Question 1: Sadomasochistic Sexting
Sadomasochism (SM) is often defined as the receiving or giving of sexual pleasure that involves physical pain or humiliation, and is sometimes viewed as an enhancement to sexual pleasure.While the point of SM is to enjoy the act of inflicting or receiving pain, this act of pleasure should not go beyond the point where it becomes dangerous both physically or emotionally for both parties. In consensual SM scenes, a ‘safe word‘ is necessary to pause all activity and remove both the top and the bottom emotionally from the sexual act.
Sexting, on the other hand, is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone.”
Sadomasochistic sexting might hence function as an alternative to when the top and the bottom are not able to physically be around each other due to certain constraints (eg: geographically). Though there may not be actual physical violence involved, the power of one’s words should not be underestimated and sexting can still be emotionally traumatising if it turns to verbal abuse and becomes more emotionally hurtful rather than pleasurable. In such a case, ‘safe words’ are still as important in SM sexting. Emojis may be used instead as in the course of sexting, an emoji is more incongruous in comparison to text or images.
In Julie and Mike’s case, they should choose a safe emoji that has little to no sexual connotation as emojis with sexual connotations may intensify the sexting, which is not what they would want if one party was to feel like the sexting is starting to feel hurtful. The most likely emoji that they would use is ? (the toilet bowl) because it is the most arbitrary in the context of sex and has the least sexual connotation out of all the emojis presented.
Positive facial emojis such as ?? and the ‘okay’ hand sign are unadvisable as safe emojis as they connote excitement, happiness or teasing, and hence, consensus. Negative facial emojis such as??? ? are rather ambiguous, and can come off as part of the submissive resistance that bottoms enjoy playing up during SM, such as during an enactment of a rape scene (Cameron & Kulick, 2003).
Emojis such as the cucumber, pill, microphone and key are phallic in nature, and hence would not be suitable as safe emojis as they may be misinterpreted and instead encourage a higher intensity of sexual discourse.
The exclamation mark and the ‘stop’ palm may seem like a good indicator to alert the other party that the SM conversation is getting too intense and bordering harmful, but they could potentially function like the word ‘no’ in physical SM, and do more harm to the relationship of the sexual partners than good. Using ‘no’, or emojis that connote resistance, as safe words, denies the top from the pleasure being dominant and imposing and the bottom of the pleasure of being subdued and overcome (Cameron & Kulick, 2003).
The chain emoji should not be used for the obvious reason that they are one of the objects that can be incorporated into SM for the pleasure of the sexual partners, be it to inflict pain or to receive it. The faeces emoji may come off as a visual representation for a swear word, and the water droplets emoji could be likened to ejaculation or any form of oral sex.
All in all, while different people experience pleasures and desires differently and should not be denied the autonomy of how they wish to consensually perform it with their partner, it should not come to a point where their sexual acts turn into something that puts either party in danger. This is especially so for SM where the lines can turn rather grey depending on how much physical pain or aggression the top may choose to portray in his sexual act. As such, safe words or safe emojis are important for couples like Julie and Mike to ensure that both parties are not emotionally abused and can derive their desired pleasure from their SM sexting with mutual respect, consensus and safety.
Question 2: Locker Room Banter
I disagree with the top three definition of locker room banter provided by Urban Dictionary, as they do not fully encapsulate the nature of locker room banter and how the societal stereotype of masculinity is performed and reinforced in the process.
Both the first and second definition seem to normalize and perhaps even accept locker room banter, with the first definition stating that locker room banter “exists solely for the purpose of male comedy and is not meant to be taken seriously” and the second definition simply defining it as “conversation that polite society dictates be held privately.”
The third definition on the other hand, seems more accurate in explaining the harmful nature of locker room banter by stating that it can come off as “racist, sexist or crude” but over-generalises and takes on a rather biased tone by stating that most men do it especially when with “their fellow male chauvinistic pigs.”
Rather, locker room banter seems to be more of an in-group activity that reinforces the stereotype of male masculinity and the assumed powerful social position of men (Cameron & Kulick, 2003) through derogatory and sometimes even sexual discourse, which in turn perpetuates prejudices against the socially marginalised.
Locker room banter is not a new concept – it was merely brought to light after Trump’s derogatory remarks were leaked to the public. A social experiment done by McNair, a theatre maker, reveals how widespread locker room banter is and how much of it centralises around patriarchal talk of rating women and talking about women in a demeaning and sexualised way.
But why do some men feel the need to talk like this? Locker room banter has a homosocial in-group function, much like the nature of general gossip (Cameron & Kulick, 2003)- in order to feel included, some men may choose to take part in locker room banter to seek approval from other men or build camaraderie with them. In addition, for those who may feel insecure about their masculinity, locker room banter can help to reinforce their ideals of heterosexual male dominance and patriarchy, which in turn could build their self-esteem and confidence.
However, unlike general gossip, which consists of talking about people behind their backs (Cameron & Kulick, 2003), locker room banter is an extremely negative form of gossip as it encourages ‘rape talk’ and demeaning comments. In many cases, such locker room banter has encouraged real life harassment and berating of women by making sexualised comments about them.
Such toxic homosocial talk should not be normalised as simply just another form of ‘talk’, given how misogynistic it can turn out to be. And despite what some may say, it is not inevitable, not human nature and definitely not acceptable.
Cameron, D., & Kulick, D. (2003). Language and sexuality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.