and sort through the contents without outlining the general, universal gist of them here.

Does anyone honestly believe this is an effective way to communicate? If you want to insult someone, just go ahead and do it.
posted by spaltavian at 8:47 PM on February 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


While we're at it, let's not call raped persons "dick-food".
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 8:49 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


This may make me sound like an asshole, but I think it's worth thinking about this philosophically. Perhaps it isn't the most popular opinion, but I don't think it makes sense - political/social-linguistically or otherwise - to ascribe a meaning to a word in a universal fashion; i.e. I don't think it is sound to make claims that 'x word' means 'x' in all utterances of 'x.'

Grice opined that the meaning of a word is tied to the intention of its utterer; similarly, Wittgenstein said that the meaning of a word is dependent on how the word was used in the context between the one who uttered it and the audience it was directed to, e.g. if I tell you to pick up a stone and hand it to me, it only makes sense if you know what 'stone' and 'hand it to me' means in that situation.

Certainly the Deadwood debate is living example of this.

There was no indication that Hoopo intended the word to have a derogatory subtext. It follows, then, that that word in that particular use did not have such meaning. It is not a mere matter of opinion about the meaning of the word, for if we do not define words by their use and their context, how the hell can we say what the meaning of a word is? Or that words have meaning at all? The use of a word gives it meaning.

Think about it: any given word's meaning changes - at times drastically - dependent upon the situation in which it was used. That's how communication happens. Me and Hoopo could develop a code that means nothing to anyone else, and yet when I say 'jump over a red bell pepper,' Hoopo puts Led Zep II on the record player.

Granted, we live in a world full of words that are taboo. But pointing to a word's origin is not tantamount to supplying its meaning. In fact, many of the words we use today would be almost unrecognizable from their Latin or Grecian origins. We don't say 'Ceasar' and think of someone losing their hair. We don't say 'Passion' and think generally of a suffering. It is not the mere beauty of language but its very nature that it can evolve and that certain combinations of vowels and consonants can mean different things at different times. There are many considerations at play when we talk about a word and its meaning. Homophobia or discrimination is certainly something to be upset about; was Hoopo's comments a display of that? No, not that I can tell.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:50 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]



There was no indication that Hoopo intended the word to have a derogatory subtext.


Hey now, I didn't even use the word, you're confusing me with someone else. I just got pissed off at someone for what I saw as excessively belaboring the point when I thought it was clear no offense was intended. But it was not wise of me to get involved at all.

let's not call raped persons "dick-food".

Holy shit, when in the hell did that happen?
posted by Hoopo at 8:58 PM on February 3, 2012


Why don't we just have a list of banned words in the FAQ again? Is it because that would be draconian, and this way we can first educate the bad-word-users so they understand why they shouldn't use them, and stop of their own accord?
posted by Meatbomb at 8:59 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why don't we just have a list of banned words in the FAQ again?

Because some people objecting ≠ banned.
posted by unSane at 9:01 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


In fact, many of the words we use today would be almost unrecognizable from their Latin or Grecian origins. We don't say 'Ceasar' and think of someone losing their hair. We don't say 'Passion' and think generally of a suffering. It is not the mere beauty of language but its very nature that it can evolve and that certain combinations of vowels and consonants can mean different things at different times.

Yeah, call me back in a thousand years and ask my opinion of the word "cocksucker" when the roots of the term are lost to history. As it stands now, the meaning is "someone who is willing to take a penis into one's mouth for sexual pleasuring of another", and its use as an epithet carries far too much baggage as a slur toward homosexual men in an effort to Other them outside of heterosexual mainstream society.

The only way I've ever been okay with hearing the word used is in a sentence such as "Oh, Daniel is such a great cocksucker, he got me off in 30 seconds." Just about every other use I can think of is about something else entirely, and is always negative and ugly.
posted by hippybear at 9:02 PM on February 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


Single data point: I don't mind the term cocksucker. I find it especially useful to describe someone sucking up to powerful and dickish person. Clearly I also don't object to the word "dickish". I'm also a fan of douchebag, which implies someone who is useless and harmful to women.
posted by latkes at 9:03 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Although I did appreciate hippybear's comment above!
posted by latkes at 9:03 PM on February 3, 2012


you know my girlfriend and i were talking about how all the names for female genetalia are offensive to somebody. and how i liked the c-word because it's kinda dirty, but it bothers me when people use it as a bad word, like an insult to call each other. ultimately we agreed on 'yoni' because its kinda nice and kinda spiritual in an inner peace om kinda way. and because i'm a guy and really have no idea how to coneptualize the female orgasm because i only have like 1/100th the nerve endings in my thing, i always think of it in terms of fat Chinese guys who get reincarnated and Indians who can fold their bodies in ways I can't. so what was i saying? oh, and it's kind of unfair because all the names for dude's junk is kinda funny and kinda jokey and you can say it on tv shows and movies but womens' stuff is The Great Unmentionable. But yeah, I like the c-word, actually, but yoni is a close second.

oddly, the make counterpart, "lingham", is kinda overdone and point-missing.

weird, right?
posted by Afroblanco at 9:04 PM on February 3, 2012


San Francisco Cocksucker.
posted by ericb at 9:04 PM on February 3, 2012


unSane, that's not the way it works here. We'll keep talking it out until the insensitive people understand that they were wrong.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:05 PM on February 3, 2012


No endeavours were cheapened in the making of this MeTa post.

Getting people to take your ideas seriously isn't your goal then. It is mine, however, when I'm advocating for important things like equal rights for all.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:05 PM on February 3, 2012


Meatbomb, I have played gnomic with you. Let's leave it at that.
posted by unSane at 9:06 PM on February 3, 2012


Every appearance of the word "cocksucker" in all 3 seasons of Deadwood, in order.
posted by ericb at 9:06 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


(oddly, the male counterpart)
posted by Afroblanco at 9:06 PM on February 3, 2012


Those who disagree with this idea suck cock by choice.

Sigh. No. You do not speak for every person who has ever sucked a dick. You get that, right?
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:06 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't believe this hasn't been said yet, but I would have thought that informed people would find the word "cocksucker" distasteful for historical reasons, too. Sure, it may have been used on some tv show set in the old west, but good god. "Cocksucker" was Richard Milhouse Nixon's favorite insult. Even without the awful homophobic and sexist connotations, isn't the Nixon connotation enough for us to never, ever want to use that word again?
posted by koeselitz at 9:10 PM on February 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


Wittgenstein said that the meaning of a word is dependent on how the word was used in the context between the one who uttered it and the audience it was directed to

But the rest of your comment analyzes only one half of that context, the utterer, and ignores entirely the other half, the audience. You determine that a person's intent in utterance was not discriminatory or derogatory, which is fine, but that's not the context. The context is what you mean to say and what your audience hears, in concert.

There was no indication that Hoopo intended the word to have a derogatory subtext. It follows, then, that that word in that particular use did not have such meaning. It is not a mere matter of opinion about the meaning of the word, for if we do not define words by their use and their context, how the hell can we say what the meaning of a word is? Or that words have meaning at all? The use of a word gives it meaning.


The use of a word does not give it meaning. What gives a word meaning is the shaped space between signifier and signified. To signify is to create, or more likely to recall, that space, but creating and controlling it are two different things. That which is then signified is arrived at conventionally, informed by social consensus. You may point to the idea, but the whole of the idea isn't yours to contain or delimit. No language is completely arbitrary or constantly recreated ex nihilo, and authorial intent is not the only consideration at work.
posted by Errant at 9:12 PM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


This has just reminded me that I want at all times to tell someone, anyone really, to "Stop being a faggot and suck that dick." Damn you, Louis CK.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:13 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


isn't the Nixon connotation enough for us to never, ever want to use that word again

He was a frequent user of the word 'the' as well. Bastard.
posted by unSane at 9:13 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


my girlfriend and i were talking about ... the names for female genetalia .... ultimately we agreed on 'yoni' ....

As someone named Jonathan, whose Hebrew name is "Y'honatan", which our cantor shortened to "Yoni" [as in "Who will read the next section of the Bava Kamma? Yoni, why don't you do it?"], I gotta say I am more than comfortable with this, and have been lightly giggling to myself for the last five minutes.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:13 PM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


No offence to bastards, obviously.
posted by unSane at 9:14 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Further proving that you will always somehow offend someone.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:15 PM on February 3, 2012


Getting people to take your ideas seriously isn't your goal then. It is mine, however, when I'm advocating for important things like equal rights for all.

What an odd thing to say. How do you infer that? As I've said, fighting this battle by no means precludes fighting the larger war.
posted by Drexen at 9:15 PM on February 3, 2012


Yeah, call me back in a thousand years and ask my opinion of the word "cocksucker" when the roots of the term are lost to history. As it stands now, the meaning is "someone who is willing to take a penis into one's mouth for sexual pleasuring of another", and its use as an epithet carries far too much baggage as a slur toward homosexual men in an effort to Other them outside of heterosexual mainstream society.

I think you're missing my point. There is no 'point in history' when a word loses its roots. A word is always losing its roots; or in other words, a word never has such perceived roots. A word's meaning is always in flux. A word's meaning is defined differently in every instance of its use.

Granted, I realize that this is not how most people perceive a word and its meaning. Memory, affiliations, things like that seem to play into the meaning of a word for individual persons across time, but it isn't how meaning actually works.

That people 'retire' words for historicity purposes is ridiculous, and they ought to learn the etymology of their entire vocabulary.

But alas, I was making an abstract point.

It stands that if 'cocksucker' is found offensive in the group that is being addressed, for one reason or another, it should not be used. And that's fine because words are utterly replaceable. But it is something that might need to be learned and decided, and the usage of it at the get go was not necessarily a nefarious one.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:16 PM on February 3, 2012


Because you make a mountain over a molehill and people dismiss the actual mountain when you point at it.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:16 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


in addition to the fact that some of us aren't American and weren't alive for the Nixon years, I can't say "fave swears of notable people" came up much in history class, so I think maybe the other concerns should suffice as reasons not to use the word. WHICH I DIDN'T.
posted by Hoopo at 9:19 PM on February 3, 2012


The biggest problem I see with your argument, Lutoslawski, is in the public nature of the discourse. This conversation doesn't exist in a vacuum, here, so intent isn't the only, or even the primary concern. In public,harm also occurs where harm is not intended. The only authors who get to own the contexts of their words are authors whose words are never seen.

I reserve the word cocksucker for private moments with inanimate objects because I love the word as a curseword - it feels very omnomnomopoeiac - but I understand the baggage and have nothing but love for those the word has been used to marginalize. As I've said elsewhere, the word ought to be an honorific, not a curse. But it isn't. So I control the intent by controlling the audience.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:19 PM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is a MeTa post, not a national campaign or a court case. I am treating this molehill as a molehill. I'm not dying on it, and neither is anyone else. We are just having a discussion on how you can use language like an adult, i.e. with respect to context and audience.
posted by Drexen at 9:20 PM on February 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


Errant-

Hmm. Ok. Good point. I stand by my assertion that the meaning of a word is its use. However, I concede that my argument was too one-sided and that I discounted what 'use' might mean among such a huge group. Meaning must be made by both sides. Good old Wittgenstein back in the day could not have conceived of this and there's probably a dissertation in the works somewhere about the philosophy of language and simultaneous conversation between 10K people. Meaning via intention from one person (even if there was no genuine ill will) - I suppose my argument falls apart there.

Yeah, Errant and It's Raining, I get that.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:34 PM on February 3, 2012


Suggested alternative: chickenfucker. Surprisingly satisfying.
posted by Mikey-San at 9:35 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow, you people actually find profanity offensive for once.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:40 PM on February 3, 2012


I've always thought it was such a strange insult, like calling someone a gift giver or happy maker - cocksucking pretty much spreads joy, does it not? I confess though that it seems to be one of those 'swears' I'll sometimes instinctively say when I'm alone and I hurt myself or do something really frustrating. It feels satisfying to vocalize in such circumstances for whatever reason.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:44 PM on February 3, 2012


I don't say towelhead, raghead, or spic, either. Does that make me a PC, word-killing crybaby?

Annoying when you try to make a difference in the world, for yourself, your kids, friends, or just the future, and people are like **shrug** Who cares? Stop mentioning it.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 9:52 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Good old Wittgenstein back in the day could not have conceived of this and there's probably a dissertation in the works somewhere about the philosophy of language and simultaneous conversation between 10K people.

While I certainly take your point that Wittgenstein probably didn't envision mass interwoven communication, he did stress the importance of socially-derived meaning. I think you're applying his "use generates meaning" argument a little too broadly; what he's arguing against is the idea that words are granted meaning by the objects to which they refer. When he's talking about use, he's not talking about who in the communication bestows or controls meaning, but instead that meaning is found in that communication without referent. Words don't have to point to a specific thing in order to be understood or to generate communication; those meanings are instead created through the common understanding of the word at the time that it is used, and no superdefinition is needed or arguably even possible.

In fact, his argument is largely that the forms of life (culture, historicity, society, etc.) are the constructors of language-games, and the meaning of a word fluctuates as we move between one such consensual game and another. Meaning is almost entirely socially-derived and contingent on local contextual shape.
posted by Errant at 9:57 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


like calling someone a gift giver or happy maker

Reminds me of getting called "sukebe gaijin" (pervert foreigner) in Japan. At first you're offended because it's meant as an insult, but then you think about it and you're like "yeah, maybe a little."
posted by Hoopo at 10:03 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


You can always follow the same template and come up with some alternatives.

shit gobbler
pig fucker
grapefruit spooner
marmot slurper
armpit taster
zebra sniffer
toenail tickler
youtube commenter

Or not....
posted by smidgen at 10:05 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Because you make a mountain over a molehill and people dismiss the actual mountain when you point at it.

When you're not the one the mountain is crushing, you're not the one who gets to judge how big the mountain has to be before it is significant.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:12 PM on February 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


Words don't have to point to a specific thing in order to be understood or to generate communication; those meanings are instead created through the common understanding of the word at the time that it is used, and no superdefinition is needed or arguably even possible.

Yes; this was the exact point I was trying to make, basically. I would make the stupidly small quibble that words do point to a specific thing each time they are used, a very specific thing, which makes words sort of unspecific.

/we should get a beer.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:16 PM on February 3, 2012


Oh, bunny. I didn't know you knew me.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:20 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm sick and tired of seeing our young people and adults KILLING THEMSELVES because they are surrounded by hateful messages. FORGET stupid, pathetic attempts to defend use of this offensive, hateful language because GOD FORBID YOU SHOULD HAVE TO SUFFER AT THIS HORRIBLE CENSORSHIP so that a marginalized group faced with emotional and physical violence don't have to endure any more harm than they already do.

Get your heads out of your asses and get over yourselves. I don't care what you think your words mean, you don't get to define their repercussions on others. You either give a shit how others feel, particularly those marginalized by society, or you're an insensitive jerk.

LANGUAGE HAS POWER. No, I will not sit silently by while words that have been used to terrorize people are turned into everyday, 'generic' language. You better bet there will be people making mountains out of this, because this is not a molehill. Just ask those who have killed themselves because this kind of language has worn them down, or was hurled at them while they were beaten down.
posted by PigAlien at 10:22 PM on February 3, 2012 [19 favorites]


/if we're going to bullshit about semiotics, it'll probably be more efficient to just start with the pitcher and strap in
posted by Errant at 10:22 PM on February 3, 2012


I guess I approach my life in that I'm proud of who I am. If someone wants to call someone a fucking cocksucker and I suck dicks, well, cool. I'm not ashamed of that. Who can other me? It would never enter my mind to make the post you did.

I suppose we will never agree, but you will see things in life that consistently upset you and I won't.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:24 PM on February 3, 2012


Good for you, OTLC. You know what? These words don't bother ME either... I had the privilege of being raised in a loving, supportive household without religious brainwashing or economic disadvantage. You know, it doesn't take much looking around to see that not everyone in the world is so lucky. How many people have to kill themselves before you get the message that not everyone is quite as resilient as you are?
posted by PigAlien at 10:27 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yikes. You just said that.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:28 PM on February 3, 2012


I'll settle for you seeing things that consistently harm other people. I'm going to keep saying it: it's not about offense or being upset, it's about harm. No one's skin is sufficiently thick to turn away knives.
posted by Errant at 10:30 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


If someone sucked my cock, I would be sooo happy.
posted by planet at 10:32 PM on February 3, 2012


I am a cocksucker. One who sucks cocks. I put penises in my mouth and suck on them. If you call someone a "cocksucker," then you're referring to me, and a sex act I enjoy, as an example of ultimate debasement and degradation. You take something that happens between my boyfriend and myself that is a part of how we express our love for each other (5 years together on the 15th) and you turn it into an insult.

So no, I'm not really persuaded by your sophistry. "Oh when I say "cocksucker," I don't really mean "cocksucker." I just like the way it sounds!"

Yeah, lots of slurs sound awesome. "Kike" fairly leaps off the tongue. "Thick-lipped nigger" is almost lovely in its brutality. "Whore" and "cunt" hit pretty hard too.

"If there weren't cops here, I'd fucking kill you cocksuckers." That's one I've heard personally. Does it really surprise anyone that I don't like to be reminded of it? That I tend to prefer not to think about just how many people think that the idea of me having sex, ever, is nauseating? That I destroy my own worth as a human being and as a man by doing something that I find affirming?

Please don't. That's all.

--

Castle - just because you're able to make something work for you doesn't mean that the rest of the world doesn't matter.

And yes, PigAlien said that. Do you think some of the suicides haven't been called cocksuckers? Faggot, queer, dyke, bitch, etc? Is your advice to them the same? Are you even aware that you're pretty much saying "just deal with it"? People are different, dude.
posted by kavasa at 10:35 PM on February 3, 2012 [32 favorites]


we don't delete comments because they use bad language

So "cunt" is back on the table, is it?

You guys do this all the time. There's even a flag for it, ffs.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:39 PM on February 3, 2012


I think the sort of jokey "wonder if he meant this guy actually smoked pole" callout is not a bad way to draw attention to the connotations.

Comedian Kurt Weitzman (San Francisco) does a great bit on this. "Did you say 'suck my cock?' Oh, I'll suck your fucking cock. Dude, your cock is SO sucked."
posted by msalt at 10:39 PM on February 3, 2012


Is "cum guzzling gutter slur" okay still or do I have to drop it? It really is one of my faves.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:40 PM on February 3, 2012


Slut. Gutter slut. Stupid autocorrect.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:41 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can call me cocksucker... Just call me.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:42 PM on February 3, 2012


So "cunt" is back on the table, is it?

Cunt has never been off the table, which is why any number of people impishly trot it out to, I guess, protest not being encouraged to trot it out more often. That there's uses of it that are over the line is a different issue; it's not a "no naughty language" thing, it's a "please don't say such hurtful, fucked up things so much" thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:43 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I prefer "Needle-dick, the Bug-Fucker."
posted by trip and a half at 10:43 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is one of those insults that amuses the hell out of me because it says so much more about the person using it then the person to whom it is applied. It's like... "Woah, guy... you think there's something wrong with a person who sucks cock? You don't like having your cock sucked? Boy, are you weird! Who wouldn't like a person who's nice enough to suck cock? Most of us like those people a hell of a lot. What the hell is wrong with you?"

They tend to be the same people who use "You can suck my dick" as an insult, too, which is also an amusing one. I always like to say "Hey, I had no idea you were gay!" to people who say that. Confuses the hell out of 'em, for some reason. Probably because they're generally pretty thick, I guess.

In conclusion, I have missed these silly threads where people try to proscribe certain words. We had a whole silly rash of 'em a while back, to the point where it became an embarrassment to the whole site, but I guess sufficient time has elapsed that we can sneak a couple more in. How about we do "Big Girl's Blouse" next?
posted by Decani at 10:50 PM on February 3, 2012


it's a "please don't say such hurtful, fucked up things so much" thing

Unless it's disparaging to gay men?

Huh?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:51 PM on February 3, 2012


So "cunt" is back on the table, is it?

Christ, not again. Can someone go get a washcloth?
posted by Decani at 10:51 PM on February 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Honestly, you haven't lived until you've properly slurped a marmot.
posted by chasing at 10:54 PM on February 3, 2012


Sounds like your autocorrect has a good sense of humor, Mister Fabulous.
posted by koeselitz at 10:55 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it upsets me and always will that adults don't do all they can to protect all gay kids (even kids who just "look" gay, or "sound" gay) from hearing this from the mouths of the adults they look up to. Believe it or not, the kids are listening.

PigAlien said it plain as day. Kids, young kids, are killing themselves over this, and no "sticks and stones will never hurt you" bullshit band-aid is going to do any of them a bit of good. Because they're dead.

Just because someone tells me to "chill out" about the word nigger, my sweet kid has to go to school and be called a nigger and a niglet by little kids whose parents don't think it's a big deal. I have to look in his innocent face and tell him some people are just ignorant.

A huge thank you to any who decide that it's not worth it to continue to use that word. To all who think it's whining, you're also whining about your "right" to say that shit.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 10:58 PM on February 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


On a serious note, I'm actually trying to think of words that would be flat-out offensive to me if someone said them to me or around me. I know plenty of words that many other people would find offensive, but I don't seem to have that reaction.

I'm a white, hetero-sexual male. Is that part of it? Did I fit in too much? Did I not get enough of a certain kind of alienation or abuse growing up?

If I could find that word, maybe I'd understand better the negative reaction to "cocksucker." But I can't. So, to me, "cocksucker" is just a sharp word that feels good to use when you're pissed off -- a word that also makes for a funny allusion when you're referring to a presumably straight dude. It just doesn't seem like the word has anything to do with saying cock-sucking is bad or people who perform oral sex on men are inferior. It's the juxtaposition of the word against the target that's important.
posted by chasing at 11:05 PM on February 3, 2012


I am against any insult that is 3 syllables +. Doesn't roll off the tongue (ha!) like those one and two syllable insults. For this reason, I am happy to support this motion.
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:16 PM on February 3, 2012


If I could find that word, maybe I'd understand better the negative reaction to "cocksucker." But I can't. So, to me, "cocksucker" is just a sharp word that feels good to use when you're pissed off -- a word that also makes for a funny allusion when you're referring to a presumably straight dude.

Go ahead and use the word if you like, but hiding behind the defense "There are no decent slurs for who I am, so I can't possibly be expected to understand the notion that slurs hurt people" is foolish.

Lots of white, heterosexual males have been able to figure out that "cocksucker" is insulting to gays. You can do it, too.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:24 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


chasing: "It just doesn't seem like the word has anything to do with saying cock-sucking is bad or people who perform oral sex on men are inferior."

So, er - you're saying that you've never heard the word used as an insult?


"On a serious note, I'm actually trying to think of words that would be flat-out offensive to me if someone said them to me or around me. I know plenty of words that many other people would find offensive, but I don't seem to have that reaction. I'm a white, hetero-sexual male. Is that part of it? Did I fit in too much? Did I not get enough of a certain kind of alienation or abuse growing up? If I could find that word, maybe I'd understand better the negative reaction to 'cocksucker.' But I can't."

I think it's very honest of you to accept that your difficulty in seeing the sting of the word has something to do with the fact that you're a straight white male.

If you can't think of a parallel in your case, maybe approach it this way:

I imagine you've thought about what it must be like to have someone throw a racial slur at you, even if you've never experienced that. Think about what it must feel like for a Chinese person to find themselves referred to as a "chink." There are indeed people who will claim that that word doesn't necessarily indicate that Chinese people are bad; but it's still a slur, if only because it's been used that way for so long, and therefore has that tenor to the people against whom it has been used so often.

Imagine what it must feel like for a person who has heard the word "cocksucker" meant in a literal way, and accompanied with disgust, revulsion, and threats of violence. If you find that hard to imagine, look back over this thread; several people here have described having that experience in vivid detail. Does it make sense to use a word like this so casually after it's been a tool of bigotry for so long?

The word "cocksucker" is hate speech. It may not seem so for the person who uses it, but it sure as hell will feel like that for at least one person hearing it. I'm a white male too, chasing, and I believe that as people who have a certain amount of privilege (who haven't, for example, found ourselves the objects of bigotry) we have a duty to make sure we aren't taking part in dragging other people down and using words that will be extremely hurtful to them. Yes, this is limiting to our vocabulary sometimes; but that's a small price to pay for a better world.
posted by koeselitz at 11:26 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I know plenty of words that many other people would find offensive, but I don't seem to have that reaction.

I'm a white, hetero-sexual male. Is that part of it?


Slurs don't gain their potency from the ugliness or even from the experience of being slurred by them, although those things certainly amplify the strength. Slurs gain their potency from making overt the unequal power structure and hitting you in the face with it. They make clear what was previously implicit, that you are less than they, and their weight and heft come from their concordance with the unjust arrangements of society.

That's why all these "thin skin" arguments are useless, because it's not about one person saying something mean to another person. It's about the weight of hierarchy being consciously deployed against you. It's about being struck with the bare fact of your inequality, having the gross injustice of your second-class status be exposed for everyone to see, being confronted by your intractable and permanent position at the foot of the pyramid. Slurs are about how society attacks and diminishes you, not about how one dude said something shitty to you that one time.

So, if all of that is true, then it follows that to the extent that you are placed in the power elite of a given hierarchy, words along that axis aren't going to hurt you very much. How could they? The structure is set up to empower you, not disenfranchise you, so you can't be harmed in the same way.

So, yes, that's part of it, and yes, it's unsurprising that you don't have that reaction. It's perfectly fine that you don't have that reaction, of course. The problem emerges when you start thinking of your position as the default one and the lower position of others as evidence of their weakness, rather than your position being one of unusual and unearned strength. That entitlement reinforces and validates the skewed organization of power in the society and perpetuates systemic aggression and violence. That's why these things are bad. It's not because people take offense too easily or whatever the fuck. It's not about offense. It's about harm.
posted by Errant at 11:27 PM on February 3, 2012 [31 favorites]


I think now is a good time to refer to George Carlin's 7 Words routine. Here's a link with the pertinent quote. NSFW obviously.

And even the word cocksucker itself has been twisted from its original meaning. It means bad man! No! It's a good woman. How did they do that?

posted by Effigy2000 at 11:30 PM on February 3, 2012


Leave cocksucker alone.

I think it's been sufficiently divorced from it's literal meaning for a long time, and it's effectiveness as hate speech very much depends on context. I really don't see it being much different than the safe-for-TV abbreviated version, the many forms of "suck". As in "(noun) suck(s)", and the endless variations on the theme, in which the "cock" is implied.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:51 PM on February 3, 2012


Suggested alternative: chickenfucker. Surprisingly satisfying.

Oi!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:03 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I remember watching the first season of The Sopranos, when Junior is ridiculed for his cunnilingus skills [his cunnilingualism?] and he bashes his girlfriend of 16 or so years for letting it slip to her hairdresser - and thereby, to his mafia cohort - that he enjoys going down on her. I was in my thirties when I saw that episode and it was the first time I'd ever heard that going down on a woman was seen as emasculating, or disgusting enough to warrant a thorough beating of the woman. I know it was a TV show context - the show carried a whole lot of misogyny to establish characterisation, setting etc. 'Cocksucker' feels the same to me, it's shorthand for power relations that are misogynist and homophobic. I don't think it's lost its shock value in our era, Wittgenstein notwithstanding.
posted by honey-barbara at 12:13 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


This strikes me as a classic example of the sort of thing that Jay Smooth talks about when he says that if you're not the one the language is meant to hurt, you're not the one who gets to reclaim it. I think it is useful to extend that to "you're also not the person who gets to decide that it has stopped be hurtful enough that it can be used again."
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:32 AM on February 4, 2012 [15 favorites]


I've had a few drinks at this point and I'm calling it a night but I'm not really pleased that out of 3 comments linked to in this callout by 3 separate people, I'm the one getting called out by name and I'm the only one who didn't even use the word.

Drexen commented on the repeated use of "cocksucker" pretty quick after the first 2 comments in question in a reasonable manner that got the point across well. That pretty much ended it; the comment was heavily favorited, it was pretty clear no one was going to continue on in that vein, good times were had by all and there was much merrymaking.

TOCATY's comment came 5 1/2 hours after Puppycat's comment (the second link) with nothing in any comments in between to suggest this was going to be an ongoing issue, bringing it up again out of nowhere. Whatever, fair enough. I'd say puppycat's comment--while it did use the word--was pretty clear in intent, but it's also pretty clear from this thread that intent isn't the whole story. I got no problem with that and I totally understand. Again, I'm not a guy that uses the word "cocksucker" but you wouldn't know it from this fucking MeTa callout.

Then in response to TOCATY we get this comment from Fnarf:

"Only if you are spectacularly literal. Motherfuckers do not necessarily have to have had sexual intercourse with their mothers; a douchebag does not necessarily have to have held feminine sanitary products."

Judging by this thread, it's clear a few people feel this way, and frankly I took it as meaning Fnarf was extending the benefit of the doubt to puppycat and whats-his-face-McDartsclub for having made a careless and regrettable comments--and puppycat getting called out on it repeatedly. Everyone had been told already after all, and everyone had knocked it off. Well, not good enough apparently:

"oh so it is like a joke of some sort

i am glad that it is not a real problem
"

Now we're beyond dwelling on an issue that was dead 5 hours ago and into rubbing peoples' noses in shit with dismissive, sarcastic, and off-topic shaming. Or at least that's how I took it, YMMV. I was annoyed.

Which leads us to my dismissive comment that apparently set this whole thing off. For the record, I definitely think homophobic slurs are a problem and I neither use them nor encourage anyone else to. But no, actually, I don't think it's that big of a problem that some old dart-throwing barfly uses an insulting word in a context where it's not clear if he's just ignorant or maliciously homophobic. I can easily see it as the former, and that was my impression when I read the article. Not the word I would have used, but I get your meaning, old dart-throwing barfly. As a former barfly myself (I drink at home now, thankyouverymuch), I've hung out in way too many shitty bars with old dart-throwing barflies, and you know what? Old dart-throwing barflies say a lot of stupid ignorant shit. That's why no one gives a fuck what old dart-tossing barflies think, except maybe other old dart-throwing barflies, and neither should you. All they do is hang out at the back of "English-style" pubs and play darts until they wind up in some shitty newspaper article because they're too fucking drunk and lazy to bother registering as an official organization. Because that would mean they'd have to do something other than hang out in the back of a pub drinking and throwing darts. Which is the whole point of the exercise anyway, and why it's super shitty than Donovan S. Farmhand stole their name and fucked them over, because now we have stories in the paper where we have to hear from these old, dart-throwing barflies that want nothing more than to just be at the back of the pub throwing darts, bothering no one.

Right, so long story short, let's extend the benefit of the doubt to a couple of folks who made jokey comments, links 1 and 2 above. Fuck, go ahead and overlook the fact the thread had been effectively re-railed by Drexen really fucking quickly. Shit on me all you like, and even though I'm not quitting, I hope this screed gets at least one or two of you a weekend flame-out fix.
posted by Hoopo at 1:48 AM on February 4, 2012


I can't wait until people have to start going to other works from Ian McShane's oeuvre to defend the insults they love most.

you fucking furniture polisher
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:42 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


For whatever it's worth, Hoopo, my intention here was to discuss general usage of the word and the issue that always comes up in these kinds of threads, the importance of intent vs. audience reception. My first comment was a response to one defending you, but my response was attempting to address the general concern of language reception and not you or anything you did or didn't say. I admit that I did not follow the course of the two threads as closely as I have in other circumstances and so took the comment and its claim about you at face value. I apologize for not being more thorough and more careful, as well as for any injury my inattention has caused you.

We spoke some in the recent Halloween costume threads, and my impression was that you were engaging difficult subject matter with consideration and respect to the best of your ability. I haven't yet come across any reason to change my mind about that or to assume that you would not be similarly thoughtful in other contexts. I'm sorry you feel shit upon.

Having said that, I think your last comment in that thread was weirdly aggressive for a person who wasn't really involved in that exchange up to that point. Your comment above makes it clear that you're dismissing the rigid old barflies who might use the word and not the concern that people have over using the word, but I don't think that's especially clear in your comment on the blue. I read it as defending dart players and dismissing the idea that people need to be worried about slurs in bars. I can see what you're getting at now, but until you wrote this comment here, I would never have interpreted that one there in the way you meant. Take your first line:

It is a huge problem, and I think we should start a crusade to ensure no more words that can be interpreted as homophobic slurs ever again get uttered by old men hanging out in pubs and playing darts.

You're obviously being sarcastic, but it's hard to tell about what. It could be either about old barflies or it could be about yet another "no more bad words" campaign on MetaFilter. The latter has a fairly long and entrenched history of dismissal around here; the former does not. So I think it's sort of understandable that people will intepret an ambiguously sarcastic comment in terms of similar-seeming sarcastic comments, and most of those in these contexts have been rejecting the idea of "policing language" or whatever. It reads a lot like "those guys are harmless, this doesn't matter, shut up". I misread you and so I'm sorry for that, but I'd also suggest that dismissive sarcasm is not the best way to avoid misunderstanding in a text medium.
posted by Errant at 4:09 AM on February 4, 2012


Actually, I'm pretty sure that basically every person—including straight white male protestant Americans—could feel harmed/insulted by a carefully chosen slur delivered pejoratively.

Just that something doesn't apply doesn't confer immunity. Consider what it was like being a child: all sorts of slurs that were factually false still had power because they insinuated that they could be true. If you were a boy, you know that homophobic slurs were regularly used this way. At least they were forty years ago and although things have changed a lot, I'm pretty sure they haven't changed so much as to eliminate this.

So, I'm a straight white male. But let's take an inventory... I'm short. I'm bald. I'm disabled. There's more, but those are things someone would use as a source for slurs for attacking me. And, in general, I'm not ashamed of any of those things. But in the right circumstances, someone could certainly use a slur for one of those things against me in a way that would sting.

My point is that it must take an astonishing level of privilege and/or lack of imagination not to be able to relate to what it is like to have someone throw a slur your way that hurts. And, well, if you are able to relate to what that feels like, then you know exactly what is going on here. In all cases, the slur is intended to publicly place someone in an disliked group. The slur can't have power if it doesn't prey on insecurity, and there couldn't be insecurity if there was no possible stigma attached to being in that group.

Well, that's a discussion about how pretty much all of us should be able to understand what it's like to have a slur thrown at us, even when it's more mild or, for example, someone tries to claim that it wasn't "serious".

But the larger argument here is about slurs that are more generalized, not targeted with a literal intended meaning. Are those acceptable?

Well, the thing is, you have to think about what the relationship is between the generalized use of the slur to its more specific and targeted (usually literal) use. It's pretty rare for any of these terms to become completely unmoored from that targeted use. While the overall occurrence of cocksucker may be overwhelmingly skewed toward that generalized usage, it's still available for its more narrowly targeted, literal usage and isn't it obvious that it's vicious in that context? Which is revealing, isn't it?

You can't defend the use of cocksucker in general but say that you wouldn't use it to insult someone who sucks cocks. Even more specifically, does it "feel" different to use the word generally than it does in the particular case of a gay man? The point is that the pejorative aspect of the word that is intimately tied to a socially unliked group is right there, there's just not much distance between the general use and its more literal and targeted use.

This is true with most of these sorts of words. That's why they still have power. That's why asshole is vulgar and an insult, but doesn't have any real sting if you're looking for a word that does, compared to the numerous alternatives. People often defend the use of bitch or cunt on the basis that asshole seems not quite right to apply to a woman, and so it's just the generic insult that one uses with women. But that's the whole point. There's a reason why asshole hasn't really caught on as a slur widely used against women...there are some alternatives that have much more power. That's how we pick the words we use. We unconsciously choose the words that seem "just right". Because women still have lower status than men, and particularly because there are still characteristics that are still thought particularly unacceptable or ugly or whatever for a woman, then slurs that are specific to those things are still preferred.

Cocksucker is interesting because of how it's primarily used against men. It implies a power dynamic—weakness—that has more sting used against men than women. That aspect of it with regard to women isn't really important, because women are supposed to be subordinate. But it does have a pejorative use against women with regard to the activity itself, which at least in days past, was seen as "dirty" and promiscuous. (When I was a teen in the 70s and 80s, for girls and women fellatio was more unacceptable than intercourse.)

But its main power lies in the homophobic aspect that it shares with the other commonly used slurs that involve male homosexuality. Like the others, it's mostly used to imply that someone might be a gay male. That is, in our culture in general and among men, being a gay male is so disliked that the power of the slur is in merely implying that someone might be a gay male. Just like with young male culture. Adult males don't entirely outgrow this, and the degree to which this is still the case is deeply connected to how much the subculture is homophobic.

Anyway, we're a long way from cocksucker being a truly generic insult that doesn't reinforce the oppressed status of gay men.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:20 AM on February 4, 2012 [11 favorites]


Hoopo, for the record, in retrospect I should have worded the post a little differently, and in particular not made your name the only one mentioned as it did unfairly put the focus on you, when really it was the first two comments I was more concerned about. As I said, I have no problem with the article reporting David Irete's words, and I agree with you that crusading against the language of a hard-done-by blue-collar guy like him would be pretty pointless. I was just sad that rather than being like "Wow, stay classy David," people were like "Fuck yeah, that guy IS a real cocksucker! In fact it's such a great word, Obama should have used it against Boehner!"

The reason I lumped your comment in with the others was that (as I read it) This alludes to you had been making essentially the same point as me - calling out the commenters. I read your comment, in haste, as essentially just dismissing the concern. I try to be respectful and brief when I remind people about language like that, but it's so frequently taken as either a joke not worth taking seriously or a Grave Threat To Our Freedom Of Speech that I viewed your post through that lens, got kind of pissed off, and made the MeTa post (my first ever!).

I appreciate your good nature in responding, and in participating in this thread, so I hope there's no hard feelings.
posted by Drexen at 4:21 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was gonna save this for the next time I got called out for my use of offensive language on here, but what the fuck, it's too good to hoard.

Faggot.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:45 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was going to make a comment about how I use the word nigger, using the same arguments as defenders of hate speech use above. About how can it be harmful, I don't even know any black people. And so on. I was going to think I was pretty smart.

Problem is, I have an actual goddam example I can use. I am so damned multi-culti, I like to believe I am about as unprejudiced as one can be (everyones a little bit racist, sometimes).
Part of this is growing up in the straightest, whitest, most homogenous place on earth, so I never heard anyone being badmouthed as a group like that.

Except for one group of people. Irish travellers were practically the only minority group in the country when I was growing up. They aren't represented where I live now, and it's really let me notice how much horrible, casual, unthinking, automatic prejudice I have towards them. It's fucking awful. This is the only area where I have to actively be politicially correct, where I have to pause a second before I open my mouth. I didn't even realise I had all this baggage until I heard my wife happily declaring, at the top of her voice, in mixed company, "Oh, I'd have to change if we are going out, I look like a knacker". Ö_ö

To her it was just a word. And I hadn't even been aware I had been using it. Cos it was obviously just a word to me too, something you say, a turn of phrase. Has a really good mouthfeel too, that nice hard K in the end. And it describes some of the most marginalised people in the country, half of whom don't make it to 40, people who are systematically discriminated against, a community where the infant mortality rate is ten times that of the majority population.

But there's none of them here, it's not like somone would even overhear me and be hurt, it doesn't actually mean anything at all. Does it?

Sometimes people say words are weapons, but these ones are more like levers. They are about prying you out of the place you believe you hold, and then levering onto you the entire weight of the hierarchy of people who are worth more than you. Sometimes by equating you to the lowest and the least, sometimes just by pointing out that you are. Know your place. Cocksucker.
posted by Iteki at 5:21 AM on February 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


I use this word fairly regularly, but interestingly almost 100% of the time it is aimed towards a piece of technology or an inanimate object that I have happened to stub my toe on.
posted by davey_darling at 6:06 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


You either give a shit how others feel, particularly those marginalized by society, or you're an insensitive jerk.

If those are our only choices on how to judge people who use the term, then toss me in the latter category, you idiotic cocksucker.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:34 AM on February 4, 2012


Perhaps you think it's a well played response, Brandon, but it really only reinforces my point. What's the saying? "Better to keep your mouth shut and let the world think you're an idiot than to open it and prove you are?"
posted by PigAlien at 6:39 AM on February 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Most of what's been said here makes sense to me, but I remember a user back in the day who was an utter prick, who once said to me, in a MeTa thread where he was being called out, words to the effect of "aren't you gay?" To which I answered "No, I'm not, but you're welcome to blow me."

I used it not because I think there's anything wrong with gayness or people who suck cock, but I know he does, so it had some utility. Offensive? I'm honestly asking.
posted by jonmc at 6:46 AM on February 4, 2012


"Better to keep your mouth shut and let the world think you're an idiot than to open it and prove you are?"

That's exactly the saying and exactly how I meant it.

If you're going to see the world or at least this instance in only one of two ways, then I'll happily go over to the insensitive jerk side of the playground and we'll both remain happy in our separate worlds.

Segregation works!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:48 AM on February 4, 2012


Brandon, my implying that some people may be idiots IS NOT EQUIVALENT to using HATE SPEECH against them. You basically said, "I don't agree with you, so I'm taking this to the ultimate level and using completely inappropriate hate speech against you." And I hope the mods will notice that, as that is not acceptable. Sincerely, I hope you are temporarily or permanently banned for that comment. I find that no more acceptable than if I were to call you the N-word.
posted by PigAlien at 7:02 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


As I am, in fact gay, as you may have inferred, and calling me that is just as offensive as calling a person of color the N-word. In fact, that should be so obvious to you I don't even have to point it out. But, I guess I do.
posted by PigAlien at 7:03 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


>it's a "please don't say such hurtful, fucked up things so much" thing

Unless it's disparaging to gay men?

Huh?


Huh right back at you; I personally think throwing "cocksucker" around lazily is kind of shitty for precisely the reasons that folks objecting to it have stated in here, but that doesn't mean that every use of it is motivated by the same sort of things or that every context its used in is the same, and so it isn't an automatic delete around here. Which is the same deal for just about everything. Even folks' beloved "cunt", which at least a few people seem in fact to use mostly to say "ha ha, I'm saying cunt and I know that bothers people here". Mefi is, for better and I think sometimes for worse, a lot more permissive about language than some sort of notional "no dirty language" rules.

That's what restless_nomad was saying in her own comment that was also criticizing the word, the comment to which you responded for some reason with your "So 'cunt' is back on the table, is it?" as if our mod position was "nothing with bad words ever gets deleted" or as if no one ever managed to use "cunt" in a comment, both of which are really plainly obviously not true to anyone paying attention to the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:04 AM on February 4, 2012


If those are our only choices on how to judge people who use the term, then toss me in the latter category, you idiotic cocksucker.

Maybe cut this shit out. I know we're having a metatalk thread about language taboos and all, but the whole ironically-insisting-on-saying-shitty-things thing is still a pretty shitty thing to do.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:10 AM on February 4, 2012 [14 favorites]


Cortex, seriously, that is hate speech. That is not just name calling. There is a difference between cussing, name calling and hate speech, and if hate speech is not unacceptable around here, then I have to seriously reconsider whether MetaFilter is a safe space for sexual minorities. It is not sufficient to simply call him out on this, to allow that comment to remain is to allow hate speech against one of your members, and I have seen comments deleted for much less offensive reasons.
posted by PigAlien at 7:17 AM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


I leave you with this Louis CK skit on the word faggot

He's very blithe about using the word there, which is in Chewed Up, his stand-up special from 2008; it seems to jokingly conclude that the word is redeemable if he doesn't mean it as a gay slur, just as an all-purpose insult that has nothing to do with actual gay people.

And then, two years later, in the opening of the second episode of his sitcom Louie, there's this long scene where a gay friend of his talks about how it's really not so great. It's not preachy -- it never says "Please don't say this word" -- but it does feature someone honestly telling a bunch of straight guys that yeah, even if one doesn't mean anything insulting by it, the word does dredge up some nasty shit.

What I find really interesting about the scene is that in the space of two years, you can see Louis CK realization that no matter what he thinks about the words he's using, they're still going to have massively different effects on people with different backgrounds than he has, and wrestling with the question of whether getting a laugh from an in-group is worth hurting an out-group.

I don't think I've seen him use the word since then, though it wouldn't surprise me if he does from time to time; like I said, the sitcom never tries to make it Forbidden Forever, just as metafilter doesn't auto-ban that word or any other word. But I like how that scene in Louie kind of acts like a metatalk thread, where there's reflection going on about the actual emotional consequences of using gay-related terms as ways of denigrating stuff. Like a lot of the scenes in Louie, it's a surprisingly raw route for a TV sitcom to take, to go outside the boundaries of safe judgements in favor of honestly assessing one's own complicity in power structures. That honest appraisal of said complicity is a hell of a lot edgier than the casual use of cuss words. The whole show is really just tremendously bitchin'.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:18 AM on February 4, 2012 [28 favorites]


If cocksucker is out so is fucker. I say this as one who has done both and much, much more.
posted by Splunge at 7:33 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sincerely, I hope you are temporarily or permanently banned for that comment.

This does not surprise me and is exactly why I called you a cocksucker. I did not because you're gay, which I did not know and could care less about. It was done because you're equating the use of the term in the description of the guy in the original FPP post as a homophobic slur when it clearly wasn't being used as such.

It's understandable that people might see it that or react reflexively to its use. Bu it wasn't being used that way and I think it that bares consideration. Completely banning the use of the word seems is overkill.

That said, my calling you one clearly wasn't received in the way I meant and it crossed a line I could and should have been more conscience of it, i.e. it being meant on a personal level. If I could have written that comment differently, I would have made it longer and more nuanced about the use of the word and how context matters, without directly calling you that. I apologize for calling you a cocksucker and regret the seemingly personal attack.

As I am, in fact gay, as you may have inferred, and calling me that is just as offensive as calling a person of color the N-word. In fact, that should be so obvious to you I don't even have to point it out. But, I guess I do.

The irony is that I had started writing out a longer comment about this very thing. Here it is in brief: Long time ago, white redneck Tracy called someone not in the immediate group a nigger, while standing with a bunch of black people. Nobody called her out it because we knew her and that she had no problem with black people per se. It was certainly an odd moment and some were uncomfortable with. But again, it was clear it wasn't a general insult.

When I asked her about the use of the term, she said the person she was complaining about was white and then she felt anyone could be called a nigger.

Needless to say, it's not how I would use the term and neither does it fit in my understanding of the term. But there it was, being used in a fashion that wasn't intentionally meant to disparage black people. I could either hold that against Tracy and roll with the larger point, if I disagreed with it.

Context matters. The complaint this MeTa is about doesn't take that account. It should.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:38 AM on February 4, 2012


Brandon, for fuck's sake. Throwing your rhetorical teddy in the corner like that makes you look like a child. I'm not even going to address how stupid your response was, and just point out that it's a fucking slur and you should be ashamed of using it like that.

Mods, I hope you will delete that comment, because not only is it a direct, unconstructive insult, it is also straight-up hatespeech. I'm sure he'll contend that he was just being rhetorical, but his blustering red-faced indignance at being OMFGCENSORED doesn't give him an out on that.
posted by Drexen at 7:43 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


What about Drama Queen? Is that OK?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:50 AM on February 4, 2012


Brandon, you once gave me some terrifically spot on advice, and I will be eternally grateful to you for that, so it stuns me that you will "happily go to the insensitive jerk side of the playground".

I'm asking in all seriousness, you will "happily" be an insensitive jerk? You would make the choice in your mind to do that, because someone else brought up an issue of communication?

My unbelievably sweet, 8 year old step-son (my son) is biracial AND smart AND sensitive AND a bit on the effeminate side, and I know that (among all the other nasty things kids can dream up to say to one another) he stands a better-than-average chance of being called a "dirty faggot cocksucker" by some drunken Neanderthal.

He might even get curb-stomped or thrown off a bridge because some whackos think cocksuckers are not even worth basic human decency.

It will not be done ironically, it won't be "in the right context". When you get violently bashed verbally and physically for something that is not your fault, that Don't-give-a-shit-it's-just-a-word-get-over-it attitude will be right there.

There is no ban on the word cocksucker. No one is going to come to your house and kill you for saying it, you are not censored all your life. This is just a discussion somewhere on the internet about how words matter. Consideration and censorship are two massively different things.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 7:50 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Drexen: Mods, I hope you will delete that comment, because not only is it a direct, unconstructive insult, it is also straight-up hatespeech.

Dude, you've been here long enough to know that when a specific comment is referred to by other users, it doesn't get deleted in MetaTalk, especially now that several people have weighed in on it. As to the comment itself, Blatcher can speak to his own intent; I'm not in the man's head.
posted by gman at 7:54 AM on February 4, 2012


PeterMcDermott: I would call drama queen, along with size queen, brand queen etc. words deriving from within the gay community that have found common use also outside it, which is a different kettle of fish.
posted by Iteki at 7:56 AM on February 4, 2012


Oh, christ, fine, let's do this.

I did not because you're gay, which I did not know and could care less about. It was done because you're equating the use of the term in the description of the guy in the original FPP post as a homophobic slur when it clearly wasn't being used as such.

We know. Neither David Irete, nor the commenters I called out in the post, nor you in your post above think the subjects they're insulting are gay. That isn't the point. If it is used as an insult, if you are making the comparison between a person you hate and a cocksucker in order to degrade them, then it is a homophobic slur.

Completely banning the use of the word seems is overkill.

You'll notice that the word has been used many times in this thread without objection, until you used it as an insult. We are not calling for the word to be "completely banned". We are asking for people not to use it in a way that hurts their fellow commenters. This is not a difficult thing to do. It just means taking an adult attitude to the language you're using.

The irony is that I had started writing out a longer comment about this very thing.

You should go with the longer post that doesn't deliberately use a hateful term against another commenter, in future.

Some long-winded anecdote about your ignorant friend

Wow, thanks for clearing up the whole issue with that anecdote! It sure showed all the people who are explaining why carelessly using a term like that with no consideration for the people around you is a shitty thing to do!

In conclusion: check yourself before you wreck yourself.
posted by Drexen at 7:57 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dude, you've been here long enough to know that when a specific comment is referred to by other users, it doesn't get deleted in MetaTalk, especially now that several people have weighed in on it.

Huh, I actually wasn't aware of that. Well, fine, let it stand in Brandon's comment history as a testament to how much of an ass people can be sometimes.
posted by Drexen at 7:57 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, this has gone downhill quickly.
posted by jonmc at 7:58 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mods, I hope you will delete that comment, because not only is it a direct, unconstructive insult, it is also straight-up hatespeech.

We delete very little in Metatalk and less so still when it's something that we're already talking about afterwards. For what it's worth, my read on Brandon's comment is that what it really was was tonedeaf dumb-speech and something that I think he really should have given a pass, and I'm awfully glad he just acknowledged that it was a bad idea and apologized for it. Because, shit.

I may be the only mod currently alive awake alert and enthusiastic, at the moment, it's possible someone else on the team will disagree on this one. But mostly what we end up doing in here is talking out problematic stuff, especially when it's sort of central to whatever difficult discussion we're already having. I appreciate, at the same time, that that's got to be frustrating when you're one of the folks feeling most directly affected by someone's crappy behavior.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:58 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


If cocksucker is out so is fucker. I say this as one who has done both and much, much more.

Which marginalised group has a long history of physical and verbal violence directed at it that includes being called fucker? If it's explained upthread I missed it.
posted by rtha at 7:59 AM on February 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


We delete very little in Metatalk and less so still when it's something that we're already talking about afterwards.

Fair enough.
posted by Drexen at 8:02 AM on February 4, 2012


Brandon Blatcher: I apologize for calling you a cocksucker and regret the seemingly personal attack.

Best use of "seemingly" ever.

This is an interesting thing. I was writing something about the way people fight on Twitter recently, and mentioned an argument in which Jim Sterling (a video game reviewer) called a woman he was arguing with a slut, a bitch, a feminazi, a cunt... and so on. When called on this, he argued that it wasn't misogyny, because he was specifically only talking about that one woman. The counterargument to which is that it doesn't matter how much you might only be addressing that one jerk, you are using terms which rely for their strength on a history of violence and oppression of a whole lot of people with whom you are currently sharing the Internet to do so.

My understanding is that no term is verboten on MetaFilter - so when Brandon says:

Completely banning the use of the word seems is overkill.

He is describing a fantastic situation - one which is not in any danger of occurring. It's an imaginary threat. As demonstrated by his use of racist language - in context - in his latest post. I can't N-bomb another member of MetaFilter and expect that to pass without consequence - whether or not I know that member to be a person of color. I can use the term in a discussion of hate speech, although I would (personally) try to avoid it.

However, there is a different standard when it comes to hateful terms being used specifically to abuse other members are.

So, yeah - Brandon just used an insult as a direct and targeted term of abuse against somebody who had already stated that they thought of that specific term of abuse as hate speech. That does not seem cool, and it doesn't feel like something that should be encouraged, or indeed that one should be able to justify as an act of resistance to the phantom threat of the word being totally banned on MetaFilter.

splung: If cocksucker is out so is fucker. I say this as one who has done both and much, much more.

I think those are different, though. The big difference being that fucking is something which everyone does. The whole point about cocksucker as an insult is that it's describing the recipient as somebody who indulges in behavior that, specifically, straight men don't voluntarily indulge in. It's likening the person being called a cocksucker to a gay man or a woman. Of course, there's nothing wrong with being a gay man or a woman, but that's where the word is historically going for its emotional impact.

Words often lose their specific import over time - I would be very surprised if anyone calling somebody a punk these days was suggesting they were a catamite. However, as with "gay" (used to mean "shitty"), it seems like there are quite a few people who are not signed up to the idea that "cocksucker" has lost all its associations with non-straight male sexual activity.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:03 AM on February 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


(other members are = other members here)
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:09 AM on February 4, 2012


The big difference being that fucking is something which everyone does.

Good point. I withdraw my comment.
posted by Splunge at 8:09 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I may be the only mod currently alive awake alert and enthusiastic, at the moment, it's possible someone else on the team will disagree on this one.

I'm awake and violently undercaffeinated, but I'm with cortex on this one - it's worth leaving it up to hash it out.

(Also, I'm kind of appalled. Seriously, dude?)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:16 AM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


"We delete very little in Metatalk and less so still when it's something that we're already talking about afterwards."

So does that mean I get a free pass to call someone the N-word and not have it deleted? Because I just know that comment would be talked about.
posted by PigAlien at 8:16 AM on February 4, 2012


Hmm, reading this thread has convinced me to stop using cocksucker. Listening to the pro and con arguments makes clear that the argument against using it (it is clearly homophobic in origin, it is impossible to divorce from homophobia now - intent notwithstanding) makes a lot more sense than, "I just like to use it and it doesn't really mean anything". Thanks for the dialog.

I am so still using douche though.
posted by latkes at 8:17 AM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


I justify this to myself because you can douche a variety of orifices.

I'm not saying you should. I'm just saying.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:20 AM on February 4, 2012


I'm asking in all seriousness, you will "happily" be an insensitive jerk?

As laid down in Pig Alien's comment, where the choice is either you don't use certain words at all (or at least on the site) or you do and are thus an insensitive jerk, then yes, I'm happily going over to the insensitive jerk side.

There is no ban on the word cocksucker.

Yes, but clearly some people would like such a ban on Metafilter. Sure, the chances of that happening are pretty small, almost zero. And yet people still call for such bans. My particular response is no. Not because I long to use the term cocksucker, but people and situations can't always be neatly categorized.

If HBO announced today that Deadwood would be going back into production and a post was made about that, I can easily see 'cocksucker' and "harsh language" being joyfully used in that thread. The context is different from specifically trying to hurt someone. That matters and that's why people should knock off trying to ban words.

They should, however, be more careful of their use. This definitely means me too.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:25 AM on February 4, 2012


OK, so:

Last week I went through a somewhat tiresome online course on harassment because my institution said I had to. It was tiresome because I pretty much knew it all (I've been dealing directly with campus-wide diversity issues for the past couple of years), I did not particularly like the interface, the whole exercise was at least as much about moving money from a state school to a private company who could not be bothered to really engage with education-specific contexts like Academic Freedom as it was about really informing the faculty about the issue, and it took up an hour during a busy time of the year. However, there were some useful things, and I found a bit of a hole in our policies, so it was worth the time.

One important issue is that there is a lot of latitude in communication, and people often do not mean hurtful things when they use slang, make humorous comments, etc. However, when someone says "hey, I wish you wouldn't do that, it's hurtful," then you need to stop, or it's escalating toward harassment.

Now, MetaFilter is not a workplace, and the rules of social discourse are different here. For one thing, we have thousands of people crammed into a digital space, and it is pretty much impossible for everyone to be on the same page. So people are going to say (and keep saying, despite the various counter-comments, call-outs, and MeTa threads) things that people will respond to with visceral exception. At that point, the best response is to:

a) not dig in and defend yourself
c) you could apologize in-thread although a memail might be better
d) just go about the conversation (because the conversation that starts it is almost never about the word or phrase in the first place, so any engagement is a derail)

Now, for this to work, the offended person pretty much has to:

a) just say "hey, it hurts me when you say "x," not bring out the big guns immediately
b) not think about the 10,000 times you have dealt with this situation before (even on Metafilter -- there are a lot of members and some of them may have missed your eloquent call-out on the term last week/month/year)
c) a little humor to leaven the outrage might help, but maybe that's just me

Note that the above is not to minimize the feelings of being offended; it's just that, in a semi-anonymous internet forum, escalating to full outrage immediately just derails the conversation, will likely make you feel worse rather than better, and won't change anything in a site-wide sense because new people are joining the site all the time (see b) immediately above). A calmer starting point might get the commenter (or non-posting readers) to say "hey, I should rethink that" where as an all-out call-out tends to harden positions on each side and lead to more heat than light.

Heavens knows I have pissed people off by saying the wrong thing here and elsewhere, online and in the flesh. And things have always gone better when someone said "really? did you have to say that" or, occasionally "you talk to your mom with that mouth?" And (well, once I grew up a bit), I got better at a) saying "sorry, I wasn't thinking" and b) dropping that particular term/phrase/metaphor.

Shorter: Try not to be an ass; when someone says "hey, you are being an ass," say "sorry" and move on. When someone is being an ass, try to say "hey, you are being an ass" rather than "God damn you, you fucking ass, you are being a goddamned fucking ass."
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:29 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: Not because I long to use the term cocksucker, but people and situations can't always be neatly categorized.

That doesn't mean there aren't situations where it's clearly over the line. We are calling for people not to cross that line. No-one has called for a "ban" on the word in the sense you're talking about.

They should, however, be more careful of their use. This definitely means me too.

Thank you for reconsidering your stance. I apologise for using such strong language, myself.
posted by Drexen at 8:32 AM on February 4, 2012


Yes, but clearly some people would like such a ban on Metafilter.

This is the same line as "Some people in the Federal Government would like to take my guns away". It's almost certainly true, but it isn't going to happen. Imaginary threats do not justify responses that treat them as not imaginary.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:33 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I ask again, what about the word "sucks"? This is a very commonly thrown out term of dislike, where the "cock" is implied. Meaning something/someone is so awful that it is equal to cocksucking.

I suppose one could argue that "sucks" is so commonplace that it has lost any homophobic meaning. I'd agree. Which is odd, because in my 45 years, as a heavy cusser since around grade 2, the word "cocksucker" never seemed to have an especially homophobic emphasis in use. Perhaps this is an L.A. thing, as per the OP?

What's interesting here is not only are some very offended by the use of "cocksucker", but also vested in keeping the word strictly homophobic.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:35 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


That doesn't mean there aren't situations where it's clearly over the line.

Agreed.

We are calling for people not to cross that line.

The line is subjective, particuarly when it's ""Let's please not call people c**ksuckers."

The comments you linked to are pretty much perfect examples, IMO, of correctly calling someone a cocksucker. Clearly we disagree and will probably have to agree to disagree.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:39 AM on February 4, 2012


So does that mean I get a free pass to call someone the N-word and not have it deleted? Because I just know that comment would be talked about.

I can't see all hypothetical futures, so I can't really answer categorically about how that might play out. I think you could contrive a situation in which it could seem like just a permissibly shitty point-making exercise where maybe it'd stick around but people would end up talking about how they thought it was a crappy thing to say and why—basically the same thing that happened here. It's one of those cross-that-bridge-when-we-come-to-it things.

It's hard to directly compare two different charged words when the history of language is bumpy and rarely offers clean parallels; for all that I think both words are problematic, the level of cultural taboo that exists in practice for "nigger" is different from that for "cocksucker", such that it's hard to get the situations to match up cleanly.

And I'm not saying that's remotely fair if you're in the position of finding the latter seriously hurtful while other people are being blithely defensive about their right to throw it around, but looking at it in terms of "why does this happen, why are people reacting or not to this" is part of the process of working this stuff out here. Like I said in email, I think there's a big disconnect, seen in this thread, between people who really strongly object to "cocksucker" on the grounds that it's some hurtful shit and people who seriously just think it's a fun neutral curseword to say or who thought Deadwood was an entertaining show or whatever. That same disconnect doesn't exist so much for "nigger", certainly not in the US, so it's hard to draw that comparison straight across the board.

I genuinely appreciate your frustration with Brandon Blatcher's comment. I thought it was a crappy comment. I think the context is complicated. I don't think a retributive "if they can say x then I guess I can say y" approach to it is really a good one, even though I get your point.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:40 AM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Crap, I left out from "advice to the offended":

d) It's best to read the whole thread; if a couple of people have already commented on the term, piling on is not likely to help.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:41 AM on February 4, 2012


Hmm, "sucks" I thought was about how cocksucking is so unpleasant, and was free of homophobia but perhaps just anti-fallacio. The term is ungendered, no? You'd never call a woman a cocksucker (or, to be precise, the word is rarely used about women) so clearly maintains it's homophobic connotation. But things can "suck" and people can "suck" regardless of gender.
posted by latkes at 8:44 AM on February 4, 2012


fellatio, with a t. Don't mar a wonderful thing with bad spelling.
posted by jonmc at 8:46 AM on February 4, 2012


I ask again, what about the word "sucks"? This is a very commonly thrown out term of dislike, where the "cock" is implied. Meaning something/someone is so awful that it is equal to cocksucking.

As explained above, there are gradations. Some words truly have lost connection with their origins that they have become pretty much harmless, and I'd say that 'sucks' is one of them, whereas cocksucker is alive and well, not least because it's that much more explicit, and also because 'sucks' been relegated to mild and nonspecific disapproval, suitable for use by children and grandmas, for a very long time, whereas cocksucker is one of the strongest words you can use and is restricted to people who have a very clear idea of exactly what it means. Also, it's the specific phrase "cocksucker" that has a strong history of association with homophobia. 'Sucks' is just a related concept. It's not an arbitrary distincton.

What's interesting here is not only are some very offended by the use of "cocksucker", but also vested in keeping the word strictly homophobic.

Reclaiming a slur is not a free-for-all process. You don't get to dictate the pace at which it happens unless you're part of the affected group. Sorry if that request for courtesy and consideration sounds like tyranny, but anyone who claims that it is has no idea what tyranny is.
posted by Drexen at 8:47 AM on February 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


I may be the only mod currently alive awake alert and enthusiastic, at the moment, it's possible someone else on the team will disagree on this one.

Thirding. Not cool Brandon.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:47 AM on February 4, 2012


Brandon Blatcher: As laid down in Pig Alien's comment, where the choice is either you don't use certain words at all (or at least on the site) or you do and are thus an insensitive jerk, then yes, I'm happily going over to the insensitive jerk side.


Pigalien's statement doesn't actually say what you think it says. What is says is:
Get your heads out of your asses and get over yourselves. I don't care what you think your words mean, you don't get to define their repercussions on others. You either give a shit how others feel, particularly those marginalized by society, or you're an insensitive jerk.
That's outside the traditional register of polite requests, certainly, but it isn't actually an explicit call for a ban of the word on MetaFilter, unless I've missed something. It's not even a call for a ban on people calling other people cocksuckers on MetaFilter, although clearly that is something pigalien would rather not see happen. We're not really talking about a total ban on the use of the word in any context - that's just something sensitive types have read into the discussion to justify their extreme reactions, I think. The OP, in fact, says:
But on Metafilter, which is supposed to be a respectful, mature and accomodating space for discussion, I don't think it's appropriate to deliberately use it against other people, even if they're not in the thread.
It's possible that pigalien would call for the word to be removed totally from usage, but that's not something that was being argued for, or a conclusion it's safe to draw from the words you are citing.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:47 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


but anyone who claims that it is has no idea what tyranny is.

Ugh, sorry, letting this thread get to me. That last part was needlessly inflammatory.
posted by Drexen at 8:48 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


My experience with the word "sucks" is that it derives from either "sucks rotten eggs" or "sucks the hind teat." Connotations of suboptimal or ineffective circumstances, not homophobia. Others may have different experiences, but there you go.
posted by KathrynT at 8:53 AM on February 4, 2012


I've been sitting here for the last few minutes making a sincere, sustained effort to be sympathetic to the oft-seen impulse (here and elsewhere) of some people to respond to a complaint of "X bothers me and is offensive" with, well, contempt and provocation.

I mean, I totally understand feeling some irritation/fatigue with what seems like excessive pc-ism1. I don't share that perspective much at all these days, but I did quite a bit twenty years ago. Which probably shapes my view about it, because it seems now to me to be a bit blinkered and immature. Immature is probably too strong a word; I think it's more to do with a kind of contrary rebelliousness that's associated with youth. PC-ism certainly can be a coercive kind of groupthink—especially for younger people in university environments, it functions that way because that kind of thing is pretty much the next evolutionary step of the kind of social politics that we experience in high school. Growing up often means that these social games just become attached to more and more abstract concepts. So, for many people in many contexts, it's really just about social identity, conformance, and status.

And, well, yeah, sometimes it can seem like complaints about language are just people doing that stuff they do. Ironically, it's not unlike what the linked thread is about. People in communities find ways to play power games against each other. Language use is one of the ways people do.

But, the thing is, this is like anything else. Just because being sensitive about offensive, disempowering language is sometimes (and often, in some environments) used as merely a facade for power games, doesn't mean that it's always so and that all such complaints are meritless and that they all should be "fought" as trivial attempts to control other people for the sake of controlling other people. We can all see that certain racial slurs are legitimately harmful, right? That there's good reasons for people to complain about them?

So I guess I don't understand why the presumption of certain people is almost always that any complaint of this kind is necessarily trivial and annoying and controlling and deserves being responded to with contempt and provocation.

I understand the instinct to fight back against what seems like a mindless majority culture that doesn't allow dissent. I can certainly see how some of the collective ethos of MetaFilter might feel that way to different people at different times.

But there are some people here who can be counted on to respond to every single MeTa thread of this nature with contempt and provocation. Every damn time. And that's just an affectation. That's not principled, it's a combination of habit and a different form of affirming a social identity. Except, you know, it involves contempt and provocation.

1 I don't really like to use that term because it's so loaded in the direction of being reactionary, but it is pretty concise.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:56 AM on February 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


There's a reason why asshole hasn't really caught on as a slur widely used against women...there are some alternatives that have much more power.

Some real food for thought there, that's an interesting point. If I were to hear a man say of a woman that "she was being an asshole" vs. "she was being a bitch", I find the word bitch actually connotes power in a way asshole does not - but in terms of the woman having the power.

Now, that would probably be different if I were the woman in the situation and being addressed directly ("you bitch"). But, said of a woman, the word bitch suggests that we are talking about a person who has exercised her power or agency, which in many (most?) cases means - because of patriarchy - she has rejected or not recognized the man's systematic power or agency.

Example: Two men are drinking in a small tavern and the barmaid says they're closing now. The two men plead for one more round; she says no, she'd already called time. Frustration, and they men get up and leave. Now, a grumpy man on leaving might say to his friend, "what a bitch". I doubt somehow he'd say of her, "what an asshole" (whereas he might if it had been a barman).

You could argue bitch is gendered and it's that simple, but it's neat to consider these words in terms of how much power or respect is conferred in them, even when they're words meant to hurt.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:59 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am gay.

If you use the word on me, I will consider it a compliment.

If you use the word at all, I will think less of you.
posted by polymodus at 9:03 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


chasing: "It just doesn't seem like the word has anything to do with saying cock-sucking is bad or people who perform oral sex on men are inferior."

koeselitz: "So, er - you're saying that you've never heard the word used as an insult?"

Of course I've heard it as an insult. What I was throwing out there was the idea that the insult comes from the term juxtaposed with the target of the term. "Gingrich is a cocksucker." That statement seems to me to have little to do with making a value judgment about giving oral sex to a man. Thinking about it, here, anyway, the "cocksucker" in the above sentence seems more to do with prostitution than it does oral sex. "Gingrich is a whore who'll do anything for a nickel" seems closer to the intended meaning than "Gingrich is a gay man or woman who enjoys giving oral sex to men."
posted by chasing at 9:03 AM on February 4, 2012


My experience with the word "sucks" is that it derives from either "sucks rotten eggs" or "sucks the hind teat."

Really? I wonder if there is any way to trace expressions like that historically, given that their use is more oral than written, but my money would be on a mix of "sucks dick," "sucks ass," and the magic combination, "sucks big donkey dick." (A friend once had a man on the street offer to "suck her pussy," which struck both of us as an unusual construction.) Seriously, there is almost no time I hear the word sucks where it would sound natural to replace it with "sucks hind teat," while "sucks dick" could be added without anyone blinking.

Honestly, I think it's less a purely homophobic thing, and more about an idea that power comes from being able to perpetrate sexual violence -- that the person giving it is the real man, and the person receiving it is weak, feminized, even a "faggot" like in this video of Mike Tyson responding to a heckler (via this recent comment). It's a "penetrating is good, being penetrated is bad" kind of phrase, with all the layers of misogyny and homophobia and so on layered in.
posted by Forktine at 9:06 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Stinkycheese: Well, that kind of feeds back into Drexen's point about who gets to say a term has been reclaimed or disarmed. "Bitch" being used at times to describe a powerful or resolute woman, as a reclamatory usage, doesn't immediately replace the pejorative use, although both are complicated by the other.

This has come up a couple of times in the United Kingdom, because of the structure of the BBC and the Press Complaints Commission - where the BBC Board and the editors of newspapers have to make public statements in defence of accusations from the public.

So, in 2005 or thereabouts the DJ Chris Moyles was criticised for calling a ringtone "gay" (meaning "shitty"), and the BBC Board of Governors ruled that that was acceptable usage and not homophobic, although the term needed to be used carefully to avoid giving the impression that it was being used as a pejorative about gayness or gay people.

More recently, the columnist AA Gill called Clare Balding (a gay TV presenter) a "dyke on a bike, puffing up the nooks and crannies at the bottom end of the nation" (the entendre should be obvious) in his Sunday Times column. When Balding complained, John Witherow, the editor of the paper, explained to her that "dyke" had been reclaimed and was no longer offensive, and that now gay men and lesbians were no longer subject to discrimination, they had to stop expecting special treatment.

No, really.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:11 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Gingrich is a cocksucker." That statement seems to me to have little to do with making a value judgment about giving oral sex to a man. Thinking about it, here, anyway, the "cocksucker" in the above sentence seems more to do with prostitution than it does oral sex.

Yes, if you sharpen and narrow down the specific meaning of the sentence enough, then of course it is not literally saying that Newt Gingrich inserts penises into his mouth. The trouble is that that's not how language is actually interpreted in the real world. When you use a phrase like this rather than a non-homophobic one, you are invoking and contributing to the power of the word as a slur.

Even if it is not your intention, you are heping to conflate cocksuckers, assholes, gay people, bastards, women, greedy people, prostitutes and shitheads together in one semantic block. If the word did not still carry the resonance and history of a slur, it would not fit into that sentence in the way that it does. You can avoid invoking and contributing to the power of the word, by not using it as a genuine insult.
posted by Drexen at 9:11 AM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


"You could argue bitch is gendered and it's that simple, but it's neat to consider these words in terms of how much power or respect is conferred in them, even when they're words meant to hurt."

Yeah, very thoughtful comment, stinkycheese.

I almost digressed into some of that in my comment, but fortunately didn't, as I'm forgetting how to be less long-winded as it is.

But, yeah, I was thinking exactly the same things. Bitch used against women has actually lost some of its power, in my opinion, because it's become more acceptable (or, rather, less unacceptable) for women to be assertive. It's still an insult, but less so and, of course, a lot of women have rightly attempted to rehabilitate it, taking on the epithet proudly.

It's revealing, though, what it connotes when used to describe men. I've taken to sometimes describing myself as "bitchy", intending to subvert both the sexism and homophobia of the term, as well as because I think it's a useful word to describe being irritable that, with regard to men, there is no precise analog. But, anyway, what's interesting is what it connotes. It actually connotes, with men, a kind of weakness rather than strength. The differences in how it functions between the two genders says a lot.

So, yeah, it's not just that the word is gendered. Just like asshole is not merely gendered. Rather, it's exactly the other way around. These words are gendered because of the power relationships involved. The fact that they're used differently between the genders tells you something.

And that's what I was trying to say with regard to all these words. Not gender, generally (though thinking about how they do and don't apply to each gender is revealing), but that these words have power because they're still connected to those meanings which are unambiguously slurs, those things that unambiguously describe who is stigmatized and who is not. That's why asshole and fucker don't have much sting. In our culture, neither word implies a stigmatized group, so it doesn't have the potential for shaming. Motherfucker points to a stigmatized group, but 1) they're an invisible group and, 2) because they're invisible, no one actually thinks anyone is a member of it. So it doesn't have the power to shame, either. It's just rude.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:18 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously, there is almost no time I hear the word sucks where it would sound natural to replace it with "sucks hind teat," while "sucks dick" could be added without anyone blinking.

see, for me, it's the exact opposite. Someone that "sucks the hind teat" is expending a lot of effort and getting very little reward, and someone who "sucks a rotten egg" is expecting something decent and instead gets something awful. So, for example, my friend who found out that her son's behavior problems in preschool were an order of magnitude worse than she thought, despite her working with him at home? That SUCKS, right? But the "my effort is wasted" and "gah that was so much worse than I thought it would be" inferences seem more appropriate to me than the "this situation is analogous to oral sex" inferences.

I grew up in Texas, maybe this affects my perceptions.
posted by KathrynT at 9:19 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


And just to emphasis something: I've claimed several times that using a word can have effects beyond what you intend, and that you should be conscious of that.

I hope people can see that acknowledging that words carry meaning external to the speaker DOES NOT mean language becomes meaningless and anyone can assign any meaning to any word they want, and so anything you say could be get you hauled off by the language police if someone interprets it as offensive.

We do not call a word a slur lightly, without placing it in its oppressive context and history - everyone acknowledges that each case has to be considered carefully. But claiming that you used a word with pure intentions or in ignorance does not mean you used it harmlessly. So please be considerate.
posted by Drexen at 9:20 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I certainly have no vested interest in keeping the word strictly homophobic, and I don't know anyone else who does have a "vested interest" in that. That is preposterous!

It is what it is.

I have personally seen and heard many times, and have had related to me MANY, many stories about cocksucker being used to bash on gay guys. Even when it is used "in context" or with "the right people". Kids are listening, impressionable people are listening, people who are just learning to think are listening.

It's not about wanting to get offended. Technically, I like to go through life NOT being offended, and not much offends me, so maybe it's because I live in sort of a backwards area and my special set of circumstances mean that I take the nigger/cocksucker thing extra special personally.

I would do ten years in prison, standing on my head, for my husband and step-kids. No, I can never protect them from all the insensitive jerks, but I can speak up and maybe those people who are in the margins will say, hmm, I can see where that is problematic.

I already have to deal with people fucking spitting on me and screaming insults out of cars when I walk down the street with my sweet husband, all I ask is that people don't CHOOSE to do this, on purpose, just to say a big EFF YOU to people like me. I am pretty much begging you to think for a nanosecond.

No ban on the word, just a plea.

I rarely get het up about anything except injustice. Consider this me dropping to my knees in front of you and crying, saying "Help me make this world a tiny, tiny bit better for someone".
posted by Grlnxtdr at 9:22 AM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Reclaiming a slur is not a free-for-all process.

Mmm... yeah, I kind of think it is. It's a bit difficult to guide the evolution of any particular meaning. I find that if one's concerned about the power of "cocksucker", perhaps one should really endorse the usage of the word in the OP, as it never seemed to have any homophobic slant when it was used there.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:31 AM on February 4, 2012


"I don't think a retributive "if they can say x then I guess I can say y" approach to it is really a good one, even though I get your point."

Then you are engaging in a double standard, and saying that hate crimes against gays don't deserve the same opprobrium as those against people of color. There is no competition for most oppressed, but I think hate crimes against gays deserve the same treatment as directly racist or sexist comments would get.
posted by PigAlien at 9:35 AM on February 4, 2012


I'm sorry, I meant to say hate speech, not hate crime. I do not believe any hate crime was committed here.
posted by PigAlien at 9:38 AM on February 4, 2012


The word "fucker" isn't comparable to "cocksucker." For example, the Deadwood quote about "sucking cock by choice" would make no sense if if it had been changed to "fucks by choice."
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:40 AM on February 4, 2012


"Cocksucker" has always struck me (whenever I've actually thought about it) as one of those words that has become oddly divorced from its "literal" meaning.

Most epithets are like that, but good luck convincing the more delicate MeFites and those who look for any opportunity to tell others how to speak/act/think.

The guy's a cocksucker. But, I'd argue, not a pussy.
posted by coolguymichael at 9:41 AM on February 4, 2012


Mmm... yeah, I kind of think it is.

Would you say that to a black person complaining about the use of the word nigger? Even if it wasn't specifically being used against a black person - like, calling koolaid niggerjuice - they have the right to say it's not okay, or to say they're fine with it, in a way that not everyone does. You can't just say, "You should allow it because it reduces the power of the word. if you don't do that, you're being illogical." It's not your call. Sorry.

And as has been explained several times above, the usage in the OP article was homophobic, even if the Irete wasn't specifically saying that Zaffina was gay.
posted by Drexen at 9:43 AM on February 4, 2012


the more delicate MeFites and those who look for any opportunity to tell others how to speak/act/think.

This comment has no meaningful connection to the argument going on in this thread.

The guy's a cocksucker. But, I'd argue, not a pussy.

This is you being a shit to the people around you.
posted by Drexen at 9:45 AM on February 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


I strongly disagree with the ongoing comparisons to the word nigger. Each term has it's own history, baggage, and cultural connotations. Comparing one set of oppression for another is bound to be unintentionally hurtful.
posted by latkes at 9:46 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then you are engaging in a double standard, and saying that hate crimes against gays don't deserve the same opprobrium as those against people of color.

Nah, you're reading it too specifically. As a general guideline for reasonable discourse, cortex's comment applies no matter what x and y are. It would apply just as much if we were talking about the reverse.

As the resident queer mod, I'm totally with you on not ranking LGBT issues below race, class, or gender issues. But that also means we don't rank them above those issues, either. I don't know how much MetaTalk reading you've done, but this thread is pretty representative of exactly what happens when someone opens with "I find this word hurtful and would rather people not use it." We don't issue blanket bans on words, but we don't have an open season either.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:47 AM on February 4, 2012


Then you are engaging in a double standard, and saying that hate crimes against gays don't deserve the same opprobrium as those against people of color.

The hypothetical I laid out in my response to you was one where as closely as possible the same thing that played out here could play out with a different word. My point was that in fact it's the same standard all around: language that is crappy and problematic may still come up here sometimes, whether racist or misogynist or homophobic or whatever, in a way where it is left to stand but people talk about why it's crappy and shouldn't be used like that. The point is that it's pretty much the same standard from a mod perspective as far as (a) how metatalk works and (b) how we try to find that difficult balance of fairly open speech-about-speech against a general desire to not have the site be a totally shitty experience for people.

Different specific words have complicated differences in where they stand in culture, in how universally and how emphatically their associated taboos are seen by a mixed population. That's not an endorsement of asymmetry in social justice, it's me trying to acknowledge that this stuff is complicated in the details of the individual words and their cultural context. I think it's really, really worth talking about "cocksucker" in this context specifically because there's a disconnect that's not there for the other word, but that's a fact of cultural inertia and historical lack of awareness about the specific word, not an argument that it's totally fine to say homophobic shit or whatever.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:56 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Scratch that, I'd do fifty years in prison, standing on my head, for those that I love, so prostrating myself on the internet is no biggie.)

Ha ha, I need to find my happy place!

I (think I) will stop commenting now, but to those who have said they were going to change how they think about it, I am sending you a gigantic virtual bouquet of roses and a round of drinks on me. You don't owe me shit, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

To any who think I may be "too delicate", I have gone through an awful lot in my life, and I have always had the guts to say things in the face of being called names or whatever, but I sincerely don't give a shit if you think I'm a whiner. I don't.

I care about my son and other kids just like him, who if this shit isn't eradicated by some damn consideration, will face MORE bullying in the future, not less.

You don't need to agree with me comparing the word nigger to gay slurs. Again, I don't care. I care about my son a HELL of a lot more than anyone's approval of my comparisons. I can compare, because I deal with it. It's a slur when people spit certain words in your face, pertaining to things out of your control while other people yawn and look the other way. I care so much, not because I'm delicate, far from it, I'm just sick of racists and homophobes, and it's my prerogative, nay, DUTY, to speak up when I see something that impacts my people.

Happy place, happy place....
posted by Grlnxtdr at 9:56 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Newt Gingrich is a cocksucker."

I want to talk about this a little more.

Imagine that someone said, "Newt Gingrich is an asshole." Obviously, we'd all agree that that's an insult. It's saying, "Newt Gingrich is so selfish/destructive/greedy/cruel/whatever that he's as bad as an asshole, i.e. an anus."

We don't need to imply at all that newt Gingrich is, literally, an anus, for that to be an insult. Nor do we need to imply that anuses are somehow capable of or tending towards selfish/destructive/greedy/cruel/whatever behaviour for the insult to make sense. Even though the sentence looks like a declarative "X is Y" statement, it's actually just associating the two things. The insult works because the concept of anuses - and pretty much anything else normally hidden under underwear, dick, cunt, whatever - is one that is associated with shame, dirtiness, sin, embarassment, and so on, whatever our personal opinions about them might be. You can have a total hard-on for anuses and think they're beautiful, and still use "asshole" as an insult, because the word draws on the power of cultural semantic agreement. When you use that insult you tarnish Newt Gingrich with the negative semantic weight associated with assholes. You also reinforce that semantic weight; you strengthen the association that assholes are bad and worthy of being used as an insult.

No-one has a problem with that, because anuses cannot be insulted by the comparison.

But in the same way, if you call someone a cocksucker, it doesn't matter that you say you know they don't suck cocks, or that you don't think people who suck cocks are bad. You are trading on the negative semantic weight associated with cocksuckers. You are also reinforcing that weight; you strengthen the association that cocksuckers are bad and worthy of being used as an insult.

People have a problem with that, because cocksuckers can be insulted by the comparison.
posted by Drexen at 10:02 AM on February 4, 2012 [21 favorites]


Addendum:

"But in the same way, if you call someone a cocksucker, it doesn't matter that you say you know they don't suck cocks, or that you don't think people who suck cocks are bad. You are saying, "Newt Gingrich is so selfish/destructive/greedy/cruel/whatever that he is as bad is if he were a cocksucker." You are trading on the negative semantic weight associated with cocksuckers. You are also reinforcing that weight; you strengthen the association that cocksuckers are bad and worthy of being used as an insult.
posted by Drexen at 10:06 AM on February 4, 2012


Anyway, gotta go deal with RL. Checking out for now.
posted by Drexen at 10:15 AM on February 4, 2012


Would you say that to a black person complaining about the use of the word nigger?

If "nigger" were commonly used without reference to race, sure. The difficulty in making the comparison with "nigger" is that it's used almost exclusively in reference to race.

The situation with "cocksucker" isn't comparable. What I see here is a kind of desire to "Keep Cocksucker Pure".

You are saying, "Newt Gingrich is so selfish/destructive/greedy/cruel/whatever that he is as bad is if he were a cocksucker." You are trading on the negative semantic weight associated with cocksuckers. You are also reinforcing that weight; you strengthen the association that cocksuckers are bad and worthy of being used as an insult.

You're also saying this exact same thing if you say, "Newt Gingrich sucks!" Only it's abbreviated for PG crowds.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:18 AM on February 4, 2012


Brandon Blatcher: "Context matters."

The internet is a machine that annihilates context.
posted by koeselitz at 10:22 AM on February 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


I spent my life building bridges, and I swam in the Olympics, and yet nobody ever refers to me as Pierre the Bridge Builder or Pierre the Olympic Swimmer.

So then I turn to fellatio in the hope of getting a catchy nickname.

Damn you, Metafilter!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:24 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think using a word like that is extremely insulting. No one deserves to be associated with show-offy, difficult-to-watch David Milch overwriting.

You go down this path and next thing you know you're calling people "John from Cincinnati."
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:25 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Okay, I lied.

You're also saying this exact same thing if you say, "Newt Gingrich sucks!" Only it's abbreviated for PG crowds.

I don't think so, for the reasons I explained above. But if you do think so, you're welcome to treat "sucks" as a slur and not use it. If you're seriously saying that you'd use "cocksucker" in all the same contexts you'd use "sucks," then, well, I hope you don't visit many schools!
posted by Drexen at 10:29 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


" this thread is pretty representative of exactly what happens when someone opens with "I find this word hurtful and would rather people not use it." We don't issue blanket bans on words, but we don't have an open season either."

Restless Nomad, I AM NOT ASKING FOR A BAN ON COCKSUCKER. In case you didn't notice, Brandon Blatcher called me a cocksucker. What for Christ's sake are people having a difficult time understanding that that is unacceptable hate speech on a website that is supposed to have rules against hate speech?
posted by PigAlien at 10:33 AM on February 4, 2012


Comparing one set of oppression for another is bound to be unintentionally hurtful.

I'd agree with this - to be honest, I find it awkward when a group of largely white people start using racism as a rhetorical lever, because it's kind of unearned, you know? However, without comparing the history or the types of oppression, there are, I think, some useful cross-currents.

Regarding who gets to reclaim a slur - this is interesting. I think a viewpoint that I have only ever seen argued on MetaFilter is that it is racist that white people don't get to drop N-bombs with the same freedom as black people. That strikes me as pretty much the most "delicate", to quote coolguymichael position one could possibly adopt. It's so oversensitive that being kept from total freedom to use any kind of slur with a guarantee of freedom from any risk of criticism or people thinking less of you feels equivalent to racial discrimination. However, although their will always be some people on the edge of sensitivity tolerances having fainting fits about this, the general consensus is, I think, relatively cogent. For example:

Punk - originally a derogatory term for a young man having sex with an older man, has now been totally washed of that meaning. Gay and straight alike use the term without thinking it connotes homophobia.

Gay - used as a value-neutral term for people who experience largely same-sex attraction. Has mutated also to mean "shitty" as a pejorative usage directed usually at actions or objects rather than people (although this is not a clean distinction). Some people see this usage as homophobic by extension, others do not.

Faggot - used, sometimes, within the gay community by friends to assert their social solidarity in the face of external discrimination. Occasionally used by gay people, along with its cognates, to express disapproval of other gay people's dress or behavior. Generally only usable as a pejorative when used by straight people of gay people, or of other straight people (with the sense that they are exhibiting the negative qualities of gay people). Totally bound up with its meaning as a term of abuse directed at gay people.

Those are different situations, but the point is that someone from outside the group insulted by the term (directly or by connotation) can't just decide that they can use the term and by doing so make it less offensive, or decide that when they use it is not offensive, because of their impeccable lack of discriminatory thought - and expect that decision to be respected henceforth.

So, 2N2222, with "cocksucker". People are telling you that they find it offensive when used as an insult, and you are telling them that they are wrong to feel that way, and that when used in the right way, or in the right hands, it is not in fact offensive. And further that it should be used more (by the right people, in the right contexts), to diffuse its homophobic or misogynistic connotations.

Which, you know, you are free to say, and for that matter free to believe, but what you probably can't do is expect that the people who do find its usage offensive will be persuaded that they are wrong when they see a good person like you using it, or when presented with a usage which you see as self-evidently not homophobic (or misogynistic).

People disagreed with the BBC's decision that it was OK to call ringtones "gay". The Press Complaints Commission ruled that it was not cool to call Clare Balding a dyke in a Sunday newspaper, despite the sincere beliefs of AA Gill and John Witherow that it was not only cool but a sign of the end of discrimination against gay people. So, I guess you could certainly be convinced that you were able to use the term as an insult in a way that felt to you like it could not possibly cause offense. But that doesn't oblige anyone else to feel the same way.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:36 AM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


What for Christ's sake are people having a difficult time understanding that that is unacceptable hate speech on a website that is supposed to have rules against hate speech?

I've apologized and said it was wrong to do. The mods have said I was wrong, to knock it off and that it was a shitty thing to do. Other members have said it was wrong and said it was shitty thing to do.

What else would you like to see happen, at this point?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:38 AM on February 4, 2012


I am happy to debate until I am out of breath about the use of the word cocksucker, but what should not be acceptable is directly calling out one particular person who you disagree with by a slur that is used as a form of hate speech against a person who happens to be a member of that oppressed class, and ignorance of that person's membership in that class is no excuse. Difficult, complicated, controversial topics are no license for unacceptable hate speech. What is so difficult to understand about this? Calling me a cocksucker -- TO MY VIRTUAL FACE -- is exactly the same as if he had called me an "idiot faggot."

Yes, you can compare these terms to the N-word. N-word is the same as the B word, the C word, the F****t word and any other word that is used to humiliate, degrade and dehumanize another person. There is name calling, and there is hate speech, and there IS a difference. That's why we not only have laws about hate speech, but they have been upheld by the US Supreme court.
posted by PigAlien at 10:42 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


What for Christ's sake are people having a difficult time understanding that that is unacceptable hate speech on a website that is supposed to have rules against hate speech?

I totally agree with you, and all three of the daytime mods agree, and Brandon apologized. From a community management standpoint, it's more valuable to me to let the act, reaction, and apology all stand as an example of how that sort of behavior is handled rather than make it all vanish. Is that what you're disagreeing with?
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:42 AM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm disagreeing with the fact that it is being left up and that the issue is being framed as, "We can't ban certain words." I either want that post deleted, or I want the mods to state flat out, "That kind of direct assault on another commenter is unacceptable, and any further such behavior will result in your being banned." I also haven't accepted Brandon's apology, because he couched it in language that basically defeated any apology. An acceptable apology would be a simple, "You are right, that was unacceptable, I am sorry, no excuses." It doesn't matter whether he knew I was gay or not, and it doesn't matter whether he had ill intentions or not. Some behavior is simply unacceptable. Using racial, homophobic, sexist or otherwise hateful slurs against fellow commenters you disagree with is unacceptable. I want to hear a mod state that unequivocally without trying to reframe my offense as having issue with a particular word being banned from usage.
posted by PigAlien at 10:54 AM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


It seems to me that the PigAlien/BB/mods thing might be better conducted via email/memail because doing it publicly raises the stakes and complicates matters unnecessarily. I'm not saying that a more sincere public apology is unnecessary or that the mods don't need to clarify or whatever might need to be done in public shouldn't be done...whatever that might be. Just that I'm a bit uncomfortable reading this exchange because it feels like working through the conflict publicly makes it much less likely to be resolved in a way that is productive.

I mean, PigAlien seems legitimately aggrieved and angry. And being legitimately aggrieved and angry in public is...volatile.

Just my two-cents.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:04 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey PigAlien, real question: Do you think there's any difference between someone on metafilter calling someone a cocksucker and someone calling someone a faggot?

Not to say either is great, but I do think there are some differences in degree of offense and community understandings of offensiveness that matter in assessing comments and in what response I'd expect from the moderators ie: "Hey, we expect you not to do that again" vs. "Hey, you're banned" for example.
posted by latkes at 11:05 AM on February 4, 2012


This is getting ugly and it's one of our nation's most important holiday weekends, for crying out loud.
posted by jonmc at 11:07 AM on February 4, 2012


Brandon Blatcher: What else would you like to see happen, at this point?


Pigalien is talking about what the mods could or should do, here. But I think if your question is in good faith, there are a couple of things you can do (from my experience of conflict resolution) which might help.

First, you could restate the apology, but drop the "seemingly" from the "seemingly personal attack" line - you called the guy an idiotic cocksucker. It's a personal attack. "I'm sorry you chose to be offended by what could possibly be interpreted as seemingly a personal attack" is going to look like kind of a bullshit move to him/her.

You can certainly say that your intention was not to specifically attack Pigalien on the grounds of his/her sexuality, and that it was not intended to be a homophobic attack. But acknowledging that it was a personal attack, that feeling personally attacked is reasonable and that you are apologizing for that, would probably help things to get back on an even keel.

You could also acknowledge (a) that Pigalien was not calling for a total ban on the word and that (b) you were therefore reacting based on a failure of understanding. That means you can undertake to take positive action - reading more carefully, asking for clarification - to make for better interactions in future.

And, perhaps most importantly, you could undertake not to do it again, which so far you haven't. If you are confident that you can get by in future without calling other MeFites cocksuckers (or other borderline or inarguably hateful terms), then saying that will again be reassuring.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:07 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


PigAlien: "There is name calling, and there is hate speech, and there IS a difference. That's why we not only have laws about hate speech, but they have been upheld by the US Supreme court."

At this point I get the feeling that this might not matter, but is this true? My own impression is that laws against hate speech are unconstitutional in the United States except for a few cases like obscenity, defamation, or incitement.

Also, maybe I'm out of line here, but it seems to me that you're talking about banning in a way that doesn't rally fit Metafilter's community model. There is, as far as I can tell, only one thing a user can do here which the mods have indicated warrants an instant banning: self-linking on the front page. That's not because the mods are tolerant of hate speech. Far from it; in my experience of the Internet, they are more proactive on this point than any other moderators I know of. It's because they care about the community dynamic, and the community dynamic of tolerance requires that we be able to forgive bad shit when people see they've done bad shit and want to move on.

None of us are perfect. That's why a community ethic of forgiveness, up to and including the notion of a Brand New Day, is essential. So this 'I demand a policy of instant banning for hate speech' thing seems like a bridge too far to me, as much as I believe hate speech is corrosive.
posted by koeselitz at 11:07 AM on February 4, 2012


PigAlien, you are asking for us to get behind a degree of inflexibility that isn't how Metafilter has ever worked. We're not going to put Brandon Blatcher on instaban notice for saying some stupid shit or for not apologizing unambiguously enough, that's not how this place works.

We consider direct insults and gratuitous use of charged language to be totally shitty behavior, we delete it in many contexts, and we will and do talk such stuff out publicly and privately with people who are seeming like they have a problem with recurring patterns of crappy behavior. Someone going on a genuinely fucked-up racist/sexist/homophobic rant or something is breaking hard for a timeout and a ban if that doesn't do it.

But people who are not hardcore dedicated assholes still screw up sometimes; they say stupid or foolish or hurtful things; they don't think through what the hell is coming out of their mouth, or don't get initially why what they said was so crappy. And while we will rebuke and discourage the hell out of that sort of behavior it's not something that reduces to a hardline threat of banning.

I understand if you don't agree with that position, and I don't think there's any one inherently correct policy on this stuff, but this is where we are on how this stuff gets dealt with specifically on Metafilter.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:08 AM on February 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


To draw a poor analogy from my own experience as a woman and gay person, if someone said in a comment thread,

"I hate Rosie O'Donnell, she's such a bitch"
I'd be frustrated and would expect some kind of callout and discussion on metatalk. If the person persisted in doing this again and again, I'd expect more action from the mods in terms of deletions, stern talking tos, or eventual bannings.

On the other hand, if someone said,

"I hate Rosie O'Donnell, she's such a dyke"
I'd expect instant comment deletion. If the person persisited in this kind of comment, I'd expect timeouts and then banning.
posted by latkes at 11:11 AM on February 4, 2012


Punk - originally a derogatory term for a young man having sex with an older man, has now been totally washed of that meaning. Gay and straight alike use the term without thinking it connotes homophobia.

Even though virtually no one thinks of the old meaning of that word, it is still strongly associated with humiliation and being shown who is boss, like in that stupid Punk'd TV show. And once in a great while I'll hear someone use a phrase like "getting punked out" as a synonym for "getting turned out" -- using a phrase for a specific kind of prison sexual situation for a heterosexual context. (And, perhaps relatedly, I've several times now heard women use the phrase "getting turned out" as a descriptor for losing their virginity, which also strikes me as an interesting linguistic shift.)
posted by Forktine at 11:19 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's also the SS Don't Let the Banks Punk You Out, which sure sounds closer to the old meaning to me.
posted by Forktine at 11:21 AM on February 4, 2012


I'd expect instant comment deletion. If the person persisited in this kind of comment, I'd expect timeouts and then banning.

On the blue? Sure. Wouldn't hesitate a second, assuming I saw it soon enough that it didn't spawn a hundred replies and/or a MeTa. On the gray, it'd be a lot iffier, depending on context - it might well make more sense to let it stand and react to it, because talking about how we talk about things is kind of the point of the gray. I'd still definitely make a mental note that this person bears careful watching, though.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:25 AM on February 4, 2012


Yeah, I meant on the blue.

And when I say, "I'd expect", I don't mean to demand a particular response, I mean I'd expect it based on what I've seen in the past. Some offensive comments get reminders and watchful waiting, some get deletions or even bannings. That's what I've seen here and I think it's a good policy to work as if there is a continuum of hurtful comments.
posted by latkes at 11:31 AM on February 4, 2012


At this point I get the feeling that this might not matter, but is this true? My own impression is that laws against hate speech are unconstitutional in the United States except for a few cases like obscenity, defamation, or incitement.

There is also a class of non-inciting, non-obscene and non-defaming speech acts which are outside first amendment protections - "fighting words", words the sole purpose of which is to cause personal harm. That's from the Supreme's upholding of the conviction of Chaplinsky in Chaplinsky vs New Hampshire. To qualify, they have to inflict injury by the simple act of being uttered, and be "no essential part of any exposition of ideas" - so, for example, the Westboro Baptist Church's placards are actually expounding an idea, and are not directed at a person, so are protected. "Fighting words" don't turn up very often, though - the last time it came up was in the consideration of the WBC, and specifically in Alito's dissent.

Otherwise, hate speech is constitutionally protected, except where it shades into conduct. So, punishing a boss for using or allowing hate speech can be counted as conduct (because it is harassment in the workplace), burning crosses can be prosecuted (because conduct rather than expression - it's a nice distinction, but a useful one) and it's constitutional to offer more sever sentences for racially aggravated assaults, again because conduct rather than expression is being prosecuted. So, you aren't being prosecuted for using hate speech in itself, but rather your use of hate speech during the assault identifies it as a different kind of action. IYSWIM.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:32 AM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


[sever = severe, obvs]
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:47 AM on February 4, 2012


This isn't about calling Rosie O'Donnell a D**e. It's about calling another commenter a slur. Hello. Big difference. I'm not upset he called anyone else a cocksucker, although I surely would be.
posted by PigAlien at 11:48 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gotcha.
posted by latkes at 11:50 AM on February 4, 2012


How is it a 'degree of inflexibility' to say that the use of homophobic, racist or other slurs against other commenters is against the rules? If that's what you call inflexible, you don't have a good understanding of how the real world works. Try such things to people in the real world and see your ass get fired at work pretty quickly, thrown out of your church or other organization or get punched in the face very hard. I don't see why MetaFilter should have any exceptions that real world organizations wouldn't have. If someone in the real world called me a cocksucker at church, work, AA or any other organization, I think they'd be asked to leave immediately, and if they weren't, I'd be pretty concerned at my membership in that organization.
posted by PigAlien at 11:53 AM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


And yes, hate speech laws as upheld by the Supreme Court are as associated with actual crimes, but the point is still valid -- certain speech is unacceptable even under the law and despite the first amendment.
posted by PigAlien at 11:55 AM on February 4, 2012


If Metafilter ever turns into PigAlien's church or his AA fellowship meeting, I for one am out of here...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:58 AM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Let's please not also turn it unto a forum where people's legitimate complaints about the use of hateful speech are minimized or dimissed, Peter. You may not agree with PigAlien's conclusions, but you're being unnecessarily prickly about them. There are standards of behavior on this site, and "don't be a jerk to your fellow members" is pretty high up there.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:05 PM on February 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


How is it a 'degree of inflexibility' to say that the use of homophobic, racist or other slurs against other commenters is against the rules?

There's a difference between something being against the rules (which, yeah, it pretty much is, in that we won't let it go without either saying "cut it the fuck out" on the gray, or deletion on the blue) and the penalties being what you want them to be. We very, very seldom ban people, and almost never for one-off bad moves on the part of people who we know are not generally raging assholes. It takes a persistent pattern of behavior to make us go that far. One shitty comment followed by an apology does not make my or your day any better, but it's far from ban-worthy.

I know that it's a really personal thing for you, and I am no more thrilled with Brandon's judgement here than you, but he apologized, he retracted it, and I'm willing to move on. That's generally how it goes here - there's a basic assumption of goodwill. If you aren't going to be comfortable in a place that doesn't have a one-strike policy about this sort of thing, then that's a shame, but it would be a huge, massive, tremendous change in the site to implement it, and it's not a direction we're likely to go.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:08 PM on February 4, 2012


Yes PigAlien they'd be pulled up/asked to leave or whatever..... but how many mod comments have you favorited ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:18 PM on February 4, 2012


It's not a one-strike policy I'm demanding. I'm demanding -- from everyone -- no apologies or dissembling for unacceptable behavior. Period. I don't care if Blandon is not generally a raging asshole. I don't care if he didn't mean ill. I don't want anyone else judging my level or offense or sensitivity, or telling me that I should just accept his apology and move on. He did not make an apology. Anyone who knows what a real apology is knows that, and I'm surprisingly shocked the mods at Metafilter don't understand what a proper apology is. Stop putting this on me like I'm making unreasonable demands, acknowledge not only that I'm offended, but have every right to be, and leave it at that.
posted by PigAlien at 12:20 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm totally fine with that; you understand, though, that we can't actually make him apologize in a more sincere way? If that's what you're looking for, then you're outside the scope of possible mod action.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:23 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Quit being such a damned ninny. Brandon apologized more than was necessary for the slight infraction. Do you want him to make a video of himself sincerely begging for your forgiveness?
posted by Burhanistan at 12:33 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm demanding -- from everyone

Good luck with that. Personally I'm holding out for flying cars.
posted by Justinian at 12:34 PM on February 4, 2012


I'm demanding -- from everyone -- no apologies or dissembling for unacceptable behavior. Period.


You won't - its called being constitutionally incapable, accept it and move on, sit back and watch them try to arrange the scenery ;)
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:35 PM on February 4, 2012


I'm surprisingly shocked the mods at Metafilter don't understand what a proper apology is. Stop putting this on me like I'm making unreasonable demands, acknowledge not only that I'm offended, but have every right to be, and leave it at that.

We understand that. We can't force someone to apologize to that level. We're not willing to use banning to try to force that. I'm sorry, and I know you're upset, and I wish this hadn't happened, but deleting and banning the thing that happened out of existence isn't going to solve the problem. And yeah if Brandon makes a habit out of this, banning is the eventual thing that comes out of that, over time. But not for a one-off asshole comment. That is how we do things and you can decide how you feel about that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:38 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great, now you guys have attracted sgt. serenity, in much the same way those gross blue-assed loud-buzzing nuisance flies are attracted to a stink. I hope you're all happy now.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:40 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like his brand of stick-it-to-the-man straight talk and how he speaks truth to power, not because of anything in particular, but just because he can. Holding on to exuberant youthful traits like knee-jerk resentment of authority that so many of us tragically lose when we turn 17 or so. Fight on, sgt serenity. My inner spoiled teenager is behind you in your war for just because.
posted by Hoopo at 12:48 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


And, I'm not one prone to making "won't someone think of the poor moderators"-type statements, but it's quite unrealistic to expect the mods to intervene and resolve conflicts between users at the level where apologies might happen. That would require them to weigh every statement in a squabble, check comment histories, and then pass some kind of judgement on who was ultimately wrong on the internet. It's more than enough that they tell people to STFU in a polite way. Expecting them to be mediators or something is not practical from a time perspective or really for the atmosphere of a place that is ostensibly populated by adults.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:50 PM on February 4, 2012


My experience with the word "sucks" is that it derives from either "sucks rotten eggs" or "sucks the hind teat." Connotations of suboptimal or ineffective circumstances, not homophobia. Others may have different experiences, but there you go.

I got in trouble in school for saying something sucked. My teacher sent me home with a note saying that I used profanity and said I talked in class about oral sex. I don't' think I was even really aware what oral sex meant at the time. It has been decades but I think my exact words was "This sucks." with reference to having to do some reading over the weekend. I knew I wasn't supposed to really say sucks because it was a bad word. Because it really was a shortening of [x] sucks dick. Sucks donkey dick was a very popular phrase on the school grounds. You wouldn't hear it on TV. I think sucks lost the phallus around the time people were saying disco sucks. That was OK to say on the radio or TV. Sucking rotten eggs (note: eggs is slang for balls in Spanish) and sucking the hind teat were PG-rated versions of sucks dick. Grownups would say something sucked dick or goddamn. Kids would say something sucks rotten eggs or gosh darn.

When I'm chasing kids off my lawn and hear one of them say "this sucks!" I'm reminded of that note I got sent home with me back in the day. Really: at least in the part of the world I grew up in, about 30+ years ago "sucks" implied penis.

PigAlien: Brandon used the term for the expressed purpose of twisting you into this ball of rage. He could have called you a major league asshole or any of a million other insults and it probably would have bounced right off you. But because you put some much behind that word, Brandon knew it would sting more than practically any other phrase available. In a way he was making a point, you're adding power to the word that he did not put there. Did his choice of words lack tact? Was it outside of the bounds of the guidelines of Metafilter user behavior? Was it dickish? Yes. Yes. Yes. Was it hate speech? No.

Your continual demands for interwebs justice is just making it worse. You're going to have to deal with a lack of apology to your satisfaction.
posted by birdherder at 12:54 PM on February 4, 2012


I am aware that I have come off as strident and pitchy in this thread. I feel that racism and homophobia are somewhat comparable. They're two shitberries on the same tree.

Trying to summarize to my sweet stepkid, (and I cannot emphasize enough how lovely this child is) about why some people think that all words are just groovy, even if they break you into a million pieces, is just a heartbreaking endeavor.

The next person who says cocksucker in my presence will probably rue the day, I tell you!

I'm pretty sure I need a hug.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 12:58 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


PigAlien,

I'm am sorry for personally insulting you. It wasn't my intent, but that doesn't make it ok. That it wasn't my intent to attack as on a personal level is an explanation and not meant to be an excuse. That's where the "seemingly" comes from

I totally objected to and disliked the tone of your initial comment (and still do), but that is no cause to make things personal or lob idiotic barbs to make a point.

To be crystal clear, I don't care for conflating the MeFites calling the guy in the original post a cocksucker with homophobic language or behavior. I think it's ridiculous and cheapens other instances of homophobia. The guy in the original post was being such a deliberately offensive person, I'm fine for giving that incident a pass to call him pretty much anything.

Your initial comment was wildly out of proportion to the incident and this Meta, IMO. Coming in, guns blazing and willing to fight for the injustice of using the term and how it contributes to gay youth being mistreated and murdered was an overreach, again IMO. The intentions were good and in the right place, but in the real world, people aren't perfect. Sometimes a person is a (insert insult here) and it just fits perfectly, because they're being such a (insert insult here).

In short, I think it's a molehill, you clearly consider it a mountain. Like I said originally, if you want to equate this instance into sides, I'm cheerfully going on the other side of the island and you can mark me as an insensitive jerk. Not sure how that helps anything, but there you go.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:11 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Pigalien, I think you have good reasons to be upset, but at this point I strongly suggest you just take some time away from this discussion. Brandon has probably gotten as close to an actual apology as he is psychologically competent to get. He's not going to be banned, he's not going to be given a formal warning that he's in danger of being banned.

I came here from a board which moderated casual homophobia, sexism and racism pretty closely, and I am sure other such boards exist, but MetaFilter doesn't really ban people except for marketing their own products in front-page-posts or absolutely egregious, ongoing flame-outs. There really isn't anything more you can do at this point, or anything else that the moderators will do.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:08 PM on February 4, 2012


> Brandon has probably gotten as close to an actual apology as he is psychologically competent to get

Dude, that is a seriously annoying way to phrase that.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:20 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Call me a cocksucker, whatever. Call me a "USian", on the other hand...

Let's just say you should make sure you don't have your geo-coordinates listed on your profile page.
posted by MattMangels at 2:30 PM on February 4, 2012


Well, Burhanistan, you are of course free to be annoyed. But it was the accurate way of phrasing it. And sometimes being accurate is annoying.

A competent apology would not have been followed by three paragraphs of why he was right and Pigalien was wrong, how Pigalien's concerns are trivial, how the guy absolutely was a cocksucker, and it is right and proper to call him so, and so on. However, that is, I think, as good as it's going to get, and Pigalien is only going to get more frustrated and upset if s/he keeps at this. IMO, obviously.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:39 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


(((Grlnxtdr )))

Those are hugs!
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:47 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


That bolding is pretty annoying, too.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:50 PM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Either you can recognize an apology on the personal level along with an explanation of views within the same three paragraphs or you can't. The choice is yours.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:53 PM on February 4, 2012


As I say, as good as it's going to get. The Internet is not good at encouraging people not to try to get the last word - that's the way it works. I'm just suggesting that Pigalien (hope that's better, Alvy) not keep coming back to this one, because it's not, at this point, going to help matters any.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:00 PM on February 4, 2012


as close to an actual apology as he is psychologically competent to get

Talking about people's psychological competence is sort of not cool. You don't know him.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:26 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Let's face the facts: running order squabble feet isn't psychologically competent enough to realize he called Brandon Blatcher a "dumbfuck," but with five dollar words. But it wouldn't be as much of an insult if you used "as close to an actual apology as a dumbfuck like him to give."

"Psychologically competent" implies a disorder, like my cousin who isn't psychologically competent enough to apologize like PigAlien wants. Some might call my cousin retarded. Of course, that kind of slur has no place on Metafilter. So one might say they're "psychologically incompetent" instead. This is the problem with the euphemism treadmill. Your snarky "safe" insult isn't really that safe. Of course you weren't meaning to slur people with mental disabilities, but you ended up doing it anyway.
posted by birdherder at 3:35 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


But it wouldn't be as much of an insult if you used "as close to an actual apology as a dumbfuck like him to give."

Well, no - it would be more of an insult to say that. I mean, it needs a main verb - "would be able", possibly. But once it had one, it would be more insulting, because it calls someone a dumbfuck, which is a term of abuse, like "cocksucker" - it's a term intended to cause offence. And you seem to think it would be even more insulting than that, because insults relating to dumbness are suggestive of cognitive impairment. "Psychological/cognitive" is the kind of distinction I would expect somebody who had a cousin with cognitive problems to be pretty solid on, but it's possible that the cousin is a didactic construct.

(Of course, by that logic, Brandon's description of Pigalien as "idiotic" - as in "idiotic cocksucker" - would also presumably be a '"safe" insult' reference to cognitive impairment, but I don't think that's a useful fight for you two to have. Just an observation on the structure you've built, there, and its possible weakness.)

The reference I was making, just to skip to the end, is to Noel Burch's (or possibly Maslow's) psychological model of competence - here's a starting page. It should be clear from that that this was not a comment either on cognitive ability (as you seem to think, birdherder) or psychological pathology (jessamyn, I'm guessing this is where you are coming from, although it is only a guess), but rather the extent to which a particular skill (in this case, apologizing gracefully) has been learned, and to what extent it is understood by the practitioner to be known, or desirable to know.

I'm pretty happy to stand by the suggestion that, on the strength of this thread, Brandon is in stage one of the competence model in this skill - he doesn't see it as a missing skill, or believe there is value in developing it. As such, Pigalien continuing to try to make that happen would be an enterprise doomed to frustration, which would only lead to worse feeling.

Which, funnily enough, is pretty much exactly what birdherder said:
You're going to have to deal with a lack of apology to your satisfaction.
However, I should not have assumed that this would be a familiar term - which undoes the benefit of it being the most accurate term available. And it was a pretty douchey thing to say, anyway - although not as douchey as it seems with an understanding of the terminology, I think. So, apologies to birdherder and jessamyn for the presumption. And sorry, Brandon. I hope you'll accept my apology.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:30 PM on February 4, 2012


running order squabble feet isn't psychologically competent enough to realize he called Brandon Blatcher a "dumbfuck,"

Oh, I'm sure running order squabble feet knows exactly what he's doing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:55 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cocksucking is animal abuse, and therefore only perpetrated by bad people.

Pussypetters on the other hand…
posted by HFSH at 5:02 PM on February 4, 2012


I wonder if there is any way to trace expressions like that historically, given that their use is more oral than written

I see what you did there!
posted by joe lisboa at 5:03 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're very kind, Blazecock Pileon - but clearly I should have explained my terms better, or found a way of expressing it without using specialized language from management/psychology.

Assuming everyone would be familiar with the terminology was clearly an error, and has caused misunderstandings that have created noise around the signal. Given the title of the thread, it's a salutary reminder that you don't have to be at the level of calling people cocksuckers before you need to be aware of the implications of the language you're using.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:03 PM on February 4, 2012


Tnanks for the copyediting help running order squabble feet And thanks for the lesson in cognitive impairment. I am aware that dumb and idiot (and moron and mucho mucho más were at one point in time actual clinical diagnoses). But your original insult was "psychologically competent" and your armchair analysis of the person lead you to believe he was mentally incapable a proper authority.

But no matter what you say, you're still lashing out an insult and pretending your insult didn't mean what people read. And you seem to be blind* to the fact you're practicing what you're preaching against doing. Your non-apology apology seems to indicate that it is my fault I didn't comprehend what you meant to say. I'm sorry I'm not as smart as you

Anyway, I'm done with this. Peace out.

*I'm aware blind is also a medical condition and I'm not implying you're visually impaired, or to lump the visually impaired into your psychologically incompetency to realize you're the pot and you're calling the kettle black.
posted by birdherder at 5:09 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon: Oh, I'm sure running order squabble feet knows exactly what he's doing.

The guy will defend anything he's said by using so many words that the thought of reading his entire comment far outweighs any satisfaction received by refuting his next linguistic backflip.
posted by gman at 5:09 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Your non-apology apology seems to indicate that it is my fault I didn't comprehend what you meant to say.

No, I don't think that's your fault. Hence the apology.

I think you are probably at fault if you actually did invent a cognitively impaired cousin in order to add leverage to your complaint. That's... pretty awful, actually. But it certainly wasn't fair of me to assume you would know that the phrase "psychological competence" was a reference to Burch's Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:19 PM on February 4, 2012


Right, because it also means something in colloquial English, which is what most of us are speaking. Common problem here, but maybe a good "Check yourself" sort of thing in the future.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:23 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sure - and it may well have a sense in another strand of psychology, also - I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, so my experience of the term is limited to pedagogy and development. Looking around some of the literature, actually, it seems to have a different but related meaning - the ability to respond to stimuli in an adaptive and positive way. Which would actually kind of work, as well, but wasn't what I was aiming for. So, definitely a useful learning, there.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:32 PM on February 4, 2012


not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, so my experience of the term is limited to pedagogy and development

Then why do you insist on hurling your suboptimal grasp of the terms on people here? It's one thing to be some kind of counselor in real life, and quite another to jump in here and presume to be able to do whatever it is you try to do in these argumentative threads. If you step back, you might see that you're just stoking the flames. If that's your intention, then I suppose you're doing a good job of it.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:48 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


(In this instance, it's worth noting that suboptimal grasp means actually knowing what the term means - but in the kingdom of the very, very bright light, the one-eyed man is at a severe disadvantage, I guess.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:00 PM on February 4, 2012


why don't you go find some encyclopedias. and hit eachother with them.
posted by jonmc at 6:03 PM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


And yeah if Brandon makes a habit out of this, banning is the eventual thing that comes out of that, over time. But not for a one-off asshole comment.

MeFi tends to basically a "YAY GAY" kind of place, which is a great thing, but it makes it confusing when stuff like this happens and the mods sort of sit on their hands and wind up erring on this side of a rule instead of that side. Like when pla contributed his inelegant suggestion that people with HIV be rounded up in concentration camps life-long quarantine areas, which some of us considered to be hate speech. It's a strange feeling to know one is protected, but that there are fuzzy gray limits to that protection, depending on who the attacker is, and where the conversation takes place, and who happens to be awake at the time, etc.

It's not perfect, but while I don't even think we ought to aspire to perfect one-size-fits-all moderation policies (which will surely end up alienating just as many people), it's a strange feeling to be able to see that line drawn in the sand -- that threshold of my own tolerance -- and to have to be so vigilant about maintaining it.

Honestly, I have witnessed so much ugliness in real life that all the MeFi bullshit added up over the years barely even compares, but since my standards for conduct here are somewhat higher than they are for real life, it never fails to shock me when I see someone wade into the shallowest, most noxious area of an argument and plant their flag there for the rest of the community to see.

Really Brandon? You want everyone to know that you reserve the right to be a drippy abusive little prick? Good on ya. I don't fault the mods their delicate handling of the situation, but many of us cocksuckers have long memories and we'll certainly remember this.
posted by hermitosis at 6:15 PM on February 4, 2012 [32 favorites]


...but many of us cocksuckers have long memories and we'll certainly remember this.

Which is A) your choice and B) totally fine and fair. Just take all of my comments and actions over the years into account please, thanks.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:18 PM on February 4, 2012


I understood exactly what Brandon was doing here. It is unfortunate that this has led to a shifting of the debate into "how shitty was Brandon" and "to what extent should he be banned", etc. Because that is pretty off topic. It does allow those arguing against him to feel righteous, though, so I guess there's that.

Here's what I see happened. This is my own subjective view:

1) Somebody made a really radical "us vs. them" statement - either you agree with me in my strong view of the use of "cocksucker", or you are are a bad bad person

2) Brandon said "OK then, I am a bad bad person"

3) Everyone freaked out because he called the other guy a cocksucker as a rhetorical flourish

The unreasonable thing happened at step 1. There is room for debate, but as is so often the case in these language / minority rights / racism issues, we get a really shrill contingent on the extreme of the "keep MetaFilter safe" side of the issue that won't accept that there is room for discussion, debate, and gradation of opinion. Their investment in the issue and the argument at hand leads them to this sort of tight rhetorical corner.

I can't read BB's mind, but when I read the step 1) and 2) in real time last night, I was very much "fuck yeah" about BB's comment. Who are you to define the terms of the debate in such a radical way? Why do we have such a limited choice, either accepting your very strong position re. homophobic nature of "cocksucker" or being bad bad people? Given that choice I also select the other side. Not because I really am a bad bad person, but because I reject the absolutist framing of the discussion you've put forward.

"If you don't completely agree with me, you are Hitler," is never going to lead to productive discussion.

So, yeah. I will studiously avoid calling anyone a cocksucker, but very much feel for BB in this situation. Enough with the pile-on and enough with the analysis of his non apology. This is turning into a struggle session.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:43 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just take all of my comments and actions over the years into account please, thanks.

You know, I get that, but at the same time: no. As another dude who puts dicks in his mouth in a way that seems to amuse you, I see you saying, "Hey, remember all those times that I've been nice? Well, think on that when I'm basically telling you to your face that I have no respect for you." While I'll let a string of good behavior in the present forgive a bad past, I won't allow a positive track record to excuse your current behavior. I'm offended right here and now, and even if I thought you were a champ in previous threads (which I don't), I still wouldn't think, "Well, Brandon's one of the good ones, so he can do as he pleases." When people I love say faggot to me, I call them out on it even though they love me, because it's a shit thing to say. When some stranger on the internet says "cocksucker," you'd better believe I'm going to push back, even in light of the "actions over the years" that you're for some reason so proud of.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 7:45 PM on February 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


Saying that people are insensitive jerks is not the same as calling them Hitler. And you accuse whom of making radical statements?
posted by PigAlien at 7:52 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


PS, THANKS TO ALL THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE MY BACK.
posted by PigAlien at 7:53 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is different from a more generic but still forceful insult like ... dick … etc., because those aren't terms that were, and are still used as hatespeech.

Oh really? It sounds a lot like the male equivalent of a female term that is officially banned on this site. How did you decide that one is less hateful than the other?
posted by John Cohen at 7:58 PM on February 4, 2012


STOP EXCESSIVELY CAPPING.

AND MAKING THIS A 'YOU GOTTA CHOOSE A SIDE' SITUATION.

BUT MOSTLY THE CAPPING.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:58 PM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


It sounds a lot like the male equivalent of a female term that is officially banned on this site

Yeah, it's not banned. Basically what happened is that it's now out in the open that a lot of people here really hate the word and are offended by it, and if you use it you're going to be seen as an insensitive jerk. Kinda like what PigAlien is saying, actually, but about a different word.
posted by Hoopo at 8:02 PM on February 4, 2012


3) Everyone freaked out because he called the other guy a cocksucker as a rhetorical flourish

I very much get that this is what happened. It was still a dumb and antisocial thing to do.

When you call a gay person a cocksucker to his face (and you're not like, close friends or something) you are really begging for someone to put you in your place -- maybe even flat on your ass. "Rhetorical flourish" or no.
posted by hermitosis at 8:04 PM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


It sounds a lot like the male equivalent of a female term that is officially banned on this site. How did you decide that one is less hateful than the other?

The answer is in the sentence you quoted: "because those aren't terms that were, and are still used as hatespeech." The history of the two words is different. The way people use them is different. The thing they have in common is that they are words, used as insults, that also refer to genitalia. We are not having the "Why isn't cunt okay?" discussion again here. People occasionally use it, we'd prefer they used it less. Please refer to past MeTas on the subject so we don't all have to repeat ourselves. What people are saying is that othe rpeople view "cocksucker" in the same light and would like it to be treated with the same "Hey man not cool" way by the users and the mods. That's what we're talking about.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:12 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm shrill and I'm mostly a lurker, but I'm a dedicated lurker who reads Meta, knows the players, and has enjoyed Brandon's contributions over the years. But I was shocked by his comment and I'm shocked by the defenses of it. What if he'd called another member an idiotic slut or an idiotic wetback or an idiotic cunt? It was an extremely ugly statement, and I think the relatively mild response shows how far we have to go before homophobia is taken as seriously as racism or sexism. And even if called him something less charged, like an idiotic asshole, my understanding was that flat-out, name-calling attacks on other members was taken seriously enough to get a short time out.
posted by Mavri at 8:17 PM on February 4, 2012 [13 favorites]


PigAlien: PS, THANKS TO ALL THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE MY BACK.

Did they take your spine too?
posted by gman at 8:18 PM on February 4, 2012


So, right now I am feeling pretty confused and like Metafilter is a lot less of a queer friendly place then I thought it was.

Because, maybe I'm wrong about this, but I thought that saying "Fuck you" to another user was pretty much an insta-take-the-rest-of-the-day-off. And to me, calling a queer person an "idiot cocksucker" is way worse than saying "Fuck you". Way, way worse.
posted by overglow at 8:26 PM on February 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


Nope. Dropping in for a sarcastic turd of a comment is spineless. Repeatedly and cogently defending one's point in the face of mounting and sometimes outright aggressive dissent, as PigAlien has done, is actually rather bold. The opposite of spineless, one might say.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 8:27 PM on February 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


In case you didn't notice, Brandon Blatcher called me a cocksucker. What for Christ's sake are people having a difficult time understanding that that is unacceptable hate speech

It wasn't hate speech, No matter how much you stomp your feet. It was a clumsy, crude rhetorical device and you know that. It was a stupid comment, but the worst result of it was your subsequent tirade, rather than any imagined "oppression".

I'm demanding -- from everyone

That's not how it works here. Or anywhere.
posted by spaltavian at 8:34 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Calling a gay man a cocksucker is hate speech, as much as calling a person of color any variety of racially based slurs is hate speech. Your declaration that it isn't does not make you correct.
posted by PigAlien at 8:37 PM on February 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yes, spaltavian, perhaps you noticed that this is, in fact, an entire thread about how "cocksucker" is hate speech?
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 8:39 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


, I see you saying, "Hey, remember all those times that I've been nice? Well, think on that when I'm basically telling you to your face that I have no respect for you."

I totally understand and accept your view.

My "remember everything please" comment was nothing more than a request to take my entire history into consideration. It is a request and everyone is free to ignore it as they see fit.

Simply put, I said what I said, it was needlessly insulting and inflammatory and I accept the consequences of those actions and statements, whatever they are, now and in the future.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:42 PM on February 4, 2012


Help, I can't stop talking!: Nope. Dropping in for a sarcastic turd of a comment is spineless. Repeatedly and cogently defending one's point in the face of mounting and sometimes outright aggressive dissent, as PigAlien has done, is actually rather bold. The opposite of spineless, one might say.

Dude, my spineless remark was regarding PigAlien's puerile-all-caps-lock-either-you-are-with-us-or-you-are-with-the-terrorists comment. I'll tell you what spineless is, my friend, when a point of view has been expressed ad nauseam, and a bunch of sanctimonious holier-than-thous don't know when to stop the beating. When you slip up, regret it, and apologize, that should be the end of it, especially when your character is well known on this website.
posted by gman at 8:45 PM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Brandon, I'm not asking you to resign yourself to your fate, nor am I acquiesced by the fact that you have not been so offensive 100% of the time. What I (and I think others) would like to see is a less passive reaction. What are you going to do in the future to make this semi-apology more than just empty words? Something like, "I'm sorry and I won't call people cocksucker anymore" would help. Don't just throw your hands up and say, "Oops, that happened." Oil spills happen, but companies are still expected to a) clean them up and b) increase safety precautions so they don't happen again. What are you doing to quell this verbal oil spill of yours?
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 8:47 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's a really odd definition of spineless. I feel like you might have sort of snatched at that "back"/"spine" zinger, gman. it doesn't make a huge amount of sense.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:49 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


gman: something about your tone suggests to me that you don't actually think I'm your friend. Call it a hunch. As for this slip-up thing, as noted in my comment above, a simply apology kind of isn't enough in almost any scenario. People who break things aren't expected to blush and say they're sorry, they're expected to fix them.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 8:50 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


What are you going to do in the future to make this semi-apology more than just empty words?

a simply apology kind of isn't enough in almost any scenario

Maybe we could get him to write out all of his misdeeds on little slips of paper and pin them to his jacket. Then he could stand up and loudly denounce himself as an enemy of the people in the next reeducation meeting.

FFS people.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:57 PM on February 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


Man, this whole "I demand you apologize", *apology offered*, "WTF! You call that an apology! It's not even close to good enough! Grovel more!" drama is why I left livejournal. Never thought I'd see it here.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:57 PM on February 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


My request, which he's welcome to deny, was (and this is a direct quote): "I'm sorry and I won't call people cocksucker anymore." I'm not asking him to build me a house out of love letters. "Sorry" is an empty word if he continues to use the same language. You're all so sure that we've gotten through to Brandon and he's changed for the better and he gave you everything he wanted let's have a group hug, but he asked us to take his track record into account and I'm doing just that. He has a history of saying offensive things, and I'd like some reassurance that he knows why he's apologizing and won't go earning another MetaTalk thread about this word in the future. If that makes me a demanding bitch from hell in addition to a cocksucker, then so be it.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 9:03 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The guy in the original MetaFilter post which sparked this MeTa, am I allowed to call him a cocksucker?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:08 PM on February 4, 2012


Dude. That was the whole point of this MeTa: it's probably best if you don't.
posted by Hoopo at 9:10 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're right, everyone. I should have just taken the apology. Clearly he's reformed!

We've reached a dead end, it seems. This cocksucker is going to bed.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 9:10 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


This isn't going to get any better if you leave it open, mods. Sometimes the argument ends without a group hug.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:11 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I never demanded anyone grovel, nooneyouknow. In fact, I said the opposite. I just wanted a simple, ONE SENTENCE apology with no excuses, and no subtle blaming-it-on-the-victim-because-the-victim-was-too-sensitive bullshit, which really amounts to no apology at all.
posted by PigAlien at 9:11 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's safe to assume you are not going to get the apology you want. At this point, we must either trust the mods will address the behavior if it continues to be a problem, or decide we are not satisfied with how they have addressed it and decide what we want to do as a result. But I agree with Sidhedevil -- at this moment, I can't image what good will come from keeping this thread open.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:14 PM on February 4, 2012


From Brandon Blatcher I demand self-flagellation nightly for 200 nights, demand he wear a cilice for this same duration, refrain from bathing or cutting his hair, celibacy (sorry Brandon), that he smear his face with ashes and marmot feces, and drink the blood of a basilisk mixed with the tears of a unicorn. Only then can we be sure of his repentance and whether his apology is sincere.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:16 PM on February 4, 2012


Also, this is exactly why I hate these please don't use X word threads. Inevitably they cause more hurt than the original usage. They solve nothing and they presume much.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:18 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

The guy in the original MetaFilter post which sparked this MeTa, am I allowed to call him a cocksucker?
Please don't?

That's all I'm asking. Seeing and hearing it brings up a lot of shitty memories and emotions for me. Most people that use it either don't care about that, or are actively pleased by it. So my request to those persons that do give a shit is just "please don't."

If that's not enough, then fuck it I guess. I'm used to it.
posted by kavasa at 9:22 PM on February 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


And with this, I will accept your apology.

Was that so hard? Didn't sound like groveling to me (and I realize you didn't accuse me of demanding any groveling, BB, so that comment is directed at nooneyouknow).
posted by PigAlien at 9:24 PM on February 4, 2012


Alright, well, good MetaTalk everybody. See you at the next Saturday Night's Main Event.
posted by gman at 9:26 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


So is there now any need to keep this total clusterfuck of a thread open any more?
posted by zarq at 9:30 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Was that so hard?

I did not think you could sound more sanctimonious.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:32 PM on February 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


As a person who loves clusterfucking, I object to your pejorative use of that word, zarq.
posted by honey-barbara at 9:33 PM on February 4, 2012


I think sanctimonious is the worst that could be said of my behavior in this thread, which is far better than many others.
posted by PigAlien at 9:36 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dude. That was the whole point of this MeTa: it's probably best if you don't.

Yep, thought it was pretty clear that I was ok with calling that particular person in that particular instance pretty much anything.

You're right, everyone. I should have just taken the apology. Clearly he's reformed!

You're asking me to promise never to say anything stupid again, which is pretty impossible for anyone. I don't have a history of using the word on Metafilter, so there's that. Will I use the word again, on Metafilter? It's entirely possible (especially if a Deadwood thread comes up) that I might call someone that in jest. Pretty unlikely at this point, but again, no guarantees.

The pontoons have been put out. If you want to say the repeated apologies are empty words that is your choice.

Was that so hard?

Not the first 3 or 4 times it was said, no.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:37 PM on February 4, 2012


Clearly it is my fate to be continually surprised.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:38 PM on February 4, 2012


So, kinda embarrassing personal story here, feel free to read along...

Straight guy here! Also not homophobic at all, despite being raised in an area where some, for lack of a better word, really bad shit [extreme sad/graphic event follows, warning] goes down.

Oh, linguistics/word choice aren't great in my part of the world either, so I grew up with a pretty bastardized manner of speaking. Nothing worthy of special coursework in school. Just imagine a kid from the woods who tended to lather on the "Ummmms", "Like!", "Ya'know?" right along with a deep southern accent despite personal efforts to curb said speech patterns because I know how dumb/country/redneck/idiotic/low-class/etc they make me sound and what that means for my outlook later in life. Keep that in mind it's relevant later.

Life rolls on and I'm working as a server in a busy kitchen and I spill a glass of orange juice. It's early, I'm tired, I'm overworked, maybe I was even hung over, who knows. I blurt out in a raised tone "Damnit this is GAY." Emphasis as spoken in the heat of battle (as some kitchens are during a rush). It's a bad usage of an offensive word that I grew up with, as picked up from the playground. I'd casually tried to curb/check myself but hadn't broken my back trying to redact it from my vocabulary. Well, a good friend from that summer of work, who was as gay as he was awesome, was working that shift and perked his ear and responded with a confused, and quite possibly hurt/alarmed, "Huh?!".

I apologized (later when the rush was over and I had time to compose myself), explained myself, and that was the end of it. He never brought it up again and neither did I, until now. I really don't consider what I said to be anything close to flagrant hatespeech. I tell you what, I don't think I've uttered it in that usage [unusual, unfair, displeasing, aggravating, not right, frustrating, etc] since. I didn't promise, nor was I asked/cajoled, to not use it again. It was a mistake, I understood that and that was enough for all parties involved.

This situation isn't the same, nor is is completely different. I'm just saying that calling for the ban-hammer, attempting to dictate/judge/dismiss site policy (which has, imho anyway, produced a great/open minded site that continually impresses me with discussions like this), forcing him to apologize the way others want him to instead of accepting what was given as it stand, and/or not handling this with grace might be sub-par on the scale of 'best way to handle things'.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
--MLK
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:43 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


My kid's world will be slightly better tomorrow because a few people in this thread said they will not be using "cocksucker" anymore as an insult, in light of the harm it does cause. What with the ripple effect and all, that could go a long, long way.


If you still want to sneer at that, you might have to be sent back to the factory to have your emotional chip replaced. This thread wasn't useless by a long shot.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 9:45 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The first 3 or 4 times you said it, Brandon, it was accompanied by language that basically said I was either not taking your statement into context, or was being overly sensitive, or I deserved it because I was being so inflexible in making an either-or declaration. In all cases, it was a subtle form of victim blaming. A true apology is, at heart, a very simple thing. A very good apology implies or promises not to repeat the offense. It was only your last apology that came across as simple and straightforward. I like forgiving people and try not to make it difficult. It's not like you are friends with me or owe me anything. The fact that you would keep trying to make a genuine apology, even after 3 or 4 attempts, does show good will, as far as I am concerned, and I am sincere in my acceptance of your apology. By asking if it was hard, I was simply pointing out that I wasn't actually asking for much, although others have accused me of asking for the moon.
posted by PigAlien at 9:47 PM on February 4, 2012


Thank you. As far as I'm concerned, we're cool.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:51 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Didn't sound like groveling to me (and I realize you didn't accuse me of demanding any groveling, BB, so that comment is directed at nooneyouknow).

I wasn't really thinking about just you, it was you and Help, I can't stop talking. Demanding someone apologize the exact way you want them to reads to me like power games and an attempt to put the "offendee" in a submissive position. But if that's not how you meant it, fine.
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:53 PM on February 4, 2012


And again, my apologies for the thoughtless comment.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:53 PM on February 4, 2012


Can't wait to see the beard.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:54 PM on February 4, 2012


cjorgensen: Also, this is exactly why I hate these please don't use X word threads. Inevitably they cause more hurt than the original usage. They solve nothing and they presume much.

You've already said that nobody's going to be able to change your mind about whether "cocksucker" or any other word is okay to use -- so sure, for you these kinds of threads are useless. And definitely, this thread was ugly and messy. But at least a couple of people actually decided to modify their behavior based on what people in the thread were saying -- to me, and probably to them, that's worth something.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:55 PM on February 4, 2012


RolandOfEld, as soon as I saw the first paragraph of your comment, I thought, "I bet that link is about Scotty Joe Weaver". And sure enough it was.

God what an awful, awful thing. That Alabama's hate crime law practically ties itself in knots to specifically NOT include sexual orientation is fucking disgusting. At least the two killers got life without parole. But the girl (who'd known Weaver his whole life) plea-bargained down to twenty years. That's not enough time.

Gah. I hadn't thought about that case in years.

Love everyone, y'all. Love every motherfucker out there. Love 'em as hard as you dare.

(And don't worry about your accent, dude. "A Southern man tells better jokes.")
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:03 PM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


BitterOldPunk.... Yea, I went to high school with Scotty and two of the other people named in that wiki article. I didn't really know Scotty well at all besides the fact that you couldn't help but know him because he was what he was and that was pretty unusual for that time and place. I had friends that knew him and like him. All in all I think he was a bit too much of an outgoing/flamboyant personality for me to like anyway, sexual preferences aside but those who knew him had nothing but good things to say.

Isn't it sad that I'm talking about 'that time and place' where the mentioned time is the year 2000 give or take 2 years on either side and the place is somewhere within the USA? *sigh*

Regarding the outcome for the perps, yea it was kind of a miracle they got life given the laws at hand. I don't remember the girl's role as well. In retrospect I think the fact that she knew him and 'only served as an accessory' played a part somehow. Who knows. All I can do is think of it as water under the bridge and hope things are better there now, but I doubt it very much. The attitude of the locals there, from what I saw, was sweep it up/put it away/don't talk about it. Maybe once the old guard passes... maybe.

Hell even their beer laws are fucked up. No decent microbrews or homebrewing because.. oh wait, there's no real reason for it beyond some people screaming "devil devil devil". Though I did hear they got this fixed somewhat recently. I'm nearby enough to enjoy better beer when I come home to visit the family. Small victories I suppose.

I don't worry about the accent, gawd knows it's made me enough money waiting tables out west. It was just that liberal smattering of 'like', 'ya'know', and "ummmm" that I picked up from god knows where. THAT bothered me. The accent is part of me, it stays. People can take it and the assumptions that go with it and fold it up eight different ways until it's all sharp edges and stick it right on up there....

Back'atcha man with the love, microbrews on me if we ever cross paths.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:21 PM on February 4, 2012


You've already said that nobody's going to be able to change your mind...

Where did I say that? This goes back to my presume comment. Often these threads start with, "If only the masses knew what I do about this word they wouldn't use it."

This assumes ignorance on the part of the poster.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:22 PM on February 4, 2012


cjorgensen, I was referring to: The problem I have with word prohibitions is that I think pretty much any word can be used in an acceptable manner. Probably "nobody" was too strong but it's clear you have a very high bar for this sort of thing coming in -- that's all I'm saying.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:29 PM on February 4, 2012


Also, I would say that starting from a place of assuming ignorance -- i.e., "maybe you didn't realize the effect this word has on some people" -- is really about giving people the benefit of the doubt, and assuming that people aren't saying things out of malice.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:39 PM on February 4, 2012


even their beer laws are fucked up. No decent microbrews

Au contraire, mon frère!

The hops have been freed!

Hallelujah and pass the microbrews. Tomorrow, on a SUNDAY, I'm going to drive to a GAS STATION and buy a fresh cold GALLON OF DRAFT BEER for elizard and me to quaff during the Super Bowl - a tasty, potent double IPA called Snake Handler brewed right here in Birmingham by the Good People Brewing Company. (I'm not a big IPA fan, generally, but I like this beer.) They're the only ones around here kegging and canning beer for distribution so far, but Avondale Brewery runs a nice tap house (I hear, haven't been there yet) and is looking to expand.

So, on the beer front at least, things are looking up.

Cheers!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:57 PM on February 4, 2012


en forme de poire :giving people the benefit of the doubt

Giving people the benefit of the doubt would be allowing the possibility that you don't know the entire situation, not that the other person is ignorant and needs "education".

PigAlien: Your declaration that it isn't

Once again, you're arguing in bad faith. I didn't declare cocksucker is never hate speech, usually isn't hate speech or sometimes isn't hate speech. I said in the specific case here, it wasn't. It's painfully obvious it wasn't an attempt to impugne gay men in the specific or general. It was clumsy and ill-conceived, but it was clearly a rhetorical usage to make a point (regardless of merit) that was not homophobic. And you know that.

Help, I can't stop talking! : Yes, spaltavian, perhaps you noticed that this is, in fact, an entire thread about how "cocksucker" is hate speech?

Being condescending is really only an effective strategy when you're actually paying attention. I know what the thread is about. Do you know what my comment was about? As stated above, I was talking about a specific instance.
posted by spaltavian at 11:02 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Groovy! I suspected... I've met one of the Good People owners. Nice guy. I was a member of a brewclub in B'ham that spoke highly of them as well. Fresh Apalachicola oysters for me tomorrow, but enough of that....
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:02 PM on February 4, 2012


spaltavian, if we're talking about the same particular moment: Brandon called a gay man "cocksucker" in a thread about how that word is a slur against gay men. I'm sorry for being unnecessarily condescending, and I'll try to be more thoughtful in the future. It seemed exceptionally obvious to me how far out of bounds his usage was. My reminding you of the point of this conversation was intended to set the context for exactly why his barb was so offensive.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 11:15 PM on February 4, 2012


Tomorrow, on a SUNDAY, I'm going to drive to a GAS STATION and buy a fresh cold GALLON OF DRAFT BEER for elizard and me to quaff during the Super Bowl

You know you live in a bad state when fucking ALABAMA has more sane alcohol laws than one's own locality.

/damn Mississippi.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:16 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Giving people the benefit of the doubt would be allowing the possibility that you don't know the entire situation, not that the other person is ignorant and needs "education".

Please enlighten me. What exactly is the "whole situation" here? People have posted over and over that they find "cocksucker" offensive, even when used to talk about a straight person, because in order to work as an insult it equates being gay with being contemptible. You seem to be of the opinion that to even voice this opinion is insulting to you, but you haven't ever said why. So what's going on?
posted by en forme de poire at 11:23 PM on February 4, 2012


Hey y'all. Just checking in. I wanted to say thanks to everyone for keeping everything civil in the vast majority of posts, and I'm glad Brandon Blatcher and PigAlien were able to come to an amicable outcome in the end - whatever the circumstances of the initial clash, it takes spine to fix things up like that.

I'd just like to post a reminder of the basic premise of the thread and I think en forme's comment sums it up well. "People have posted over and over that they find 'cocksucker' offensive, even when used to talk about a straight person, because in order to work as an insult it equates being gay with being contemptible."

There have been many comments explaining this argument in a fair amount of detail. If you are going to hold out against this position, I would ask that you:

a) At least consider whether it's necessary to say this word, next time you get the temptation, and whether its worth the raw feelings I can assure you you'll cause, even if you think we're irrational or unreasonable, because is it really worth it if you are wrong? To you, it's just a word. To others, whether you agree or not, it's much more.

b) I dunno, maybe I'm biased, but I don't think I've seen much opposition against our position in terms of deconstructing our arguments. If you are going to oppose it, I think it would be cool if you engaged with it a bit more substantially so we at least know where you're coming from, rather than just being met with "Well it's just not homophobic so you can't stop me from saying it! Stop causing a fuss!"

But even if not, well, thanks again for considering the issue, y'all. Increase the peace!
posted by Drexen at 6:18 AM on February 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Giving people the benefit of the doubt would be allowing the possibility that you don't know the entire situation, not that the other person is ignorant and needs "education".

Please enlighten me. What exactly is the "whole situation" here?


I was disagreeing with your description of "giving the benefit of the doubt". If you want to see the whole situation here, it is conveniently located in this thread.

You seem to be of the opinion that to even voice this opinion is insulting to you,

I never said anything of the sort. I have no such opinion and never did the slightest thing to give anyone this impression.
posted by spaltavian at 7:13 AM on February 5, 2012


It was clumsy and ill-conceived, but it was clearly a rhetorical usage to make a point (regardless of merit) that was not homophobic. And you know that.

It might be helpful to consider that rhetorical device/homophobic insult doesn't have to be either/or. You and Meatbomb are talking as if something is either a rhetorical device or some other speech form, which is a little odd.

For example:

I know what the thread is about. Do you know what my comment was about?

That's a rhetorical device - specifically, it's epistrophe - repetition of the final word or phrase.

"If you don't completely agree with me, you are Hitler," is never going to lead to productive discussion.

That's also a rhetorical device - specifically, it's hyperbole. It's also using another rhetorical device, eponymy - using the name "Hitler" to stand for ultimate evil. But that doesn't mean it isn't also a Godwin, or that it isn't also trying to make an actual point - that binary divisions are not good places to start a discussion. It can be all of those things. Meaning, intent and rhetoric are part of a whole.

Brandon used a rhetorical device - specifically, he used the rhetorical device of apostrophe - direct address to a person or thing. The goal of the statement was not simply to deliver an arguably homophobic term for the sake of it, but the term, and its ability to upset Pigalien, was key to the rhetorical effect sought.

It was a failure as a rhetorical gambit to win the argument*, but it had some unintended but possibly beneficial consequences subsequently.


*Or to provoke Pigalien to lose it.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:17 AM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


*Or to provoke Pigalien to lose it.

That's mainly what bothers me about this. I know it seems to some people like those speaking up in these situations are being all "Ooo, someone used the magic OFFENSE word, and now I have carte blanche to be offended." But really, consider all the times when we have been made to feel pain and fear in public places at the hands of some really nasty people (or even within our own friends and family) wielding words like these. By tapping into that, even in jest, you're bound to dredge up some really nasty shit.

Basically what you saw here was someone discovering that pressure point in another user -- and then giving it a hard squeeze, just for kicks.
posted by hermitosis at 8:51 AM on February 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


Basically what you saw here was someone discovering that pressure point in another user -- and then giving it a hard squeeze, just for kicks.

More like just figuring out what slot one should go in.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:59 AM on February 5, 2012


Brandon, you seem pretty hung up on the idea that someone might categorize you as ignorant for using the word "cocksucker." I'd love to hear a more cogent defense on why you seem to think it's OK. I'm really baffled. If we could have a productive discussion instead of throwing around vile terminology, that would be fantastic. If all you're going to do is continue to reference that blatantly provoking comment, then I can't imagine what you're looking to accomplish other than pissing off your opponents while you grin to yourself.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 9:04 AM on February 5, 2012


Brandon, when someone says something you don't like or don't agree with you have the choice to ignore it, move on, or do any number of things. No one made you use a slur; no one made you call anyone idiotic. That was all you. Keep defending that choice if you'd like to but it was a choice.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:09 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


More like just figuring out what slot one should go in.

Right, see that's your plausible deniability right there. I get it.

But in the meantime, someone had just basically piped up and sorted themselves in the camp of "people likely to be hurt/offended by that word" and you decided to slam dunk one on him really quick just to make some sort of point. You had two simultaneous intentions, but in the aftermath you only claim one of them. That either insults everyone else's intelligence, and/or makes you sound dangerously incompetent as a conversationalist.
posted by hermitosis at 9:10 AM on February 5, 2012


I dunno, Blatcher got called a "drippy abusive prick" and that comment got over twenty favorites. Why the hate speech about penises?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:11 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was just figuring out what slot one should go in.
posted by hermitosis at 9:13 AM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


More like just figuring out what slot one should go in.

So a person's hyperbole gives you license to slur them in a way that you know is pretty much guaranteed to hurt them? Good to know.

I dunno, Blatcher got called a "drippy abusive prick" and that comment got over twenty favorites. Why the hate speech about penises?


I think that's more a shot at the incontinent.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:13 AM on February 5, 2012


Since the other 'offensive term' thread has been closed, I'll ask here what everybody thinks of the term "frogsucker"?
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:34 AM on February 5, 2012


Well as a princess and ex-frog...
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:35 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brandon, you seem pretty hung up on the idea that someone might categorize you as ignorant for using the word "cocksucker." I'd love to hear a more cogent defense on why you seem to think it's OK.

I'm pretty hung up on the sorting people into different broad groups, with seemingly little recognition that people don't always fit neatly into that two groups. I think it's short sighted and ultimately does nothing other to sort people into groups, with no communication or understanding. People seem fine with that and that bothers me yes.

For instance, hermitosis brought up the pla's previous idiotic comments about quarantining those with HIV. Many people called for those comments to be deleted and pla to be banned. I think it worked out better than people actually engaged him and pointed out the flaws in his idea, on multiple levels. Ultimately pla realized the error of his ways and learned something. That, to me, was the best possible outcome and it only came about from people mixing together, as opposed to dividing themselves into like minded groups.

Does that make sense?

You had two simultaneous intentions, but in the aftermath you only claim one of them.

What were those two intentions and which was the only one I ackknowledged?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:43 AM on February 5, 2012


Brandon, thank you for speaking up. I do not thank you, however, for skipping my main question to you: what is your logic for hauling out the word "cocksucker" in the face of repeated objection? You seem to acknowledge that it's offensive, but reluctant to say you'll even consider using it less. From my perspective, I feel like I'm saying, "Hey, you know that gun is loaded, right?" and you're nodding your head while continuing to brandish the weapon as if it's nothing. The word is just as loaded. Why do you still wave it around like it's not? I'm trying to understand your view of why in the world it's OK, because it makes me feel like absolute shit to read you say it, and I'd rather not believe that you're just a bad person.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 9:52 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brandon, thank you for speaking up. I do not thank you, however, for skipping my main question to you: what is your logic for hauling out the word "cocksucker" in the face of repeated objection?

Are we talking about what I said to Pigalien or using the word in general?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:02 AM on February 5, 2012


Both, really. You've apologized for the PigAlien slur, but your apology was qualified by the statement that you'd probably still be saying the word when you feel it's warranted. I'm struggling to see your logic, especially given that your specific comment to PigAlien seems to illustrate that you're not necessarily the best judge of when gay epithets are "appropriate."
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 10:05 AM on February 5, 2012


If you've read this entire thread, it's quite easy to summarize an argument for using the word cocksucker as "Context matters when deciding whether a word is appropriate to use". Feel free to disagree with that, but it's not an illogical thing to say.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:07 AM on February 5, 2012


what is your logic for hauling out the word "cocksucker" in the face of repeated objection?

I don't have a cat in this fight, but... I think your question is self-answering.

The tagline for MeTa should be: You don't get to tell other people how to speak.

God. My grandfather would pull all your ears. That might sound like nothing to you, but have you ever had someone pull your ear with intention? It's very painful.

It's the proper punishment for bickering. Matt... you know what to do.
posted by heyho at 10:08 AM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


23skidoo and heyho, thanks so much for answering the question, but your tone is condescending, and I'm specifically wondering about Brandon Blatcher, because his usage in particular is quite concerning to me. He called a queer man a "cocksucker" as a means of shutting down an argument, and it's an offense that I'm not taking lightly. We're not bickering, we're having a fairly mild, reasonable discussion. Nonetheless, if you think this is a conversation better suited for MeMail, I see your point. Next time, I would appreciate it if you'd state your meaning a little more directly, and with less attitude.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 10:12 AM on February 5, 2012


I disagree that my tone is condescending. There's no attitude in what I said.

You stated that you found Brandon Blatcher to be illogical, and I disagreed, so I thought I'd say as much. I'm not saying you have to take this lightly, but at least read what the guy wrote. That's what I meant to say, and I said it directly.

(And memail is a great idea if you don't want other people responding to you.)
posted by 23skidoo at 10:25 AM on February 5, 2012


At this time, Brandon's memail is disabled.
posted by hermitosis at 10:26 AM on February 5, 2012


Sorry, 23skidoo, I was responding to your "if you've read the entire thread" preamble. I bristled at the suggestion that I was asking because I was perhaps too lazy to consider previous posts, or maybe too thick to comprehend them. I understand and accept the argument that I can't tell people what to say (or what not to say). But whatever the defense, I'd like to hear it plainly stated by Brandon himself. This isn't about twisting his arm, this is about knowing what I'm dealing with. His logic and motivations are lost on me, and I'm trying to be more level-headed about this than I was last night. If his answer is simply, "I know it bothers you, and that doesn't bother me," then great, we've all learned something. But if he's bold enough to use gay slurs, he should be bold enough to give his reasons.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 10:30 AM on February 5, 2012


23skidoo and heyho, thanks so much for answering the question, but your tone is condescending,

I find your ongoing "leadership" of the questioning and debate here patronizing and reeking of entitlement

and I'm specifically wondering about Brandon Blatcher, because his usage in particular is quite concerning to me.

Like this. Your specific wonders about deep motivations and motives, and your level of concern about these things, is getting too fine toothed to be of general interest.

He called a queer man a "cocksucker" as a means of shutting down an argument,

No, he was trying to make the point that "you don't get to define the terms of the debate, and you don't get to decide who is good and who is bad based on the extent to which they share your own views on the matter." His unfortunate choice of words doing that has now derailed that important point.

and it's an offense that I'm not taking lightly.

No shit. My only regret is that BB's comment has completely fucked this thread in terms of the original point - it has now become the victims seeking redress for a direct harm rather than the much more useful wider point about the use of language on site in general.

We're not bickering, we're having a fairly mild, reasonable discussion. Nonetheless, if you think this is a conversation better suited for MeMail, I see your point.

Please take further deep probing of Brandon to email. Or just drop it, if he does not have that channel open to you.

Next time, I would appreciate it if you'd state your meaning a little more directly, and with less attitude.

MetaFilter: You don't get to tell other people how to speak.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:32 AM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


As far as I can tell, the most compelling argument I've seen from anyone so far is "Fictional characters on TV get to use them, so why can't I?"
posted by hermitosis at 10:32 AM on February 5, 2012


Mr. can't stop talking, I get that what BB said was inflammatory. (Pssst! I think he did it on purpose because he doesn't like being told what to do, and so he just blurted it out to make that point, but... whatever... I don't know him or speak for him.)

it's an offense that I'm not taking lightly


Right. So you're shoving him up against the wall and demanding that he explain himself in a way that suits you? I get that you call it a conversation, but it sounds like a bullying conversation. Kinda what I see him being accused of. Honestly, this thread is a weird read. I'll leave you to it.
posted by heyho at 10:33 AM on February 5, 2012


Sometimes it's a mystery why someone chose a particular username; other times, not so much.
posted by gman at 10:34 AM on February 5, 2012


Again, Meatbomb, Brandon no one here actually has access to a BB email or mefimail account.

- He called a queer man a "cocksucker" as a means of shutting down an argument,

- He was trying to make the point that "you don't get to define the terms of the debate, and you don't get to decide who is good and who is bad based on the extent to which they share your own views on the matter."


BOTH of these things are true. Neither redeems or cancels out the other.
posted by hermitosis at 10:34 AM on February 5, 2012


it sounds like a bullying conversation.

Hahaha. Won't someone think of the poor defenseless victims of gay redress? Oh, the humanity.
posted by hermitosis at 10:37 AM on February 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hey guys? I'm not making demands. They're requests. "I would appreciate it if," for instance, is the most polite wording I can think of for a request that you are more than welcome to deny. Seriously, I promise that I don't think I'm the King of Metafilter who gets to decree things to the masses. I'm asking questions, you're responding. That's discussion, no? If there's a way I could be more polite, please, help me. I'm reading and rereading my comments before posting them. I'm trying to be civil. I honestly don't see how asking a question is shoving someone against a wall. He doesn't have to answer. In fact, he hasn't! I'm really not under the impression that I have the upper hand, and you shouldn't be either.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 10:39 AM on February 5, 2012


So what would you like to do now hermitosis?
posted by Meatbomb at 10:41 AM on February 5, 2012


As far as I can tell, the most compelling argument I've seen from anyone so far is "Fictional characters on TV get to use them, so why can't I?"

Respectfully, are you actually holding out for a reason that will seem compelling to you? Regardless of whether these words actually get typed by anyone in particular, some people think "Context matters when deciding whether a word is inappropriate" and others believe "Context is unimportant when deciding whether a word is inappropriate". With such a fundamental disagreement on the nature of language, neither side is going to get what they consider a compelling argument from the other side.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:51 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


He was trying to make the point that "you don't get to define the terms of the debate, and you don't get to decide who is good and who is bad based on the extent to which they share your own views on the matter."

Of course you get to decide who is good and who is bad based on the extent to which they share your own views on this or any other matter. I decide whether people are good or bad (FSVO good or bad) all the time based on whether they believe, for example, that women should be denied access to abortion, or that gay people should be able to marry. This is pretty much the same - if you call somebody a cocksucker in a thread about its status as a homophobic slur, people will notice that you have done it, and might either be supportive or critical.

Otherwise, you're saying that nobody is allowed to respond to stimuli. Making MetaFilter members somewhat less sophisticated than slime molds.

This is back to a problem that the more sensitive members on MetaFilter often have: they want to be able to say whatever they like, but they also want nobody to think less of them for doing so. Whereas what MetaFilter offers, as far as I can see, is that you can largely say whatever you want, but people will be able to read your words and how you use them, and draw conclusions based on that. Wanting actually to force people not to make personal judgments based on your public utterances which you do not approve is not so much entitlement as a kind of entitlement singularity.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:54 AM on February 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


You've apologized for the PigAlien slur, but your apology was qualified by the statement that you'd probably still be saying the word when you feel it's warranted.

Exactly, hurling it around a gay insult isn't right, but against the subject of the Metafilter that spawned this post? Yeah, I'm ok with that. Last night I went to a production of Bunny, Bunny, where Gilda Radner used the term in a fit of anger against a close friend and it fit there. If it a thread about Deadwood comes up, I'd generally be ok with it being used there, in jest.

As a pointed slur? I'd say that's generally wrong, but I'd have to hear a specific instance to judge it. My use of it against Pigalien was definitely wrong.

Or what 23skiddo said.


He called a queer man a "cocksucker" as a means of shutting down an argument, and it's an offense that I'm not taking lightly.

The fact that he was a queer man was only mentioned after and both you and I have written, I was using it to make a rhetoric point about sorting people into groups and failed spectacularly.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:02 AM on February 5, 2012


So what would you like to do now hermitosis?

I'd like to leave the thread and go get some work done.

Respectfully, are you actually holding out for a reason that will seem compelling to you?

No, just reporting back on what I've seen so far. I'm actually not that interested in squeezing further comments out of people, it's just hard to stop staring at such a hideous trainwreck.

I'll leave y'all to it.
posted by hermitosis at 11:05 AM on February 5, 2012


And it's not a gay thing. Another MeTa was started a while ago, by someone asking that the community refrain from using the term "mouth breather" because someone with a deviated septum. In that thread I politely said no, back when I was using a different username. I hadn't use the word before on the site, or have I since. I'm not looking to use it, but do think that the term could perfectly fit a description or situation and don't think it's right to stop using the word because someone, somewhere might be offended.

I'd like to leave the thread and go get some work done.

So, no reply to my question at the bottom of this comment?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:12 AM on February 5, 2012


To those who enjoy the word "cocksucker", I present for your edification, the wisdom of your peers: Your Open Facebook, search term: cocksucker.

Enjoy the intellectual stimulation. Do take note of the multiple homophobic uses of the term.

On to another point. The idea that cocksucker has become detached from its 'original' meaning is one that definitely comes primarily from a position of heterosexual privilege. The idea that this word may be perfectly disrespectful to use in an LGBT space, but is safe to use in a non-LGBT space comes from the idea that the world you live in is the 'normal' world, and that those who don't fit into that world are outsiders, and need to conform if they want acceptance and access.

"Oh, come on now, this is the normal world, we're not homophobic, we're not using this term in a homophobic way. Sure, I can see how it's homophobic in *your* world, but if you want to be part of my world, you're just going to have to accept that's not how I mean it."

The problem is, we don't get to divorce ourselves from the 'normal' world of heterosexual privilege very easily. We're surrounded by it. We're reminded that we're outsiders every time we hear people toss off words like 'cocksucker' so casually, and then protest that "they don't mean it as a homophobic slur!"
posted by PigAlien at 11:35 AM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Once again, I can't believe how much power some of you guys give people you don't like or know by taking offence at things they say on the internet.

It's like handing them a 'fuck with me' button and then pleading with them not to press it.
posted by unSane at 11:42 AM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


You've obviously never been a victim of violence based on hatred against a class of people you belong to, unSane, and I don't mean a victim of personal or random violence, but specifically violence directed at a class of people. This is not about people pushing buttons, but about language that has been used to disenfranchise, alienate, dehumanise and 'other' an entire class of people, and those people standing up for themselves and refusing to be abused any further. Learn about systems of power and oppression.
posted by PigAlien at 11:48 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You've obviously never been a victim of violence based on hatred against a class of people you belong to

Well, you're wrong, so there's that.
posted by unSane at 11:50 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Learn about systems of power and oppression.

You silver tongued devil, you! How could anyone fail to be persuaded by such an argument?
posted by unSane at 11:51 AM on February 5, 2012


I see you offering nothing in the way of actual constructive response, except one statement without explanation that I'm wrong on one fact, and one smart-assed comment.
posted by PigAlien at 11:53 AM on February 5, 2012


To those who enjoy the word "cocksucker", I present for your edification, the wisdom of your peers: Your Open Facebook, search term: cocksucker.

Interesting, I was coming here to post the Urban Dictionary definitions of the word, which are not homophobic.

And really, you find examples of just about any stupid thing being said on Facebook. Though the first example from PigAlien's Facebook link made me crack up in wonderment. He seems to be using the term similar to how black friends might use the term 'nigger' amongst themselves. Strange.

The problem is, we don't get to divorce ourselves from the 'normal' world of heterosexual privilege very easily.

Welcome to my world, as a black man in America.

I was sitting with a group of people last while while they discussed the merits of '70s rock and the various personal fights in Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath etc. The basic assumption was that of course everyone knew all the backstories and music, because everyone grew up with the music and since we're similar ages, of course I know all this information too. Which was irritating,but also a reminder of how non-racist they were, by assuming every had taken part in these cool things.

I don't know if I should have written the above paragraph. I was trying to illustrate that lots of people face problems and have to deal with similar, if not exact issues and that it's possible to do so. But it reads like I'm sort of making about this racism instead of homophobia, or trying to one up you on who has it worse, which wasn't my intent. So do I say anything or attempt to talk about stuff and hope some sort of understanding comes about?

The answer probably varies on the situation.

Let me ask you this, Pigalien. Do you feel that term cocksucker should never, ever be uttered? Do you feel the same about other derogatory terms?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:58 AM on February 5, 2012


I see you offering nothing in the way of actual constructive response, except one statement without explanation that I'm wrong on one fact, and one smart-assed comment.

This is me not pressing the button you handed to me.
posted by unSane at 12:07 PM on February 5, 2012


When you read that Urban Dictionary definition, did you happen to check the thesaurus section? If the synonyms include "homo", "fag", "faggot", and "gay", you may want to rethink using it as evidence that it's not homophobic.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:09 PM on February 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


I haven't attempted to press any buttons, unSane. I've asked you to contribute to the dialog. If you have indeed been the victim of violence based on your membership in an oppressed class of people, then you have the opportunity to give a constructive opposing opinion to the aggressive opposition to harmful language when it's encountered. Or you can do nothing but make fairly unhelpful comments like, "don't let people push your buttons." Because that's not what this thread is about.
posted by PigAlien at 12:11 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was sitting with a group of people last while while they discussed the merits of '70s rock and the various personal fights in Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath etc.

At the dive bar where I sometime half-assed DJ via my iPod, one of the regulars is a black 50-something Vietnam vet who loves it when I play Humble Pie, Sabbath, Nuge etc and gets bored with any R&B that's not P-Funk. But he may be an outlier.
posted by jonmc at 12:23 PM on February 5, 2012


Brandon Blatcher: "Let me ask you this, Pigalien. Do you feel that term cocksucker should never, ever be uttered? Do you feel the same about other derogatory terms?"

I think it's important to note that the Internet really changes things here; that's what I meant up above when I called it "a machine that annihilates context." That guy who jokingly refers to himself and his buddies as "cocksuckers" on Facebook is doing nothing wrong by throwing the word around in private; but now, though he clearly didn't intend it, he appears to the untrained eye to be tossing around homophobic slurs just because he neglected to take care of his Facebook settings.

This is why I decided a while ago that there's absolutely no situation on Metafilter in which I'd feel comfortable using the n-word. It's also why I don't think I'd ever say "cocksucker" on Metafilter in reference to any person at all, living or dead. Sure, there's always context. But the fact that we're on the Internet means that there is a virtually infinite supply of people out there who are willing and able to take our words out of context.
posted by koeselitz at 12:25 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't attempted to press any buttons, unSane. I've asked you to contribute to the dialog.

No, actually, you made a completely unwarranted assumption about my life experiences and assumed I was ignorant of 'systems of power and oppression'. If in your imagination you think this is likely to lead to a constructive dialog, I can see how you might be frequently disappointed.
posted by unSane at 12:28 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I actually think racism, homophobia, sexism, ableism, etc. are all related, so I'm fine if you bring it up, Brandon. I think people who get all bent out of shape comparing the struggle for LGBT equality to the African American civil rights struggle are actually just being homophobic -- "OMG, how dare you compare African Americans to the gays!?" Or, like you reference, they're engaging in competitive thinking and saying, "Are you comparing slavery and segregation to homophobia??"

No, there is not a competition for most oppressed.

Personally, I acknowledge that the history of African Americans in this country is one of slavery, segregation, economic disadvantage, violence, prejudice, and still today getting the short end of the stick in the war on drugs. On the other hand, LGBT people are being beaten up, murdered, denied employment and still the victims of legal discrimination every day, right now, as we type.

For someone like me, a gay, white male, I can certainly leverage my white male privilege to blend in pretty well and achieve economic and social success, but there are many LGBT people of color, as well as many women, who suffer from sexism as well as homophobia and racism.

The point being that all of these oppressed groups share in common that the way their oppression is perpetuated is by dominant groups of privilege treating their privileged status as simply the norm, and those who don't fit in are obliged to adapt to what's normal if they want to fit in. My way or the highway, so to speak.

It's possible to say literally and metaphorically that you can acknowledge someone else's worth and dignity, and invite them to your table, without demanding that they fit into your idea of what they should be, how they should act or dress, in order to find acceptance. Inviting people who are different to the table and allowing them to be themselves can make life a richer experience for everyone.

In order to do that, however, you have to create a welcoming space and a safe space. Language is part of that.

Now, it's one thing to extend this analogy to the dinner table, which is part of our private residence. However, the problem becomes when you start to talk about society and the law, etc. The white people and the heterosexual people and the abled people in our society don't get to collectively say, "well, this whole country is basically our dinner table because we're the majority, and if you want to feel welcome at our table, you have to fit in to *our* culture, the way we talk and act and dress and behave."

This is our country too, and fighting against this expression of privilege is a very tough fight. No one wants to give up the idea that they get to define what's normal. We have the right to demand that this country is a safe and welcoming place for all of its citizens.

If you want to use the word cocksucker in the privacy of your house with friends that you know won't be offended, knock yourself out. If you go to the store, or a restaurant, or the classroom, or an internet forum where you don't know everyone around you, then you need to stop and ask yourself before you speak how the things you say might affect those around you. And, in so far as what you say contributes to the privilege of yourself as a heterosexual, or a male, or an able bodied person, you also need to check yourself. Do you want the personal space you create around yourself to be a welcoming and safe one, or not?
posted by PigAlien at 12:39 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can point your finger at me for not contributing to constructive dialog, unSane, but you can point the finger at yourself as well. Regardless of whether my original statement was constructive or not, I have attempted to follow it up with constructive dialog. You have not.
posted by PigAlien at 12:40 PM on February 5, 2012


I was coming here to post the Urban Dictionary definitions of the word, which are not homophobic.

MeFi Flashback: Remember that Very Special Episode when we all learned that the insult "pussy" had nothing whatsoever to do with vaginas?

When you read that Urban Dictionary definition, did you happen to check the thesaurus section? If the synonyms include "homo", "fag", "faggot", and "gay", you may want to rethink using it as evidence that it's not homophobic.

LOLLLLL
posted by hermitosis at 12:53 PM on February 5, 2012


Weren't you leaving to get some work done?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:58 PM on February 5, 2012


Yeah, damn that recent activity feed. Okay, for real this time.
posted by hermitosis at 1:02 PM on February 5, 2012


stop and ask yourself before you speak how the things you say might affect those around you

Things like "I see you offering nothing in the way of actual constructive response, except one statement without explanation that I'm wrong on one fact, and one smart-assed comment" might affect those around you, too.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:02 PM on February 5, 2012


23skidoo... nothing in what I said has any oppressive baggage. I am perfectly entitled to offend people, so long as I'm not actually participating in their oppression. That's where I draw the moral line. I don't need to please everyone, but I sure am not going to contribute to their marginalization as part of a whole class of people. Individuals? Hell yeah, I'll piss some off.
posted by PigAlien at 1:07 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe pigalien, you should take a chill pill on this one. People have apologised, explained themselves and been remarkably level headed in the face of utter contempt from you and a small number of holier-than-thous.

I'm amazed BB is still trying to talk sensibly about this. Considering just how disrespectful people have been to him. I would have flamed out days ago.

Personally, cocksucker was never a homophobic taunt to me unless it was specifically applied to someone with the intent of demeaning them for their sexuality. I understand it may upset you, but it may be nice to attempt to place common words in a framework of intent.

Its not in my vocabulary, and I'd never have used it before, but I am tempted to start calling people cocksuckers.
posted by seanyboy at 1:13 PM on February 5, 2012


Even though the sentence looks like a declarative "X is Y" statement, it's actually just associating the two things. The insult works because the concept of anuses - and pretty much anything else normally hidden under underwear, dick, cunt, whatever - is one that is associated with shame, dirtiness, sin, embarassment, and so on, whatever our personal opinions about them might be.

Drexen, you were so close here to coming to exactly my understanding of the word "cocksucker" and then you veered off in the other direction completely. See, this is the thing: as lots of people have pointed out already in this thread, "cocksucker" tends to be the last insult you'd apply to someone who actually sucked your cock. And most of us with cocks tend to find having them sucked extremely enjoyable. The insult itself is not so much about the verb, but the noun, cock - one of those things normally hidden under underwear, something inherently dirty and filthy, as you say. "Cocksucker," to me (and I am by no means asserting that my interpretation is or should be universal; just that my interpretation exists) is just like "assmuncher" or "turdlicker"; it's not trading on homosexuality=bad so much as "putting your mouth on something filthy/taboo"=bad.

Take the famous Deadwood line "sucks cock by choice" - if you really take a strict "cocksucker=homosexual" interpretation, it doesn't parse all that well and is actually sort of redundant. If instead you take it as "you put your mouth on dirty/filthy/taboo things voluntarily" it is actually adding more force to the depravity, and to me, makes more sense.

I'm not one to tell people that they should or shouldn't be offended by something; you have every right to be offended by the term. But I do think there are ways of using it that don't really touch on homosexuality; "penises are shameful/sinful" is not predicated on homosexuality being bad and if anything the reverse seems more true, so drawing a bright line in the sand and saying "us" or "them" isn't really accurate, let alone helpful. (I also feel compelled to point out that "Cocksuckers", completely divorced of definition, is just a fun sound to make with your mouth.)

Also, while there are definitely some regional variations that are kind of getting glossed over in this thread, "sucks" is totally an abbreviation for "sucks dick". Growing up in New England that was particularly clear. You want to mix it up a little, add some poetic flourishes, you'd vary the word choice a little - "sucks a giant bag of dicks" when just one dick isn't sufficiently bad; "choke on a box of cocks" when you want to get that fun little box/cocks rhyme in there, sucks when you've got some creative euphemism for penis that you just learned and are dying to use. Now I'm not an expert but I'm fairly sure that gay men do not in fact run down to Sam's Club and pick up large boxes and/or bags of penises and that these, as insults, have more to do with the basic puritanical idea "dicks=bad" than they do with homophobia. ("Sucks rotten eggs" also makes more sense as the cleaned-up equivalent when "rotten eggs" are just another bad thing and not an odd euphemism for something homosexual.) Anyways, I'm pretty sure it'll be a cold day in hell when MeFites are willing to stop saying "Your favorite ______ sucks" so pushing for less use of "_____ sucks" is pretty much a non-starter.

Really this all gets to the fact that when you pull 'em apart and deconstruct them, virtually 99% of all American English insults amount to "You are not a proper upstanding white Puritan male" by pointing out some specific way in which the subject fails to be a proper upstanding white Puritan male. "You associate with things a proper Puritan would never associate with," "You consort yourself in ways a proper Puritan never would," etc.. Considering almost nobody in this day and age really still holds up Puritanism as the ideal it's sort of amazing how much power the insults can still have. (This is also why British insults are generally so much more awesome.)

tl;dr - "dicks = bad" is not the same as "gays = bad" though they are related via a general sort of latent Puritanism. And Puritanism should go suck on a giant bowl of dicks.

posted by mstokes650 at 1:21 PM on February 5, 2012


People with privilege generally don't see their privilege, it's invisible to them, seanyboy. When those without privilege try to point that out, they're generally called holier-than-thous, too sensitive, politically correct, and any number of terms used to further disenfranchise and marginalize them. BB and I have made our amends. If you actually read what I've written, you'll see I responded to his question quite reasonably. Usually, reasonable responses to unearned privilege are seen as shrill by those with privilege. I was once in your position myself. I saw the light. I got offended many times in the process and called people the same things you have just called me and others in this thread. Perhaps your time will come, perhaps it won't, but I'm not going to back down just because someone might call me holier-than-thou.
posted by PigAlien at 1:24 PM on February 5, 2012


I really, really don't understand the impulse that people seem to have around being told, "Hey, it hurts me when you do X" and then responding with, "Oh, yeah? Fuck you, you can't tell me what to do! I'm gonna fucking do exactly what you just asked me not to just to prove that I can."

It's like, when you find out that someone is allergic to something, do you intentionally slip it in their food? Do you go around punching people who are injured?
posted by overglow at 1:26 PM on February 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


mstokes650, your explanation comes off way worse than you intend. You basically just gave a description of how the sex acts that I engage in with my boyfriend are dirty and shameful. Seriously, reread that through the eyes of someone who regularly actually does suck cock by choice. Using that as an insult is an active, specific reference to the idea that what I do is worthy of shame and scorn. Reading your long, clinical explanation of why it's filthy was pretty degrading.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 1:41 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Like, you literally said that it equates with eating shit.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 1:43 PM on February 5, 2012


Its not in my vocabulary, and I'd never have used it before, but I am tempted to start calling people cocksuckers.

Yeah, awesome.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 1:47 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think it's very strange that people are saying things like...

"personally, cocksucker was never a homophobic taunt to me unless it was specifically applied to someone with the intent of demeaning them for their sexuality."

and

"See, this is the thing: as lots of people have pointed out already in this thread, "cocksucker" tends to be the last insult you'd apply to someone who actually sucked your cock."

...as if that proves that it's not a homophobic slur when, in fact, it proves exactly the opposite.

The whole dustup between Brandon and PigAlien is an example of this. Brandon was being provocative to make a rhetorical point, not realizing that PigAlen was gay. Once that was revealed, it changed the entire dynamic of the situation. Almost everyone here, including Brandon, seems to agree that because PigAlien is actually a gay man, that it made using cocksucker, even in a way that wasn't very specifically malicious (though it was provocative), beyond the pale.

All of this proves, not disproves, that cocksucker is a homophobic slur. If it were truly a generic slur, then it wouldn't have any special power when used against a gay man. But if it's not merely a generic slur, then its power derives from the association it makes to that specific usage.

I totally missed that women bloggers and misogyny thread and the discussion of pussy that hermitosis linked to above. Yes, it was absurd that someone would attempt to argue that using pussy as an insult did not in any way have a derogatory association with women and weakness. Of course it does. And of course cocksucker is intended to allude to gay men.

Again, if you find that you're reluctant to call a gay man a cocksucker, but are otherwise comfortable using the term about other people, then that should tell you something about what the word actually means to you. Not just to other people, but to you. It has associations even in your own mind that you may not be thinking about when you use the term, but they're definitely there. Otherwise you'd be comfortable using the term against gay men.

You can't have it both ways: it's either a harmless, generic term, or it's not. If you can see that it sometimes isn't harmless and generic, then you should be prepared to accept the possibility that your determination of when it is and isn't is unlikely to be infallible, especially if you've not actually spent time and effort trying to figure this out.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:54 PM on February 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


Seanyboy: I would have flamed out days ago.

Patience, young prince. Your day will come.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:59 PM on February 5, 2012


Like, you literally said that it equates with eating shit.

Did you make it all the way to the last paragraph there? The part where I talk about how basically absurd old Puritan ideals are? I'm not sure how much more clear I can make it that I think the idea that cocks=bad is an archaic and stupid idea. Like Drexen, I'm not actually judging whether everything we conceive of as shameful/sinful/gross actually is; just observing that's at the roots of almost all the insults we use. The notion of "penises as shameful" has nothing at all do with homosexuality and it is not necessary to enjoy sucking cocks to have felt that puritanical social weight. Moreover, you can literally find-and-replace every instance of "cock" or "dick" in my post with "vagina" or "pussy" and my argument would be totally unchanged (except that I've never actually heard anyone use "pussysucker" as a word, but you know, if they did, and it were a thing). Sex and sex organs are shameful/filthy/taboo in our puritanism-addled culture whether you're gay or not.

Try re-reading it as someone who takes it as a given that cocks are not actually a bad or shameful thing. And if you don't take that as a given, why don't you?
posted by mstokes650 at 2:01 PM on February 5, 2012


I don't take it as a given because people use "cocksucker" as an insult and not a compliment.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 2:02 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


23skidoo... nothing in what I said has any oppressive baggage. I am perfectly entitled to offend people, so long as I'm not actually participating in their oppression. That's where I draw the moral line. I don't need to please everyone, but I sure am not going to contribute to their marginalization as part of a whole class of people. Individuals? Hell yeah, I'll piss some off.

Yeah, but I'm not talking about your own moral line. I'm talking about getting people to listen to you. Saying "think about the way you talk to others" is less likely to be taken seriously if you add "but I'll talk to others however I please".
posted by 23skidoo at 2:15 PM on February 5, 2012


I don't take it as a given because people use "cocksucker" as an insult and not a compliment.

Because centuries of Puritan ideals are hard to shake off in a decade or three. That's basically my point: if we lived in a country where there was nothing shameful about penises, even if being gay were still a taboo, do you think "cocksucker" would still be a powerful insult? I don't.
posted by mstokes650 at 2:19 PM on February 5, 2012


mstokes650, if the insult were just about penises, then why wouldn't we just call each other cocks? You're ignoring the "sucker" part of the word. You're not saying it's shameful to have a penis, you're saying it's shameful to suck them. The term isn't "genital sucker," it's not "shit sucker" (though that gets said), it's not "person-with-a-cock." It's specific. It's about the idea, precisely, that sucking cock by choice is bad. It's something that is pretty much only said to men, meaning that men who suck cock by choice must be terrible. If "men who suck cock by choice" isn't referring to gay men, then I must be way out of touch. I understand that you personally feel that all the Puritanical bullshit associated with sex is problematic and should be undone. We agree. But that history, while it plays into the discussion, isn't totally relevant when the reference is so specific.

And to answer your question: if the history of genital shame were removed, then the slur would be even more homophobic, because then there wouldn't be any penis hatred involved. The "cock" part would be completely acceptable, making the "sucker" an even deeper offense.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 2:25 PM on February 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


And on that note, I'm off to a Super Bowl party. I hope I have the strength not to return to this page before bed.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 2:26 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


then why wouldn't we just call each other cocks?

...Wait, you don't ever just call someone a cock? Or a dick? Whoa, I feel like I just stepped into an alternate universe here.
posted by mstokes650 at 2:29 PM on February 5, 2012


Dude, I understand that "dick" exists as a separate insult. Give me a little credit. We're discussing something different though. If "cock" and "cocksucker" are two separate terms, then what does each one refer to? The first refers to my genitalia. The second refers to what I do to someone else's genitalia. Therein lies the problem.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 2:32 PM on February 5, 2012


So, Help, would you break down your use of "fucker" vs. "motherfucker" in any given situation the same way? The one refers to sex, the other refers to sex with peoples' mothers. Does that decide your use of one or the other?
posted by mstokes650 at 2:35 PM on February 5, 2012


mstokes650, I think you're totally right that part of the power of "cocksucker" comes from the idea that penises are dirty and sinful. But I don't think that means that it's not also homophobic. Does that make sense? It's not an either/or but a both/and.

I mean, I think you could make the argument that one of the roots of homophobia is because homosex isn't about procreation. There's no excuse of "we need to make babies so it's okay that we're doing this kind of sinful thing". It's all about the pleasure (and the relationship-building/intimacy of course too.) So the idea that bodies/sex are sinful and the idea that queer people are sinful/gross/wrong/evil are not mutually incompatible. They're pieces of the same dysfunction.
posted by overglow at 2:45 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a point where the language of privilege is used, not to re-enfranchise those who need it, but to create social status amongst the people who have read a couple of sociology books. We passed that point such a long fucking time ago, I'm actually tired of being tired about it.

There's only a small number of people who do it, and you probably don't even know who you are (such is your endless supply of self denial), but your insistent & tiresome use of the tropes of disenfranchisement for your own tiny political ends is damaging to proper conversations about how we can act towards each other.

I'm 100% for not maginalising people, but you can only use that aspect of my personality for so long. You're not a super wise cheddar who has seen the light. The fact is, you constantly manage to make people feel smaller than they should be. You abuse the language of reconciliation, and you hide that abuse in an academic language that deliberately confuses.

What makes me most fucking annoyed is the fact that I have no idea anymore who is actually trying to get equality and who is just using it in a self-serving way that actually reduces equality.
posted by seanyboy at 2:48 PM on February 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


Let's look at that actually. The reason motherfucker works as an insult is because men who duck their mothers are socially unacceptable. We don't shun mothers, we shun motherfuckers. I think the same concept applies to cocksucker. We like cocks. We don't like dudes who suck them.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 2:49 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Moreover, you can literally find-and-replace every instance of "cock" or "dick" in my post with "vagina" or "pussy" and my argument would be totally unchanged (except that I've never actually heard anyone use "pussysucker" as a word, but you know, if they did, and it were a thing)

Veering off, but that feels like quite a useful note. For whatever reason, there aren't really any common terms of abuse about the ladyparts equivalent*. Likewise, you don't really get any insults about having sex with women (unless you are a woman, of course). Whereas there are plenty of insults about being like a woman's genitals - the equivalent of "cock" or "dick". And, also interesting, for whatever reason they seem to go up to 11 on the rudeness scale, whereas "cock", "dick" and "prick" are, although not suitable for dinner table conversation, also not really that offensive.

So... I think you're onto something, definitely, but (on preview), I think overglow is also onto something - it's like venn diagrams overlapping.



*The name of my prog covers band.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:49 PM on February 5, 2012


I agree with your second paragraph completely, overglow; I just think it's, well, one of those squares are always rectangles but rectangles aren't always squares type of situations. If we made a Venn diagram, there'd be a big circle for "sex is sinful" and completely inside it, there'd be two smaller circles, the "homosexuality is bad" circle and the "cocksuckers are bad" circle. The two circles overlap, sure, but cocksucker is not completely contained inside the "homosexuality is bad" circle.

on preview: yeah, running order squabble fest and I seem to be sort of on the same wavelength here.
posted by mstokes650 at 2:51 PM on February 5, 2012


running order squabble fest: I've asked you privately to not engage with me personally. I've explained to you that you make me quite uncomfortable. You may have forgotten this, but I'll say it again publically. Leave me the fuck alone. You probably don't realise this, but you actually & literally scare me. I know we share the same social space but I don't want to personally engage with you at all. This is the last I'm going to say on the matter.
posted by seanyboy at 2:54 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, that was surreal.

And it's the holier-than-thou people who are supposed to be too sensitive?
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:58 PM on February 5, 2012


If we made a Venn diagram, there'd be a big circle for "sex is sinful"

Much earlier in the thread, there were a few comments suggesting that the root is not the sex-is-bad thing but a complex about sexuality and domination. See the last paragraph of this comment of Forktine's, for example.

That theory seems to me to explain a lot more.

In the alarming video of Mike Tyson that Forktine linked, for example, it seems clear that his message is "I AM MORE POWERFUL THAN YOU" and not "YOU ARE FILTHY".
posted by stebulus at 3:24 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


And now the surprise has subsided: Seanyboy, I genuinely don't know what your problem is here. You seem to get very upset about things. And you seem to get particularly upset when you are challenged or corrected - like this micro-flame-out about describing women who disagreed with you as "first year feminists":
First Year Feminists was wrong. It wasn't strong enough. With the odd exception, this entire thing is a cargo culted discussion taken to a ridiculous, over-liberalised and sanctimonious extreme.

Fucking idiots.
Now, that's pretty scary. Oh, and I see you're back on that drum with "a couple of sociology books", upthread. Must be a thing for you.

If you feel I represent some sort of threat to you by being one of the number of people who have pointed out in the past when you have said idiotic things, that's fine - contact the mods, start a MeTa, whatever you like. Or killfile me, so you don't have to see my scary words on the Internet. But you don't get to demand that I don't "engage with you personally". Because you are not Louis XIV, King of France.

If you say things on MetaFilter, there is kind of an understanding that people will read those things and might respond to them - that's actually a lot of what MetaFilter is. If you decide to turn up late in a thread and describe people who have participated thus far as "holier-than-thous", then don't then scream with fear when somebody you just dissed in the thread responds to you.

Now, it may be that I am wrong about this - that you do get to drive by threads insulting people (myself included), but that your feelings need to be protected from responses. In which case, talk to the mods, start a MeTa, whatever works for you. But, no, you don't get to decide who is allowed to talk to you. Your damage is not my problem.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:31 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


mstokes650: “See, this is the thing: as lots of people have pointed out already in this thread, ‘cocksucker’ tends to be the last insult you'd apply to someone who actually sucked your cock. And most of us with cocks tend to find having them sucked extremely enjoyable. The insult itself is not so much about the verb, but the noun, cock - one of those things normally hidden under underwear, something inherently dirty and filthy, as you say. ‘Cocksucker,’ to me (and I am by no means asserting that my interpretation is or should be universal; just that my interpretation exists) is just like "assmuncher" or "turdlicker"; it's not trading on homosexuality=bad so much as "putting your mouth on something filthy/taboo"=bad.”

Others have said this pretty eloquently, but:

This is emphatically a gross misunderstanding of the dynamic of homophobia and its relation to sexism. You speak as though every male loves blowjobs, so of course we must honor and appreciate anyone who gives blowjobs. This is clearly not true if we examine common colloquial references to cocksucking.

Take, for instance, the insult "you can suck my dick," which seems to me to be the most popular cocksucking insult out there. Do you really think that people who use this insult are trying to suggest that their own penises are dirty? No. The insult is supposed to have power because cocksucking is assumed by it to be a subordinate activity, one of submission to dominance. The cocksucker is low, and they are low in relation to the person whose cock is being sucked. To place someone in that relation – to make them suck your cock – is to degrade and to punish them. That's the implication of this insult, and it's also the implication of deriding someone as being a "cocksucker."

Why does this matter? Because the explanation you offered above whitewashes these insults of their specific origin in homophobia and sexism. Those origins must be confronted and dealt with if we're going to move forward. I think you're making a tremendous mistake in misidentifying the roots of these insults, and in so doing you're misunderstanding what they've done to us.

It's rather easy and touchy-feely to tell ourselves that all we have to do is become sex-positive. But I think the truth is that, to a large degree, simply becoming sex-positive is rather easy, at least for most of us. The hard work comes when we have to confront and work against the forces of sexism and homophobia in society. Then, we find we've got to deconstruct the words we use, the insults we resort to in moments of anger, and make sure we're not consciously or subconsciously reinforcing the subjugation of people whose sexual predilections might be different from our own
posted by koeselitz at 3:35 PM on February 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


If you feel I represent some sort of threat to you by being one of the number of people who have pointed out in the past when you have said idiotic things, that's fine - contact the mods, start a MeTa, whatever you like. Or killfile me, so you don't have to see my scary words on the Internet. But you don't get to demand that I don't "engage with you personally". Because you are not Louis XIV, King of France.

No one demanded anything. He just asked you to leave him alone, and then you made fun of him for asking you to do that. Geez, I wonder why he doesn't like you.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:45 PM on February 5, 2012


I get the feeling there's some kind of private thing between running order squabble fest and seanybody. Beyond that, I don't really feel like it's any of our business, and frankly I'd rather not know any more. I have a feeling seanyboy would be better off chatting a bit with the mods about it rather than telling us, unless there's something he thinks we should or unless there's some way he wants our help.
posted by koeselitz at 3:52 PM on February 5, 2012


something he thinks we should know, that is
posted by koeselitz at 3:53 PM on February 5, 2012


"I get the feeling there's some kind of private thing between running order squabble fest and seanybody. Beyond that, I don't really feel like it's any of our business, and frankly I'd rather not know any more. I have a feeling seanyboy would be better off chatting a bit with the mods about it rather than telling us, unless there's something he thinks we should or unless there's some way he wants our help."

I think it's relevant to the community insofar as seanyboy thinks that it's reasonable or acceptable to engage in a discussion involving numerous people, state his (often contemptuous and provocative) opinions, and then imperiously demand that one of the people in the discussion not respond to anything he says directly because it makes him uncomfortable.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:58 PM on February 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have a feeling seanyboy would be better off chatting a bit with the mods about it rather than telling us

I'd be fine with that - barring a couple of PMs he sent last year, everything's freely visible. As far as I can tell, it seems he wants to be able to insult groups of people, while dictating who is allowed to respond to those insults. If that's something we want to institute, I think it has to be top-down.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:04 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ivan Fyodorovich: “It's only an imperious demand if seanyboy wasn't in earnest when he said that "you actually & literally scare me." And I will confess that that was my first sense of it, too. But it seems to me that, when people tell us in no uncertain terms that they're truly scared of someone else, we kind of have to give them the benefit of the doubt.”

If there's something that's really scared seanyboy, by all means he should talk with the mods about it make sure that his fears are dealt with in the best way possible, and it's really none of our business at all. Yes, it's possible that this wasn't a sincere admission; but even if it's a very, very slim chance that it was, it seems like it's worth it to leave this kind of thing to be worked out by running order squabble fest, seanyboy, and the mods in private.
posted by koeselitz at 4:09 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


(Argh. Probably should have previewed.)
posted by koeselitz at 4:09 PM on February 5, 2012


I do not recall it coming up before, but I don't see how it would be even possible to enforce a "person x is not allowed to respond to person y" request. If you feel that someone is harassing you, wheher on a subsite or via memail, by all means let us know, but we're not going to bar people from civil group conversations. We really can't.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:11 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think it's relevant to the community insofar as seanyboy thinks that it's reasonable or acceptable to engage in a discussion involving numerous people, state his (often contemptuous and provocative) opinions, and then imperiously demand that one of the people in the discussion not respond to anything he says directly because it makes him uncomfortable.

Some people are thin-skinned sensitive types, what can you do?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:19 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


My argument made no claims to universality, in fact, I explicitly said: (and I am by no means asserting that my interpretation is or should be universal; just that my interpretation exists) in my first post in this thread.

My point, more simply made, is that while Mike Tyson may have meant "I AM MORE POWERFUL THAN YOU", it is entirely possible to say cocksucker and mean "YOU ARE FILTHY", and that the latter usage is not rooted in homophobia or misogyny but simply in the broader umbrella of puritan attitudes about sex. Should you see me using the word cocksucker, assuming I'm not making a Deadwood reference (which is pretty unlikely because it's been years since I've been able to see the word and not hear it in Ian McShane's voice) it's going to be more along the lines of "You are filthy!"

To insist that all usages of cocksucker/sucks dick/etc. needs must be rooted in homophobia, that there is no possible other explanation for them, that is where I disagree*. Not only does it stray into the slightly odd "Keep cocksucker pure!" vibe that others noted upthread but at that point, I am telling you what I mean when I use a word, where the roots of that usage are for me, and you are saying "No, what you mean is really X." Or "That may be what you mean, but everyone hears X." At the point where other people are telling me what I, or better yet what 'everyone' "really" mean or "really" hear...well let's just say that's the point where I will opt to politely bow out of the argument. Especially if I've spent most of the afternoon procrastinating doing work and the Superbowl's on.
posted by mstokes650 at 4:20 PM on February 5, 2012


mstokes650: “My argument made no claims to universality, in fact, I explicitly said... ”

Yes, you did say that – I quoted it pointedly in my response – and then you proceeded to tell us what these insults are really about, in an authoritative and universal way.

“My point, more simply made, is that while Mike Tyson may have meant ‘I AM MORE POWERFUL THAN YOU’, it is entirely possible to say cocksucker and mean ‘YOU ARE FILTHY’, and that the latter usage is not rooted in homophobia or misogyny but simply in the broader umbrella of puritan attitudes about sex. Should you see me using the word cocksucker, assuming I'm not making a Deadwood reference (which is pretty unlikely because it's been years since I've been able to see the word and not hear it in Ian McShane's voice) it's going to be more along the lines of ‘You are filthy!’ To insist that all usages of cocksucker/sucks dick/etc. needs must be rooted in homophobia, that there is no possible other explanation for them, that is where I disagree*. Not only does it stray into the slightly odd ‘Keep cocksucker pure!’ vibe that others noted upthread but at that point, I am telling you what I mean when I use a word, where the roots of that usage are for me, and you are saying ‘No, what you mean is really X.’ Or ‘That may be what you mean, but everyone hears X.’ At the point where other people are telling me what I, or better yet what 'everyone' ‘really’ mean or ‘really’ hear...well let's just say that's the point where I will opt to politely bow out of the argument. Especially if I've spent most of the afternoon procrastinating doing work and the Superbowl's on.”

This is ridiculous. You've just said you will bow out of any discussion that tries to talk about what people mean when they say certain words. I suppose you make it a point not to associate with etymologists.

Look, you can use words to mean whatever you want. I don't mind. And I'm not some kind of prescriptivist. You may, if you wish, use the word 'horse' to mean 'a small flightless bird that lays eggs.' That is perfectly fine with me. But don't ask me to believe that most people mean that when they say the word 'horse,' and don't pretend you weren't making pretty broad statements under the banner of 'this is just my opinion.'
posted by koeselitz at 4:28 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also – I don't think it really matters what you mean when you say the word "cocksucker." I will keep in mind your explanation here of what you'll probably mean when you use it, but do you really think that every person who reads your words on the internet will have read this thread and that comment in particular? I'm only warning you that, if you apply the word "cocksucker" to another person, then it really doesn't matter what you mean by it; people will assume that you are using the word as it is commonly used colloqually – as an insult based on the degradation of homosexuals and of women.
posted by koeselitz at 4:38 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting, I was coming here to post the Urban Dictionary definitions of the word, which are not homophobic.

After being cited as a homophobe for using the term cocksucker before, I consulted the Apple dictionary which says:
cocksucker |ˈkäkˌsəkər|
noun vulgar slang
a contemptible person (used as a generalized term of abuse).
Of course we all know that Apple has a long history of being unfriendly to the LGBT community. Of course, Apple didn't write the dictionary, it sources the American Heritage Dictionary. Interestingly when I look up the word on my Mac, it also gives me the Wikipedia entry for fellatio because when you search for cocksucker in wikipedia it redirects to fellatio. The entry on fellatio does not mention that cocksucker is a slur against gay men. In fact, googling the term cocksucker doesn't produce entries saying the term is a slur against gay men (or women). While google is open do a google image search of the term with safe search off. You get pages and pages of thumbnails of women with penises in their mouths. There's some guys with penises in their mouths too, but mostly women. (and there's a dumb motivational poster style image of an apparently Middle Eastern person burning an American flag with the caption "Cocksucker... it the first word that comes to mind.)

Many people use the term in a non-homophic way and when we came this MeTa were surprised that it had such an impact. When I was called "straight up homophobic, dude" in November on Metafilter I asked my few gay friends what the deal was. A) they use cocksucker a lot more than I do in everyday speech and B) they believed the term didn't have homophobic overtones unless it was used specifically for that purpose. That is if I saw Newt Gingrich is a cocksucker it is fine. But I call a gay guy a cocksucker that is wrong. Unless he's sucking my cock. I know my small sample size is not representative of the LGBT population as a whole, but I also think the posters in this MeTa are also not representative either.

Clearly, on Metafilter the term should not be used and I'm fine with that because it some members find it offensive. I only used it once in the Blue and it was describing a fictional character on a TV show.

My problem with the people here that want people to excise the term from their vocabulary is twofold:
1) If the word cocksucker disappeared from the language tomorrow there would still be homophobia and the bullying of gay people. Listen to the people that are really the homophobes when they hiss the word "gay" or "homosexual" w/r/t legalizing gay marriage or giving LGBT people the equal rights they deserve. In many ways it is not the words themselves but the intent. Since Rick Santorum hisses "homosexual" or "gay" should we ban them too?

2) A lot of people get too literal with their profanity. Motherfucker as an insult are slur has nothing to do with people having sex with their mothers or other people's mothers. About 100 years ago fuck stopped being a vulgar verb to describe sexual intercourse and started being a utility insult. If I say "I'm tired as fuck from all the work I did last week," I can assure you I did not tire from excessive sex. Fuck is a great word because you can call someone a fuckstick. What is a fuck stick? It is fuck with a random noun attached to. Then again if you think about it long enough maybe a fuckstick is a penis. Or maybe it is a dildo. Or maybe it is just a great profanity.

When I tell someone to go fuck themselves I'm not suggesting they go rub one out. I'm telling them go to hell. Which is another profanity that changed its strength over time. It is true that Milch put modern profanity into Deadwood because at the time the profanity was much or religious. Back in the day telling someone to go to hell was a major insult. Today it is pretty tame. In the 19th century it was the equivalent of telling people to fuck off.

Let's look at that actually. The reason motherfucker works as an insult is because men who duck their mothers are socially unacceptable. We don't shun mothers, we shun motherfuckers. I think the same concept applies to cocksucker. We like cocks. We don't like dudes who suck them.

Motherfucker works well as an insult because it uses one of the greatest utility words in the English language and the word mother which is a very revered word. It has nothing to do with its the literal definition.

And about the people that literally suck cock. Giving head has a puritan tradition being a nasty vile act where those of us alive today find it quite delightful. Although overturned by the courts and rarely enforced, there are still laws on the books in the country that make fellatio or cunnilingus illegal (regardless of the sex of the person giving it...but it seems extra illegal in some localities if the giver and receiver are of the same sex). It is a societal hangup we as a people seem to have. I have no ill will with men or women who want to suck a dick. In the heterosexual community there are a huge of men who feel going down on a woman is beneath them. Guys that eat pussies are pussies (their terms, not mine). Many of those same guys are the kind of guys that would call a gay man a cocksucker and mean it in a demeaning way. I am not in the group and I think in 2012 that group has fallen. And there are heterosexual women (as I supposed there might also be gay men) who don't want to perform fellatio because they don't like it. Certainly some of them may feel is demeaning and exploitative but that's their hangup, not mine.

As part of the privileged white heterosexual community I've never offered at slur toward LGBT community in real life or online. I've had gay friends since I was a kid and didn't know what gay was. But I've been called a faggot, queer, fairy, homo and any other imaginable slur except cocksucker. Because for some reason I lived in this bubble where works like cocksucker and motherfucker were profane but not literal. When someone calls gay in a demeaning way I don't protest to their slur because I'm not gay, I protest because it shouldn't matter if I'm gay anyway. My sexuality does not and should not matter unless you want to go out with me.

So I'm sorry if I refuse to promise to ever say cocksucker again. I can promise I won't call member of Metafilter that, or anything else. I try not to lob personal attacks on people at all. I use cocksucker to show my displeasure with despicable politicians, CEOs and other public figures. I use it when I'm driving alone and someone cuts me off or exhibits terrible driving behavior. To me cocksucker is stronger than motherfucker. Motherfucking cocksucker is reserved people like Dick Cheney. But it doesn't mean that I think that he is sucking cock while fucking his mother.

In trying to learn more about cocksucker as homophophic slur I looked to see if there were articles in The Advocate about it. The term came up in a movie review but mostly in comments and in the comments it gets thrown around a lot in describing politicians ("he looks like a cocksucker to me (and not in a good way)" in story about a Maine politician. Cocksucker gets thrown around in the comments in stories about Rick Santorium or dirty cops. In the cases I found even in a predominately LGBT site, people use the term on a non homophobic-slur way to talk about terrible people.

Does my refusal to remove the word from my vocabulary make me a homophobic fuckwad like Fred Phelps, Rick Santorum or others? Maybe you think I do and if you want to hate me as the poster boy of white heterosexual privilege then knock yourself out. But I'm going to keep spending time, money and energy trying to help the LGBT community get the equally they deserve.

My point is the word itself ins't the problem. It is the hate. Cocksucker to many people, including presumably gay men on Advocate can mean things outside the literal definition. It is context. The use in the OP was not a homophobic slur or meant to demean people who give head.

I have a problem with the assumption in this MeTa that the term is exclusively the domain of people who literally suck cock and that is always a slur that demeans any person that puts a dick in their mouth and that isn't the case. Maybe there's a motion afoot to do this, but people behind it must really step up their SEO on it. This isn't "nigger" or "faggot" which have always had a singular demeaning definition since day one. It sort of reminds me of people that would freak out over the term niggardly because they thought it was an anti-black slur. Just because a word contains other words doesn't make it derivative. Therapist doesn't mean "the rapist."



Some people might think of my pigheadedness and would call me a cocksucker.
posted by birdherder at 4:52 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


people will assume that you are using the word as it is commonly used colloqually – as an insult based on the degradation of homosexuals and of women

Except that this thread shows pretty conclusively that this usage is "common" only in the sense that it is reasonably wide spread--but by no means universal. That is, there is clearly a large number of people for whom the word has none of these connotations. I'm happy not to use the word in order to spare the feelings of those who do find that meaning in it, but you are sailing very close to simply denying the claims of those who say that those meanings are no part of their understanding of the word. I know for a fact that I could use the word (jokingly or in anger) with, say, my brother and neither of us would for a second feel that there was some implication of homosexuality or of unmanly femininity implied--it would have precisely the same meaning if I were to replace the word with "bastard" or "wanker." I would not be capable (nor would the thought ever occur to me) of using the word "faggot" or "poof" (say) in the same context. Indeed, that would be a conversation-ender (and a probable symptom of a stroke having hit me) were it to occur.

There is a rather oddly literal reading of the "meanings" of swear words going on in this thread. Swear words are very pure cases of speech acts--they mostly don't "mean"--they do. Quebecois swear words are mostly sacrilegious terms (ostie, tabernac etc.). This is purely a matter of cultural convention. It's not that the Quebecois are in fact deeply religious people who are genuinely shocked and appalled by the blasphemous nature of these words. These are just the words used, by convention, to do the things we want swearwords to do. If I call someone a "fucker" and mean that they're a bad person it's not because I hate fucking and think people who fuck are inherently evil. If I call someone a "right bastard" it's not because I look down on illegitimate people or care in any way whatsoever about whether someone's parents were married or not. If I call someone a "prick" and mean it as an insult it doesn't mean that we're living in a gynocentric society in which the penis is seen as something shameful and disenabling. In short, we simply do not, when we swear, do a mental translation where we think "hmm, what is the literal meaning of that word? How do I feel about that literally signified thing? Wow, I really hate that! Gosh, I guess I hate the thing it's referring to in this instance too!"
posted by yoink at 5:00 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


There is a rather oddly literal reading of the "meanings" of swear words going on in this thread. Swear words are very pure cases of speech acts--they mostly don't "mean"--they do.

I get where you're coming from - if you hit your thumb with a hammer and shout "fuck", it's not primarily because you are thinking about sex. But in the paragraph above you cited two terms - "faggot" and "poof" - which you would specifically not be able to substitute for "cocksucker" in your vernacular. So, that means that, while the terms may not map point-to-point, they are not interchangeable.

I'd assume, further, that you would not use "faggot" or "poof" - that they would be conversation-enders - because they specifically connote homosexuality (that is, they are in the set of swearwords which draw their pejorative power from homosexuality). So, these are swearwords which, while not literally meaning a bundle of sticks or a cloud, do map to an idea of homosexuality as a bad thing. For you, "cocksucker" doesn't fit in that set, but for others it does.

So, I think your illocutionary model is useful but incomplete. Swearwords have resonance because of metnoymy and cultural custom. They are not literal, but they are also not fungible, and while they do not literally connote the object or action described they are also not wholly divorced from them.

Which doesn't mean you have to acknowledge a personal metonymic connection between "cocksucker" and fellatio if you don't experience it. But, birdherder's exhaustive trawl of secondary sources aside, it seems that others do experience this metonymic connection, and can therefore experience it as hate speech. Which strikes me as useful thing to know about the term, whether or not it fits your experience.

23skidoo: He just asked you to leave him alone

Just to round this off: this is clearly not just what he did. Let's look at the replay.
Leave me the fuck alone. You probably don't realise this, but you actually & literally scare me.
That wasn't asking, and it wasn't "just" asking.

If seanyboy is literally and actually scared - if he is worried that I am going to crawl through his Internets and attack him - then that is indeed something to take seriously. And he needs to be talking to the mods, or starting a thread in MetaTalk. He needs to be able to present his reasons for being literally and actually scared, so we can see if they are sensible reasons and if so ameliorate them. I will do whatever I can to help.

If he is not actually in fear he's just grandstanding, and doing so in a way intended to smear me as some kind of Michael Myers figure. Either way, it's not an appropriate thing to do here, and it isn't "just asking me to leave him alone".
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:21 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can use a knife to stab someone, but that's very rare. 99.9999% of the time a knife is used to cut food or something else. Nonetheless, if someone starts waving a knife around I'm going to feel threatened and get pissed off. It doesn't matter if someone says, "I'm not actually going to stab you with this knife! Stop being so uptight! I never had any intentions of stabbing you or offending you or causing you any harm, can't you just chill out? Don't you understand most people don't use knives for stabbing?"

No, no I can't. Stop waving your fucking knife in my face. You might feel the same way if someone had actually ever threatened you with a knife. And even if they had and you didn't, you don't get to tell me to just shut up and let you wave your knife in my face. And waving your knife in my face just as a rhetorical flourish makes you even more insensitive and offensive (that's not directed at you, Brandon).
posted by PigAlien at 5:30 PM on February 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


PigAlien: You might feel the same way if someone had actually ever threatened you with a knife.

I've been stabbed in the face, requiring a lot of stitches, and I can assure you that if someone was waving a knife around me in a harmless manner, I wouldn't be scared. I also don't shy away from Nepalese people because the dude who did this to me happened to be from that country.

I prefer not to live my life in fear, or allow others to seriously effect my comfort level. It's a waste of time and effort.
posted by gman at 5:43 PM on February 5, 2012


That's fine for you, gman. But there are people who might have been stabbed in the face yesterday, or who might have had severe psychological trauma accompany that stabbing. Are you really going to hold them to the same standard you hold yourself?

That's the thing – again, this is the internet, so it's different. Every person reading this thread is potentially a recent rape victim, a gay man who was just assaulted, a woman who faces threats of violence from someone she knows. My friends and I might use the word "cocksucker" jokingly, we might playfully call each other "faggy," whatever. This is not me and my friends joking around privately. This is the internet. And here, it makes sense to be a whole lot more caring and sensitive about what words we throw around.
posted by koeselitz at 5:47 PM on February 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


To be honest, seanyboy, you make ME uncomfortable when you petulantly shit-stir and say that you're now considering saying cocksucker when you didn't do it before. Grow up.

I'm 100% for not maginalising people

Then act like it.

You're tired of being tired? It annoys you?

Try having cocksucker spat in your face while you get beaten half to death.

Obtuse is the word that comes to mind.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 5:51 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just to round this off: this is clearly not just what he did. Let's look at the replay.

Let's not. I was there when I said what I said, and I read what he wrote. I don't need certain cherry-picked bits quoted back to me, especially if you're going to keep making fun of the guy for being afraid of you after he said he wasn't going to say anything else about this.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:54 PM on February 5, 2012


koeselitz: Are you really going to hold them to the same standard you hold yourself?

No, I'm sharing my own personal experience and viewpoint.

As to being a part of a marginalized group, I grew up Jewish and went to a very waspy private school where anti-Semitic comments were common place. Yeah, I didn't like it much, but I let the shit roll off my back, and I'm better for it. Yes, words have power, but ultimately, how much effect they have is up to you.
posted by gman at 6:05 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


But, birdherder's exhaustive trawl of secondary sources aside, it seems that others do experience this metonymic connection, and can therefore experience it as hate speech. Which strikes me as useful thing to know about the term, whether or not it fits your experience.

I can always count on running order squabble fest for the backhanded compliment!. After being talked down to like a child because I hadn't read Burch's Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill I realize I'm just some mentally challenged probably stage zero to Burch dullard. This, of course explains why I, a simpleton with only the internet and a public school education, can't grasp the term cocksucker* may be offensive to some people. But the strange part is I never said it wasn't. But what I said was really the same thing as you without your fancy book learnin' vocabulary:
Which doesn't mean you have to acknowledge a personal metonymic connection between "cocksucker" and fellatio if you don't experience it. But, birdherder's exhaustive trawl of secondary sources aside, it seems that others do experience this metonymic connection, and can therefore experience it as hate speech. Which strikes me as useful thing to know about the term, whether or not it fits your experience.
I had to look up metonymic. Turns out it means things like "business executive." But dude, we're at the same conclusion but I'm from the other direction. I'm saying not everyone reads or hears the word cocksucker and jumps to the concluding the person saying it is a homophobe making a homophobic or misogynistic person. If I'm to respect the argument that cocksucker has homophobic and misogynistic overtones, you should also respect that people may also use the term without that motivation.

Another example: I read "Birdherder's exhaustive trawl of secondary sources aside" as insulting. Just as I read your questioning that I actually have a mentally retarded (this is what my aunt says. that side of the family isn't close so I'm uncertain of the exact nature of his disability). Yes, he's real (and so is my aunt). And the only reason I mentioned my mentally disabled cousin was to point out in your high and mighty criticism of one Metafilter you ended up using a slur yourself.

I guess I can summarize by saying, your tone is dickish. You seem to be picking fights like an internet tough guy.
If seanyboy is literally and actually scared - if he is worried that I am going to crawl through his Internets and attack him - then that is indeed something to take seriously. And he needs to be talking to the mods, or starting a thread in MetaTalk. He needs to be able to present his reasons for being literally and actually scared, so we can see if they are sensible reasons and if so ameliorate them. I will do whatever I can to help.
Your response is the same as someone who threatens people online. But we don't know anything about you except you seem to like complex words when simpler ones will do and have a knack for pissing people off. You might as well have said if seanboy is mad I'm threatening him he should call the teacher or the police.

*interestingly my autocorrect replaced cocksucker with cocksure. Does cocksure have to do with penises? What about cocky?
posted by birdherder at 6:06 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, gosh. I wouldn't want to cherry-pick. Or, you know, quote the part that specifically disproved what you erroneously claimed. If only one didn't have to climb a mountain, kill a dragon and find a fragment of the True Cross to read the whole comment.

If only one could just link to it. Like this. Where it sits just a few posts above yours.

Curse that dragon.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:07 PM on February 5, 2012


Try having cocksucker spat in your face while you get beaten half to death.

I'm sorry that happened to you. But if the word cockscuker did not exist they'd say something else. The kind of person that uses violence because someone is different than they are isn't going to be change his worldview over a word. If you're beat up in France because you're different they would have made slurs in French.
posted by birdherder at 6:16 PM on February 5, 2012


Because for some reason I lived in this bubble where works like cocksucker and motherfucker were profane but not literal.

I've heard pretty much this exact argument (it doesn't literally mean homosexual anymore, the meanings of words change, my friends and I started using it before we were even aware of homosexuality) in support of using "gay" and "fag" as synonyms for "bad."
posted by en forme de poire at 6:16 PM on February 5, 2012


"Fag" now means "an annoying asshole who rides a loud Harley." South Park got the dictionary changed.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:19 PM on February 5, 2012


birdherder: “The kind of person that uses violence because someone is different than they are isn't going to be change his worldview over a word.”

Words matter. This notion that words are just placeholders, that they have absolutely no effect on our thinking, seems a bit silly to me; I'm not one of those people who thinks all our thinking is rooted in the words we use, but I also think it's a bit silly the lengths people are going in this thread to try to claim that "cocksucker" does not mean "a person who sucks cocks."
posted by koeselitz at 6:24 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not clear on the discussion that's happening here. Yes, if cocksucker were not available, another abusive word would be substituted. That's neither here nor there when it comes to our use of the word.

It has repeatedly been stated in this thread that the people who are hurt by it are hurt by it. If we're not among those people, and we continue to use it as a term of abuse (and not in an academic way), we're expressing our privilege over them.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:34 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not that the Quebecois are in fact deeply religious people who are genuinely shocked and appalled by the blasphemous nature of these words. These are just the words used, by convention, to do the things we want swearwords to do.

Yes, but... well, I don't know much about Quebecois French, so let me swap in an example from my own speech. My go-to phrase when frustrated is "God damn it!". Despite the apparent literal meaning, I don't believe in a punishing god (or any kind of god, for that matter). I've thoroughly internalized the association between this phrase and frustration, without subscribing to the implied beliefs. In my speech, the literal meaning is basically irrelevant, and I could have grown up just as happy and expressive using "Dave Mamet!" instead.

But still, it's not an accident that I picked up this phrase for this meaning, is it? I learned it because I heard it used, from people who learned it because they heard it used, and so on, and many of those people historically did believe in a punishing god, considered it taboo to refer to him, and found the phrase a forceful and effective swear for that reason. Right? This phrase came to be used because those ideas were active in the culture, whether or not they are active in me today.

Just because for some people learned 'cocksucker' as a black-box insult (as I did, in fact) doesn't mean that its literal meaning doesn't exist, or that the larger patterns of language and culture that it's a part of, like this male=penetrating=dominant=good thing, don't exist, or that those patterns shouldn't weigh heavily on our considerations when we do bring our usage under scrutiny.
posted by stebulus at 6:36 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I didn't like it much, but I let the shit roll off my back, and I'm better for it.

Congrats, I guess? But hey, not everyone is like you. You do understand that, right? Not everyone bounces back right away, not everyone emerges intact and fully capable of dealing with others' shit. But surely that's not their own fault?

Yes, words have power, but ultimately, how much effect they have is up to you.

Oh. Well, damn. I guess it is their own fault.

It's interesting that the conversation changed so drastically in light of the revelation that PigAlien is queer -- that's exactly the kind of snafu that is happening frequently in real life, except it's less common to actually get called out on it. Because in public, gays can be a) very inconspicuous, and b) averse to confrontation. When you use this word (or any other potentially alienating obscenity) in mixed company, people notice -- they may not say anything, they may even laugh along with you. But if they are secretly queer, or very queer sympathetic, then an entire world of conversational topics with them has just been closed off to you. Maybe you don't care about that. Which is fine! But using anecdata from your own life as proof that people don't mind this word is silly, because I guarantee that there are people who've treated (and trusted) you differently because of these words like this.
posted by hermitosis at 6:46 PM on February 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Dude, I totally get what you're saying, and I don't expect people to be like me. Thing is, this is a public forum, and words are going to be used that effect people negatively. There's just no way around it. Everyone's gonna take issue with one word or another. I would assume use of the expression "God damn" might offend St. Alia, and I could come up with a million other examples. Some seemingly innocuous words offend people, as much as the obviously loaded ones do. If a person is at a point in their life where a word can so negatively effect them that they are traumatized by it, then the internet isn't a place for them.
posted by gman at 6:57 PM on February 5, 2012


"God damn" might offend St. Alia,

But "God damn" is not a smear used against Christians. If it were, it would be a closer parallel. Yes, you shouldn't be cautious about using language just because it might hurt somebody. Yes, you should be cautious about language that specifically is intended to hurt people.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:58 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Try having cocksucker spat in your face while you get beaten half to death.

I'm sorry that happened to you.


It didn't happen to me, thankfully, (I am not a gay man) but I am aware that it happens quite a bit.

And no shit it could be another word. Any one of these lovely turns-of-phrase could be used:

African queen (black gay male)
anal astronaut
ass bandit
ass goblin
ass jockey
ass monkey
ass pirate
ass rammer
ass spelunker
ass Viking
batty boy
back door bandit
bender
bone smuggler
booty bandit
bubble biter
bumhole explorer
bumhole surfer
bummer
bunty boy
butthole explorer
butthole surfer
butt bandit
butt banger
butt buddies
butt fucker
butt pirate
butty
cake eater
chocolate starfish invader
cock jockey
cock smoker
cock sucker
colon bomber
cream puff
deviate
doughnut puncher
fag
faggot
fairy
femme
flamer
Frenchman
friend of Dorothy
fruit
fudge packer
galboy
gay
girl
goober gobbler
gump
hom (short for “homo”)
homo
homosexual
joto
Lavender with Rage
limp wrist
may tag
nancy
nelly
old lady
peter puffer
pillow biter
pillow muncher
poofter
pooter poker
pussy
queen
Rectal Wrangler
Rectum Raider
Roland
rump ranger
sausage jockey
seme
shirt lifter
shit shoveler
shit stabber
sissy
sister
skippy poofter
sodomite
swisher
tallywhacker toker
turd burglar
Turk
uke
uphill gardener
woman
wuss

Courtesy of Fun with Google, the most searched gay slur

All in context, yes. Yes, of course.

Defend the word all day long, but don't sit there with a dumb look on your face and pretend like it simply doesn't matter. How we communicate with each other matters.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 7:02 PM on February 5, 2012


birdherder: I guess I can summarize by saying, your tone is dickish. You seem to be picking fights like an internet tough guy.


Dude, When Pigalien was unhappy about having been called an idiotic cocksucker by Brandon, this is what you said:
Your continual demands for interwebs justice is just making it worse.

Sometimes, I think we are all a little bit harsh, if we are honest. And remotely self-aware. And, yes, "exhaustive trawl of secondary sources" was a tad dismissive. Because "I've looked this word up on my laptop, asked some friends and google-searched The Advocate, and here comes the truthbomb" deserves to be dismissed.

Honestly, do you not have a sense of how insulting it is to put somebody's lived experience of homophobic abuse, which they have shared with you despite your rude responses, up against typing a word into Apple dictionary? Do you completely lack empathy?

Also honestly, I don't know what I could do to make you happy, Birdherder. I can't stop knowing words and concepts that you don't. Yoink was talking about philosophy of language, I used the appropriate terminology. I could help you with words and concepts, if you ask, but I can't pre-emptively guarantee I won't step outside your word list.

I probably could help you to make your attempts at gotchas more competent. But I don't see that it would be a good idea for me to do so, for either of us. You'd use the power for evil, and I would feel guilty.

I am still sort of horrified that you would tee up a cousin with an undefined disability, whom you appear barely to know, to try to win a point on the Internet - again, that's an empathy thing. But, again, I doubt I will be able to help you with that. It's a decision you've made about how to behave. Likewise using that cousin in an off-beam bit of fanfiction about me calling someone a dumbfuck [That was why you might have felt talked down to, by the way - because of the inept and dishonest reframing of what I said. Nothing to do with your reading habits. Have a look at how Jessamyn handled the same situation for tips].

Now, if you want to carry on tackling my many personal failings, can I suggest that you start a new thread in MetaTalk? Or send me angry MeMails. Or go straight to the mods. Demand that I be prevented from speaking in your presence. It's fine. I'll abide by their decision. But get over yourself.

Now, back on topic:

If I'm to respect the argument that cocksucker has homophobic and misogynistic overtones, you should also respect that people may also use the term without that motivation.

I think it isn't a bargain. I can understand that people might not have that association - in fact, if you actually read that last sentence to yoink, instead of just getting angry about it, you'd have seen me say that:
Which doesn't mean you have to acknowledge a personal metonymic connection between "cocksucker" and fellatio if you don't experience it. But, birdherder's exhaustive trawl of secondary sources aside, it seems that others do experience this metonymic connection, and can therefore experience it as hate speech. Which strikes me as useful thing to know about the term, whether or not it fits your experience.
I respect (funny choice of words - more precisely, I acknowledge) that the word could be used by people who have no sense that it is in any way usable as a homophobic slur. However, you - you personally, that is - should, assuming that you have read any of this thread, by now understand that there are people who have experience of it as hateful language directed at them and referencing their sexuality. Doesn't mean it's always so intended. Doesn't mean there are not people - like Yoink - who have no such association or experience with the term.

What would get you respect, at this point, would be, rather than trying to bargain for an admission that had already been made, instead noting that people who actually have skin in the game when it comes to homophobic abuse (beyond looking it up in the Apple dictionary) do have their day made slightly worse when they hear the term being used, and then decide what to do with that information - again, that's an empathy deal. I'm amazed that, faced with a chance to be a better person, you are instead trying to haggle about how much love you will get for behaving a little more decently. But I hope you're going to do the right thing, in the end. And I hope this thread helped.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:03 PM on February 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


If a person is at a point in their life where a word can so negatively effect them that they are traumatized by it, then the internet isn't a place for them.

There is an issue with expectations on a particular site, though. I think in general Metafilter is a pretty gay-friendly place - I, at least, find it so. So it's extra jarring to come across someone using language in a way that reads as aggressively gay-unfriendly. It clashes with expectations, and so is much more potentially hurtful than seeing the same language on, say, the local paper's comment section.

That's more a high-level issue than an individual "should I use this word or not" level, though - it's not really possible to manage ten thousand people's expectations all the time. But it is worth considering when you find yourself surprised by someone else's reactions. It's really not just about "having a thick skin" or "letting it roll off your back." It's about the perception of this site as a safe place, and that pushes extra buttons.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:04 PM on February 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


>>Because for some reason I lived in this bubble where works like cocksucker and motherfucker were profane but not literal.

>I've heard pretty much this exact argument (it doesn't literally mean homosexual anymore, the meanings of words change, my friends and I started using it before we were even aware of homosexuality) in support of using "gay" and "fag" as synonyms for "bad."


This.

I'm honestly kind of mystified by all the push-back on "cocksucker" being a word with deep homophobic and misogynist overtones. Just like in the gay = bad example, plenty of people say the word without any thought of those overtones; I know several people who say things like "thanks, that's mighty white of you!" without the slightest thought of anything racial, but their cluelessness doesn't erase the history and meaning of that phrase.

I'll be honest enough to say that there have been times in confrontations when I've used this kind of language. Telling another man "I'll make you suck my dick" isn't talking about how I think my dick is dirty, or that I'm not sex positive, or that I actually want some scraggly guy in a bar to perform oral sex on me, or anything stupid like that. It's straight up saying that I'm the man and he's the inferior little bitch, that I'm dominant and he's not. I can't think of harsher language in that kind of context, or language more loaded with layers of gender and sexuality slurs.

I'm not particularly proud of using that language, and I'd never use it outside of very specific situations and even there it's a bad idea; that people find it insulting and demeaning isn't at all a surprise to me, since that's pretty much the entire point of that kind of phrase.
posted by Forktine at 7:30 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


oh my god you guys. this thread.

it makes me hate the entire human race.
posted by elizardbits at 8:47 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


more than usual, i mean
posted by elizardbits at 8:48 PM on February 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's not that the Quebecois are in fact deeply religious people who are genuinely shocked and appalled by the blasphemous nature of these words.

This may be true nowadays, for most French Canadians, but it wasn't true 40 or 50 years ago, and still isn't for a lot of older people. There was quite a oopla the first time a character blasphemed for the first time on stage in the 1960s. (That is, instead of "inadvertently" swearing, the character said something like "I'm going to swear... I'm going to swear.." and then swore).
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:01 PM on February 5, 2012


What would get you respect, at this point, would be, rather than trying to bargain for an admission that had already been made, instead noting that people who actually have skin in the game when it comes to homophobic abuse (beyond looking it up in the Apple dictionary) do have their day made slightly worse when they hear the term being used, and then decide what to do with that information - again, that's an empathy deal. I'm amazed that, faced with a chance to be a better person, you are instead trying to haggle about how much love you will get for behaving a little more decently. But I hope you're going to do the right thing, in the end. And I hope this thread helped.

There's that passive aggressiveness again!

Just to be clear, when you say I can get respect here, does that mean just you, or are you speaking for everyone? I'm not bargaining for anyone to admit anything anymore. I said days ago that I recognized that some members may find the term offensive and said I'd not use it.

I used the Apple Dictionary because I like to look up words. Even words I think I know the definition. I could have said just "dictionary" but in case some wanted a cite, I listed the exact source. It was not my intent to give any of the primary (asking friends) and secondary (looking shit up online) as being authoritative. Sure, you might see it as a notch above pulling it from my ass, but the only intent of ... fuck it why I am wasting time explaining it to you?

You're right, my skin in the game only comes secondhand. I've had way too many people in my life get beaten within inches of their lives for the sole reason they're gay. But I guess that doesn't' count because I'm not gay. I'm not the receiver of the slurs. Except when I am. I've been called faggot and queer a lot in my life. Obviously it isn't as painful but my response (when I have to give a response, often time it is safe to ignore them) isn't "no I'm not! it is so what if I am?!" But again that doesn't' count.

Also honestly, I don't know what I could do to make you happy, Birdherder. I can't stop knowing words and concepts that you don't. Yoink was talking about philosophy of language, I used the appropriate terminology.

You needn't worry about what would make me happy. That's not your job. The reason I brought up semantics was you seemed to get a kick out of sounding like an academic. C'mon, you like it! Intentional or not, it comes off cocksure. We're peers, but you talk to me like I'm a child. Strange that would upset me.

I could help you with words and concepts, if you ask, but I can't pre-emptively guarantee I won't step outside your word list.

Really mister? Will you help me with my learnin' ? Step off your ivory tower, professor.

I'm amazed that, faced with a chance to be a better person, you are instead trying to haggle about how much love you will get for behaving a little more decently. But I hope you're going to do the right thing, in the end. And I hope this thread helped.

Maybe you're right because I never wrote nor even remotely intended this to be about receiving any love or redemption. That fatherly tone of the last few sentences really sounded sincere and not as passive aggressive as your other insults . You don't know me. I completely empathasize with people affected by homophobic slurs. You're reading this through to filter as seeing me as the "that cocksucker guy." When I answer an ask.metafilter.com some users will see me as "that cocksucker guy" and possibly dismiss my question since they see me as too stupid to realize that cocksucker can only mean fellatio. Christ, I'm such an asshole.

And, running order squabble fest, here's some advice you didn't ask for and won't heed: Try not to be so condescending with people you don't agree with. Avoid the backhanded compliments. Avoid the passive aggressiveness. I guess I'm fortunately you didn't at least say "bless your heart" before telling me how dumb I was. Obviously you're a bright guy, but that gets lost between trying to impress us with your vocabulary and tendency to see yourself superior to the rest of us.

To everyone else: I no longer care to make any argument for or against the use of cocksucker. I was never "for" it. It isn't like I ran around yelling it at people on the street or anything. I just think it is unrealistic for people in a MeTa post to call for the wholesale banning of a word outside the site. I was annoyed that people lumped people like me who had no homophobic malice with people who commit violence against people. Hundreds of comments later, we're in the same place we started and I don't care anymore.

To those of you who want to rid the word from the English language more power to you. I'll sign the petition if you catch me in front to the grocery store. Maybe as a first step, running order squabble fest can use that big brain of his to write a wikipedia article on the term and why it shouldn't be used. The entries for the other homophobic slurs in Wikipedia are informative and do a good job informing people of the issue. At least when well-meaning people like me google the term, we'd find something. Seriously. Think of the hundreds of millions of people out there who aren't reading this thread that use the world like me, Brandon Blatcher and Al Swerengin.

Too bad the frog MeTa closed, so I'll see you all at the next slur MeTa. I hope it is "is gringo a slur?"
posted by birdherder at 9:26 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd assume, further, that you would not use "faggot" or "poof" - that they would be conversation-enders - because they specifically connote homosexuality (that is, they are in the set of swearwords which draw their pejorative power from homosexuality). So, these are swearwords which, while not literally meaning a bundle of sticks or a cloud, do map to an idea of homosexuality as a bad thing. For you, "cocksucker" doesn't fit in that set, but for others it does.

Exactly. That's precisely my point. "Faggot"--in terms of its literal meaning--has basically nothing to do with homosexuality. Denotatively, the "meaning" of the word is irrelevant. The word is offensive when used as an insult solely because there is a widespread recognition that it's function, qua speech act, is to be an insulting word for gays. The same is true for "poof" or "pooftah" (mostly non-US, of course). The word has no meaning at all--it only has "meaning" as a socially recognized speech-act.

And I have said in both the posts I've made in this thread and will say again in this one that I understand that there is, in fact, a community for whom "cocksucker" functions as a homophobic slur and that I agree it should not be used thoughtlessly on Metafilter (or elsewhere) for that reason. I'm simply saying that A) there is also a fairly large community of English speakers for whom the word has no such associations and that B) pointing to the literal meaning of the word and saying "see, see, it is OBVIOUSLY about homosexuality or subservient women" or whatever is just failing to see how swearwords work. It would make just as much sense to point to the "literal" meaning of "faggot" and say "see, see, it's obviously NOT a homosexual slur--it's about bundles of sticks!"

This may be true nowadays, for most French Canadians, but it wasn't true 40 or 50 years ago, and still isn't for a lot of older people.

Yes, that's true. But that doesn't explain why they remain viable swearwords for young Quebecois who do not share those feelings--which is my point. I'm trying to counter the implicit claim made by many in this thread that no one can possibly use the term "cocksucker" without being at least subconsciously homophobic. That is simply untrue. Just as a young Quebecois saying "ostie" need have no feelings whatsoever of being "blasphemous."

And, just to repeat, the fact that there is a sizable community who do in fact feel the word as a homophobic insult no matter how the word is intended is sufficient reason to avoid its use.
posted by yoink at 9:31 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


It didn't happen to me, thankfully, (I am not a gay man) but I am aware that it happens quite a bit.

I was accused of inventing a mentally challenged cousin in this thread and I did't appreciate someone would think I made it up. That was the person's response to me criticizing him for using a slur against the mentally challenged because another user used a homophobic slur.

I also don't appreciate you making it sound why you're personally invested in this word because it was specifically shouted at you while you were being attacked. Yes, you did not literally say it happened to you but it was pretty implied. But then this whole thing has been all about literal versus implied and situational.

Defend the word all day long, but don't sit there with a dumb look on your face and pretend like it simply doesn't matter. How we communicate with each other matters.

I'm not defending words anymore. But unless you got webcam working again and can see my face, don't assume I have a dumb look on my face. Why did you have to insult my appearance? I read somewhere "how we communicate with each other matters."
posted by birdherder at 9:59 PM on February 5, 2012


I straight-up don't understand why someone would steadfastly refuse to not use a word that people are telling them is threatening to them. If a friend told me that the word 'door' was upsetting to them because it triggered their memory of a horrific door-related event in their past, or because it is derived from the proto-Chaldean word for 'impure mongrel blood', I would stop using it in their presence. If there was widespread cultural distaste for the word 'door', I would stop using it at all. Wall-entering-space for me.

I grew up in the Northeast calling chocolate sprinkles 'jimmies'. I have heard once or twice that this can be considered an anti-black slur. Is it? Is anyone even offended by it? I have no clue. But I now call them 'chocolate sprinkles' because I'd rather be mindful about my language, and avoid alienating even one person, than cling to some word like a tantruming child to a toy.
posted by threeants at 10:22 PM on February 5, 2012


It also seems like it takes a staggering amount of willful ignorance to not understand why 'cocksucker' might be considered hateful. The only people who consensually suck cocks are queer men and non-gay women.

If you want to go further, it could be interpreted as another way for the powerful to basically punish and reprimand the less-powerful for performing sex acts expected of them (and all too often forced on them).
posted by threeants at 10:27 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


If seanyboy is literally and actually scared - if he is worried that I am going to crawl through his Internets and attack him - then that is indeed something to take seriously. And he needs to be talking to the mods, or starting a thread in MetaTalk. He needs to be able to present his reasons for being literally and actually scared, so we can see if they are sensible reasons and if so ameliorate them. I will do whatever I can to help.

You seem to have a chip in your head about this stuff, honestly. If you really want to help, how about leaving him alone?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:27 PM on February 5, 2012


I grew up in the Northeast calling chocolate sprinkles 'jimmies'. I have heard once or twice that this can be considered an anti-black slur. Is it?

It's not. I am all for being cautious with actual hate language, but I do draw the line at urban legend hate language.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:56 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I grew up in the Northeast calling chocolate sprinkles 'jimmies'. I have heard once or twice that this can be considered an anti-black slur. Is it?

Where I grew up a "jimmy" was one of the billions of slang term for penis. A "jimmy hat" was slang for condom. When I was older and heard people back east use the term jimmies for chocolate sprinkles I laughed like because they said they wanted penises on their yogurt.

So yeah, it isn't racist. But it also doesn't mean chocolate sprinkles everywhere either.
posted by birdherder at 11:11 PM on February 5, 2012


yoink: "I'm trying to counter the implicit claim made by many in this thread that no one can possibly use the term 'cocksucker' without being at least subconsciously homophobic. That is simply untrue."

No one anywhere in this thread has made that claim, either explicitly or implicitly. This seems like a fundamental misunderstanding of the argument, I think, and it might be at the heart of our disagreement.

The term 'cocksucker' is homophobic and sexist, in general, every time it is used in public derisively to describe another person. Why? Because using the term serves to perpetuate and strengthen the subordination and degradation of heterosexual women and homosexual men.

This has absolutely nothing to do with the intentions of the person who uses the term. They may intend it as a relatively innocuous insult. They may mean it playfully. These things are entirely within the realm of possibilities. Regardless of their intentions, however, their use of the word 'cocksucker' to derisively describe another person has a net negative effect on the social status, comfort, and well-being of heyerosexual women and homosexual men.

The point is that we are not accusing anyone whatsoever if harboring secret homophobia or sexism. That's not what's going on here. We aren't trying to suggest that anybody here is secretly or subconsciously a gay-basher or woman-basher or anything like that. This is not, I emphasize, about subconscious intention.

We're simply informing people of the impact their words have on society.
posted by koeselitz at 11:13 PM on February 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


koeselitz quoted yoink:

"I'm trying to counter the implicit claim made by many in this thread that no one can possibly use the term 'cocksucker' without being at least subconsciously homophobic. That is simply untrue."

and then responded:

"No one anywhere in this thread has made that claim, either explicitly or implicitly. This seems like a fundamental misunderstanding of the argument, I think, and it might be at the heart of our disagreement."

I argued something not too far from it. But I didn't intend to imply that the usage was even "subconsciously homophobic". Rather, I argued that if one is uncomfortable using the term to insult a gay man, then one knows at some level that it's a slur used with particular effectiveness against gay men and, furthermore, that this has a great deal to do with why all of us subconsciously recognize that this is an insult with oomph. As I argued is also the case with all other insults with any real punch to them.

The intent is always at some level to shame. The shaming mechanism varies, but if we can think about it and come up with a particular example where it is unambiguously and especially shaming—as cocksucker is when used against gay men—then that is almost certainly the shame-by-association that gives the insult the effectiveness it has when used generically.

That doesn't mean that everyone who ever uses the insult generically is being homophobic at a subconscious level. I mean...how do I put this?...I could use someone's inferior social status as a weapon against then without agreeing that the inferior social status is right and just. It's a weakness in the social context. We recognize weaknesses, whether we believe that the weakness is just or unjust. And when we want to insult someone, to injure them—because that's the whole damn point of insults—then we instinctively choose one that targets a presumed weakness. (And weakness is a subtle thing in this context, because being either most or least like a member of a socially inferior group can make one an especially vulnerable and tempting target for shame-by-association.)

The interesting thing about using the slur in question against a gay man, or some other slurs in analogous situations, is that a process of weakness identification and targeting that is usually more instinctive than not, becomes more explicit and available to our own self-awareness and, because of this, we recognize what we're doing and (many of us) then refuse to do it.

But, again, the generic power of the insult is directly related to the power it has in associating its target with the group of people for whom the slur has its particular and most specific effectiveness. That being the case, it's attractive as a generic slur precisely because it's not as generic as we think it might be.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:54 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Exactly. That's precisely my point. "Faggot"--in terms of its literal meaning--has basically nothing to do with homosexuality. Denotatively, the "meaning" of the word is irrelevant. The word is offensive when used as an insult solely because there is a widespread recognition that it's function, qua speech act, is to be an insulting word for gays. The same is true for "poof" or "pooftah" (mostly non-US, of course). The word has no meaning at all--it only has "meaning" as a socially recognized speech-act.

I think you've overextended your swing, there. Having no referent doesn't mean it doesn't have a meaning - if just means that it has lost its relationship with a first-order meaning (if it ever had one). That's why there is a difference, in terms of speech acts, between "faggot" and "cocksucker". The first has lost connection (if it ever had it) with the route of its denotation (the metonymic bridge, if you like), but maintains its connotation. It's not so much like a Frenchman saying "mon dieu" as it is somebody saying "gadzooks" - assuming that person didn't know that it was derived from "God's hooks" (i.e. the nails that secured Christ to the cross). You aren't talking about meaning there, but aetiology. Or etymology. Or both.

People don't like words to exist without some sort of referent, so you get folk etymologies springing up - like the folk etymology used in the episode of Louie cited above to explain the meaning of the word "faggot". People want to have a first-order level of meaning for a term, even if they don't necessarily invoke it, or even think of it, when they use the word. The French speaker who stubs his toe and cries "mon dieu" is not experiencing a sudden bout of religiosity - but those words still mean something other than "a generic exclamation of surprise" in his language - they have a first-order meaning.

Compare "bitch". If I call a woman a bitch, I'm relying on some level on the understanding that "bitch" connotes something female and non-human, but obviously I am not actually saying she's a female dog. If I call a man a bitch, I'm relying on the understanding that "bitch" connotes something womanish - it's a third-order usage. "Faggot" addressed to a gay man doesn't rely on a connection between that and an upper-order meaning, but "faggot" addressed to a straight man (or a man who is assumed to be straight) does depend on its meaning when applied to gay men. And "faggot" applied to a woman is paradoxical. possibly intentionally so - it's outside its set of meanings. So:

pointing to the literal meaning of the word and saying "see, see, it is OBVIOUSLY about homosexuality or subservient women" or whatever is just failing to see how swearwords work. It would make just as much sense to point to the "literal" meaning of "faggot" and say "see, see, it's obviously NOT a homosexual slur--it's about bundles of sticks!"

Is assuming that all swearwords work the same way, which I think is an oversimplification, linguistically speaking. Those are two different kinds of language acts.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:13 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


You seem to have a chip in your head about this stuff, honestly. If you really want to help, how about leaving him alone?

I quite like the idea of having a chip in my head - possibly because it reminds me of Spike in Season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer - a much-maligned season, but arguably Spike's high water mark as a character.

But, to the purpose. I think people tend to come in on Internet arguments when it feels most natural. Which is often very sensible, since discussions can continue over days or weeks, and you can't rehash everything every time, but can be problematic.

So, Birdherder skipped past his own Internet tough guy moments, above, because they were inconvenient to the model he was building. Likewise, suggesting that I "leave seanyboy alone" rather fails to take into account that he turned up in the thread voluntarily, called a bunch of people, pretty clearly including myself, "holier-than-thou", told them that their feelings and conclusions were based on having read "a couple of psychology books" (as noted, the idea that people he disagrees with are early on in their academic studies seems to be a bit of a thing for him), told them further that they had an "endless supply of self denial", and threatened to start calling people cocksuckers specifically to show them. Oh, and this:
I'm 100% for not marginalising people, but you can only use that aspect of my personality for so long.
Looks like an ultimatum. Which seems to me more scary than the occasional specialist word, but YMMV.

So, what you're actually asking, when you pull the camera back, is "how about not responding to insults and threats?" Which I guess is an option, and in some cases probably the best option.

But this not-responding is also usually discretionary, I would imagine. It's possible that you have been asked by somebody in the past never to address them directly, no matter what they say about you, and have honored that request, or that you have asked somebody the same thing: if so, that's interesting, and I'd be very grateful for your perspective and the benefit of your greater experience of MetaFilter.

It's also possible that you have been asked by the moderators never to interact with somebody, or have asked the moderators to tell somebody else never to interact with you, and that has been officially instituted as a rule - restless_nomad didn't think that had happened, but it may have been before her time as a moderator. However, I haven't experienced that, and it would seem odd to just decide to reorganize my approach to dealing with insults and threats to spare the feelings of the person deploying the insults and threats.

If seanyboy wants to explain why he is frightened, either in MeTa or directly to the mods, or even to me, that's his choice, but "insulting, threatening and jumpy" is not immediately striking me as a better reason to do what somebody wants than just "insulting and threatening", unless we're talking about hostage negotiations.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:34 AM on February 6, 2012


It's taken a while, but the winner of the Most Annoying and Pretentious New User of 2011 award has finally been chosen. Unfortunately, there's no iPad in it for you; just recognition. It was a hard fought contest, but in the end, an obvious choice. What's surprising is how you managed to stay off the panel's radar for so long. As always, when the award is handed out, advice is offered to the winner: It's a good idea to acquiesce to seanyboy's request, rather than taking a stand on the matter. Anyway, best of luck on here in 2012.
posted by gman at 5:06 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks, gman. It's always best to be liked by everyone, but if that isn't possible it's next-best to be disliked by the right people. Drive-by douchepoet, "my friend"-growling Wal-Mart Wolverine, fearless, knife-eating Internet Chuck Norris, friend of the false equivalency and "get out of the kitchen" victim-blamer. You've done it all, and in just one thread.

This award would truly be nothing without the prestige of the voting panel.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:24 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some days, you just gotta be grateful that you're not trapped in some people's heads. Yeesh.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:29 AM on February 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think we're now pretty far past the point of meaningful conversation on this topic, and I'm going to close it down.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:30 AM on February 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


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