Safe Words and Locker Room Talk


Sadomasochism, as defined by Cambridge Dictionary, is where people get pleasure from sadism and masochism – an activity that involves humiliation and pain, as described in Kulick’s Language and Sexuality. In his book, he discussed about how it is common practice for the sadomasochistic participants to decide on a ‘safe word’ in advance because normal words of resistance may be perceived as a sign to continue. The usual ‘no’ will only push the sadist even further.

Alex Lickerman wrote about this on Psychology Today, and he said that when deciding on safe words, ‘the more nonsensical the better’. The word (or in this case, emoji) chosen cannot be one that will cause the other participant to take it as a sign of enjoyment.

In class, we also discussed about how there is a ‘traffic light’ gradient to the meanings behind words used in sadomasochistic activities. Green words mean for the partner to continue, yellow words are to tell the partner to slow down, and red words mean for the partner to stop. In other words, the red words are the safe words.

In this case of Julie and Mike’s sadomasochistic sexting, ??✋???⛓?❕???? ??? are all possible green words (or emojis), expressing their emotions, or what they desire for the other party to do to them in sadomasochistic play. ✋ is equivalent to the verbal ‘stop’, which in sadomasochistic sexual activity often means for the partner to continue. ? and the cucumber emojis are often used to represent the male’s penis in texting, and the ? emoji might even suggest to perform the sexual activity while on drugs.

In this case, the emoji that is most likely their ‘safe emoji’ is ?.

This emoji is the most, in a sense, absurd one, and takes things completely out of context in sadomasochistic sexting. It gives no avenue for the other party to misunderstand it as wanting them to continue like the face and hand emojis, or even the chain, key and poop emojis which may suggest sadomasochistic activities. It does not show any signs of enjoyment or suffering (both of which are perceived as enjoyment in sadomasochistic activities), nor does it draw references to any possible sexual organs or bodily fluids like ??. Therefore ? is the most possible and a good safe emoji for Julie and Mike to tell the other person to stop.



Locker Room Talk as defined by Urban Dictionary:

The first definition defined it as a casual sexual comments made in passing by males, meant as a joke and not to be taken seriously.

The second definition defined it as sexual conversations between small groups of people of the same gender who are like-minded.

The third definition defined it as racist, sexist, and crude conversations between men.

I disagree with the definitions. While the definitions are all partially true, there is more to locker room talk than what Urban Dictionary has defined.

Firstly, the first and third definitions claim that ‘locker room talk’ is performed only by males, and this is not true because females do engage in locker room talk as well. The second definition would be more accurate in this sense, where locker room talk is done mostly among groups of people of the same gender, which means that men have their locker room talk with other men and women have their locker room talk among other women as well.

The Urban Dictionary also defined locker room talk as racist, sexual and crude comments used to bring other people down, and are comments said in passing meant as jokes. However, there is more purpose to locker room talk than what has been defined.

Though it is true that a lot of racist, sexist and crude remarks are passed in locker room talk, its purpose is not solely to bring other people down. It is often about building camaraderie, forging closer relationships with the people they are talking to by having a ‘common enemy’. These conversations are basically ‘gossips’ , and they facilitate homosocial bonding among the groups of men and women as they form an ‘in-group’ by excluding others.

It is also true that a lot of sexual comments are passed in locker room talk, and most of the times they are brought across as jokes. However, these ‘jokes’ have more purpose than solely just to bring about comedy. Very often, men talk about their sexual escapades to boast and brag about themselves. The talk seems to be bringing down the women that they had ‘nailed’, but its purpose is really to brag about their own sexual capabilities. While they appear to be talking about the women, they really are talking about themselves and reaffirming their masculinity.

While men’s talk about sexual experiences in locker room talk focuses mostly on themselves, women, on the other hand, focus their talk on sexual experiences mostly on the men, and about how good they were, as seen in these conversation examples provided on As this article on Cosmopolitan has said, women’s talk on sex often serves other functions as well – to reaffirm other women to love their own bodies, or to give other women courage to talk about any bad sexual experiences like rape.

The definitions of Locker Room Talk by Urban Dictionary are really just the tip of the iceberg, and there are a lot more underlying purposes and functions of locker room talk that what meets the eye. Perhaps locker room talk is really not as bad and shallow an activity as we think it to be.