Posted by: hellonhairylegs | May 17, 2009

Why I no longer intend to use the word “fuck”

Fuck. It’s satisfying to say and very unladylike, both good attributes for a word meant to shock and emphasise. In common useage the word represents violence, trickery, domination and has even become a synonym for jerk, yet at the same time it is supposed to represent sex. In short, the word conflates sex and rape, putting them into the same category, something which I believe our culture has already done enough of.

Update: Read comments for further information and analysis.



  1. Actually I think that fuck means rape, rather than sex. Or more using another person/thing to gratify a want or cruelty and in the process destroying hurting it. The problem, I think is not the use of the word fuck in the way it is commonly used, but rather its increasing usage as a word for sex.

    Though I guess it does say a lot about the person using it to describe sex.

    Hope that was clear. Its always diffiult to talk about conotations in speech of a language I am not native to.

  2. Made sense to me.

    I guess what you’re saying is true. Yet the word fuck is so often associated with sex it seems just best to avoid the word entirely. (Though if we get rid of all the words with patriarchal crap attached, we won’t have many left. Silly English/ any language in a patriarchy.)

  3. Excellent analysis. And something we cannot help but be aware of after this past week especially.

  4. I’ve hear such things said before, but I think I’m not willing to give up my use of the word fuck, even if it is so entirely problematic. Its so terribly ingrained in my lexicon. I say it all the time. This is probably bad, really.

  5. We make up new words/new ways of using words then 🙂

    According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the oldest surviving written instance of the word fuck is from 1535: “Bischops … may fuck thair fill and be vnmaryit [unmarried]”. So it seems clear the word fuck has pretty much always meant sex – or rather, a male-centric idea of sex, focussed on the act of penetration, associated with a hitting, striking motion (again, looking at that etymological source).

    So, I’d guess that fuck as a taboo, bad, powerful word derives from the fact that it refers to sex, and the forbiddenness and badness associated with sex in the dominant western/Christian English-speaking culture. But beyond that, it works as a powerful violent insult because it relies on the idea of sex as an act of domination. Someone fucks someone else, the fuckee is passive. To be the person being fucked is bad: directing the words ‘fuck off’, ‘fuck you’, ‘get fucked’ at anyone is an assertion of dominance or a wish that something bad happen to them.

    I was initially thinking that maybe if I only used fuck in a positive way that might work, to liken something with sex/fucking to be a compliment – something being “fucking amazing”. But I think that if the word has pretty much always described the action of using one’s penis on another person’s body, then I can’t and shouldn’t try to reclaim it, even as a word for sex. Women having sex with women might use the words fuck and fucking neutrally to describe their experiences, but it is still a borrowing from the male-defined, domination-defined original.

    Changing language use is often something that gets mocked as trivial, as “political correctness” (spit), but I think it is very powerful and important, questioning how we conceptualise things and the associations that words have. I’m very inclined to try this, now I’ve had a proper think about the word. Annoying because the anger and assertion of being able to vocalise “fuck off” is useful and exhilarating, but will just have to try out alternatives.

  6. Fuck is an Anglo-Saxon word for sex. I always found it quite appealing that some words have lasted in the English language for so long. Also that words with such an ancient pedigree could be considered vulgar. I take your point, though, that these days its use as a violent exclamation give it problematic connotations.

  7. Yeah, most (American) English swearwords don’t work for me because I don’t share the value system that makes them “bad.”

    I’m an atheist, so that rules out blasphemy — it just doesn’t carry the same weight for me to damn someone to a hell I was never taught to believe in, or to call on a being I consider analogous to the Abominable Snowman or the Loch Ness Monster.

    Also, because there’s nothing particularly repulsive to me about sex, or about male or female bodies, that gets rid of most of the other common swearwords, too.

    I guess it’s a lucky thing my temperament is such that I almost never feel like swearing; still, I’d like to have more options just in case. 🙂

  8. All the same, can’t help admiring the ability of the Irish to craft entire sentences out of it. Friend of mine, while regarding a broken appliance: “Fookin’ fooker’s fooked.”

  9. yeah I agree. Language matters. (That is where postmodernism has something meaningful to say.)

    I always use the word, and not unproblematically. Its also a point of attack for feminists, but its very real implications, I would agree with, implicate rape. I agree that “all men are rapists” and it is the ideology behind “fucking” that helps make this so.

    I too, should choose not to use the term, but am torn between giving it that power. But the reality is, that it does have that power. Am I making some nonsensical ramblings here?? I thinkses that I will think about this more as I often do.

  10. I was told (by a nun in high school english) that it’s origins were from the english court system and referred to rape. It was considered vulgar to say the word ‘sex’ openly so the word breaks down to “Forced Unconsented Carnal Knowledge”.

  11. ‘Fraid not, Heleon.

  12. Heleon, sorry but your nun was wrong, as that story is more than likely folk etymology: i.e., somebody made up that story about ‘fuck’ being an acronym long after the word was in usage.

    And eh… Sure there’s polysemy with the word ‘fuck’ which means that there are related meanings, some of which are bad, but people *do* use the word in a positive manner as well. Some of us like to fuck, some of us like to use strong swear words. I mean, if you were talking about the word ‘bitch’, sure. But ‘fuck’…

  13. The word ‘fuck’ irks me because it is usually used in mainstream society to describe what men do to women: ‘he fucked her’ ‘she liked getting fucked’. I hear ‘She fucked him’ far less frequently, and this bothers be because the widespread acceptance of ‘fuck’ to mean sex then indicates an underlying belief in society that sex is something men DO to women.

  14. Yes, thats another reason WVF. I’m growing allergic to the amount of hatred and contempt in the English language, intentional and unintentional. Doing, scoring, screwing, getting in, bitch, slut, whore… It doesn’t stop.

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