Let’s sext in the locker room

Julie and Mike are into sadomasochistic sexting. Which among these emojis is most likely their ‘safe emoji’? Why?

Sex is nothing new to us, it is a topic that everyone knows of and understand how it works. In order to spice up their sex life, people are always finding new ways to pleasure themselves and their partners. Due to technology advances in the recent years, a new form of sex has emerged – sexting. Sexting involves the use of sending sexually explicit messages or images through text messaging. People are now also using emojis to sext, providing a somewhat visual to the sexual acts that they want to perform on their partners.

Sexting can also be used to express different kinds of desires. One such desire is sadomasochism. In sadomasochism, one derives sexual gratification by inflicting pain or humiliation on themselves or their sexual partner. This can be through physical actions like smacking, or it can be through degrading statements and name-calling. Power differences is deemed as erotic, and relations of domination and submission are used for pleasure (Cameron & Kulick, 2003).

A safe word is almost always agreed upon before having consensual sadomasochism sex. This safe word is a signal for the dominant partner to stop, slow or alter his actions. This safe word should be easily recognizable and stands out from the context as incongruous and unambiguous. For example, the word “no” is not a good safe word as it’s use is vital in sadomasochistic sex. It offers the dominant partner the sensation of imposing their desires on the other while the submissive derives pressure from being overpowered. In contrast, some popular and effective safe words are colours such as red, food like bananas and oranges, or even celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Donald Trump.

Julie and Mike are two sexual partners who are into sadomasochistic sexting. They use emojis to express their desires and derive pleasure from using the emojis in different sequences.

Through these emojis, several could be used as a safe word. For example, ? and ? seem to be the two emojis that are most out of context. The rest of the emojis can be used to express a certain reaction to a sexual action, or symbolise the sexual action itself. For instance, facial expression emojis like ??? depicts the pleasure that one receives. ?? can also mean that the submissive partner being silent, gagged, or in tears (which might not be a bad thing because of the sadomasochistic sex).

Sexual actions like handjobs, or even male ejaculation after a hand job can be depicted through emojis such as ??. ? and ? also hints at BDSM. One partner can be handcuffed or chained up. The ? could indicate that the submissive has been drugged, and is unable to say no or deny the actions of the dominant party.

Additionally, just like the word no, ✋ is not a good safe word. Even though it can mean stop in other contexts, this will likely not work in sadomasochism sex. It might be perceived as submission or a raise of hands for more sex (or sexting).

Therefore,? and ? are the most likely a safe word in the sadomasochistic sexting that Julie and Mike involves in as it has no sexual connotation. It does not depict any sexual acts, and are the most arbitrary emojis in the stack. However, it must be mentioned that this is based on the assumption that this has been conveyed beforehand, and these do not personally connotate anything for them.

Remember Donald Trump’s ‘this-was-locker-room-banter’ excuse after that video of his conversation with a group of men on a bus in 2005 was released last October during the presidential campaign? I’m sure you do… Now, read the top three entries for ‘locker room talk‘ in the UrbanDictionary. Do you agree with it? Does it fully capture what ‘locker room banter’ is and what social/interpersonal functions it serves?

I agree to the UrbanDictionary to a certain extent – locker room talk typically involves the topic of sex. However, I also feel that instead of looking at the entries individually, a holistic view can be utilized instead. Mixing the three entries together would provide a better picture of locker room banter, and the social/interpersonal functions it serves.

The top two entries on UrbanDictionary seem to hint at homosocial talk and bonding. By talking about their sexual encounters, similarly gendered people are using the topic of sex – something that they can all agree upon – to bond with each other. The real focus of the conversation is their relationship instead of the sexual act itself. They can also relate with each other in an informal and nonhierachical way (Cameron & Kulick, 2003). This is especially so for the second entry, which states that locker room talk is between people who are like-minded. This sharing of secrets and stories on their sex lies would underline their in-group status, bring them closer together and affirm their shared moral code. In contrast, if someone of the out-group participates in the conversation, he is highly likely to not understand or approve of what is said.

The second and third entry of UrbanDictionary also hints upon fuck stories, which are generally not approved for discussion in public. These fuck stories affirm dominance and control – something that Trump tries to portray. By saying that he would grab women by the pussy, he is portraying himself as the alpha male and is also objectifying women in the process. This is actually something prominent in locker room banter. By degrading and putting a woman down, the gender imbalance is highlighted, and gives the man a sense of domination. The man starts to feel more masculine and powerful through these stories, which strengthens his construction of his heterosexual identity.

This heterosexual identity is constructed through locker room banter. Even though homosocial relations are highly valued and regarded, it undeniably gives rise to the spectre of homosexuality. Guys who are too “bro” or too close with each other may be deemed as feminine or gay, and might thus find ways to deconstruct this assumption. Therefore, through locker room banter, they use their sexual attraction to the other gender as an affirmation to their commitment to shared norms for gender and sexuality, and as an denial to homosexuality.



Cameron, D., & Kulick, D. (2003). Language and sexuality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Can I have you as dessert?

Let’s face it – even though the society’s attitude towards sex is becoming more liberal, talking openly about sex is still somewhat taboo. You can’t shout out loud “I lost my virginity last night!” without earning a few side glances. However, this does not discourage us from talking about the taboo, but rather use euphemisms to approach the topic instead. For example, metaphors such as “pop the cherry” can be used to describe one losing her virginity instead. This essay would thus touch on conceptual metaphors and how it uses food to talk about the act of sex and genitals.

So how exactly does food come into play when talking about sex? Let’s not investigate the kinky side of people who use food during sexual intercourse, but at the concept of food and sex instead. These two seemingly unrelated topics can be joined through language – conceptual metaphors in particular. According to Lakoff and Johnson (1980), metaphors are devices that helps us structure our conceptual system. It provides a method to make sense of our experience and provide an understanding to the world. Conceptual metaphors are thus defined as “a cross-domain mapping in the conceptual system” (Lakoff, 1993, p. 203).  These concepts are mapped from a source domain (the physical reality) to a target domain (a concept area). Taking the phrase “making a meat sandwich” as an example, the source domain is the sandwich while the target domain is sex, specifically between three people.

Sex is eating

Let us first turn to the conceptual metaphors that illustrate sex is eating. Generally, men are posed as the eater and the women as the food. However, different cultures vary in their interpretation and performance of these metaphors. This might be due to the fact that “the most fundamental values in a culture will be coherent with the metaphorical structure of the most fundamental concepts in the culture” (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980, p. 22). That is to say, the metaphorical system is consistent with the deeply entrenched cultural values of the society or community in question (Tsang, 2009).

Hong Kong, for example, has the act of eating as a very dominant source domain. Sex is systematically conceptualised in terms of eating.

即使(她們)知道老公出外偷食都不會哼一 句

Even if they know their husbands have secretly eaten something from outside, they will not say a word.

(Tsang, 2009)

In the sentence above, the act of having an affair with someone (and having extramarital sex) is portrayed as a manner of eating something. Other example sentences gathered by Tsang (2009) were also similar in this aspect – the manner, or method of sex is seen as the same as the manner of eating. The large occurrence of eating metaphors might be because eating is regarded as an essential in life. Hongkongers would thus associate anything that is important as eating/food, and would treasure it equally (Tsang, 2009). Furthermore, the Confucius teaching of “食色性也” states that sex and food are innates of a person (Tsang, 2009). Sex is thus regarded as important as eating and is necessary for human life.

On the other hand, the American culture seem to view sex as more pleasurable. Their sex is eating metaphors are based mainly on delectable foods like desserts or snacks (Fernández, 2008).

I could eat her for dessert!

In this sentence, we see that the woman has been reduced to the status of an object and has become something to eat after dinner. This hints that women are desserts.

In the case of Chagga, experience and knowledge about sex is associated with the knowledge and experience of food and eating (Emanatian, 1995). The metaphors frame sex as an edible and consumable item, and it’s “flavours” are also mapped onto the metaphors.

(Emanatian, 1995)

In this sentence, if the sexual interaction is good enough, the man feels that he will live forever from the nourishment.

Through these examples, we see that different entities correspond in the source and target domains. Different cultures might frame the sex is eating metaphors differently, and these in turn have different entailments. For instance, English only uses the source domain of eating to a certain extent. This is unlike Changga, which expands on the basic correspondences with more entailments and uses more elements of an eating schema.

Genital are food?

Food is also used to talk about genitals and body parts. Nuts and bananas refer to penises, while papayas and oysters are used to refer to vaginas. In Cantonese, small breasts are referred to as “砵仔糕” (tapioca pudding), while “木瓜” (papaya) represents big breasts (Tsang, 2009).

Interestingly, several words that were originally used as metaphors for genitals have been lexicalised. One such word is cock. Originally, cock referred to an adult male chicken. However, in the early seventeenth century, it was used to refer to penises and thus picked up a sexual connotation (Murphy, 2001). The word has now reached the stage of lexicalisation whereby when used in a sexual context, the metaphorical term cock immediately gives rise to the concept of the male genital, and not a male chicken (Fernandez, 2008).

The growth of emoji in recent years has also contributed to the use of food to refer to genitals, especially when it started to be used for sexting – the sending of sexually explicit messages or images through text messaging (“sexting”, 2018). Instead of using words and sentences to send a sexually suggestive message, suddenly a combination of several cleverly chosen emojis is sufficient. Bananas (?) can represent penises, and peaches (?) can be used to represent breasts or buttocks. It is also interesting to note that just like language, these emojis are frequently changing and might “go out of style” with time. For instance, the eggplant (?) is now used as a visual metaphor for the penis more often than the banana as it connotates a healthy package – something that the banana did not hint well (Evans, 2017). With that said, like other metaphors for sex, these emojis only represents genitals when used in the sexual context. The secondary and more erotic meaning only comes into play when the conversation is flirtatious, or if the two parties (or even more!) are romantically involved (Evans, 2017). In other contexts, the food emojis will remain as food.

No matter whether we like or not, sex is something that is all around us and is an essential part of our lives. The issue is probably whether sex can be discussed openly, or does it have to continue lurking behind seemingly innocent concepts such as food. In the meantime, what we can agree on is that conceptual metaphors can be used as mitigation or a veil for sex. Be it for the act of sexual intercourse or for the labelling of genitals, metaphors can serve as a somewhat makeshift censor for those who disapprove. This also broadens the different ways to talk about the taboo subject, and provides a unique, refreshing and creative view to sex.


Emanatian, M. (1995). Metaphor and the Expression of Emotion: The Value of Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Metaphor & Symbolic Activity, 10(3), 163.

Evans, V. (2017). The Emoji Code: The Linguistics Behind Smiley Faces and Scaredy Cats. Picador USA.

Fernández, E. C. (2008). Sex-related euphemism and dysphemism: An analysis in terms of conceptual metaphor theory. Atlantis, 95-110.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Lakoff, G. (1993). “The contemporary theory of metaphor”. In A. Ortony (ed.). Metaphor Thought, 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.202-251.

Murphy, P. F. (2001). Studs, tools, and the family jewels: Metaphors men live by. Univ of Wisconsin Press.

“sexting.” Merriam-Webster.com. (2018). https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sexting. Retrieved 31 March 2018.

Skiba, D.J. (2016). Face with Tears of Joy Is Word of the Year: Are Emoji a Sign of Things to Come in Health Care?. Nursing education perspectives,37(1): 56-57.

Tsang, S. C. Y. (2009). Metaphor, culture and conceptual systems: A case study of sex metaphors in a Hong Kong Chinese newspaper. LCOM Papers, 2, 1-16.