? is most likely the safe emoji.
With the invention of emojis, one can express their desires without words. For example, ?? would mean “penetration” while ??? means “I’d like to put your genitals in my mouth until something pleasant happens“.
However, it is important that before sexting starts, both parties negotiate their roles and it must be consensual. Especially in sadomasochism, it is a sexual play where one will perform the dominant role while the other performs the submissive role. The emoji for no ,?, definitely does not mean no in sadomasochistic sexting. If this emoji really meant what it is supposed to mean, couples would not get far into expressing their desires. Hence this typically used no emoji enhances the experience of sexting and cannot be used as an indication to stop.
Hence, the safe emoji needs to be established to indicate when the sexting has gone too far. This safe emoji must be unexpected in sex and must be agreed upon. From the list of emojis presented, the ? emoji is the most unexpected in sexting.
The emoji needs to be something that is iconic and does not leave the receivers open to their own interpretations. Hence the facial emojis such as ?? cannot be used as safe emojis as it enhances the sexting by providing emotions which is important in sadomasochism. Emojis like the microphone, pickle or even the key could be representations of the male genitalia. All of these emojis, if not agreed upon as a safe emoji could be seen as enhancing the experience or desires expressed.
The reason as to why the ? is most likely the safe emoji is because it is iconic and refers to an object. It is difficult to gather other interpretations from it and does not really relate to sex in any way, hence it is the most random. According to Kulick (2003), pickle is one of the words couples use as a safe word, as it is unrelated to sex. However, it is different when one is sexting. Pickle is deemed to be unrelated to sex when voiced. However, it may not mean the same when it is represented in emoji as it could suggest the desire for the male’s penis as it looks like one.
I disagree that the top three entries encapsulating the functions of ‘locker room banter’. Apart from it being offensive, sexually charged and racist or sexist, these entries did not manage to point out that it functions as a way to reaffirm their heterosexuality, facilitates homosocial bonding and challenges each other’s masculinities.
In a homosocial environment, it is important for them to bond without crossing the line of being seen as homosexual. Hence this banter ensures they do not cross this fine line. ‘Locker room banter’ can be seen as a form of gossip. Hence, it is interesting that men are involved in this form of gossip, as it indexes femininity. However, according to Cameron (1997), talking about other people establishes the boundaries and demarcates what is considered ingroup and what is considered outgroup. This already facilitates homosocial bonding as they define who is in the group and who is not. According to Cameron and Kulik (2003), banter displays feminine cues such as latching. It is the opposite of what is typically assumed of how heterosexual males talk like, where it is assumed that they are more competitive than collaborative. This way of speaking shows that they are all agreeing with one another on a particular topic and hence shows solidarity.
It also functions as a way to reinforces their heterosexuality. It objectifies both women and gays in the same way. Both are objectified by the way they look and this reaffirms one sexuality where it indicates what they desire to have and what they desire to stay away from. For example, Cameron (1997) analysed fraternity brothers talk and found that they identified one’s sexuality, by the way a person dresses and acts. By scrutinising and gossiping (as gay as it might sound) about gay guys, it reaffirms their heterosexuality as they would avoid the “deviant” behavior.
“Locker room banter” also serves as an opportunity to outdo each other’s masculinities. Discussing sex stories with each other just functions as a way to achieve dominance and gain higher status in the group. In this context, it is seen that the more people one screw, the more masculine that person is and this should be revered by others. Hence, this form of gossip is a platform to compete with each other’s masculinity.
Hence on the surface, it might seem that the locker room banter is simply offensive, but it has more functions to it. It is just a weird way for heterosexual males to bond and stroke each other’s ego.
Cameron, D. (1997). Performing gender: young men’s talk and the construction of heterosexual masculinity, in Johnson and Meinhof (1997) pp. 47–64.
Cameron, D., & Kulick, D. (2003). Language and sexuality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kulick, D. (2003). No. Language and Communication 23 pp. 139 – 151.