Sage Advice 114: A Pussy Bias: Sexism In Our Use Of Vulgar Language

I say dick at least a hundred times a day. Of those hundred times, only about 30% are in reference to my body. The rest of those dick utterances are in reference to vague nouns and other peoples’ bodies. I say dick liberally and without much thought or effort.

I say pussy maybe a hundred times a month. It’s much rarer in my daily vocabulary. I’m generally cautious to even say it. If I’m about to say pussy, I’m usually planning about ten sentences ahead of the moment. “You gotta say pussy in this next paragraph,” I say to myself. “Get ready for that. You’ll probably blush a little once grandma hears that word come out of your mouth.”

That’s an exaggeration of course, but the basic problem is very real for me; I’m far more socially comfortable with saying dick than I am with saying pussy. The simple analysis for this issue is to just say that I’m a guy, and, therefore, I am probably just more comfortable with referring to my own genitalia in a vulgar manner than I am of the opposite gender’s genitalia.

But then I start to think about how often I hear dick and pussy said by people around me. All the people around me. Friends, family, strangers, the media, bird calls, children, machinery sounds, the voices in my head. How often do I hear dick and pussy? When I really consider the question, it seems as though dick heavily outweighs pussy. I hear people say dick almost as often as I say dick. It’s casually tossed about to the point of almost having no meaning. Pussy, on the other hand, comes off as more reserved. Almost as if it’s being saved for a special occasion, pussy only seems to be used for two reasons: a) Drunk guys trying to articulate their annoying desires (i.e. Let’s get some pussy, bro!) b) People trying to shame others (i.e. Don’t be such a pussy, bro!).

Pussy as a word ends up being hyper-sexualized or hyper-shamed. There seems to be very little room for middle ground with its usage. Someone is either expressing a sexual desire or trying their best to belittle another person.

Dick is unfairly a more versatile and less venomous word than pussy. Let’s look at the word outside of its anatomical reference. We call people dicks and pussies all the time, but what do we really mean when we use those words?

Look at these examples:

“You’re being a dick.”

Whoever is being described as a dick here is most likely acting outlandish, mean, rude, or vulgar. When you’re being a dick, you’re usually being a fool—someone shakes their head at you because of the ridiculous or mean-spirited actions you’re performing. Being a dick isn’t good, but it’s usually not the worst thing you can be. There isn’t much shame with being a dick. In fact, people acting like dicks are usually shameless. You probably know a few people, maybe even close friends, who are actually proud of their dickish behavior. Dicks are annoying, but they are never shamed. Instead, they are often tolerated.

Now let’s look at pussy in a similar fashion:

“You’re being a pussy.”

You’re being a wimp, a weakling, or the kind of person who is unable to perform a task adequately or without complaint. Pussies are people who have no confidence. Pussies, almost always, are put to shame. Being called a pussy is supposed to demean and belittle you. Nobody wants to be called a pussy. For every person you know who proudly proclaims “I’m such a dick,” you know absolutely zero people who proudly proclaim “I’m such a pussy.” If someone does get branded as a consistent pussy—someone who consistently fails to exhibit confidence—that person is forever shamed and treated like a social leper. “That person is a pussy,” you might hear someone say. And now you look down on him or her. You don’t respect him or her. Nobody respects a pussy.

This isn’t fair at all. In terms anatomical importance, a pussy and a dick are pretty much equal. They perform similar bodily functions. They each act as strong indicators of their respective genders (strictly from a biological sense, otherwise gender is a social construction). They’re both, essentially, needed for a species to continue. They’re both important. Neither one should be shamed in any respect, but if we are shaming genitals or people being compared to genitals, then we need make sure the shame is equally distributed. In other words, if the person acting like a pussy is forced to feel shame, then the person acting like a dick should feel just as ashamed.

When it comes to saying the words—not necessarily being called the words—I don’t want anyone to feel ashamed or embarrassed with either. I use dick so frequently that it molds into nearly every part of speech for me. Many a time have I used dick as an adjective and even a verb during my everyday conversations. My colloquialisms are absolutely saturated with dicks. Unfortunately, pussy doesn’t get the same treatment, but it definitely deserves to.

And let’s be honest, if any word can handle being used in a variety of ways, it’s definitely pussy. Pussies are durable and strong. They make life, and they bleed every once in awhile. Pussies are tough. What do dicks do? They sit around, limp and useless, until they’re called to a few minutes worth of action. And the second they’re done doing that, it’s back to limp and useless.

It’s probably really easy to write off the idea of letting pussy be more acceptable in our vulgarity. After all, who would take anything seriously after reading the words dick 29 times and pussy 37 times. I would argue that it’s important, though. For me, language that’s considered foul is only used with my most revered company present. I say “bad” words around my friends and family. The people I care most about hear me say the most vulgar things. It doesn’t make sense that the most intimate conversations you’ll have with the people who matter most should shy away from a word just because the rest of our culture has forced shame and sexuality onto it. I simply believe we should be just as comfortable with pussy as we are with dick.

I fear someone might read this and say, “This guy just wants to say pussy without feeling weird.” And, yes, that’s partly true. However, I want everyone to say pussy without feeling weird. Whether pussies or dicks, our vulgar language should treat all genitalia equally.

-Matthew Fugere

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