Safe emojis & are “locker room talks” our desires?

I feel that in the first place, a safe word for sadomasochistic sexting is not necessary since how “unsafe” or “dangerous” can it be. If you are feeling uncomfortable, you can simply just stop replying for a few hours and the other party might probably get it.

In Henkin & Holiday, 1996’s advice on choosing a safe word, words other than No, Stop or Slow down are generally suitable to be used as a safe word as these words give an illusion of need, control and power. A recent article by Ramos, 2018 gives a few examples of safe words to use and their word categories include fruits, food, names of famous people and countries. These word categories generally have no relation to the actual sadomasochistic process.

Among the emojis, ?⛓ are the worst emoji you can choose to represent safe words as they are simply tools you use when exercising sadomasochistic sex. Facial expressions such as : ???????? are definitely out of the picture as they just give a sense of what the sender is feeling. Hand signals: ✋ and ? give the impression of “stop” and “ok” respectively which do not fit the criteria of being a safe word.

The following emojis: ? ❕??? are towards the safe side whereby if these emojis were established way before the process, they would be suitable to be used as “safe emoji”. However, ? seems like a venue to do something funny in your imagination. ❕might refer to shocked or excitement. The pill ?, cucumber ? and the microphone ? belong to word categories that do not actually relate to sadomasochistic sex. However, the shape of the cucumber and microphone has similarities of a dick. Using this emoji runs the risk of Julie’s representation of the need of a dick thus it would be best to use the pill ? as the safe emoji.

In my opinion, a pill ? can represent the traffic colour which is commonly used as safe words as reported in an article by thehomoculture. With red representing “stop” and yellow representing “slow down or reaching the limit”, the occurrence of the pill? is a signal to the reader to stop and check whether is it everything okay.

Personally, I have engaged in many locker-room-banters myself during my teenage days when I was young and would dare to speak as freely as I want to without thinking of the consequences. In my experience, locker-room-banters are shared more commonly within people of the same sex and especially more so during National Service, when I am surrounded with a group of male strangers and we have nothing to talk about. During National Service, when life was dull and empty, objectify woman really could ease up the tension and bring up the mood. In most of these conversations, I must say that It expresses some of our desires or opinions which we may or may not have true intentions for. As such, I do not agree with the first Urban Dictionary definition which explains that locker room talk “exists solely for the purpose of male comedy and is not meant to be taken seriously”. Letting our desires or opinions turned into word forms gave us at least a sense of satisfaction and relieve especially when someone else shares the same thought.

Even when sexual desires are personal and private to each individual, the actualization process is formed by social and verbal interaction (Eckert 2002). It is only by speaking out, we would be able to understand what is desirable, what is appropriate and inappropriate desires for each unique individual (Cameron & Kulick, 2010). Desires are therefore linked to linguistics concepts just like how thoughts are formed by languages. When desires are expressed or represented in language, it could be in the form of crude locker-room banter and individuals may choose to keep their desires private or shared it openly (Eckert, 2002). In my opinion, private conversations are not private once it is shared with someone else other than the individual himself. Thus, I do not agree with the second definition from Urban Dictionary as well whereby locker room talks are meant to be kept private as there would be times where an individual would want their desire to be known.

Personally, I feel that locker room talks serve more than just being a form of socializing tool and a conversation that should be kept private. It also expresses the desires and actual opinions of an individual and he/she would likely feel a sense of satisfaction once the thought is also put across to someone else even though it might not be actualized.

However, as Cameron & Kulick mentioned, each individual may have different acceptance level for what is appropriate or inappropriate desires. Therefore, as locker room banters would usually objectify or defame another individual, it might not be acceptable for all, even among friends of the same social circle. I would like to end off with the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people”. As smart adults, it would be better if we can avoid locker room talks unless we really want to express our desires.


Cameron, D., & Kulick, D. (2010). Language and sexuality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Eckert, Penelope. (2002) Demystifying sexuality and desire. Language and sexuality: Contesting meaning in theory and practice. ed. by Kathryn Campbell-Kibler, Robert J. Podesva, Sarah J. Roberts and Andrew Wong, 99-110. Stanford: CSLI Publications.

Henkin, William A. and Holiday, Sybil 1996, Consensual Sadomasochism: How to Talk About it and Do it Safely, Los Angeles: Daedalus.

Ramos, B. (2018, January 08). These sexual safe words are a little out there. Retrieved April 10, 2018, from

The importance of a safe word: Why you need one and how to use it. (2017, January 25). Retrieved April 10, 2018, from

“Do I Sound Gay” Movie Review


David Thorpe’s documentary, “Do I Sound Gay?” aims to discover the notion of one’s voice being an identifier for a man’s sexual orientation, raising some intriguing perceptions concerning about speaker’s intentions and listener’s assumptions. The film mainly touches on issues such as self-hatred, discrimination and insecurity in linguistics on the surface but did not venture deeper which I would further research and explain in this essay.

After a recent break-up with his boyfriend, the documentary started with David Thorpe’s explaining his concerns and low-confidence with his gay-sounding voice as his ex-boyfriend wanted someone who is more “straight-sounding”. The restorative trip to Fire Island was another turning point for David’s linguistic discrimination as he found himself annoyed and frustrated with fellow commuters in the train who spoke in a similar high pitch intonation.

Is there really a gay language and speech?

In order to identify oneself as a member of a speech community, one would speak in a way subconsciously that is unique and easily identifiable to people within the same community. These speech differences are mainly due to reasons such as region, education, social class, ethnicity and gender and sex. (Decker, S. K & Vickers, 2013) Using linguistics profiling, we can associate the social characteristics of an individual with their idiolect. In today’s society, gender and sexual orientation affect a speaker’s dialect and accent which creates assumptions to the listener on the sideline. (Nelson, Signorella & Botti, 2014) This can be further proven by an experiment done by Rudolf P Gaudio in 1994 on pitch properties of openly gay white American men and openly straight white American men. Volunteers of the experiment were asked to identify the gay and straight men which they were able to do so by their speech patterns.

Professor Ron Smyth, a linguist from the University of Toronto explained that gay-sounding men have speech properties such as clearer and longer vowels, longer “S” sounds, clearer “L” sounds and over articulation of the “P”, “T”, and “K” sounds. This aligns with a study done by Jack Avery and Julie Liss in 1996 which suggested that significant differences between measures of fundamental frequency contours and vowel formant midpoints values can be found when making comparisons with a “more-masculine-sounding” male speech and a “less-masculine-sounding” male speech. From a listener’s point of view and linguistics properties, there is indeed a “gay voice” which is significantly different from straight male voice.

Linguistics self-hatred

In the documentary, David portrayed linguistics self-hatred as he felt ashamed of his voice. Even when he is an openly gay man, he expressed a dissatisfaction of his gay voice by describing people with similar cadence as a bunch of “braying ninnies” and that the voice he owns is irritating and oppressive. He drew similarities in the speech patterns of himself with famous gay people in the media such as Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly which the public described as a “faggot” way of speaking. In the past, such way of speaking is considered a taboo for people of straight-orientation. Thus, linguistics self-hatred could be caused by identity confusion from within and opinions from external parties.

Linguistic insecurity

Linguistic insecurity comes from a speaker’s perception that their voice does not conform to the perceived standards and expectations of the speaker’s interlocutor. During interviews, many gay men are afraid that their voices sound too feminine, but they are clueless about its solution. Being attracted to a straight masculine figure, gay men would prefer to have a voice which is attractive to themselves. As such, gay men that speaks in a feminine way might have a negative attitude towards their own speech and will often feel pressured to mask or alter the way they speak. (Nelson, Signorella & Botti, 2014)

Linguistic discrimination

Linguistic discrimination is common in different speech communities which involves a negative perception of an individual solely based on his language or speech. For instance, the negative connotation of a gay voice could be attributed from the media. Villain movie characters such as Pantsy, Captain Hook, Scar are often associated with having gay sounds which resulted in the perception that real evil and villainy are related to gay men voice. To make things worse, these characters usually ended up getting killed or are killers themselves.  As such, a negative perception of gay sounding man could be formed by people who do not speak in the same manner. This could also be the reason why gay sounding men have been bullied and beaten up as explained in the documentary.

As most heterosexuals do not subscribe to the marked language of the lavender lexicon, another form of discrimination is formed as they believe that homosexuals have a special way of communicating and identifying themselves with each other. (Cameron & Kulick, 2010) As such, heterosexuals would avoid speaking in the same manner as homosexuals to avoid being mistaken as part of the homosexual community.

However, it was also explained that gay men voice may hold a certain prestige which may be connoted as upper-class speech or educated speech. For example, the reason for the longer vowels is due to the luxury of time to do so.

Reasons and caused for gay speech perceptions

In the entire documentary, David also tried to discover when did he start speaking in this manner. His college friends, Gaby and Gill, were both able to identify the period he started sounding in a more feminine manner which was the time when he came out of the closet. Gaby, being a lesbian herself, mentioned that he sounded super queer when he first came out. This was a similar situation, just like when she first came out and bought a black leather jacket. Thus, David’s voice was a sign of his emerging sexual orientation just like the black leather jacket which was also meant a new identity for Gaby. Growing up together with Michelle, she felt that David’s new voice was a form of coming out as it was different from that in the past 17 years.

Most of the time, perceptions of a gay speech were derived because it is a marked form of speech and listeners have perceived a gay-sounding voice as a feminine sounding voice. This is a cultural stereotype as there is no evidence that gay man lisp. (Mack & Munson, 2012) In fact, lisping and feminine voices could also be found in openly straight men. In the documentary, Chris, who is married with children, lisp and also speaks in a high pitch. On the other hand, Matt and George Takei who are openly gay men, speak with a low and deep voice that portrays masculinity.

Gay speech perceptions are therefore mostly conceived due “heteronormativity” by the straight community. “Heteronormativity” refers to the set of norms that make heterosexuality seem natural or right, and that would organize homosexuality as its binary opposition. (Davies, 2011) The set of norms would maintain the dominance of heterosexuality by preventing homosexuality from going unmarked or seem right in the way heterosexuality is. The norms attached to heterosexuality would be the rigid models of masculinity and femininity which would suggest how heterosexuals should speak, dress and present themselves. Therefore, any individual who falls out of the norm would be referred to as portraying characteristics of homosexuals.

 Comparisons with other speech perceptions

The documentary also drew comparisons with other speech perceptions such as Black people sounding like white. For Don Lemon, Cable News Network anchor who came from a Southern black family, lost his original accent subconsciously once he started working. He would then sometimes be accused of pretending to be someone unlike himself.

On a similar spectrum, Margaret Cho’s father felt ashamed of his Asian accent and constantly tries to change his voice in order to be identified as a true American. This affected Margaret adversely who forms a self-hatred about her homeland Korea and create an identity that has no association to her roots.

Just as Kenji Yoshino, author of the book, Covering, mentioned “Sexual orientation is not a physical attribute, but the voice is”, this resulted in individuals who belong to stigmatized groups to make enormous efforts in keeping the stigma from looming large.


Even after David managed to change his voice to a lower tone and a more masculine form, the process only helped to reaffirm his gay sexuality and allowed him to rediscover himself as a person. “Being who you are is more important than who others expect you to be”, there is nothing wrong with sounding unique and different from others. There are bound to be expectations which would lead to insecurities, but we must learn to embrace ourselves and be bold to accept our identity. Just like the movie poster which illustrates a rainbow coloured tongue, it is a representation of gay pride. Thus, it is important to be confident with our speech and take pride in who we are.



Gertler, H.  & Thorpe, D. (2014). Do I Sound Gay. Canada: IFC Films.

Deckert, S. K., & Vickers, C. H. (2013). An introduction to sociolinguistics: Society and identity. London: Bloomsbury.

Nelson, L. R., Signorella, M. L., & Botti, K. G. (2014). Accent, Gender, and Perceived Competence.

Gaudio, R. P. (1994). Sounding Gay: Pitch Properties in the Speech of Gay and Straight Men. American Speech, 69(1), 30. doi:10.2307/455948

Avery, J. D., & Liss, J. M. (1996). Acoustic characteristics of less‐masculine‐sounding male speech. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 99(6), 3738-3748. doi:10.1121/1.414970

Cameron, D., & Kulick, D. (2010). Language and sexuality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mack, S., & Munson, B. (2012). The influence of /s/ quality on ratings of mens sexual orientation: Explicit and implicit measures of the ‘gay lisp’ stereotype. Journal of Phonetics, 40(1), 198-212. doi:10.1016/j.wocn.2011.10.002

Davies, S. G. (2011). Gender diversity in Indonesia: Sexuality, Islam and queer selves. London: Routledge.