Saying ‘Yes,’ ‘No’, and Talking about Sex

Sadomasochistic (SM) sexual practices often involve the fantasies of humiliation and pain, and the word ‘no’, or any form of resistance may simply be a part of the whole act. In certain SM situations, if the submissive partner offers no resistance, the dominant partner cannot enjoy the feelings of forcing the powerless partner, and the submissive partner is also unable to experience the feeling of being overwhelmed and dominated. Hence, the word ‘no’ or any emoji that may mean resistance in everyday scenarios would not be a good choice as it can be seen as simply a form of resistance that is desired and wanted in the context of SM sexting (Cameron & Kulick, 2003).  In this situation, ‘no’ may very well mean ‘yes, yes, yes!’. However, this does not mean that every utterance is opposite in its meaning. When the submissive says ‘yes’, s/he might actually mean what s/he is saying. They might be getting really into the sexual act, or they may be telling the dominant partner to continue punishing them. Hence, emojis that signify ‘yes’, ‘go for it’, or ‘okay’ of any form would not be considered good safe words either.

The thing about safe words in SM sex is that it has to be outlandish, or unexpected, or something you would never utter in sex. It could also be any word that brings about passion-killing images or thoughts, such as ‘Donald Trump‘, as found in a survey of 1280 couple across the world on their favorite safe word. It was suggested that the thought of the orange reality star would extinguish any flame of passion. Of course, that is not a common safeword, and more common ones include ‘red’, ‘banana’, and ‘pineapple’. 

Hence, for SM sexting, ‘safe emojis’ should also be things that are similarly unexpected. However, one thing to note is that things that may seem like good safe words in real-life sex play might not be great in emoji-form. It is more and more common nowadays for emojis to be used to represent something entirely different. The eggplant ?’ emoji has been commonly used to depict the penis emoji. As such, one can gather that its phallic shape is one of the reasons why it is used for such representation. It is not uncommon for fruits and vegetables emojis to be used in sexting, thus, the cucumber, due to its phallic shape, would not be a good safe emoji, though it would be a great safeword in SM sex. 

Any other emoji commonly used for sexting would be bad ‘safe emojis’ to be used in SM sexting. Any emoji depicting things that may be used in regular SM sex would also be bad ‘safe emojis’ too. This would include the chain emoji ‘⛓’ as well as emojis with the mouth being covered ‘?’ and ‘?’.

Hence, the best emojis would be those that invoke non-sexual thoughts, and would not play into the whole SM sexting context. One good example would be that of the poop emoji ‘?’, or the toilet bowl emoji ‘?’. These emojis are non-sexual, and unless the individual is into sex involving fecal matter, these would distract from the sexting, and indicate that the individual is uncomfortable with the going-ons of the sexting. Another good emoji would be the pill emoji ‘?’, as it could mean that the person feels turned off or sick, and wants to stop. Two other emojis that could be possibly used as good ‘safe-emojis’ are the ‘?’ and ‘?’. They seem unrelated enough for SM sexting to be good ‘safe-emojis’, but not too much of a mood killer to stop the sexting completely.

Locker room talk seems to be a great excuse for men to be rude, and talk about other genders, races, and minorities in a demeaning way, but not be held responsible. All three definitions agree that locker room talk is usually sexually charged, and would not be accepted in public discourse. However, two out of three definitions define locker room talk as language that men use while one defines it as language used among those of the same gender group.

Is this all there is to locker room talk?

There have been studies that discuss how gender is performed through language, and one way of doing gender is by talking about sex (Cameron & Kulick, 2003). One could say that Trump’s sexist talk could be a way to perform his gender through homosocial talk, where men try to bond together  by emphasizing a gender imbalance that give men the pleasure of dominating. His use of demeaning language on women degrades the woman, while maintaining his status, and even boosting his sexual prowess. His describing women in a demeaning and sexual way is also an attempt to perform his heterosexuality. He talks about how he is attracted to beautiful women, and how he can get anything he wants as he is a star. At the same time, he insinuates that he takes anything he wants as he is a powerful man, once again performing his gender. He wants to blend in with the rest of the men, engaging in this form of homosocial bonding while explicitly denying any form of homosexuality by hyper-focusing on his attraction to women (Cameron & Kulick, 2003).

Trump tried to dismiss his conversation as locker-room-banter, and according to urban dictionary, this would be a good example of locker room talk. This dismissal was faced with strong objections from athletes, as they did not feel like that was not what was commonly spoken about in their locker rooms. Many athletes spoke out about this, saying that Trump was trying to justify something that was not normal by saying that it was something men talk about behind closed doors, suggesting that men talk about this all the time. This is not the case as many men have come out saying that the normal talk in locker rooms are usually about personal things in their lives, and are rarely sexual.

Trump’s conversation should not be classified as locker room talk, and instead, be classified as a form of homosocial bonding. It fits all the criteria, where he performs gender and heterosexuality by describing how much more dominant he is compared to the other ‘weaker’ gender, and emphasizing his heterosexuality by discussing how he is just attracted to beautiful women and how they would allow him to do anything sexually because he is a powerful man. His use of the term locker-room-banter is simply a way to distract from his sexism and suggest that he only spoke like that as he thought it was in confidence.


Cameron, D., & Kulick, D. (2003). Language and Sexuality. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Can you sound like a man?

Queer linguistics is the analysis of language data using Queer Theory (Motschenbacher & Stegu, 2013), which first emerged in the 1970s and 1980s as a reaction to the gay and lesbian rights movement. To discuss Queer linguistics, we would first have to talk about Queer theory. Queer theory was first introduced when society started to question how one’s sexuality can influence their identity (Motschenbacher & Stegu, 2013); looking at how heteronormativity is constructed and institutionalised, and how deviance from this is discriminated against. It further suggests that the multiple gender identities faced and experienced by individuals are due to social, physical and psychological influences (Comstock, 2015). This was mainly motivated by the desire to deconstruct and blur the lines of the gender and sexuality binary, as well as question the motivation behind heteronormativity and heterosexuality. It interrogates society’s view on heteronormativity and how heterosexuality is seen as normal, desirable and necessary.

This then expanded into multiple realms of study, one of them being that of queer linguistics. Language is a way for people to express their identity; as such, queer theory examines how it is commonly thought that heterosexual identity is expressed through ‘gender-appropriate’ styles of speaking.  Queer linguistics examines whether sexuality is directly indexed by language, and looks at sociocultural approaches to language across the range of sexualized identities, ideologies and practices (Bucholtz & Hall, 2004).

The common-assumption is that sexual identity is directly indexed by linguistic behaviour, while the linguistic view suggest that this link is more indirect. Linguistic features seem to index traits that are associated with certain genders; the way that people speak shows how they want to be seen (Cameron & Kulick, 2003).

In other words, language performs gender, and gender performs sexuality.

What about those who deviate from the norm?

Queer linguistics consider the linguistic practices of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) community. Queer theory and language was first discussed by many leading theorists, including Michel Foucault and Judith Butler. It was also considered by, Anna Livia and Kira Hall, who noted that although there was an abundance of studies on gender and language, there seemed to be a shortage of studies about language and sexuality (Livia & Hall, 1997). Queer linguistics also discussed reasons for differences in language use, and how sexuality comes into play.

As previously mentioned, language can be used to perform gender and sexuality, which is part of an individual’s identity. This resulted in researchers looking at certain ways different communities spoke, and what was so special about these ways of speaking that marked their deviance from the norm.

One such form of research was that on gay male speech patterns.

The gay community is often examined for their speech styles, as many perceive their speech as non-conforming with their gender. The stereotypical gay speech is considered not masculine, and seem to resemble women’s speech (Gaudio, 1994). Robin Lakoff proposed a women’s language (WL) (1973), characterized to include super-polite forms, rising intonations, question tags, and usage of adjectives and elaborate colour terms. This was seen to be ‘replicated’ in gay speech according to Lakoff, and she suggested that gay men imitated these speech patterns on purpose. However, WL has been shown to reflect beliefs on how women speak, instead of how they actually speak. Thus, it is inaccurate to say that gay men speak ‘like women’, as WL is not actually representative of women speech. Lakoff also stated that the opposite of WL is not Men’s Language, but a Neutral Language. This suggest that the norm, is to speak ‘like a man’, and if you deviate, you speak ‘like a woman’ or you ‘sound gay’. To say that every gay man speaks a certain way is unfair, as there are so many different subcultures in the gay community, and classifying them as a linguistically homogeneous group is simply not representative. The gay stereotype of hyper-feminine speech has been further exacerbated by popular culture, where gay men are portrayed as overly flamboyant and shrill, and used as the comic relief. As such, we can see that linguistic characteristics that are indexing homosexuality in men, also index the feminine gender.

Why are homosexual men thought to speak like women?

Men and women are suggested to be opposites to each other, just like heterosexuals and homosexuals. Gender is seen to be indexed by sexual preference; if a man likes other men, then heteronormativity means that they should not be seen as men, but as women, as heterosexual women like men. This led to the first stage of Queer Linguistics, research on language use by homosexual men, such as Polari (Green, 1997) and Gayspeak (Hayes, 1976). This led to the second stage of Queer Linguistics, identifying the lack of studies on other kinds of languages. Compared to the amount of studies conducted on gay speech, research on lesbian speech has barely scratched the surface. Queer theory contributed to this by identifying the different categories of gender identities and sexualities in society. This led to looking at how these categories are the effect of language, resulting in the culmination of Queer Linguistics.

As previously mentioned, Queer Linguistics is part of Queer Theory, and this means it is part of the challenge towards what is heteronormative (Motschenbacher, 2011). This does not mean that Queer Theory and Queer Linguistics ignore the heterosexual, but that it looks at the entire range of sexual identities. Challenging this heteronormativity results in many positive effects, as the current status idolises one form of heterosexuality, where each gender is limited to strict norms, but where the male norm is more widely accepted. This is extended to linguistic practices as well. For example, it is more widely accepted for male nouns or pronouns to be used to refer to a mixed-gender group than female nouns or pronouns. When female pronouns are used to address a group of men, this is often met with resistance (Motschenbacher, 2011). This is as the female nouns/pronouns may be seen as being of lower status, or as being undesirable. This is looked at by Queer Linguistics regarding groups that perform this contradictory behaviour such as the previously mentioned homosexual men. Queer Theory and Linguistics attempt to bring back a balance between the different genders and sexualities by normalizing different behaviour of different groups.

As such, Queer Theory is rather new, and its effects are proposed to be highly beneficial to challenging the heteronormativity that is taken as the norm in society. The effects of it on linguistics and sexuality research are also seen to initiate change from daily interactions to challenge widely accepted social norms.



Bucholtz, M., & Hall, K. (2004, January 1). Theorizing identity in language and sexuality research. Language in Society, 33(4), 469-515. doi:10.1017/S004740450044021

Cameron, D., & Kulick, D. (2003). Sexuality as identity: gay and lesbian language. In D. Cameron, & D. Kulick, Language and Sexuality (pp. 74-105). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Cameron, D., & Kulick, D. (2003). What has gender got to do with sex? Language, heterosexuality and heteronormativity. In D. Cameron, & D. Kulick, Language and Sexuality (pp. 44-73). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Comstock, N. W. (2015). Queer theory. Salem Press Encyclopedia.

Gaudio, R. P. (1994). Sounding gay: Pitch properties in the speech of gay and straight men. American Speech, 69(1), 30-57. doi:10.2307/455948

Green, J. (1997, Spring). Polari. Critical Quarterly, 39(1), 127-131.

Hayes, J. J. (1976, October). Gayspeak. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 62(3), 256-266.

Lakoff, R. T. (1973, April). Language and woman’s place. Language in Society, 2(1), 45-80.

Livia, A., & Hall, K. (1997). “It’s a girl!” Bringing performativity back to linguistics. In A. Livia, & K. Hall, Queerly Phrased: Language, Gender, and Sexuality (pp. 3-18). New York: Oxford University Press.

Motschenbacher, H. (2011). Taking queer linguistics further: Sociolinguistics and critical heteronormativity research. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2011(212), 149-179. doi:10.1515/IJSL.2011.050

Motschenbacher, H., & Stegu, M. (2013). Queer linguistics approaches to discourse. Discourse & Society, 24(5), 519-535. doi:10.1177/0957926513486069