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Q1- S-M sexting

In sadomasochism, behaviour can be categorized in binaries to derive pleasure and sexual gratification – sadism and masochism, where the former involves inflicting pain and the latter on the receiving end. This pain can come in various forms, such as emotional or physical. It is a provocative mean of sexual play but has to be consensual – a ‘safe word’ is usually negotiated on beforehand (Cameron & Kulick, 2003). The importance of this ‘safe word’ lies in its incongruity with the context – in this case, the cucumber emoji (for which, pickle has also been a common ‘safe word’ in this practice), to ensure protection against non-consensual harm in the course of sexual play.

With maximal utilisation of today’s technology, this sexual practice has also diversified in its multimodality; reaching out to the online platform. Visual communication is used to express sexual desires in sexting – which could be in the form of sexually explicit messages, images, or even emojis to represent these desires. The same rules apply even on the online platform – such as a consensual sexual play and the pre-agreed ‘safe word’. In this case, Julie and Mike would incline towards using emojis unlikely to be a double entendre or contain any sexual innuendos that would facilitate the S-M play. This is in comparison to emojis such as chains⛓ (which could be a common adult toy used in S-M), water droplets:sweat_drops: (could be a representation of bodily fluids, such as semen), toilet bowl:toilet:/pill :pill:(associated with nauseating or a sick feeling (Reynolds, A compendium of emoji for very specific situations in honor of worldwide emoji day, 2015)) or the stop sign as signalled by the hand:hand: (could be interpreted to fuel and excite the sexual play, where ‘no’ is not taken as refusal (Cameron & Kulick, 2003) – emphasizing the significance of the ‘safe word’ in this practice).

The eggplant emoji:eggplant: [not in question] is common in the use of reference to a male’s penis due to its phallic appearance (Reynolds, 2016). Thus, despite pickle being a popular ‘safe word’ in S-M sex, it could be inappropriate to portray the same function in sexting due to its visuals.

Julie and Mike are most likely to use the microphone emoji:microphone:. Although after much research, I realised this could also suggest ejaculation (Linning, 2017), language is subjective and varies across context. Language cannot be analysed in isolation (Cameron & Kulick, 2003), thus the choice of a ‘safe word’ will ultimately depend on Julie and Mike’s discourse.


Q2 Locker-room-banter

#1 “The crude, vulgar, offensive and often sexual trade of comments guys pass to each other, usually in high school locker rooms. Exists solely for the purpose of male comedy and is not meant to be taken seriously.”

#2 “Any manner of conversation that polite society dictates be held privately – with small groups of like-minded, similarly gendered peers – due to its sexually charged language, situations or innuendos.”

#3 “Racist, sexist, and crude language most men use towards immigrants, minorities, and women, when they are with their fellow male chauvinistic pigs.”

Of which, Donald Trump’s leaked video back in 2005 was listed as an example under the third definition. But, that doesn’t sit well with me. First of all, Donald Trump had that exchange not exactly in a locker room, but in the bus of “Access Hollywood” [any exchange could have easily been caught on recording]. Not only did that [Trump’s caricature of the locker room] infuriated athletes (Gregory, 2016), its content also sparked debate on whether what he said was acceptable as ‘locker-room banter’. ‘Grabbing them by the pussy’ and ‘I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married.’ (Fahrenthold, 2016) were just a small part of what constituted the exchange, but by likening it to ‘locker-room banter’, it suggests that all men talk about women the same way. It lowers the status of women and brings attention to the issue of sexism. What Trump shared was also an example of sexual assault for making non-consensual advances.

“Oh, nice legs, huh?”

This comment by Trump about actress Arianne Zucker (who was waiting to escort them to the set) reminds me of how hostesses are present in Japanese clubs to facilitate homosocial bonding between men by being the subject of their discussion. However, in Trump’s context, he was merely dehumanizing women [an entire gender] by reducing their value to their physical appearance [as he had been infamous for sexism in the past as well]. ‘Locker-room banter’ may take place in order to promote homosocial bonding between men without threading the boundaries of a homosexual image (Cameron & Kulick, 2003). I suppose this could explain the reason women becomes the centre of their exchange, however derogatory terms like ‘pussy’ (although claimed to purport male comedy) is offensive and threatens equality between the opposite sexes today.

It is a concern manifested in our everyday life – the fact such discussions go on in locker rooms and the acceptance of such practice suggest how society sees it as a common and everyday occurrence. In the case Trump makes a comment criticizing religion, implying racism or of efforts in combating terrorism, the rest of the world would definitely respond – with majority condemning Trump. So why is there a discrepancy when it comes to his misogynist attitude?



Cameron, D., & Kulick, D. (2003). Language and sexuality. New York, United States of America: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved March 1, 2018

Fahrenthold, D. A. (2016, October 8). Trump recorded having extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005. Retrieved April 10, 2018, from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-recorded-having-extremely-lewd-conversation-about-women-in-2005/2016/10/07/3b9ce776-8cb4-11e6-bf8a-3d26847eeed4_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.980cf9e00f26

Gregory, S. (2016, October 11). Donald Trump dismisses his ‘locker-room talk’ as normal. Athletes say it’s not. Retrieved April 10, 2018, from TIME: http://time.com/4526039/donald-trump-locker-room-athletes/

Linning, S. (2017, February 9). Revealed: The x-rated meanings behind popular emojis that will make you think twice before sending your next text . (Associated Newspapers Ltd) Retrieved March 10, 2018, from Daily Mail Online: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4200384/The-X-rated-meanings-popular-emojis.html

Reynolds, M. (2015, July 17). A compendium of emoji for very specific situations in honor of worldwide emoji day. Retrieved April 10, 2018, from The Frisky: http://www.thefrisky.com/2015-07-17/a-compendium-of-emoji-for-very-specific-situations-in-honor-of-worldwide-emoiji-day/

Reynolds, M. (2016, July 6). Here’s how to use the 72 new emoji for sexting, obviously. Retrieved April 10, 2018, from The Frisky: http://www.thefrisky.com/2016-06-07/heres-how-to-use-the-72-new-emoji-for-sexting-obviously/


What is queer linguistics?

Queer, unlike its name, is not only centred on homosexuals and other sexual identities alternative to heterosexuality. ‘Queer’ is an umbrella term for the sexually deviant, and those socially stigmatized for deviating from what is agreed to be the norm. A central focus of queer linguistics – queer theory questions the establishment of the norm and its consequences – namely, privilege and oppression. Queer linguistics can be defined as the study of interplay between language and other social parameters and is focused on the discourse which sexual identities and desire are produced. It mainly targets heteronormativity – “structures, institutions, relations and actions that promote and produce heterosexuality as normal, self-evident, desirable, privileged and necessary” (Cameron & Kulick, 2003).

How it came about?

The discussion of queer theory is essential to address the underlying principle of queer linguistics. Compared to its presentation as a theory, it is more accurate to address Queer Theory as a set of combined perspectives. Queer theory prioritizes hegemonic social forces over individual speakers (Livia & Hall, 1997) and can be considered opposite to identity politics of feminism (centred on compulsory heterosexuality) – a label used in the recognition of membership to a specific (typically oppressed) group across various stratification. A criticism of identity politics includes the fact it derives all social relations from gender; assuming other social parameters to be subsumed under gender. Linguistic studies falling under this category undermines influences by other social factors and is insufficient to answer for discourse studies of other sexualities.

The Rise of Queer Theory

This gap is answered for by queer theory, which centres on the separation between gender and sexuality constructs. Queer theory also behaves as the intersection of language and social inequality faced by the queer. Although Cameron and Kulick (2003) have based studies of language and sexuality as ‘not only sexual identity but [also]… fantasy, repression, pleasure, fear and the unconscious’; of which come under the general heading of ‘desire’, it is not enough to focus solely on desire for a comprehensive study. The human experience of sexuality is a social aspect too complex and requires a nuanced analysis (van Dijk, 2015). This essay will thus present contributions of queer theory with relation to language and sexuality across various discursive practices.

Label me ‘q u e e r’

The use of certain lexical terms to denote stigmatized sexualities has been observed in everyday practice – namely, labels like ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ in a heteronormative society, where individuals are expected to be gender-appropriate behaving “opposites”. Queer linguistics provides insight with the use of labels like ‘homosexual’ and ‘queer’ to include alternative sexualities, and those marginalized, such as ‘travesty’, ‘transsexual’ and other gender-bending identities. It defies the structure of heteronormativity which forces sexuality in binary classification.

Queer & Normative Structures

Besides curiosity about how common-sense assumptions about sexuality came about, queer linguistics pursuits research revolving around normative authority and regulatory power; of which exist in institutions and structures. ‘Lavender linguistics’ is another term often used by linguists to represent queerspeak – the study of language as it is used by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) speakers (Leap, 2015), or people who do not conform to norms of gender and sexuality. Queerspeak is viewed as an intentional phenomenon and tips the scale of the norms of society away from compulsory heterosexuality; with the speaker fully conscious of ‘queer’ (not) being produced within contexts. Discourse strategies in contexts like coming-out stories, homophobic slang or graffiti are resources of interest in queer linguistics (Morton-Brown, 1999). Producing queer however, does not directly cohere with disruptive acts and material change (Morton-Brown, 1999); it does not forcibly undo heterosexist conditions. Queer sexualities are highlighted by its manifestation in every speech act that serves to overthrow dominant notions. This is achieved through performativity of speech acts: its sustained and repeated “queering” of local, cultural and global discourse (Morton-Brown, 1999) – by the marginalized identities – to the point of acceptance by the general public.

Metaphors – how queer?

Metaphoric formations also provide entry for queer linguistics (van Dijk, 2015). Functioning to draw analogies and invoke contrasts, metaphors introduce discursive references to judgement, evaluation and other features associated with the linguistics of affect and emotion (Martin & White, 2005). The effectiveness of metaphoric reference is dependent on general consensus; this creates ingroup solidarity while introducing boundary and hierarchy (Morton-Brown, 1999) into discourse and can be said to be accompanied with normative consequences. The same can be expected for metaphors differentiated from those with discriminated statuses. In The Handbook of Discourse Analysis (2015) by van Dijk, he sed “hot” as a metaphorical example which possesses multiple associated meanings in the discourse of sexuality – indexes an individual whose male embodiment suggests an authoritative stance in the context of gay pornography and other forms of homoerotic interest. It can transcend social boundaries in its usage, but is met with a constraint – ‘explicit references to the particulars of a subject’s race, ethnicity, or nationalism usually remain unmarked when a subject’s hotness is indicated’ (van Dijk, 2015). He mentioned likely descriptions of an African American performer in a gay film as a “ripped, lean Black man” or “hot stud”, but not a “hot Black man” (Leap W. L., 2009), symbolizing a White race, or momentarily loss of racial identity for admittance under that description. Normative properties of certain words thus limit expressions by coinciding with social dimensions i.e. white racism. Halperin stated that queerness ‘has been described as an unbounded formation’ (as cited by van Dijk, 2015), embedded in sexuality and other dimensions of human experience. In the context of critical discourse analysis, the integration of sexual and other social divisions that ‘enable and inscribe hierarchy and privilege’ (van Dijk, 2015) in everyday practice has been illustrated through queer linguistics.

In conclusion,

This post has addressed queer theory in the interests of language and sexuality via its lexical terms, performativity and metaphoric expressions of normative authority. Queer linguistics, as concerned with a specific social wrong, can be studied via discursive practices manifested in a system of hierarchy, power and privilege. In the discourse of sexuality, the ultimate goal of queer theory is ‘reconceptualization of dominant discourses which shape gender and sexual identities’ (Motschenbacher, 2010) — to destabilize conventions which alienate deviant sexualities who do not conform.



Cameron, D., & Kulick, D. (2003). Language and sexuality. New York, United States of America: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved March 1, 2018

Disemelo, K. (2014). Black men as pink consumers? University of the Witwatersrand, Faculty of Humanities. Retrieved March 28, 2018, from http://wiredspace.wits.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10539/18447/Black%20Men%20as%20Pink%20Consumers%20-%20Dissertation.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y

Leap, W. (2015). Queer linguistics as critical discourse analysis. In W. Leap, D. Tannen, H. E. Hamilton, & D. Schiffrin (Eds.), The handbook of discourse analysis. doi:10.1111/b.9780470670743.2015.00034.x

Leap, W. L. (2009). Out in public: Reinventing lesbian/gay anthropology in a globalizing world. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. doi:10.1002/9781444310689

Livia, A., & Hall, K. (1997). Queerly phrased: Language, gender and sexuality. (A. Livia, & K. Hall, Eds.) New York: Oxford University Press. Retrieved March 22, 2018, from https://books.google.com.sg/books?hl=en&lr=&id=1G_dVlJ2KhcC&oi=fnd&pg=PR11&dq=queer+language+and+sexuality&ots=4NZDkH37fK&sig=MRyxxjXcCmRdjDk4ArTVisvAiQg#v=onepage&q=queer%20language%20and%20sexuality&f=false

Martin, J. R., & White, P. (2005). The language of evaluation: Appraisal in English (1 ed.). Palgrave Macmillan UK. doi:10.1057/9780230511910

Morton-Brown, M. (1999, June 5). Queer linguistics vs. compulsory heterosexuality. Text and Performance Quarterly, 19(3), 248-256. doi:10.1080/10462939909366265

Motschenbacher, H. (2010). Language, gender and sexual identity: Poststructuralist perspectives. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Retrieved March 28, 2018, from https://books.google.com.sg/books?id=MT0zAAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

van Dijk, T. A. (2015). The handbook of discourse analysis (2 ed., Vol. 1). (D. Tannen, H. E. Hamilton, & D. Schiffrin, Eds.) WILEY Blackwell. doi:10.1002/9781118584194