it’s raining men


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

Before we go on to qualify and determine which of these would most likely be their safe emoji, let us first generally define sexting, look into its sadomasochistic variant and later examine the purpose of such acts.

The advent and rapid progression of technology has opened up new ways for humans to express and act on their sexuality and desires. Sexting usually involves the active participation in the receipt and transmission of sexually charges messages, either in the form or a combination of: text, audio clips, photographs and/or videos between two consensual parties. Sex-ts in recent times are usually sent through various social media platforms such as  Snapchat, WhatsApp, Telegram and the likes. There are also specific websites that allow for such exchanges and a little while ago, internet chat rooms were the best discreet options that allowed for more anonymous exchanges (See the impact of removing personal ads on Craiglist here).

Sadomasochistic sexting simply involves the integration of sadomasochistic elements into the world of virtual communication. Sadomasochistic sexting largely removes the actual physical infliction/receipt of pain, less of course the visual stimulation and acts of affirmation to prove subservience, but capitalises on attacked / having the mental state ‘disturbed’.  This would largely involve some form of humiliation either through verbal degradation or physical acts (that need to be recorded) that are traditionally proven and seen in-person but can now be done remotely. Regardless, the interlocutors  derive sexual pleasure or gratification from the infliction of, or being inflicted by psychological suffering.; the very purpose of participating in such sadomasochistic acts.

With such platforms popping up and increased ease in transmission of media (sound clips, images and videos), boundaries of willingness, and by extension consent, in sexting can be a tad bit clearer. The permanent blocks illustrates this clearly; a block means total unwillingness and rejection of (further) participation in sexting. Therefore in this sense the absolute “no” is therefore arguably clearer, if not at least for cases of unsolicited sex-ts. Granted though, this can be circumvented through new account creations and reversible account blocks, this is where cyberlaw comes into play demarcating the harmless and sexual harassment.

However, consent remains tricky to demarcate when sadomasochism is involved where the idea of ‘no’ is less clear; could mean to be a spur to continue or a refusal all at the same time. As such, with traditional sadomasochism exchanges, safe words (that may have a gradient of encouragement) are implemented. Much like the traffic light colours, green means go / permission granted, yellow indicates some discomfort but the ability to continue whilst red indicates the complete discomfort and unwillingness  / inability to continue. This however is rather unnatural and disruptive to the flow of conversation which may totally kill off any momentum built; a turn-off to the mood and setting. The blurriness is further exacerbated with the increased use of emojis which are arbitrary icons and as with language may carry different meanings cross-culturally.

However, I propose that the following emojis to be used in combination in communicating consent (or the lackthereof); the ones Julie and Mike most likely use:

The ‘okay’ emoji (rightmost) very explicitly shows agreement with whatever the interlocutors are subjected to in that particular instance. Okay carries the meaning of acceptance or agreement, regardless of willingness/reluctance. This may mean that whilst the receiving party, for example, does not agree to being subjected to the “abuse” or degradation, they are able to fully tolerate and still be able to derive pleasure and gratification. Why this works is because, in sadomasochism, a power play has ensued; there is an inherent difference in power for the dominant party (often the ‘torturer’) and the more passive party (often the ‘recipient’) – therefore the course of the ‘act’ is steered in favour of the dominant party’s proclivities and turn-ons. Such things may or may not align between both parties and are therefore negotiated. Therefore, the inflicted may be subjected to things not to their liking. However they still pull through because it is not enough to break their goal of pleasing the other party without any hesitation or hindrance.

The exclamation point emoji mirrors the amber light for traffic lights and is often used for warnings. There is some cultural conditioning of course that makes readers be more alert and wary of there being something requiring attention. This emoji essentially means ‘be careful, you are treading on thin ice’. In terms of acts/degradation, there is noticably more disagreement and discomfort than the person is willing and able to do. As with warning labels, engaging or prolonging these acts may make the act less attractive and does less for the person sexually. Since it does not encourage the act to prolong further or increase in intensity it is still not a complete halt as its effects are still negotiable and tolerable for the recipient.

The complete halt, a perhaps the defining emoji to indicate a complete stop, the main purpose of a safe word, would be the palm emoji (leftmost). Again with traffic road signals, in the event of traffic light malfunctions, the universal signal to stop is by using the palm. Therefore, as such, is more easily understood. I concur that with the concept of ‘no’ being more muddled with sadomasochism and alternate emoji can be used to imply no but spur the other party to continue which would be the ‘talk no evil monkey’ emoji:

The reason for putting forth this emoji a the counter-intuitive ‘no’ is because there is an inherent quality of playfulness, that is negotiated through its cute depiction, using a largely accepted mischievous animal in place of a human. This makes the palm emoji good as the safe word because it is plain and simple and there are less plausible visual cues which might indicate a deceptive ‘no’. 

As such, Julie and Mike most likely uses the palm emoji as their safe word.



What does it mean to be ‘sex-positive’? You can start by reading thisthis, and this. What are, in your opinion, its implications for contemporary identity politics?

Stripping everything else down, being sex-positive minimally involves an easier acceptance of normative deviants (of any kind) including sexual orientation, differing subscriptions to the various sexual activities as well as frequency and quantity of sexual acts and their associated partners. If not, some tolerance. (*coughs and clears throat*) A good parallel to draw would be the concept of racial harmony in Singapore). Often neglected would also include the ownership of sexual health responsibilities dampened by notions of looseness and promiscuity.  This also may mislead others to thinking that for such sex-positive people, consent is not required which is untrue. This is of course an idyll almost utopic concept because true and total acceptance is difficult to attain given our subjectivities and biases (outwardly or otherwise). Whilst, I am all for the positive message of acceptance and love, there are some implications of sex-positivity.

Sex-positive proponents essentially fight for neutrality in that which anyone’s autonomy should not be questioned and accepted. This is problematic because of the intersectionality of what it fights for and the oppressive hierachies / tendencies (see: patriachy).  Also, through a feminists’ lens it may mean an overzealous agreement to all decisions surrounding sex due to the inherent empowerment it brings about as the choices taken are those that society tried to deny them; some sort of a win. This is difficult because the auto-acceptance leads to the fallacies including assumptions that such choices are merely individualised and that one can be absconded from brooding over the larger social ramnifications of their actions. This discourages critical discussions and evaluations of choices  of which one should be more valued and on what terms and that makes such choices seem like mere illusions, without meaning or value. This “everything has a spectrum” approach deludes people to think that we can absolutely remove any impacts of socialisation when it comes to decision making; but we cannot. 

Next, there is no actual universality to the empowerments derived from sex-positivity, empowerment will still remain individualised. The argument being put-forth here is strangely that there is no “black and white”, that a choice is complex and its evaluation is largely situational. Sex-positivity these days are often without conversation or critical discourse which makes it a problem. The movement unknowingly perpetuates heteronormativity with its (straight) men-pleasing tendencies. This is because a large chunk of the movement is a defence of how sex-positive proponents are not anti-sex and man-hating as they may be made out to be. The most in contention within sex-positive feminism being penile-vaginal sex (to the straight man at least), inadvertently reinforcing this to be the norm, pulling it backwards for the LGBTQ+ agenda.

Also, its attempts to normalise everything and anything is worrying including kinks. It is essentially a sweeping under the rug of inherently problematic issues with some kinks (see: paedophilia and rape). This is essentially a “get-out-of-jail-free card” that those who have such kinks as they just cannot help themselves. Those that question them are quickly dismissed off as discriminatory  and damaging. The reality is that kinks are toxic and may see the undermining of one party (usually misogynistic) and abuse and subjugation happens which should not be so readily accepted. Kinks are not all inherently equal (yes, this sounds so ironic to every human is created equal), and those that oppresses any minority should be held in contention.

Overall sex-positivitity is an over-simplification of highly complex problems. It unintentionally promotes the silencing of victims, victimisation, and encourages misogyny. It all but undo all the good work feminist put in for approval from (straight) men.

Diagnosis: Gay Voice?

Does One Even?

“Do I Sound Gay?” (Thorpe, 2012) follows the 40-year-old main protagonist-cum-director, David Thorpe on a semi-anecdotal, semi-serious study on the existence of a ‘gay voice’; diagnosing and treating its prodromes whilst exploring negative effects from suffering this tragic ‘disease’. The crippling insecurity that manifested in Thorpe posthumously, following a devastating break-up, was the main personal motivation for this documentary which set him on a ‘Highway to Toxic Hypermasculinity.’ He even faced extensive existential crisis on the authenticity of his voice and by extension the whole construction of his identity in entirety. Anecdotal inputs aside, this documentary aimed at retaining some shed of reliability by involving a visit to a Linguistics lab in which micro-variations and characteristics differentiating Straight and Gay speech were discussed. As with most things, there exists a continuum and not mere binaries; Gender, included, has a spectrum (Monro, 2005). It should therefore be unsurprising that even within a single variety, there can be intra-variations. This, however, does not seem to be the case when defining a ‘gay voice’ of which has occidental tendencies and poor representations of various gay tribes – lesbians being further marginalised by being exclusively omitted. This paper is thus set out to evaluate those points raised and question the legitimacy of a Gay voice.

Yasssss, Hunneh!

            In this documentary, several features of gay speak were highlighted and presented to be prototypical and gay-identifying, namely: careful sometimes over enunciation, greater pitch fluctuations in intonation, strong nasalisation, with lengthening of fricatives and assibilation.   Such findings are not shocking as papers such as Pierrehumbert (2004) and Munson et. al (2005), seem to legitimise and support, although often inconclusively, that such were the characteristics of gay speech. But, with non-conclusive and isolatable characteristics, a universally-representative gay voice therefore does not exist, one is at best gay-sounding (Fasoli & Maass, 2018). Fasoli and Maass (2018) further concretise this by detailing the largely negative social ramifications of having gay-sounding voices and how gays, like many others, tweak their style inaccordance to their interlocutor. Also, with the ‘symptoms’ being largely curable, by adopting the ‘superior White’ standards of ‘straight male speech’ through visits with celebrity vocal coaches and mass produced self-help CDs as Thorpe discovers, gay speech and by extension ‘gay voice’ is manipulatable and therefore arguably inorganic. Its adoption, despite its possible negative social effects, is a matter of pride; a necessary sacrifice (for those who believe) made to mark identity, membership and solidarity of being gay. Despite the existence of opposing studies that argue that such language use may be for anti-self-representation, it is often geographically specific, as with the case of Oxtchit in Israel (Levon, 2010). As such, the prospects of the existence of a ‘gay voice’ is dampened.

            Next, the aforementioned characteristics of gay speak exist within non-members, especially those that are precipitated biologically, damning the existence of a ‘gay voice’. The documentary provided a solid example of this with the representation of Kris Marx, the straight man with the ‘gay voice’ and Matt Bernado the gay man with a ‘straight voice.’ Despite the nature versus nurture spectacle, this paper will concentrate more on the nature aspects to solidify our stand of the non-existence of a ‘gay voice.’ Amongst the top few reasons for voices to be considered gay, is one that is more feminine: higher pitch and nasal timbre. The differences in acoustics are largely developmental and physiological in which the length and tension of vocal folds affect pitch production (Titze & Martin, 1998). Therefore, shorter vocal folds with higher tension on them leads to a higher voice pitch. Similarly, there are biological bases for hypernasal speech (Joiner & Kogel, 2016) – an abnormal increased airflow through the nasal cavity during speech due to cleft palates and velopharyngeal insufficiency (Pediatric Ear, Nose, & Throat Specialists, 2014). This of course does not insinuate that the extent of nasality is the same for everyone, but someone with a more nasal tonal quality and hence more gay-sounding could be caused by milder biological deficiencies. Also, with such inherent production capabilities, these characteristics cannot be sure-markers of gay identity. Hence, this further discredits the existence of a naturally-occurring characteristic of ‘gay voice’.

“I’m Not Biased!”. “Sure, bitch, SURE!”.

              Furthermore, a hearer’s subjective bias can rule out the existence of a ‘gay voice’. This is better explained through subjectivities and mental states. A conscious perception through subjective measure is one where choices or assumptions are derived from knowledge-providing mental states (Ziori & Dienes, 2006; Merikle, 1992), for example, a belief derived from a visual experience. This would mean that listeners may conflate other sensory cues to form their perception and identity of others. Someone may sound gay because his mannerisms fit what the listener believes to be the characteristically ‘gay’ person even if his voice may not actually be typically gay-sounding. It also sheds some light on the attitudes held by the listener. As seen in the documentary, Thorpe’s long-time friend, is disapproving of a ‘sudden’ development of a gay voice, post-revelation and his coming out when the shift between his linguistic performance was not dramatically different; reflecting her bias, hearing subjectivities, and her unconscious attitude towards Thorpe being gay, especially considering their personal history.


            Otherwise, the rejection of a ‘gay voice,’ by the gays themselves in itself can ironically legitimise its existence. It is however still important to note that it may be because of the qualities being non-characteristically masculine, not specifically ‘gay’. Thorpe displayed the struggle and internalised homophobia that is often manifested to having a ‘gay-(sounding) voice’. This is perhaps the film’s most accurate sharing; there being oppressive and self-inflicted homophobic attitudes amongst those within the LGBTQ+ community on themselves for their deviant tendencies and sexual orientations. This could account for the reason why Thorpe felt the need to correct this ‘illness’ which is apparent through his poor self-image and adamance on his lack of desirability. Thorpe’s case, may stem from his failed relationship but such self-hate is socially conditioned (Pearl, 1997), not congenital. This self-internalised homophobia echoes true with David Sedaris’ claims in the documentary in which homosexuals feel good when being deemed straight. As such, the documentary has successfully raised a very commonplace yet poorly detected struggle of the gay psyche and further discussion will uncover the complications surrounding identity politics when someone possesses deviant sexualities whilst being a minority in other life aspects including ethnicity and socio-economic status. With the documentary ending with Thorpe’s eventual acceptance of his ‘gay voice’, it does not only give hope for a ‘cure’ to ‘gay voice’ but sheds light that despite the many advancements in LGBTQ+ rights and equality, it is the gay community’s own undoing that impedes progress due to their insecurities and internalised homophobia.  This is the last hurdle such persons need to overcome without having to alter and compensate their vocal production to attain ‘normalcy’ despite their openness in activism, especially when ‘gay’ can become the new normal. Regardless, the above only serves to prove the existence of a gay-sounding voice through self-perception and not an actual ‘gay voice’.

            As the documentary has artfully demonstrated, the ‘gay voice’ concept is yet another social construct that aims to oppress deviants as dictated by society. As usual this trope is made real through its proliferations of ill-representations through popular media. With that, comes the unauthentic and unnatural characteristics of speech first used to ridicule and later (un?)fortunately adopted by the gay community to mark their identities. This being inorganic makes the claim of an innate gay voice difficult to believe especially with the physiological structures that do not support an immediate correlation and that such voices are at most gay-sounding; which in itself is already quite problematic, but supposedly more acceptable. More urgently, we need to look at those whose identities are predicated on the intersectionality between multiple minority statuses and understand the differing nuances on how people of different class, race and socio-economic status, deal with such situations because their cases are less direct as compared to the White males portrayed in this documentary.


Fasoli, F., Maass, A. (2018). Voice and Prejudice: The Social Costs of Auditory Gaydar. Atlantic Journal of Communication, 26(2), 98-110. doi:

Levon, E. (2012). The voice of others: Identity, alterity and gender normativity among gay men in Israel. Language in Society, 41(02), 187-211. doi:10.1017/s0047404512000048

Merikle, P.M. (1992), ‘Perception without awareness: Critical issues’, American Psychologist, 47, pp. 792–5.

Monro, S. (2005). Beyond Male and Female: Poststructuralism and the Spectrum of Gender. International Journal of Transgenderism, 8(1), 3-22. doi:10.1300/j485v08n01_02

Munson, B., McDonald, E. C., De Boe, N. L., & White, A. R. (2005). The Acoustic and Perceptual Bases of Judgements of Women and Men’s Sexual Orientation from Read Speech. Journal of Phonetics.

Pearlman, L. (1997). Trauma and the Self. Journal of Emotional Abuse, 1(1), 7-25. doi:10.1300/J135v01n01_02

Pediatric Ear, Nose, & Throat Specialists. (2014, August 28). Speech Disorders – Hypernasal Speech. Retrieved March 23, 2018, from

Pierrehumbert, J.B., Bent, T., Munson, B., Bradlow, A.R., & Bailey, J.M. (2004). The influence of sexual orientation on vowel production. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 116, 1905-1908.

Thorpe, D. (Director). (2015). Do I sound gay? [Motion picture on DVD]. United States: Sundance Selects.

Titze, I. R., & Martin, D. W. (1998). Principles of Voice Production. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 104(3), 1148-1148. doi:10.1121/1.424266

Ziori, E., & Dienes, Z. (2006). Subjective measures of unconscious knowledge of concepts. Mind & Society, 5(1), 105-122. doi:10.1007/s11299-006-0012-4