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Friday, May 10, 2013

SL Letter of the Day: I'm Out

Posted by on Fri, May 10, 2013 at 4:38 PM

I'm a late twenty something male. I was out at a house party last night celebrating the end of the semester with fellow grad student friends when I was scolded by a peer for using the word "cunt." I had exclaimed the word when a fellow partygoer struck the top of my friend's beer bottle with hers so that my friend's beer would overflow. The actual prankster didn't even seem to hear me, and continued past us without comment, but a lady classmate of mine who overheard my offhand exclamation made it clear she was horrified.

I was apologetic in the moment but am not sure I should have been. My intent was to contrast using a nuclear-level insult with the relatively benign crime of causing my buddy's beer to overflow. (And aren't jokes just SO FUNNY when they're explained?) I would have tried to argue, if I had my wits about me, that the c-word occupies two rolesin our culture that are related, but also still distinct: 1) the word is acknowledged as the "worst" thing you can call someone, making it the insult that is therefore best suited for use in hyperbole; and 2) it is a word infused with gender negativity, the insult of last resort to be used against a woman when one wants to communicate utter disrespect for her. I think increasingly the word is used in a type (1) way that does not lean heavily on negativity towards women and instead is the kind of ultimate taboo word that can nevertheless be used among friends for hyperbole value. My scolder seemed to subscribe to the inseparability of (1) and (2), or maybe to the non-existence of (1).

Where are you on the use of "cunt" casually and among friends?

Patriarchy Reinforced In A Painful Interaction Sorrowfully Mortifying

My response—and it's not much of one—after the jump.


Where am I on the use of cunt?

Um... you know what, PRIAPISM? I could go on—I could craft a proper response—but it's a lovely day here in Seattle and I want to get out of the office. So I'm gonna toss your question to the commenters on Slog and let them have a crack at it. (If you're reading the SLLOTD on the app, click here to read or leave comments for PRIAPISM.)

What do you think of PRIAPISM's use of the word "cunt," gang? Not much, I suspect. And "lady classmate"? Any thoughts about that?

Have a nice weekend everybody.


Comments (237) RSS

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In general, it's best to avoid gender-negative insults like cunt. Anglophiles will disagree but we're not in fucking England, so their opinions don't count.

Anyway, I think kiddie raper is a far worse insult than cunt.
Posted by not a kiddie raping cunt on May 10, 2013 at 4:49 PM · Report this
Who gives a cunt?
Posted by Spike1382 on May 10, 2013 at 4:55 PM · Report this
Strange how slang names for body parts are insults; 'cunt' works well when 'asshole' just isn't the right body part.
Posted by lifner77 on May 10, 2013 at 4:55 PM · Report this
Frankly, I wouldn't have cared. Although I would have said the girl in question was a "stupid bee-otch" instead. Cunt sounds a bit more vicious, but some gals simply are. I've run into some.
Posted by Chucksmom on May 10, 2013 at 4:56 PM · Report this
Dougsf 5
Um, was this party in London's East End... in 1978? If not—all politics aside, the C-word is a total party foul, and the minor offense certainty didn't call for the mother-of-all-gender-related-epithets-that-I-can-think-of.

I get that he's in college trying out affectations, but this one's not working.
Posted by Dougsf on May 10, 2013 at 4:57 PM · Report this
I like how you broke it into type 1 and type 2. Never use cunt (or faggot, etc.) if anyone who could hear it even might interpret it as type 2. Also never use the word if anyone who could hear it might interpret it as type 1 but who might not know the difference between type 1 and 2. If you're using a term like that ironically or otherwise as type 1, it's your responsibility to know your audience...and know that your audience knows you and will understand the context. Basically...don't do it. But the lady who was offended and thought that her contribution to an otherwise relaxed shindig should be to call you out and have a super not-fun conversation? Well, she's a cunt.
Posted by G g on May 10, 2013 at 4:59 PM · Report this
Move to Britain - they have no problem with the casual use of "cunt," "twat," and "berk" (rhyming slang for "Berkshire hunt").

Here, on the other hand, you're gonna get called on it.
Posted by Pope Buck I on May 10, 2013 at 5:00 PM · Report this
The sound of the word cunt makes me want to kiss my fingers, so I find a way to use it on occasion (though never as the ultimate insult). But you're always gambling if you pull it out among strangers/acquaintances. If the hearer wants to be or enjoys being incensed, saying "cunt" pretty much rolls out the red carpet for 'em.
Posted by Jables on May 10, 2013 at 5:00 PM · Report this
Dougsf 9
Also, the girl that struck your friend's beer may have been flirting with him, however clumsily. Sounds like you're blowing it for everyone.
Posted by Dougsf on May 10, 2013 at 5:00 PM · Report this
I'd say as someone (a man) who can't be the target of that word, it's really not my call to decide whether it's become acceptable, nor is it Priapism's. Maybe he should ask some of his "lady classmates," and guage their reactions, instead of spinning a lot of pretentious rationalizations for his behaviour.
Posted by esperando on May 10, 2013 at 5:03 PM · Report this
It can be taken the wrong way, as the letter writer found out. If you are close enough friends with the lady you are "insulting", then I don't see any harm. But if you are in a large enough group that other people you don't know so well could hear and take insult? Probably not the best choice of words. Women get so damn much crap dumped on us, that it gets pretty discouraging sometimes. We live in a pretty negative environment anyway, so it never hurts to err on the side of not calling a woman "cunt". That said, as long as it was said in a way to get a laugh, not anger, I wouldn't be pissed.
Posted by SeattleKim on May 10, 2013 at 5:03 PM · Report this
@3: everyone has an asshole. so...not the same thing.
Posted by G g on May 10, 2013 at 5:03 PM · Report this
urn 13
@8 "But you're always gambling if you pull it out among strangers/acquaintances."

Truth, that.
Posted by urn on May 10, 2013 at 5:04 PM · Report this
Oh, and Dan? Honey, you've been out a very long time. No need to tell us now.
Posted by SeattleKim on May 10, 2013 at 5:07 PM · Report this
nartweag 15
I don't see any difference really between the use of the word "cunt" and the use of the word "dick".
I also don't mind the use of the word "bitch" as I feel it is just the same as "asshole".

Some people just want to find sexism everywhere, even where none exists. It is to the detriment of their own understanding of reality and society as well as "the cause" of stamping out that very sexism where it does exist.
Posted by nartweag on May 10, 2013 at 5:10 PM · Report this
bigg 16
It's a pretty common word in parts of this country too - I'm from Western PA, where you'll hear it regularly. I used it myself once upon a time, until a female friend explained to me that calling a woman a cunt is like calling a gay man a faggot. Haven't used it since.
Posted by bigg on May 10, 2013 at 5:10 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 17
I once had a roommate, an artist pal/gay guy (not that it matters much), who thought that I was too uptight. So some mornings, as I was staggering for the coffee, he made every opportunity possible to say the word cunt. You know, did that whole bit about "Twat? Cunt hear you, I have an ear infucktion," etc. He found my getting flustered funny, & found myself powerless to explain why the word infuriated me so. Especially pre-coffee. One day, I asked him how he'd feel if in the same moments, I said the word "faggot" as much as possible. Faggoty fag faggot. & he said he wasn't crazy about the word, RE: the oppression of gay people, & I said that's how I felt about "cunt"*, & we dropped that conversational ball for some years.

Then when I went to England, pretty much everyone said it, like you say "idiot". That, & meeting a woman who literally *could not* say it - she always said "What a See You Next Tuesday" that lady is!" - made me kinda re-examine it. I decided I didn't like the word "cunt" as there didn't seem to a cool, non-squicky word that referred to female junk, the way there was dick, pole, rod, etc. It's also a word used with deep bitterness by guys towards gals when they don't get their way - & they know it pisses women off. It's for when "bitch" "slut " or "ho" just doesn't cut it. But also, I was giving the word power by being so bothered by it.

Since then, I've been too busy writing & drawing & doing pro-equality activist stuff to care too much about it. ;) But I'll definitely let someone know they could improve their vocabulary if needed.

Oh right..this is about PRIAPISM, not me. Dudebro above sounds like he kinda doesn't get why it'd be so upsetting for a woman to hear. The fact that he says "lady classmate" also, seems kinda distancing. I wouldn't be interested in much conversation with a man who used that word as a throwaway insult.

Does PRIAPISM not have some good female friends he could ask about this? 'cause they would be the people he should ask.

* = (I don't use the word "faggot" much, anyhow. Was trying to reverse the "shick therapy" on my pal.)
Posted by Eva Hopkins on May 10, 2013 at 5:11 PM · Report this
I view a man using cunt in the same vein that I view the GOP using rape comments: it's clueless at best, "lean(s) heavily on "negatively towards women", and it's use should cause women to seriously review any relationship with said person or political party.

We have the GOP to insult us, so LW can stand down on that count, as we're heard enough.

As to the LW's comment that he would only use it as an insult of "last resort" - his life must be very fortunate or very sheltered, if a tapped beer bottle requires a last resort insult. But that would again fall under "clueless."
Try asshole, dick, idiot, jerk, - or chill on the small things.
Posted by hiker on May 10, 2013 at 5:13 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 19
@17 "shick therapy" = should be "shock therapy", natch. I type too fast. :(

& happy weekend, Dan & everyone. :)
Posted by Eva Hopkins on May 10, 2013 at 5:13 PM · Report this
Q*bert H. Humphrey 20
The problem in a situation like this is that the winking hipstery use is, for a lot of the people within earshot, basically indistinguishible from the horrible misogynistic use. And yes, that's true even if you have impeccable feminist credentials (not necessarily rightly so, but still true).

Ironically, in a way, you weren't over-the-top enough. If you'd said "baby rapist" or "puppy eater", your intended irony would have been clear to everyone.
Posted by Q*bert H. Humphrey on May 10, 2013 at 5:14 PM · Report this
If you're white, you never, ever call a Black person a nigger, not even in jest. If you are straight, you never, ever call a gay person a faggot, even in jest. If you are a man, you never, ever call a woman a cunt, even in jest. Those are the rules.
Posted by iluvgays on May 10, 2013 at 5:15 PM · Report this
nartweag 22
Although I personally don't see how
" I had exclaimed the word when a fellow partygoer struck the top of my friend's beer bottle with hers so that my friend's beer would overflow."
is an offense worthy of using any of the terms (cunt, bitch, dick, asshole).
Posted by nartweag on May 10, 2013 at 5:17 PM · Report this
My friends and I use it between each other because we know it's a joke... in a public situation like that though, I think the writer was in the wrong. You referred to the person who hit your friend's drink as a fellow party-goer, which makes it sound like you didn't know them. Calling anyone you don't know (and who therefore doesn't know if you're joking or not) a cunt in retaliation for an action is really not the best idea.

I hate to say it, but you being a guy also has a lot of leverage on the acceptability of you saying the word cunt in a public space, especially if you're actually directing it at another human being. I'm not surprised your "lady classmate" (really?) chewed you out, I probably would have too given the circumstances.

And, on a completely different note, if you talk anything like you write, you sound like a pretentious douche. Just a heads up.
Posted by yadayadayada on May 10, 2013 at 5:21 PM · Report this
seatackled 24
What @21 said. If the LW is white, would he have called a black classmate the n-word in order to be hyperbolic.

Also, to the LW: you weren't with friends, you fucking asshole; you were with peers and future colleagues with whom you were on friendly and informal terms.
Posted by seatackled on May 10, 2013 at 5:22 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 25
Only a grad student would write such an analysis of a 4-letter word.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on May 10, 2013 at 5:22 PM · Report this
@10 bingo. letter writer isn't in the position to be all defensive-hurt about this.

He was (allegedly) going for an outrageous overreaction in the name of humor. His joke fell flat. He couldn't come up with a witty comeback in the moment, so to make up for it, he's now got this whole analysis about the role of the word cunt in society to defend himself.

I suspect this letter is just a trial run so he'll be more prepared next time he tries to be so outRAGEously ascerbic at a party, so he can use a word people don't like AND school his lady classmates on what is and isn't offensive to them.

Are we sure this guy is in his late 20s? This is all very college freshman.

Posted by genevieve on May 10, 2013 at 5:24 PM · Report this
zephsright 27
What he thinks is irrelevant. The woman was offended and made it known. Since he is not a woman, he doesn't get much say in whether or not she should be offended or not.
Posted by zephsright on May 10, 2013 at 5:26 PM · Report this
lolorhone 28
Ugly is in the eye of the beholder. I'm a gay man, and I don't like being called a faggot. I know there are millions of straight men who use the word and I actually believe them when they say they're not actually homophobic- but the word certainly is and I don't want to hear it. There are also many gay men who don't give a shit. Defer to the company you're in if you don't want to be confronted or embarrassed. Using words like "cunt" or "faggot" don't necessarily make you a bad person, but if you do you should anticipate being judged for it- like anything else that comes out of your mouth. So the swears-he's-queer-positive straight man who says "faggot" and the considers-himself-a-feminist grad student who says "cunt" really shouldn't bitch when they're "misunderstood". Of course you have every right to say whatever you want- and other people have the right to point out that you sound like an asshole.

Posted by lolorhone on May 10, 2013 at 5:27 PM · Report this
Roma 29
and let them have a crack at it.

Whether intentional or not, good one!
Posted by Roma on May 10, 2013 at 5:33 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 30
Srsly? This is the douchiest writer ever.

Somebody called you out for being offensive when you were using an offensive word? Say it ain't so!

And your backwards twist triple somersault explanation of how saying a naughty word was really a joke unto itself is plain insulting and completely douchey. You insulted a woman and thought people would find it cute.

You, LW, are a doss cunt. And if you don't know the word doss, you can't use the word cunt.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on May 10, 2013 at 5:35 PM · Report this
Rotten666 31
You can jokingly call a guy a cunt, but not a girl.
Posted by Rotten666 on May 10, 2013 at 5:45 PM · Report this
tomsj 32
Anyone who has to spin a load of shit the length of this letter to justify what he said needs no help from us determining whether or not what he said was justified. He already knows the answer. He just doesn't want to admit it.
Posted by tomsj on May 10, 2013 at 5:46 PM · Report this
Calico Cat 33
How dare the classmate have her own opinion! The Mansplainer hath spoken!
Posted by Calico Cat on May 10, 2013 at 5:53 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 34
Welcome to grad school, where the disputes are so bitter because the stakes are so low.

Anyone remember the olden days when grad students were clever?
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on May 10, 2013 at 5:55 PM · Report this
@10: Thinking you aren't eligible to called 'cunt' makes you a cunt. Not all cunts are women. A male cunt is a whiny pussy.
Posted by lifner77 on May 10, 2013 at 5:57 PM · Report this
Jessica 36
Unless you have one (cunt) or are one (f****t, various racial slurs), you don't get to use it. Sorry, white boy. Find another way to be "edgy". May I suggest dreadlocks and Ayn Rand?
Posted by Jessica on May 10, 2013 at 6:00 PM · Report this
Alanmt 37
Yeah. He should not have used that word in a public social setting where it could be overheard and offend people, like he did and it was and it did. The proper remedy, though, was a simple "I'm sorry, I didn't intend for you to hear that," followed by turning away from the woman to indicate it was a private comment and discourage her from pursuing further chastisement.

Apparently, I am the only commenter thus far who thinks initial woman's dumb trick, which did actual - even if very minor - property damage (loss of beer, come on people, where are your values?) was worse than the epithet which followed.
Posted by Alanmt on May 10, 2013 at 6:03 PM · Report this
OutInBumF 38
I suspect he's in law school.
Posted by OutInBumF on May 10, 2013 at 6:04 PM · Report this
Letter writer, you should keep using the word "cunt" as you have. It's much better for everyone if you broadcast the type of person you are. It'd be far more annoying if you hid it and made it take longer for people to learn to avoid you and not take you seriously.
Posted by uncreative on May 10, 2013 at 6:06 PM · Report this
@21 has it.

@30, I don't use the C-word, at all, but could you explain what "doss" means in that context?
Posted by Action Kate on May 10, 2013 at 6:06 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 41
@ 26, some people never grow up. Hell, look at what happens on Slog on an everyday basis.
Posted by Matt from Denver on May 10, 2013 at 6:09 PM · Report this
reverend dr dj riz 42
' a male cunt is a whiny pussy'
Posted by reverend dr dj riz on May 10, 2013 at 6:13 PM · Report this
No, no and no.

Why didn't you just call her a bitch?

No, I think you wanted a reaction, buddy.
Posted by westello on May 10, 2013 at 6:15 PM · Report this
eclexia 44
Boy you just a stupid bitch, and girl your just a no good dick.
Posted by eclexia on May 10, 2013 at 6:20 PM · Report this
mr. herriman 45
context, intent and knowing your audience are everything. no word should ever be considered totally off-limits.
Posted by mr. herriman on May 10, 2013 at 6:21 PM · Report this
Rather than snarling the word "cunt" at one who has offended, please consider the less vulgar and more correct phrase: "You are as an attractive lady who will not lay with me."
Posted by beccoid on May 10, 2013 at 6:22 PM · Report this
I'll never forget "Sexy Beast," the Jonathan Glazer 2000 film, with dangerous male English gangster characters insulting each other with the C word. I thought it was hilarious. You know, in context and everything.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on May 10, 2013 at 6:24 PM · Report this
The short answer:
You unintentionally hurt someone's feelings? You apologize, genius.

Long, rambly answer:
I'd actually, intellectually like to reclaim the word. It has an etymology that I can't really find fault with or be insulted by. Depending on who you ask, it hearkens back to a Roman goddess of fertility, or a Saxon word for "sheath". All of that is fine and good except. . .

Do you have ANY idea how many times most women are called bitches, sluts, hos, cunts, etc by men that they *haven't even met yet*? I have this shit flung at me out moving car windows on a daily basis right along with slightly more complimentary (?) terms like "Hey, titties!" Until people stop using it to utterly whittle us down with minimal effort, you cannot use it for comedic value around anyone who doesn't know you VERY well without risk. As you JUST LEARNED.

And frankly? Even though you did so somewhat ironically, you admit you did use it because of its devastating nature, punishing a small transgression with it. You used it as the shock tactic conversation ender that it can be. For humor. But a woman can't take offense without being too sensitive? Just. . . wow.
Posted by KDru on May 10, 2013 at 6:25 PM · Report this
This is really ironic, PRIAPISM, because you're preoccupation with your wounded ego and your perceived linguistic entitlements as a male (which take precedent over, say, any actual concern you should have with patriarchy and sexism) render you a giant fucking DICK. So "dick" would be a more appropriate interjection at your next shitty attempt at humor.
Posted by ghassan on May 10, 2013 at 6:32 PM · Report this
More, I Say! 50
One time I was playing Sorry! with my best friend, and we were probably stoned, but she bumped my piece back to home, and I yelled out, "YOU CUNT!" For exactly the same reason as OP's #1. It was so out of line that it was hilarious. But also, we were alone in my apartment and it was for her ears only, not at a party.
Posted by More, I Say! on May 10, 2013 at 6:37 PM · Report this
gttrgst 51
Your reasoned concern proves there is hope for you yet, Bret Easton Ellis.
Posted by gttrgst on May 10, 2013 at 6:38 PM · Report this
After reading the "I'm out" caption, I expected the response to LW saying "cunt" was going to be the offended party saying "fag" and LW, in a sudden moment of insight and boldness, replying "Why yes, by God, I am!" and thereby come out to all his classmates. Now that would have been a nice read. All the whiny stuff, not so much.
Posted by fubar on May 10, 2013 at 6:44 PM · Report this
What 21 said. It's a power word with overwhelming symbolic weight. You just don't get to use it. And I would never use it either.
Posted by Sarah in Olympia on May 10, 2013 at 6:46 PM · Report this
sperifera 54
The word hasn't departed my mouth in at least a decade, though I has thought it many times. I merely refer to my favorite acronym for it, as in "He/She just can't understand normal thinking."

I also don't use the words "slit" or "gash" to substitute for it, which in my mind are much more offensive and vile.
Posted by sperifera on May 10, 2013 at 6:48 PM · Report this
Perhaps monosexual users of gendered insults involving body parts should be denied access to those parts or forced to become intimately acquainted with them (whichever is contrary to preference) for varying periods of time, greater for M>F insults in reflection of the evils of sexism. Until such sentences are in place, however, I suggest that the LW be required to watch Love! Valour!! Compassion!!! (sorry if I have the exclamation points wrong) daily for a month or two to see this argument done better. (Note: I said better, not right.)

As for "lady classmate", my guess would be that it's just the LW being snarky, although there does exist a certain type of woman who insists on the L word.

As its companion has fallen into general disuse, the L word is overdue for confinement to Wimbledon along with the G word.
Posted by vennominon on May 10, 2013 at 7:03 PM · Report this
This reminded me of something I came across on the internet a while ago:

Instead of deriving "bad words" from sex (or sex organs as the case may be), we should derive them from bad music: NICKLEBACK! That hurt like a Katy Perry single!

For the LW: Dude, don't be such a Brad Paisley. Not cool.
Posted by MiscKitty on May 10, 2013 at 7:06 PM · Report this
unknown_entity 57
Meh, a non-issue. She over reacted, don't lose any sleep about it.
Posted by unknown_entity on May 10, 2013 at 7:07 PM · Report this
This is easy. Any man who thinks nouns for female genitals are insults will not be spending time with my genitals. You can absolutely use "cunt" when talking dirty about all the fun things you're going to be doing to it.
Posted by milkshake on May 10, 2013 at 7:15 PM · Report this
On this note, I never use body part insults. What is with the body hate? Douche, people. Because douches are truly despicable.
Posted by milkshake on May 10, 2013 at 7:16 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 60
back in the 80s i heard a lot of women hold forth on the offensiveness of this word. then i heard brits use it like we use "like". then inga muscio.

i still don't say it. ever. i'm not british or inga muscio.
Posted by Max Solomon on May 10, 2013 at 7:22 PM · Report this
If you think it would have been OK to call an African American the N-word or a gay man a F@gg€t in a similar situation, you're golden, because it arrives in women's ears with a similar level of historic hatred and threat.
Posted by EFB on May 10, 2013 at 7:24 PM · Report this
I'm sorry, but for me it's as offensive as the infamous n-word, and I'm not even female (or black). And given the way women have been treated as mere sexual and reproductive commodities throughout human history *and even to this day*, reducing a woman to her genitalia (or to her clothing, or to her body shape) is not the same as doing the same for a man ("dick", which I wouldn't use either). Men will always have all the privilege. Their sexual health will not be politicized, they will not prized only as breeders and living Fleshlights, they will not grow up being told by society that their sexuality is the measure of their worth. They won't have to stay on guard for girlfriends, wives, or female acquaintances who could potentially rape them. (There are exceptions, of course.)

So the c-word is more than just the ultimate word to degrade a woman. (And how is that ever justified?) It's a reminder of past suffering and a threat of future abuse. I see it as a power play by the guy to remind the woman who's in charge. And who needs that crap?

I think. I mean, I'm not a woman. But I'll tell you this, if I was a woman going out with a guy, and he used that word, even in passing, that would be the last date. Because I'd see it as a little red flag, an indication of how he feels about women in general, beneath the jovial facade. And as a guy, a guy who uses that word, even in passing, tells me all I need to know.
Posted by floater on May 10, 2013 at 7:24 PM · Report this
Holy fuck balls, don't come to Australia if you don't like the indescriminatory use of the word CUNT, because gender aside everyone's a CUNT at some point, and they should be told when they are being CUNT's. so as to no longer be a CUNT but join the masses in proclaiming what CUNT all those other CUNTS are being, The end
Posted by DangerousD on May 10, 2013 at 7:24 PM · Report this
Never call a woman a cunt in the US. Never use cunt as a negative label to anyone. Period. And be very careful about using it in other English speaking contexts. It is very offensive.You will lose friends and if you make new friends they will be worthless people. It is just plain not OK.

You LW, have no entitlement for using it and your "joke" is lame and actually sounds like an after the fact explanation to justify what you know damn well was an offensive thing to say.

If you are really a college student and if you wish to be an educated person, you will find other lexical items to creatively express yourself.

Do not use the term "cunt."
Posted by LuisitaPhD on May 10, 2013 at 7:32 PM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 65
@40 In that context: stupid, thick, or not with it.
Posted by TheMisanthrope on May 10, 2013 at 7:34 PM · Report this
26 is onto something: This letter is the trial run for the next time he pulls an ironic hipster and some lady person fails to laugh at the awesome joke: He will mansplain it to her, including how her feelings about the word occasionally screamed at her out car windows are incorrect. He knows, as a guy.
Posted by IPJ on May 10, 2013 at 7:35 PM · Report this
Of course it's sexist, and the letter writer knows that it is. Whether he cares that it's sexist (and decides whether to use it or not accordingly), is obviously up to him. What he's really saying here is that he's been using this word (in this case "cunt", but substitute any other slur) most of his life and he FINALLY just ran into someone who objects, and it caught him by surprise and hurt his feewings. Sorry dude! But maybe grow up.
Posted by glerg on May 10, 2013 at 7:41 PM · Report this
63: Somehow I'm sure he would have thought to mention that he was in Australia (or England) and so the context was different. Since he precisely lays out how it is the most over-the-top thing he could come up with to say, I think it's safe to deduce he's not.

So if YOU come to the US (assuming you're in Australia) now you know not to march into a party or work function and start calling everyone around you a fucking cunt. Context.
Posted by IPJ on May 10, 2013 at 7:43 PM · Report this
As for the "lady classmate" who "made it clear she was horrified": Sounds like she told him she didn't care for the word. If everyone who is treated to his hilarious invocations of "cunt" stays silent because, hey, no need to cause a fuss, then he gets to claim, "Why golly gee willikers, no one has ever been offended until you!" She removed that excuse from his repertoire, performing a public service.

Sometimes you need to call people on their bs, even if it's ironic hipster bs.
Posted by IPJ on May 10, 2013 at 7:46 PM · Report this
Why do we think the person he said it to was a woman? The person who took offense was a woman, but I didn't get the impression the prankster was.
Posted by cawti on May 10, 2013 at 7:52 PM · Report this
As a woman, I have no problem using the word or hearing others use it. There is a great feminist book called 'cunt' actually. I actually find it insulting to women that it is seen as such taboo. Unfortunately not all share my opinion so to be safe in mixed company, try using C U Next Tuesday as a replacement ;)
Posted by Ponwhy on May 10, 2013 at 8:02 PM · Report this
@ 70 - Third sentence of his letter:

"I had exclaimed the word when a fellow partygoer struck the top of my friend's beer bottle with HERS* so that my friend's beer would overflow."

*Emphasis added.
Posted by MiscKitty on May 10, 2013 at 8:02 PM · Report this
If you can replace the word "cunt" with the phrase "charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent", and your sentence still makes sense, then it is OK to use it. Otherwise you'd best not. This is known as the Rupaul rule.
Posted by phony_handle on May 10, 2013 at 8:11 PM · Report this
What a cunty cunt.
Posted by Mike Hunt on May 10, 2013 at 8:13 PM · Report this
'Cunt' pisses off uptight, Seattle feminists?

What doesn't piss off those cunts.
Posted by Mike Hunt on May 10, 2013 at 8:17 PM · Report this
reading the letter makes me shudder because it sounds just like my son might sound in 10 years. The self-righteous justification for using an offensive term is like my 14-year-old who never makes a mistake and explain that every idiotic thing he does makes sense, was reasonable and, really, he had no other choice. Since this guy is not my son, I can say, "what a dick"
Posted by From the South (as in CA) on May 10, 2013 at 8:20 PM · Report this
"Never use cunt as a negative label to anyone. Period."

@64 LuisitaPhD, you're the reason the word cunt was invented.

Posted by Mike Hunt on May 10, 2013 at 8:20 PM · Report this
I love the word cunt, girlfriends have discussed it with me and they found it sexy and empowering. What a strong sounding word it is for a mimsy, after all.

It tastes good just to say it, but in social situations you must know your audience. Then again you might get to know your audience by using the word cunt, or by explaining that when you're fucking a chicken you can slam it's neck in a drawer to make it tighten up, then see who leaves the room.
Posted by SifuMark on May 10, 2013 at 8:21 PM · Report this
Best to avoid the word, but also best to avoid those who make a big deal about its use as a joke at a gathering of friends.

My reasoning is partly based on a sort of low-level Anglophilia that's common in my circle of friends. They have the wit to know that Brits and Aussies use the word more profligately than most Americans (and hey, Brits and Aussies have a bit of cachet among us, what can I say).

My circle also (mostly) had the sense to years ago kill and extract most of the bugs up their asses. Hopefully PRIAPISM's friends will also calm down a bit in coming years.
Posted by Functional Atheist on May 10, 2013 at 8:41 PM · Report this
TreGibbs 80
We live in a misogynistic society. Women, thanks to the likes of the Karadshian tribe, are now in the midst of a total resurgence of macho-istic bullshit. Calling someone a "cunt" today is much different than calling someone that two decades ago.

Both "cunt" and "faggot" have become the new "nigger". Society is changing - and it is thankfully DEMANDING that people actually be more careful in what they say and how they choose their words.

While some see this as a) political correctness gone loco or b) hyper sensitive minorities having a chip on their collective shoulders, the fact remains that in the long run, thinking about the words we use, how we use them and how it makes us look to our peers, can only help to evolve the human race to a better tier, even while trash like "reality TV" and "pop music" continue to drag us all down.

Choose your words carefully - don't take the gift of language and communication for granted.
Posted by TreGibbs on May 10, 2013 at 8:42 PM · Report this
Sounds like the cunt who complained just wanted something to bitch about. Probably that time of the month.
Posted by S T on May 10, 2013 at 8:54 PM · Report this
@68 Good to know. Ya cunt.
Posted by DangerousD on May 10, 2013 at 8:55 PM · Report this
still trying to get around this one, hun... NOPE. You just can't!
Posted by Last_night_girl on May 10, 2013 at 9:00 PM · Report this
"hyper sensitive minorities "

Well of course cunts are a minority. If everyone was a cunt, life would be a total bitch.
Posted by Mike Hunt on May 10, 2013 at 9:05 PM · Report this
I love to hear my lover say cunt while in the throws of passion.

I'm pretty good at catching inflection in speech and would pick up on cunt being used as an insult rather than in humor. Many people don't catch the subtleties of speech. Also, many people cling to what they have been taught and what they believe is offensive, and are not willing to accept that others may have a different opinion. So unless you can take the heat from those offended just choose your use of the word carefully.

I say be grateful you like the world. It comes off the tongue quite nicely and others are just missing out on a wonderful word.
Posted by Cads on May 10, 2013 at 9:14 PM · Report this
Foggen 86
Posted by Foggen on May 10, 2013 at 9:27 PM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 87
You people live in some kind of rarefied Anglicized eating club where women feint and men get miffed and vexed by vulgar lan-gu-age.

Here in Kent at my favorite park, a bunch of girls were sunbathing and then started called calling each other dicks and then claimed they were wiggers. It is not uncommon for a bunch chicks of them to run up to some guy from their class, punch him and then scream "you asshole, fuck you, Colin"!

If I close my eyes and somehow imagine their voices several octaves lower, I would swear I was at a bar in Elizabeth, New Jersey listening to some longshoremen roughhousing while downing boilermakers.

Maybe you guys should see "Spring Breakers". Or see it again. You might learn what life is like outside The Capitol.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on May 10, 2013 at 9:31 PM · Report this
lolorhone 88
If you don't mean to cause offense, avoid saying words that cause offense. If you do mean to cause offense, say what you mean and stand behind it. Either way, don't retroactively whine about your misunderstood intentions while coaching the masses on how they should feel about it.
Posted by lolorhone on May 10, 2013 at 9:32 PM · Report this
schmacky 89
I don't get it...I took a bunch of shit from you people in a different thread on the use of "pussy" as an insult; now I come here and find all sorts of "cunt" defense? I'm confused.
Posted by schmacky on May 10, 2013 at 10:00 PM · Report this
@87: Check your meds, something is amiss.
Posted by lifner77 on May 10, 2013 at 10:02 PM · Report this
delirian 91
'Cunt' is an extreme version of 'bitch'. When used on a woman it is basically saying that she should be ashamed that she is not falling into her proper gender role. Equivalent words don't exist for men except perhaps for 'faggot'. So yes, calling a woman a cunt is far more offensive than just a vulgar word. It is a misogynist slur.
Posted by delirian on May 10, 2013 at 10:03 PM · Report this
@63, @74 & 75 great examples.

Proper usage:
What a fucking cunt!
Posted by Mike Hunt on May 10, 2013 at 10:05 PM · Report this
One of the hallmarks of being clever is that other people can tell you're being clever.
Posted by Bebban on May 10, 2013 at 10:10 PM · Report this
As far as I'm concerned "cunt" is the exact equivalent of "dick". I use it to call out people who embody the worst stereotypes and expectations of their gender. Not usually to their faces.

Using it to belittle a guy for acting like some kind of girl? Nope.
Posted by Prettybetsy on May 10, 2013 at 10:17 PM · Report this
mikethehammer 95
I'm obviously very much in the minority here, but I always wonder if we might be much better off to de-stigmatize these types of broad and context-less slurs, who's primary function, as far as I can tell, is to give a baseless & undeserved upper hand to their user that's always going to be lacking their adversary. It's unlikely there's ever going to be anything that targets or offends us white guys the way that "nigger" or "cunt" does blacks or women. Doesn't this inability to be offended on that same level serve to empower us (even if obviously to an extremely minor extent)?

Put another way, I wonder if we shouldn't just apply godwin's law and allow for all lowest common denominator style insults to carry the same sordid weight. Wouldn't this essentially level the playing field and force those engaging in debate to be judged and evaluated based on the content of their argument, rather than the intensity or vulgarity of the insult contained therein?

I guess this would entail "giving up" this fight, but in the scope of fights that feminists and minority rights advocates engage in, one involving language would seem to rank pretty low on the scale.

(Obviously I'm about to get flamed here and I surely mean no offense to anyone. Inasmuch as it's worth, I absolutely consider myself an advocate for both feminism and minority rights. Just curious...)
Posted by mikethehammer on May 10, 2013 at 10:25 PM · Report this
@91: How is intentionally spilling beer in (undoubtedly) someone elses' space not a dick move?
Perhaps he should have said, " Stop being a stupid dick, you dumb cunt". Inclusiveness rules!
Posted by lifner77 on May 10, 2013 at 10:26 PM · Report this
I'm an American living in London. Those defending the casual use of `cunt' on the grounds of Anglophilia should know it's losing favor here. Or losing favour, if you insist. The Brits are starting to hear the misogynistic undertone, I think. Oddly enough, the use of `pussy' as an insult meaning something like `wimp' is growing.
Posted by Bill Boot on May 10, 2013 at 10:36 PM · Report this
delirian 98
@96: Calling someone a dick isn't a word that is typically associated with gender norms. 'Bitch' and 'cunt' are. So is 'faggot'. These words are slurs.

Think about the women who are typically called bitches or cunts--they are women who stand up for themselves. They aren't submissive. They don't respect male authority. So bigots call them bitches and cunts to take them down a peg. And think about why a man who is not obeying his gender role is called "a little bitch" or a cunt. This is to associate the man with the worst type of woman that a bigot can think of--one who doesn't know her place.

Just don't use the words. It is theoretically possible you could use the words in a non-offensive manner, just like other racial slurs could theoretically be used in a non-offensive manner. It isn't wise to do so though, since they have a very bigoted history.
Posted by delirian on May 10, 2013 at 10:39 PM · Report this
Here in New Zealand (Australia has a similar outlook) the word 'cunt' is used VERY frequently in informal conversation. Saying someone is a cunt is honestly not much worse than saying they are a dick or an asshole. In fact - it will no doubt shock American readers - that the word cunt is interchangeably used as a positive word of endearment (usually prefaced by the word 'good') as well as an insult. It all depends on context. For example, "Dave changed my tire for me, what a good cunt" or "my mates threw me a surprise birthday party, what a bunch of good cunts". It's often also shortened to 'GC' (as in "Dave's such a GC"). As you can see, it's also used in a non-gender specific way.
Posted by HazelNZ on May 10, 2013 at 10:44 PM · Report this
@ 95, I get what you're saying, and a lot of us feel that way intellectually, but at the end of the day, how you react viscerally isn't so easy to shut off. Words have power because they DO. There's a huge chunk of history built up in many of us.

for example, I'm a lesbian with an obvious disability. I've been insulted a time or two in my life. If you insult me again, it carries the weight of prior experience. As much as I would LIKE to take less offense, it isn't possible. I can pretend to feel nothing, to avoid a scene, but rest assured, I would feel it, no matter how many times whatever term has been used casually. The times that were less casual affect the perception too strongly.

Conversely, there's no insult I could sling at Mr. Clueless Brodude from the letter that could hurt him the same way he could hurt me unless I happen to accidentally stumble on something that held private history for him, because societal convention certainly isn't providing me with any obvious barbs for his category of person. Would it be nice to level the playing field? Perhaps, but I'm at a loss.

I believe that the language you use has an effect upon your very thoughts. What you say, you become. Is that really so trivial a part of the fight?
Posted by KDru on May 10, 2013 at 10:48 PM · Report this
"I'm a lesbian with an obvious disability."

Being a cunt isn't a disability.
Posted by Mike Hunt on May 10, 2013 at 10:52 PM · Report this
@98: "Dick" is all about gender. It's aggressive, selfish, meatheady, entitled, all the things we expect to see from men at their worst. "Cunt" is what we expect from women at their worst: fake, manipulative, willfully dumb, entitled in a different way. That's how I use those words, and I'm going to keep using them that way, for men and women respectively.
Posted by Prettybetsy on May 10, 2013 at 11:11 PM · Report this
@100: 'clueless brodude' seems insulting enough.
I wouldn't want to fit that description.
Posted by lifner77 on May 10, 2013 at 11:14 PM · Report this
runswithnailclippers 104
Is the letter writer Irish? Anyway, starting at 0:55 this tells you everything you need to know:…
Posted by runswithnailclippers on May 10, 2013 at 11:17 PM · Report this
@72 Ah, crap, you're right, I missed it. Dammit.

Yeah, sounds he threw the word at a woman he (presumably) didn't know well, and got called on it. If you're going to use offensive humor, you have to know your audience, and/or be ready to take some heat. Nothing wrong with the latter, either - being a jerk at a party and then drunkenly defending your position until 3am is one of the joys of life.
Posted by cawti on May 10, 2013 at 11:21 PM · Report this
delirian 106
@102: 'Dick' isn't about gender norms. Being "aggressive, selfish, meatheady, entitled" aren't outside male gender norms. But it is interesting that you assign "fake, manipulative, willfully dumb, entitled" as your definition of 'cunt' when your definition of 'dick' would have served better. I do have to wonder how objective you are in this discussion when you equate the validity of the terms but when your first three parts for the definition of an insult for women describes how a 'cunt' falls into the seductress trope where she uses her power to manipulate and control men. If you still don't see the misogynist undertones in this word, I think you need to sit down and reflect for a while on how you see women.
Posted by delirian on May 10, 2013 at 11:22 PM · Report this
@106 I am female (let's hope you are too, otherwise you've got some mansplainin to do about your mansplainin), and I stand by what I said.
Posted by Prettybetsy on May 10, 2013 at 11:30 PM · Report this
skjaere 108
I recommend against using this word unless you're talking dirty during a sex act with someone who doesn't mind its usage in that context, or possibly among close friends when there is no one else within earshot. All other usages are generally considered highly offensive and should be avoided at all cost. We have so many good words in the English language. Surely an educated guy like you can come up with something a little more creative.
Posted by skjaere on May 10, 2013 at 11:36 PM · Report this
@102: Gender norms are too too limiting. Men can be cunts; women can be dicks. Words are flexible.
Posted by lifner77 on May 10, 2013 at 11:37 PM · Report this
I was dating an English punk musician back in the late 1970s, come to New York to make it big.

Pressed up a lot of sample 45s, and named his company "Cunt Records", although I tried to talk him out of it.

Predicted that every record company secretary who opened the envelope would throw his demo in the trash before any A&R guy got to see it (and yes, the A&R guys were all guys then, and the secretaries women.)

He wouldn't listen, and after zero response slunk back to England unrecognized.

There's a lesson in there somewhere.
Posted by judybrowni on May 10, 2013 at 11:45 PM · Report this
@109 That's true, but where I live I see a lot more women and men conforming to received ideas about gender and a lot fewer subverting them than you might in Seattle, if that's where you are.
Posted by Prettybetsy on May 10, 2013 at 11:54 PM · Report this

Brits are weaklings
Posted by No Excuses on May 10, 2013 at 11:54 PM · Report this
I think slurs like bitch, cunt and whore perpetuate a terrible tradition of shaming women, and I refrain from using them because I don't want to participate in that tradition. I also think the language we use to insult people in particular says more about us than it does about the object of our derision. If someone annoys me and I feel like lashing out, I'll focus on the aggravating behavior of the person in question, rather than focusing on gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. Nobody can really tell you how to use language though. You have to figure it out for yourself. Good luck.
Posted by Amanda on May 11, 2013 at 12:11 AM · Report this
pinksoda 114

Thank you, DJ Riz!

@ PrettyBetsy - Woman or not, you may still need to reflect on how you see women.

My grandma always said that people who use slurs are people who lack imagination ... but that a loud FUCK when you stub your toe is necessary! I think she's right.

Ultimately, I guess I just agree with KDru: I just don't want to be that person!
Posted by pinksoda on May 11, 2013 at 12:37 AM · Report this
Posted by j2patter on May 11, 2013 at 12:37 AM · Report this
It doesn't matter how smart you are, there are just some arguments that can never be won. Cunt is one of them. At least that's the way it is in a world full of cunts.
Posted by Obrien on May 11, 2013 at 12:43 AM · Report this
seandr 117
Ricky Gervais: Asking "Are jokes about (insert controversial subject here) funny?" Is the same as asking "Are Jokes funny?" IT DEPENDS ON THE JOKE!
Posted by seandr on May 11, 2013 at 12:46 AM · Report this
@111: Any refutation that starts out, " That's true, but...", is inherently weak.
Posted by lifner77 on May 11, 2013 at 1:36 AM · Report this
Registered European 119
I don't trust "ironic" uses of sexist/racist/homophobic slurs. I have the impression there is often actual homophobia etc. hiding behind this so-called "irony".
Posted by Registered European on May 11, 2013 at 2:26 AM · Report this
Briton here -- yes, we use "cunt" more freely, but it's a largely gender-neutral insult that's if anything, more likely to be aimed at a man. This doesn't mean there's no misogyny in it but it isn't Bitch Plus the way it seems to be over there. So yeah, don't say it to women, don't use us as a reason why you should.
Posted by theron on May 11, 2013 at 3:02 AM · Report this
Thank you!

"Cunt" is my favourite English word for female genitals, far superior to pussy which is a major turn-off (slit and gash are the worst).
But as an insult it is not ironic nor funny. It's just offensive.
Posted by migrationist on May 11, 2013 at 3:17 AM · Report this
I hate the word cunt. I think it's an ugly word with an ugly history of usage. The way it is used in non-American countries is irrelevant to its usage by Americans, as I see it. If you are likely to be overheard by strangers, you should not use it. If you among friends who you KNOW FOR A FACT are not offended by your ironic usage of it, then you can use it with them.
Posted by alguna_rubia on May 11, 2013 at 4:31 AM · Report this
Dan. Why choose a letter u don't care about and toss it to us. Boring.
Posted by posnie on May 11, 2013 at 4:37 AM · Report this
Try fuckwit instead.
Posted by Unbrainwashed on May 11, 2013 at 4:49 AM · Report this
Aurora Erratic 125
Call 'em all "ankles." That's three feet below a cunt OR a dick.
Although I like "fuckwit," too, for its nonsensicality. If that's a word.
Posted by Aurora Erratic on May 11, 2013 at 5:05 AM · Report this
milemarker 126
A Guide To When It Is Appropriate To Call A Female A Cunt:

1. You're a smoker at a restaurant that doesn't allow smoking.
2. The restaurant that doesn't allow smoking has a sign at the front door saying, "Smoking not allowed inside of near the entry of this restaurant."
3. Wanting a cigarette but not wanting to violate the restaurant's policy, you walk five rows deep in the parking lot, or about 120 feet from the restaurant, where there are no cars parked, where the sun is baking the desert you live in with 111 degree temperature and you light up.
4. An old lady, perhaps in her 80s, emerges from the restaurant with her elderly daughter. The old lady sees you standing 5 rows deep in the parking lot and 120 feet from the entry of the restaurant where there are no cars or people in the baking 111 degree heat smoking your cigarette.
5. The old lady walks the 120 feet from the entry into the baking heat where you are standing completely alone having your cigarette and says to you, "You shouldn't smoke."
6. Under these circumstances, and ONLY these circumstance, are you allowed to respond to the female with the word "cunt".

Alternately, you should get in your car and drive out to the rural area adjacent to Los Angeles to have your cigarette, taking care not to ignite the abundant shrubbery and start a wildfire. However, be aware that you may risk being attacked by four apparently feral pit bulls, depending upon the rural area you choose.

You're welcome.
Posted by milemarker on May 11, 2013 at 5:26 AM · Report this
ShifterCat 127
But cunts are lovely things! Really, we should be using that word as a compliment.

"Look what Sally got to cheer me up."
"Aww, she's such a cunt!"
"I know, what a sweetie!"

Likewise, it's always confused me that cock-owners would use the word "cocksucker" as an insult. Shouldn't it mean "person who's done something really nice for you"?

"Thanks for the lift, Jim. You're a real cocksucker."
"No problem, dude."

...No, I'm not expecting either usage to come into common parlance. More's the pity.
Posted by ShifterCat on May 11, 2013 at 5:55 AM · Report this
Oh - silly of me to forget one marginally misogynistic usage the utility of which might legitimize it. (joking)

It may be pronounced with a cedilla by closeted men in dangerous situations; the only people who will know what they are saying will have seen The Boys in the Band.
Posted by vennominon on May 11, 2013 at 5:56 AM · Report this
I gotta say, I don't get the problem with cunt. I somehow missed the part of my childhood where you learn to categorize the word with racial slurs, because it does nothing to me. In what objective way is it different from dick?
However cultural taboos have little of the rational, so I accept that society has the right to decide on an arbitrary basis that I've just missed the boat on this one. But this is one woman who can't bring herself to feel outrage about the word.
Posted by Lynx on May 11, 2013 at 5:59 AM · Report this
I try to use the word cunt as much as possible. And I am female and a feminist. I feel a one-woman-mission to reclaim cunt, to co-opt the word, to diffuse it, and make it so commonplace and banal that it has none of its "scary powers".

While I believe the author meant well, "lady classmate" was really worse. I wouldn't have called my male colleagues in grad school gentleman classmates, so why must my gender get the modifier?

PS I also adore calling men bitches, when relevant and important.
Posted by Writer-gal on May 11, 2013 at 6:02 AM · Report this
Dick... Cunt... Ass... all works.
Posted by parisimo on May 11, 2013 at 6:16 AM · Report this
While the mechanics of the joke that the letter-writer constructed are quite good, it is not for a male person to say when "cunt" becomes funny, just as it is not for a white person to say when the n-word becomes funny. The sexism and coercive domination in that word was never directed at him or anyone like him (YES, even when men call each other "cunt" they are making fun of women and not men).

The issue here is whether the discrimination and negativity associated with the c-word have as yet diluted to the point where calling someone a cunt no longer means calling her a worthless vagina fit for servicing male users and nothing else. Only then could the joke be funny.

So I'd say it's not nearly as bad as the n-word, but we're not there yet, and this man's companions were right to be offended and he was right to apologize (assuming he did apologize rather than just "feel apologetic"). A few more seasons of Game of Thrones should dilute it a bit more, though.
Posted by DRF on May 11, 2013 at 6:25 AM · Report this
@82: "A woman just disagreed with me--she's a cunt."

I totally get how you're an ironic hipster and totally were not going for that traditional usage at all. It was just establishing your Aussie hipster cred.
Posted by IPJ on May 11, 2013 at 6:30 AM · Report this
These words aren't necessarily gendered to me, but they embody in my mind a certain sort of irritating behavior.

Dick: the person who wants in on our coffee at work (we bring our own fancy and take turns buying) but contributes Folgers "Its the Black Silk, it's really good" Dick

Asshole: someone who shoots their mouth off, saying stupid and inappropriate things, or gets disproportionally mad at silly things

Bitch: whiny, entitled behavior, or thoughtlessness

Cunt: the person who cuts me off in traffic, or purposefully screws over other people to gain even the slightest benefit to themselves.

The woman who hit the beer bottle was being a bitch, of the thoughtless entitled variety. She probably thought she was being cool or something, wasting a perfectly good beer.
Posted by Zbot on May 11, 2013 at 6:31 AM · Report this
@129 Lynx-- It's because "dick" means "sexual organ" but "cunt" means "worthless sexual organ." Calling someone "cunt" means "your only use is to service other people sexually." (Using the n-rhymes-with-trigger or f-rhymes-with-maggot is a little different. It means "you're bad because you're black/gay.")

Think about it. When you call someone a "dick," you mean that he or she is selfish, with a slight ha-ha-of-course-dicks-want-sex-all-the-time. It's had a boys-will-be-boys feel to it for decades. "Cunt" is loaded with a lot more negativity. To call a person a cunt is to say "there is nothing to you except your vagina" with an undertone of "come over here and use it!"

Now, this is more what this word meant in 1960 and 1980 than what it means today, but these undertones have not faded entirely. Language changes over time (and place, as many Brit-visitors have pointed out) and "cunt" is slowly becoming a less intense swear word, but right now it still has a lot of sexist and coercive connotation to it. Can it be reclaimed? Sure. I heard its etymology even involves a Roman goddess of babies and childbirth. But right now, it's still degrading.
Posted by DRF on May 11, 2013 at 6:39 AM · Report this
Helenka (also a Canuck) 136
Ugh. Such a delightful example of intellectual prowess (/sarcasm), where the LW establishes his defence for uttering the C-bomb (using "hyperbole" twice) - but he was too lazy to tailor his objection (which did NOT have to be in the form of an insult to denote intent) to the situation.

The appropriate C-word could have been "clumsy" ... but there's no derision implied in calling someone that. And LW is far too pompous to favour appropriate responses when an outrageous one will do, subsequently allowing him to hector any "lady" classmates. And wasn't he ever so eager to leap to his friend's defence, when his friend didn't appear to be bothered. Ah, what a little shit!
Posted by Helenka (also a Canuck) on May 11, 2013 at 7:10 AM · Report this
The definitions of words develop over time and through contexts based on the history of the word, the people using the word, the people hearing the word, the culture of these people, etc.

That being said: the word "cunt" (and every other word) has way more than two meanings. Thus, when using it around acquaintances, or even very close friends, you run the risk of communicating with one meaning but having an alternate meaning heard. The best way to defend yourself is to explain your perspective. If people can't understand that not everyone agrees with their life view they are being immature.

As far as "cunt" specifically: it is one of my favorite words. You should read the book cunt, it goes over the history of the word and how it has gone from "the most degrading thing you can call a woman" to being reclaimed as a sarcastic slang term. You should also look up its use in The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler. If you don't want to research much Wikipedia it for some strong talking points the next time you are scolded. But for me it has been reclaimed and individuals continuing to view it as taboo is the only thing that can give words that kind of power.
Posted by QueerInPublic on May 11, 2013 at 7:15 AM · Report this
GhostDog 138
So, if cunt is out, what is a good "I hate you so much right now I urgently hope you die cold and alone with all of your hopes, dreams, and aspirations either brutally shattered or hideously perverted, while writhing in a pool of your own filth screaming to a God that either does not exist or has forsaken you" word for women? I use dick with a particular emphasis which conveys the point pretty well for men, but nothing for women.
Posted by GhostDog on May 11, 2013 at 7:20 AM · Report this
ShifterCat 139
@138: why does it have to be gendered?

If your intent is to convey consuming hatred, how about "shitbag"? Or "shitrag" if you want to add a bit of a growl in there.
Posted by ShifterCat on May 11, 2013 at 7:40 AM · Report this
I think I might be the only one out of all the women I know who absolutely loves the word "cunt". Most avoid the word like the plague. And some use it only to describe the vilest of the ville. When I hear the word, I can't help but think of the movie Boys on the Side and the scene where Jane (played by Whoopi Goldberg) and Robin (played by Mary-Louise Parker) are discussing Robin's names for body parts. It ends with a happy dance of Robin singing and shooting out CUNT. I'm sorry, but the word now makes me smile.

That aside, it's generally bad form to use the word, especially in mixed company. Chances are very good that someone will be very offended. If this is a word commonly used with this particular female friend in a good-natured way, he should reserve the use for more private venues.
Posted by erinmc on May 11, 2013 at 7:41 AM · Report this
Fistique 141
For chrissakes, all you Larry Davids, give it a rest.
Posted by Fistique on May 11, 2013 at 8:11 AM · Report this
Dear God, why do people care? Guess what? MAYBE THAT CUNT SHOULD MIND HER OWN BUSINESS.
Posted by Tacopasta123 on May 11, 2013 at 8:16 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 143
is "cunny" ok? "cunnilingus" certainly is.

cunt is a really old word. first in a dictionary in 1230. cunnus is latin. kunta is old norse.

cunt has 2 hard consonants in 1 syllable - to me it's vastly preferable to vagina ("sheath" in latin), which is all soft consonants and 3 long syllables. or pussy, which carries almost as much baggage (but everybody likes kitties).

cunt sounds more powerful, like cock.

too bad we can't say it.
Posted by Max Solomon on May 11, 2013 at 8:28 AM · Report this
Honestly, I don't understand why it is so devastating to be compared to one of the most delightful parts of a woman, and to me it feels that getting so wound up over it grants the user of those words too much power. But here is the thing; I don't have to understand why a word is devastating or emotionally weighty. I just have to realize that it is. And once I do, I avoid that word. My life works fine without calling anyone a cunt, and I don't have to worry about the nuances of how someone feel vs should feel. I accept that for whatever reason, the word is out of bounds and move on.

The only time I have used "cunt" is with a lover who suggested it as her most preferred term for her genitals. Again, didn't quite understand, but happy to oblige her preferences. Especially because the reward was to eat her delightful cunt.
Posted by ohthetrees on May 11, 2013 at 8:32 AM · Report this
"I am female and a feminist. I feel a one-woman-mission to reclaim cunt,"

Trust me, you already own it.
Posted by Mike Hunt on May 11, 2013 at 8:38 AM · Report this
“It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.' As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more... than a whine. 'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that.' Well, so fucking what.”

― Stephen Fry
Posted by MisterTiger on May 11, 2013 at 8:54 AM · Report this
"Stick and Stones..." Some people (women) freak when this word is used. Although it's known as particularly harsh, it's still just a word.
I'm with "Dougsf" on this one: the girl was probably trying to flirt with your friend in an extremely lame way. Now, if it had been YOUR beer, and the chick was ugly...well, all bets are off, then ;)
Posted by Brendajill on May 11, 2013 at 8:56 AM · Report this
“It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.' As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more... than a whine. 'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that.' Well, so fucking what.”

― Stephen Fry
Posted by MisterTiger on May 11, 2013 at 9:02 AM · Report this
Hey, Pinksoda? research backs up your grandma. Turns out that letting out a loud swear when you don't usually use them reduces stress and undermines pain.

I hear a lot of people defending cunt because they want to call vaginas that. I agree. Let's reclaim it for that purpose. But calling a PERSON that is still likely to make them feel very small. Maybe someday it won't, but for now, it does. If that's your intention, then I guess that's your intention. But if it's not don't say we didn't warn you.

A bajillion comments later I suspect Dan knew we'd tear this guy up.
Posted by KDru on May 11, 2013 at 9:07 AM · Report this
"I'm not a cunt. Don't use that word"

I'm pretty sure in order to be a cunt you can't know you're a cunt.

"cunt sounds more powerful, like cock. too bad we can't say it."

Yes you can but only around cunts.
Posted by Mike Hunt on May 11, 2013 at 9:07 AM · Report this
julie russell 151
It is just a word. Get over it.

When my former boss first got a smart phone, she gave all her employees a little photo profile.
She called, explaining this and said "you're a beach" (BC I surf?).

My "well, you're a coont" response was not well received.
Posted by julie russell http:// on May 11, 2013 at 9:33 AM · Report this
undead ayn rand 152
Sounds like the sort of person who enjoys "not being PC" and wants to drop n-bombs because ITZAFREEKUNTRY and something something first amendment something.
Posted by undead ayn rand on May 11, 2013 at 10:00 AM · Report this
Pinksoda @114 Wow. No, I'm not interested in being told how to be a feminist or think about my gender. Step off.
Posted by Prettybetsy on May 11, 2013 at 10:08 AM · Report this
To be fair, that stupid bartender trick to spill a beer can be a cunty thing to do. I say this both as a girl and as someone who has had their beer spilled, as if this somehow validates my statement.
His awkward justification of why he called her cunt (because comedy guys! is funny, no?) just made me cringe. I'm not saying this because he called a girl a cunt, but because of how he felt the need to dissect his statement and rationalize why he thought it was funny. This wasn't an instance of hyperbole=funny. The whole thing was just stupid.
Posted by bobulesca on May 11, 2013 at 10:11 AM · Report this
I try not to use body parts as insults. I do screw up on occasion with "asshole" and "dick," because I grew up hearing those particular swear words more than others. I use the word cunt when referring to my own body, but I reserve the right of a woman to use it in whatever damn way she wants. I never say "nigger" or "faggot," because the use of those derogatory terms should be reserved for members of those groups and bigots. And yes, I swear all the fucking time.

My favorite insult is "douche" because a douche is bad for a vagina, but for some reason they're still being sold at drug stores all over the country. I will accept "bitch" as a swear word because it is one of the oldest insults out there (all over the place in Greek literature) and it is used so often that I would drive myself crazy worrying about it. I suppose if my peers used the word "cunt" more frequently, I'd give up on being upset about it. As things are now, I'll do my part to avoid saying it.

The letter writer has nothing to complain about. If you have to explain why your joke is funny and not offensive, then it was clearly offensive and not funny, at least to the crowd to which the joke was delivered.
Posted by oohlookasquirrel on May 11, 2013 at 10:30 AM · Report this
Fnarf 156
I am pro-"cunt", and find the analogy with "nigger" and "faggot" to be specious. Those words, especially the former, are freighted with six hundred years of cultural baggage. "Cunt" is not.

Most of the offensiveness of that word derives not from thoughtful feminist sensibilities but from the American, specifically the middle-class American, horror of mentioning ladyparts or lady-functions. The two are often confused in college dormitories (and Slog discussions).

The whole point of the word is to be offensive, intentionally offensive, deliberately offensive as possible, so you go for not just a body part but the delicate flower in the delicate flower of young womanhood, the most sacred object in the reliquary of middle-class American piety.

And you use the most magnificently explosive word imaginable, snapping open and shut at both ends with expressive force. Spoken properly "cunt" is sounded as severely on the t as it is on the c. It really is a great word, one of the great ones in the English language.

Cunt is a far better word than the unspeakably horrible "vagina", which is used incorrectly by millions of adamant feminists and other people who want to show how forthright they are. But they're almost never talking about the vagina when they use it. That's much more offensive in my view.
Posted by Fnarf on May 11, 2013 at 10:33 AM · Report this
pinksoda 157
@ PrettyBetsy - I'm just pointing out that your assertion that "you are a woman" doesn't mean you shouldn't look at how you see women but, of course, you're right: your feminism is no less valid than mine.

It sounded cursory, and it was quick. No offense meant, just a different way of looking at it.
Posted by pinksoda on May 11, 2013 at 10:37 AM · Report this
@157 for once fnarf isn't acting like a total cunt.
Posted by Mike Hunt on May 11, 2013 at 11:04 AM · Report this
seattlejenny 159
My guess is that this guy will read through a few dozen comments then continue to agree with himself.
My other guess is that Prettybetsy is very young.
Posted by seattlejenny on May 11, 2013 at 11:14 AM · Report this
Comment # 27 "What he thinks is irrelevant. The woman was offended and made it known. Since he is not a woman, he doesn't get much say in whether or not she should be offended or not."

What he does control is his response. He can apologize, sincerely or not. He can walk away. He can laugh off their outrage as inappropriate and out of proportion. How he thinks, feels, and responds is as much his choice as the other person's thoughts, feelings, and responses.
Posted by ASM826 on May 11, 2013 at 11:18 AM · Report this
venomlash 161
If someone made me spill my drink as some kind of depraved joke, damn tootin' I'd call them a cunt.
Posted by venomlash on May 11, 2013 at 11:28 AM · Report this
As a Scottish lady I feel the need to chime in. Here in Glasgow the word cunt is used to replace the word "person".

See the work of scottish stand up comedian Scott Agnew who relates a story of trying to alight a bus whilst a group of passengers tried to get on through the same driver adjacent door. The driver told the passengers attempting to get on "hey! There's cunts trying tae get off here" Scott and his fellow bus departing travellers reaction was a natrual "aye. You're quite right driver". It wasn't until 10 minutes later he realised that the driver had called him a cunt and maybe he should have taken offence? It can be used as a compliment "aye, she's a good cunt". As an insult you can still use cunt, but best to prefix with a specific insult opener such as "mental" or "daft".

I find it hard to take offence to the word cunt. Or twat. Or fanny (which means vagina here too). We're all cunts togeter fellow humans. Get over it, ya awesome cunts!

Come to Glasgow, Scotland uk and we will show you how casual swearing is done at a professional level.
Posted by Hiya on May 11, 2013 at 11:30 AM · Report this
How and why does the word serve as the "worst thing you can call someone?" For the same reason that being gay is such a terrible thing in our society. It compares a worthy human male being to a lowly female thing. How insulting.

Now that you know how the word gets its power, what do you think about its appropriateness?

Or, how about this. For the men who got to decide that women were lesser, got to encode it in law and in culture, got to load up words like cunt and bitch to be hurtful, why should THEY get to tell women how to feel about the word now? Why is it that men get things their way always and women need to just put up with that shit? Why do you need to tell a woman that she is wrong to feel strongly about a word that was DESIGNED to be maximally insulting to her?

Because you are just a stand up dude, I guess. So kind and considerate. Why, you are willing to even acknowledge that this word is often very offensive to women and you understand why that is.

But why can't you say it anyhow? I guess you just want to. And that is reason enough. Fuck all those people who were oppressed in the name of giving you this oh so satisfying name to call people. Small price for us all to pay so you can have the visceral satisfaction of calling someone "the worst thing ever" for such a MAJOR offense.

I'd call you the worst thing you can call a man, but guess what? That would require insulting women.
Posted by Grokko on May 11, 2013 at 12:01 PM · Report this
@163. Don't worry, you're not a cunt. You're a pussy.
Posted by Mike Hunt on May 11, 2013 at 12:08 PM · Report this
There are three things I find alarming about priapism:
1) his patronizing attitude that the woman's reaction to "cunt" was inappropriate, not his initial use of the word
2) his myopia in failing to simply ask a few women what they think about the word, and instead deferring to another man for the final answer (albeit an egalitarian one)
3) fuck you. You don't get to use "cunt" until you know how it feels to be called one. As you are a man, that's simply impossible for you. So don't ever use it again, especially not in the public sphere.
Posted by FembotsUnite on May 11, 2013 at 12:11 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 166
@ 162, Americans have been kiddy-league swearers forever. My dad told me of an essay by H. L. Mencken about how lame we are, how much better Italians do it, and he was writing 80 years ago.

I need to read it sometime. It sounded as funny as it was insightful.
Posted by Matt from Denver on May 11, 2013 at 12:16 PM · Report this
HelpMeJebus 167
The word "cunt" should only be used in reference to Ann Coulter.
Posted by HelpMeJebus on May 11, 2013 at 12:20 PM · Report this
"You don't get to use "cunt" until you know how it feels to be called one."

It's not supposed to 'feel' good, you stupid cunt.
Posted by Mike Hunt on May 11, 2013 at 12:23 PM · Report this
"So don't ever use it again"

@165 Re; FembotsUnite

You're the reason the word "cunt" was invented.
Posted by Mike Hunt on May 11, 2013 at 12:25 PM · Report this
Even born with a vagina, I don't use that word. The first definition is a myth this guy heard somewhere. It's always offensive, even when women use it to describe a particularly unacceptible female/behavior.
Posted by ambi on May 11, 2013 at 12:40 PM · Report this
...and they say hardcore, radical American feminists aren't joyless, humourless cunts.
Posted by Mike Hunt on May 11, 2013 at 12:44 PM · Report this
@106 delirian--"Being "aggressive, selfish, meatheady, entitled" aren't outside male gender norms"? Ha! Many well-meaning feminists will earnestly insist that feminism is not about pathologizing male behavior. Thanks for undermining that polite little falsehood. Let's hear it for straight talk! I'm all for calling a cunt a cunt.

Although I notice that, in your opinion, asshole behavior from a man is contemptible--and expected. But when a woman is being an asshole (fake, manipulative, willfully dumb) that's being POWERFUL! Rawr!

Ya, PrettyBetsy really needs to re-examine her biases. She's not objective at all.
Posted by LateBloomer on May 11, 2013 at 1:10 PM · Report this
fannerz 173
Is this an American thing? I don't bat an eye at the "c-word" at all.
Posted by fannerz on May 11, 2013 at 1:18 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 174
@156: I understand why twat/cunt are different than "nigger" and enjoy them in silly contexts, but agree with 165 that the person's lack of giving-a-shit and whiny entitlements make their usage more analogous. I doubt you'd use them in the same contexts as the OP would. Some vague amount of consciousness means worlds.
Posted by undead ayn rand on May 11, 2013 at 1:32 PM · Report this
I think people are too goddamn sensitive and when a "friend" chastises me for using a certain word in jest at a party I think they deserve to be told to fuck off.
Posted by tacomagirl on May 11, 2013 at 1:46 PM · Report this
@175. Agreed. I would never use 'cunt' in front of polite company or a lady. Luckily, though, there are very few of either in Seattle.
Posted by Mike Hunt on May 11, 2013 at 1:59 PM · Report this
faithvsfear 177
My advice is move to England. You can call everyone you meet there a cunt and no one will mind a bit. Although I do think that words only have meaning that we attach to them and part of that is in the context. If someone calls me a cunt I like to believe I could tell from the context and their tone if they meant it in an offensive way or not. I don't think anyone should be offended by words alone only by the context of their usage.
Posted by faithvsfear on May 11, 2013 at 2:04 PM · Report this
Please people need to seriously grow up the only thing that is offensive is how people compare the word faggot and Nigger to the word Cunt. Sometimes guys act like Cunts sometimes girls act like Cunts all those offended should just keep there fake outrage to themselves. If someone tried to scold me for using the word Cunt. Like your palm and mush their face with it. Just becuz someone could be offended by the word doesn't mean it's not an awesome word. Fuck all these types it's a funny word use it. Everyone calls everybody a Dick, y bcuz it's harsh and funny. It's the same fucking thing all these Clams need to get over themselves already.
Posted by DickyB on May 11, 2013 at 2:56 PM · Report this
milemarker 179
@156. Win
Posted by milemarker on May 11, 2013 at 3:09 PM · Report this
Holy comments, Batman.

Basically what @6 said. I use the word when I'm among friends, but wouldn't use it in a place someone might take offence. Same with words like fag/faggot and nigger. My friends can call me a faggot in private, but in company I'll chew them out because I don't want anyone listening to think my friends are homophobic, nor do I want people to think I approve of homophobia (which is a startling accusation to make of a gay man).

Also, I skimmed the comments and saw a lot of "go to England, they all say it" and I have to wonder how many of you have actually been to England. I live in Portsmouth, where everyone swears like a sailor because most of us are, and I've heard plenty of people object to the use of the word cunt. Most of them were female, but a lot of guys don't like it either. I didn't like it much for a few years.
Posted by Jackmm1301 on May 11, 2013 at 3:13 PM · Report this
If you have to ask, you're a sexist a*hole and you should never use the word "cunt" again for the rest of your life.

Obviously, you're just trying to justify yourself rather than just accepting some people are offended by it, learning from it, and moving on.
Posted by abrock_ca on May 11, 2013 at 3:21 PM · Report this
At 50 years old and having grown up in the city of Chicago ( definitely not the burbs!), the use of the word cunt means absolutely nothing. In the late 70s, the worse thing you could call a woman was a stupid bitch. Many times did I get into faces saying, "I may be a bitch BUT I am not stupid!". My point of view is that all words are a combination of sounds that have a collective agreement to their meaning. Some cringe at pussy and some cringe at darn. All perspective my dear. You did or said nothing wrong. Language is powerful but it is the other person that gives it that power. And besides, cunt can be an acronym for Can't Understand Normal Thinking. But then again, I have never truly understood what political correctness is because it seems to change every week. I just cannot be bothered. Remember, it is just a sound and could mean the same thing as spaghetti!

If anyone wants to take this to the mattresses, my name is Caroline...
Posted by searlait727 on May 11, 2013 at 4:46 PM · Report this
sirkowski 183
There's no cure for bein' a cunt.
Posted by sirkowski on May 11, 2013 at 5:21 PM · Report this
If you can't express your curses w/o using gender, race, and sexual orientation insults, it just shows how limited your lingual abilities are. I mean, wouldn't "head stuffed anal pore" have tripped off your lips?

Obviously local usage creates emphasis & severity of an insulting word or term. I was told once upon a time that in China "turtle eggs" was a grievous curse. Go figure.

Posted by Married in MA on May 11, 2013 at 5:31 PM · Report this
Someone caused your friend's beer to overflow (maybe deliberately, maybe by accident, and your insult of choice was c-u-next-Tuesday? Do you really need to level a "nuclear-level insult" at someone who committed the relatively minor offense of causing your friend's beer to overflow?

I really hate, hate, hate it when people use the word "cunt" as an insult, as it smacks of misogyny. It *is* the worst insult you can level at someone. I don't give a flying fuck that it's acceptable and common in Britain; it isn't here. If you want to call people "cunt" with impunity, move to fucking England. Otherwise, find a better insult.
Posted by VeggieTart on May 11, 2013 at 5:59 PM · Report this
Eh, whatever. It's fine in that context. I don't use it (I'm a straight woman), but I wouldn't be offended in that sort of casual use.
Posted by J from Oregon on May 11, 2013 at 6:09 PM · Report this
This word is creepy. Creeps use it. That is all. - A Woman
Posted by longtime reader on May 11, 2013 at 6:11 PM · Report this
@185 Thank you!

Is this how we show others how cool and open minded and laid back we are? By bragging about how much we love this word and how difficult it is to offend us?

"You're offended by the word 'cunt'? What's the matter with you? They say it all the time in England! And Australia! Get with the times and take that stick out of your ass."

Well, you know what? Screw you. Maybe it's okay in England and Australia, but here it's used by abusive men who want to show their dominance over a woman by reminding her that - at least in his eyes and, implicitly, society at large - she's nothing more than a walking vagina, there to be used. And it sucks. Maybe someday we'll "reclaim it" but, for now, that's what it means in the US of A. And if you insist that there's nothing wrong with the word and that we should just get used to it, then that just tells me that you're not considerate about the challenges and experiences of the women around you. Or maybe that you're self-centered and only have concern for yourself. It's okay if you want to keep saying the word all the time. Maybe you just like the reaction and attention. I'm just telling you that you're also broadcasting to the world what kind of person you are.

This mostly applies to men - I'm a man myself - but even if you're a woman who likes to use that word, *in a negative context*, as opposed to neutrally, you're still showing that you're a calloused jerk, and maybe you're the type who could give a damn about other women and the struggle that has been waged to secure the rights you enjoy today.
Posted by floater on May 11, 2013 at 6:38 PM · Report this
How about, "Don't thump my beer and cause it to spill all over the fucking floor, and I won't call anybody anything at all, you moron?"
Posted by avast2006 on May 11, 2013 at 6:44 PM · Report this
@MikeHunt (170), I think you misunderstand my comment. I never said it felt good. And if you don't like my attitude, don't take it so personally.
Posted by FembotsUnite on May 11, 2013 at 7:19 PM · Report this
@MikeHunt (168), I think you misunderstand my comment. I never said it felt good. And if you don't like my attitude, don't take it so personally.
Posted by FembotsUnite on May 11, 2013 at 7:21 PM · Report this
Keep calling women "cunts" and it's likely that you'll never find your cock on one again. Douch.
Posted by Cominginhot on May 11, 2013 at 7:41 PM · Report this
Keep calling women cunts and its likely your cock will ever find its way into another one. Douche.
Posted by Cominginhot on May 11, 2013 at 7:49 PM · Report this
Next time, don't open your yap, get a replacement beer, go find the perpetrator, and spill it on her. Clearly she likes that sort of thing.
Posted by avast2006 on May 11, 2013 at 9:36 PM · Report this
".My intent was to contrast using a nuclear-level insult with the relatively benign crime of causing my buddy's beer to overflow"

American feminists don't do "subtle". It's why so many are cunts.
Posted by Mike Hunt on May 11, 2013 at 10:32 PM · Report this
I'm a proper lady, mind you, and I've called a few people cunts. They totally deserved it though. They were being total dicks.
Posted by SeeYouNextTuesday on May 11, 2013 at 11:13 PM · Report this
I'm reminded of the conversation I had with a relative over the holidays last year where he argued that the N-word was actually okay to use because, to him, "N***** doesn't mean a black person... you can be black but not be a n***** or even be not black but still act like a n*****. It means more of a lazy, good-for-nothing person, and to me it doesn't really have to do with race."

I had a frustrating time trying to convince this (white) relative that maybe that's the definition he's constructed in his head... but he definitely can't count on anyone around him having the same definition.
Posted by 14thblackbird on May 11, 2013 at 11:25 PM · Report this
@162 I love the usage. Just love it!
Posted by Writer-gal on May 12, 2013 at 12:15 AM · Report this
I have no problem with the use of "cunt" in itself. A clever and perceptive speaker can make good use of it without actually offending anyone.

The OP isn't especially clever or perceptive. His use of "lady classmate" is telling also. To answer Dan's second question, beware of men who can't bring themselves to use the word "woman."
Posted by Kristen on May 12, 2013 at 1:04 AM · Report this
slow to the riot, but here i go...
@17: the "cool, non-squicky word that referred to female junk" you are searching for is 'quim'. it's an old word, well used in some english speaking countries/ circles, and should be used more. :-)

on the cunt topic - in my corner of the earth, it is increasingly a 'reclaimed word', and quite a few women use it both as the preferred term for female genitalia, and as an insult when an inferred nod of respect is required. to explain: if someone is a dick, that infers some small mindedness, or pathetic-ness; a bitch is malicious, cruel, or vindictive; an arsehole is outright obnoxious, with no apologies or consideration of others; a cunt, however horrible they may have been, has some hard-headedness, or some style, something somewhere that requires admiration.
different insults are required for different personas / situations. cunt is one of the best.

to use it as a gendered weapon is a whole different thing. not all that common in my experience, but obviously "a thing" in the states to judge by the comments...
Posted by sappho on May 12, 2013 at 1:54 AM · Report this
As an English person who has lived in England her whole life, I too would invite 'Anglophiles' who like to call women 'cunts' to come to England - and see how long it takes them to get their heads kicked in.

I don't know where this idea that 'cunt' is perfectly ok in England comes from. It's not. It's the most offensive swear word that you can use - more offensive than 'fuck'. You very rarely hear it used as a direct insult on TV or the radio exactly because it is so insulting. Among friends it may be used jokingly and affectionately as a way of subverting it, but that only works because it's considered such a nasty word. Nothing funny about using a mildly-offensive word as a term of affection, is there? It's not a trick you try and pull on anyone who you don't know well - everyone who uses it this way among friends knows that it's a horrible insult outside their group.

The one difference is that 'cunt' in England is usually directed at men, not women. It's very rare to hear a woman called a cunt, in the same way that it's unusual to hear a woman called a bastard. As a result, it doesn't have such an obviously mysogynistic connotation, and you will find fewer women who immediately object to it on that grounds. Again, using 'bastard' as an analogy - everyone knows that its origin is a word for illegitimate birth, but no-one whose parents are not married gets offended when it is used as an insult.

That doesn't mean that it's not an insult to call someone a bastard - even though it too can be used affectionately among friends. It's all about context and tone.
Posted by rece on May 12, 2013 at 4:25 AM · Report this
"I'd call him/her a cunt but they lack both the depth and warmth".. As a gay Irish woman in my late 20's I feel the need to say that this is one off my favourite words and also, one of my most commonly used. Perhaps it's just an Irish thing but this word get used on a daily basis over here to describe anything and everything (while old cunt of a day, you're a big mean looking cunt (this is a compliment), or even yell cunt when you stub your toe).

Now while the lady had a right to get offended she had no right to give you a bollocking about it! It's a word - that's all. By her reaction it would seem she's never said anything offensive.
Posted by Irechan on May 12, 2013 at 4:54 AM · Report this
Those who are totally offended by the word cunt usually are one.
Posted by Jimbeau on May 12, 2013 at 7:27 AM · Report this
You forgot:
3) The word is, for sex-positive English majors (and those who love them and their cunts), the preferred term for the female genitalia (as per Chaucer, though he quaintly spells it "queint"). It can also, more obscurely, be used to describe sex and the sort-of universal sex-and-life force itself, as per D. H. Lawrence in Lady Chatterly's Lover (though that work should not be referred to specifically because it's the one non-English majors read).

Seriously, though. as everybody else (including the LW) says, this word is a nuclear bomb (in the U.S., anyway), mos def not to be tossed around at mixed-sex parties. If you want to use it, get yourself an English-major gf, or a crowd of frat boys or drag queens. Or if you want to "reclaim" the word, be a lesbian.
Posted by Farrah Whey on May 12, 2013 at 8:16 AM · Report this
@162: so band-name "Daft Punk" is a pun (and/or punt), then?
Posted by Farrah Whey on May 12, 2013 at 8:26 AM · Report this
ForkyMcSpoon 206
What about the use of the word as a positive adjective?

"Ooh, that jacket is cunt. I really like it."
Posted by ForkyMcSpoon on May 12, 2013 at 12:25 PM · Report this
I really like what @28 said:

"Ugly is in the eye of the beholder. I'm a gay man, and I don't like being called a faggot. I know there are millions of straight men who use the word and I actually believe them when they say they're not actually homophobic- but the word certainly is and I don't want to hear it. There are also many gay men who don't give a shit. Defer to the company you're in if you don't want to be confronted or embarrassed. Using words like "cunt" or "faggot" don't necessarily make you a bad person, but if you do you should anticipate being judged for it- like anything else that comes out of your mouth. So the swears-he's-queer-positive straight man who says "faggot" and the considers-himself-a-feminist grad student who says "cunt" really shouldn't bitch when they're "misunderstood". Of course you have every right to say whatever you want- and other people have the right to point out that you sound like an asshole."

Bingo! It really all depends on the company you're in. People who know you well enough and share your sensibility probably won't be offended if you use the word "cunt," whatever the context. But if you aren't within that group, you can't expect everyone else to share your sensibility. Always use caution when using any curse word, particularly those that are historically loaded.

On a side note, the LW sounds like a pretentious, pseudo-intellectual with too much time on his hands. He'd fight right in at The Stranger...or at least in Capitol Hill's hipster bohemian coffee shops.
Posted by Jack Gates on May 12, 2013 at 1:24 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 208
@207: I think you'd have to leave your momma's basement to actually know what Capitol Hill is like.
Posted by undead ayn rand on May 12, 2013 at 1:29 PM · Report this
Y 209
I'd wager that quite a few trolls exist because people tell them they can't say certain forbidden things. Aside from the fact that all of us with vocal cords or keyboard fingers do, in fact, possess the mechanical abilities to say all these supposedly unspeakable things, declaring something completely off limits instantly makes it all the more enticing to the would-be rebel. Nobody like being told point-blank what to do.

I'm with the subjective people here. Using slurs offensively is in very bad taste, but words themselves should never be outlawed.
Posted by Y on May 12, 2013 at 3:25 PM · Report this
lolorhone 210
@205: The band Daft Punk got their name from a bad review they got from an English critic when they were a straight-ahead rock outfit (i.e. "this is just daft punk music..."). So it's more of a in-joke than a pun. The more you know... :)
Posted by lolorhone on May 12, 2013 at 7:17 PM · Report this
femwanderluster 211
All this boils down to is this:
- the word is loaded with historical baggage
- it's sort've been reclaimed
- at this point, the baggage still outweighs the reclamation
- as is obvious from all these comments, there is no consensus on a majority definition/intended meaning

Therefore, keep in mind:
- you do not control other people's reaction to your first ammendment protected right to say whatever the fuck you want
- say "cunt" whenever you want however you want, but don't expect others to respect you for it
- don't be surprised when someone like this douchebro's "lady"friend speaks up.

I'm just going to leave these two links here, together they are a great intro to the baggage of language and culture:

Lindy West's An Open Letter to White Male Comedians…

Great TEDxTalk…
Posted by femwanderluster on May 12, 2013 at 7:43 PM · Report this
retroid 212
Lexicon Valley had a great podcast on the word asshole. It's useful because it ties together the idea of a person whose rude behavior demonstrates that they don't care about (or are egregiously ignorant of) the rights, feelings, and needs of others. Asshole does this job much better than other male-specific forerunners like boor or cad. The trouble is that if cunt is off the table, we're left with no label for assholish behavior in women. Bitch (like its male synonym, dick) is too mild. So how about just calling the rude woman an asshole. Bonus: dissociation from the traditional male-gendered usage might make for comedic effect.
Posted by retroid on May 13, 2013 at 5:53 AM · Report this
Indighost 213
I agree with @1, avoid using gender-negative insults... if you do use it, it mildly implies that you hate/disrespect the body part in question
Posted by Indighost on May 13, 2013 at 6:33 AM · Report this
The Beatles 214
@34 "Anyone remember the olden days when grad students were clever? "

Posted by The Beatles on May 13, 2013 at 7:24 AM · Report this
I live in Yorkshire, England and the word in question can be taken either way. It depends how you say it and in what content and obviously where. We wouldn't direct it at a woman more to a man but us English are known for calling friends names as banter. C*** is no different. In London they use it all the time like any other swear word. We all have oir own words for different parts of the country. IMO people always have and always will use swear words and unless it's at a kids party then why get offended by a word? Shall we just say thinks like you cookie face or mango chewer in the future although somebody somewhere will probably be offended.
Posted by MisterTiger on May 13, 2013 at 10:18 AM · Report this
undead ayn rand 216
@209: "I'd wager that quite a few trolls exist because people tell them they can't say certain forbidden things."

You're taking the trolls at face value. "You can't say" and "Politically correct" are not the same thing as "you're an asshole for saying this in this particular manner". Trolls are never being prohibited, they're just dealing with social sanctions for being an unfunny, uncaring shit. They relish being drawn to situations where they can claim that they're being persecuted because they DARED to use a word when other, more sensible and legitimately funny people use it in completely different contexts.

They claim that they're Louis CK, but they're South Park Republicans, nasty and spiteful. They're never conscious of context and crowd.
Posted by undead ayn rand on May 13, 2013 at 10:37 AM · Report this
Fenrox 217
Eh, use it or don't, If you use it, it will offend people who choose for that word to be offensive. You will probably have to apologize to those people.

People get to choose what offends them, when they make that choice, it's up to you to respect it or ignore it, then it's up to the to react to that. If your friend in this scenario decided that your use and ignoring of their wishes is enough to dissolve the friendship, well then, that's a risk you decide to take.
Posted by Fenrox on May 13, 2013 at 10:46 AM · Report this
The use of the word cunt was inappropriate in mixed company. You should have quickly apologized and dropped the topic. Something could be said for the lack of manners in present day society, but this is Savage Love, not Miss Manners.

I am more curious about your need for justification for use of the word. Someone, may have a penis
inferiority complex.
Posted by Matt6969 on May 13, 2013 at 12:39 PM · Report this
The ONLY time you should use that word is when you are about to service one with your tongue. In public it is always offensive to women, even those of us living in Australia (like me). I accept that I will hear it occasionally but that doesn't make it right. Try this rule out: would I do it or say it, if my mother was standing next to me?
Posted by Hmassese on May 13, 2013 at 1:09 PM · Report this
@219 - yes i would. absolutely. it wouldn't even occur to me that it might offend. i just don't think of it as a 'bad' word. my 10 year old uses it, he knows that it's not really appreciated at school, but neither is 'shit'...
ha!! the 10 year old just looked over my shoulder and asked "what word?" followed by "what the...? what a weird idea! where does that come from?"
so yeah... i guess cultural context is everything.
Posted by sappho on May 13, 2013 at 2:53 PM · Report this
Novel Miseries 221
My favorite expletives/profanities in cases of pain, disappointment, exasperation, highway annoyances, or other situations requiring salty language. Usually directed at inanimate objects, myself, or really terrible drivers, but never used in direct confrontations.

(these phrases are, of course, all copyrighted.)

Cuntingly Fuck
Shitty Biscuits
Shitbitch Cockknob/Motherfucker
Twatty McDingdong
Bitch/Bastard Weasel
Limpdick Cuntfuck
Cuntypants Fuckwad

There's one more that I remembered, but then forgot before I could type it out, so if any of you remember what it was, please remind me. I also hope to add to the list over time, and I trust that the universe will oblige me by remaining frustratingly uncooperative, prodding my normally placid and peaceful brain to come up with even nastier turns of phrase in response to the craptastic vagaries of life.
Posted by Novel Miseries on May 13, 2013 at 10:00 PM · Report this
Roofeo 222
COME-ON. "Cunt" is a word so loaded with venom that is should be damn obvious not to call strangers it as a "joke". Especially female strangers who have to deal with vicious anonymous insults all their lives.

If you want insults for comic purposes it's pretty easy make up your own. Then it might actually be funny, not to mention imaginative. See #221
Posted by Roofeo on May 14, 2013 at 3:11 AM · Report this

Maybe it's because I'm Australian and we do things differently here, but I think many people are misunderstanding what type of word 'cunt' actually is. Ei

Some words are taboo and frowned upon because they are pejorative put-downs of minorities or oppressed groups; 'nigger' and 'faggot' are examples of this.

You then have words which are considered swear words because they relate to sexual/bodily acts. Some can be used as exclamations: 'fuck' and 'shit' are examples of this. Some can be modified into adjectives. eg. "fucking".

Some can also be used as, or modified into, generic insults. eg. "fuckwit", "arsehole", "dick", "dickhead", "twat", "piece of shit" etc.

'Cunt' fits in best with this final category. Its taboo nature does not stem from the fact it is a pejorative put-down of a group of people. It's not. 'Cunt' is not a pejorative synonym for women in the way 'nigger' is a pejorative synonym for black people or 'faggot' is a pejorative synonym for gay men. It's not even a pejorative synonym for a certain type of woman the way 'bitch' and 'slut' can be (words which have a much stronger mysoginist pedigree than cunt). A man can be a cunt just as easily (or even more easily) than a woman. Indeed, in Australia at least, the word 'cunt' is much more likely to be directed towards a man. And when a man is called a cunt it stands as an insult on its own. It's not a sleight on his masculinity in a way "pussy" and "faggot" set out to be (while pussy is a synonym for cunt, it is also a synonym for effeminate weakling - the insult 'cunt' however is more often associated with aggressive bullies).

No, 'cunt' derives its power from being on the list of sexual body parts/actions that have been deemed swear words. It's there on the list just above 'fuck', which makes it number one on the English list of taboo sexual words.

This isn't to say one should go around using the word 'cunt' willy-nilly. It's still the biggest insult out there and has an incredible power to it. But it shouldn't be classified along with the likes of 'faggot' and 'nigger' (or 'slut' and 'bitch' for that matter). Cunt is an all-encompassing insult that should not be completely verboten because, well, some people are just cunts.
Posted by Prawn on May 14, 2013 at 9:05 AM · Report this
Is it okay to not say cunt or fuck or faggot or nigger? Is that acceptable? There is no way not to use three of those words without it being loaded, the only use for them now is to be provocative. I don't think you should be crucified for using words, but then you can also just not use them and sidestep the whole issue.
Posted by Geoffistopholes on May 14, 2013 at 9:24 AM · Report this
debug 225
I wouldn't be surprised if those who are the most offended above come from costal states.

Growing up in the midwest I don't remember the c-word even being on my radar. I have five brothers and if there was a swear word to wear out on each other we'd have used it. I think the only word we actively avoided was the n-word but more because it felt beneath us, something a hick would say.

I remember being surprised that some people equate the c-word with the n-word in historical importance and severity. Seems a bit arbitrary to me, like some group of New York feminists got together in the early 70's and voted on a special 'no no' word for women. I'm not sure why "bitch" or a hundred other derogative terms didn't make the cut. I admit ignorance in this area and it would be an interesting read to find out when, where, and why the c-word got promoted to such a high echelon in the US.

Regardless, I see no reason to use it casually. At best it's sophomoric at worst you're offending people for no purpose or gain. There's no male-gender Voldemort-ish "swear that must never be spoken" but if there was, LW, you're coming off as one. Shock value is not wit.
Posted by debug on May 14, 2013 at 10:39 AM · Report this
Space Sausage 226
there are no magic words too bad to use. some people just have overly sensitive feelings that are easily hurt, often paired with inflated egos and self sacred righteousness. fuck em.
Posted by Space Sausage on May 14, 2013 at 11:02 AM · Report this
femwanderluster 227

bitch, slut, whore, pussy, cunt--all limbs on the same patriarchal, misogynist tree, my privileged fellow commenter.


"Cunt' is not a pejorative synonym for women in the way 'nigger' is a pejorative synonym for black people or 'faggot' is a pejorative synonym for gay men."

Yeah, no. Because this:

"Some words are taboo and frowned upon because they are pejorative put-downs of minorities or oppressed groups; 'nigger' and 'faggot' are examples of this."

is bullshit.

Women aren't an oppressed group? Or considered a minority despite making up a little more than half the world's population? What planet are you living on? Or did Australia succeed from Earth?

fucking cocks
Posted by femwanderluster on May 14, 2013 at 9:23 PM · Report this
As a lady, I use this word all of the time. Taboo is only taboo because people have a tendacy to give words(or people) power. In my opinion, the original use of the word cunt, in this story was in jest. However, I would not hesitate to call the woman who approached said male, as a cunt. People need to let go of their sensitivity to words in order for words to not have power.
Posted by Giggletimefun on May 14, 2013 at 11:51 PM · Report this
It's just not funny. Try another approach and stop being a douche.
Posted by Mpwb2013 on May 15, 2013 at 10:06 AM · Report this
If you want to hear the way Aussies use and accept the word cunt, YouTube Kevin bloody Wilson 'you can't say count in Canada.' NSFW
Posted by Hmassese on May 15, 2013 at 10:37 AM · Report this
debug 231
@227 Hell yeah I'm privileged and don't need your condescending comment to remind me.

As I write this I'm looking out over beautiful Lake Atitlán in Guatemala where my macbook would be a local family's yearly salary. Last night I saw an in-progress documentary about some African kids who make the Guatemalans look wealthy.

You and I are practically identical in status compared to most of the world (or compared to those with actual power). You want to win the trophy for most subjugated person in the room? Good luck with that.

Since you like crappy metaphors:

Everybody is shit on by someone higher up on the ladder. We mostly fight with those who are only one or two rungs away instead of realizing our battle is with those at the top. We almost never look down to appreciate just how high we actually are.

Not saying we shouldn't fight for equality at all levels, just the judgmental tone of your comment makes me think it is you who needs a privilege check today, fellow commenter. Discussing the importance of the word 'cunt' is a luxury in this world.
Posted by debug on May 15, 2013 at 1:22 PM · Report this
@227 - i'm in nz, and tick a surprising number of 'minority boxes' for my environment. i'm totally with the australian. cunt is not primarily a 'gendered insult' in this corner of the world. it's just not. please do not actively promote your local brand of misogyny by suggesting that it should be, or dismissing the cultures of several other english speaking countries as bullshit / privileged / whatever.
use of the word 'cunt' as a gendered pejorative =/= oppression of women. females can be treated like shite, to varying degrees, without it being dependent on whether or not a certain word is used.
Posted by sappho on May 15, 2013 at 2:29 PM · Report this
Sati 233
@97, 162, 180, 201, 218 - Seems that even here in the UK there's a pretty big variation. Interesting.

I don't think of it as any more offensive than a lot of other words, but then I'm here (at work) in the east and south-east end of London, where "fuck you, you cunt" can mean anything from "you're a disgusting excuse for a human being" to "I love you too" to "have a nice day". At home in the Shires - maybe 25 miles away - people seem to be split about 50/50 into being appalled by it and barely noticing it when it's used. Some of my girlfriends are horrified by it, others use it semi-regularly.

I actually think I'd be more shocked by someone not involved in the conversation speaking up to say they're offended by a comment made to person who wasn't them, but then I spend most of my time here in MYOB-land (aka Brixton / Peckham) where most people aren't shy about stepping up if someone talks smack to their face, but will generally ignore stuff that's said about other people in the room, unless it's a mother / sister / wifey. Even amongst the more refined members of my home-town friends, I'd be very surprised to hear someone say, "Hey, person X? That thing you just called person Y, that really offended me." *shrug*
Posted by Sati on May 17, 2013 at 11:22 AM · Report this
Sati 234
@225 - I'm testing out new Big Bad insults that don't involve body parts, and so far, "fuck you, you Voldemort" is sounding pretty good. So thanks for that. :)
Posted by Sati on May 17, 2013 at 11:24 AM · Report this
I seriously can't believe the misogyny on this board. OP, shut up and listen to the woman. Your opinion on this word is not relevant because it's NOT ABOUT YOU. It's about US, jackass. You don't get to say without blowback. Go fuck yourself.
Posted by GlassMoon on May 18, 2013 at 12:27 PM · Report this
Amy in Oregon 236
It's a word and we've *decided* it's a "bad word."
Personally, I enjoy saying it, don't bat an eye when I hear it and being called it doesn't make me blanch in horror. It's all in the delivery. LW sounds like a pretentious douche and, being such, he's bound to grate on someone's nerves no matter what words he uses.
Posted by Amy in Oregon on May 20, 2013 at 1:53 PM · Report this
Oh my goodness, I love cunt so much. I like having one, sticking my face in one and I really like over utilizing the word. ESPECIALLY in place of other curse words: cunt hat, cunt hole, cunt for brains, go cunt yourself, etcetera. Favorite curse ever. I wish I wasn't such a honky, too, because the situations in which I can bust out racial slurs is limited to my irreverent friends of darker shades. I'm still kicking myself for not naming my chickens "Cracker," "Beaner" and "Tarbaby" instead of "Breakfast," "Brunch" and "Dinner."

Basically, VRYSRS folks need to cunt off. Life is too short for taboos and prissy-ass cunts gettin all cunted off over a stupid word.
Posted by TheRightPond on May 26, 2013 at 4:51 AM · Report this

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