Column: Sexicon

SeX and Relationships, a BRAVE Column



As an English major, I’m big on words. Every time I write something, whether it be an essay, a poem or even a text, I think long and hard about what I want to say and what words I can use to say it. I care very deeply about my writing because I know that, in many ways, the words I choose reflect what kind of person I am, what I value and what I don’t. In the same way, I try my best to speak with intention, listening for the phrases that flow well or evoke emotion. 

I’m also big on words because I’m passionate about gender- and power-based violence prevention work and, in this field, intention is everything. For example, as an advocate for survivors, I often wonder whether there might be a better word than “battered” to describe people who’ve experienced some sort of violence. When it comes to the prevention side of things, though, I typically reflect on the words we use to describe the act of sex. And let me tell you, it’s a brutal vocab list. 

Here’s a piece of English major jargon for you: lexicon. Basically, a lexicon is the vocabulary of a person, language or field. So, what’s the lexicon — or “sexicon” — of our erotic language? In short, it’s a violent one. Bang, screw, beat, pound, hit: these are just a few of the words I’ve heard people (including Xavier students) use to describe both oral and penetrative sex.

The words we use to talk about sex stand at the intersection between sex and violence, a very dangerous location if you ask me. Remember what I said about the ability of words to reflect the kind of person you are? The same applies here. But in this case, the words reflect more than one person. That is to say that the way we speak about sex determines our society’s attitudes about sex and, by extension, sexual violence. It’s no wonder, then, the issue of sexual violence persists; we practically speak it into existence. 

It’s time we develop a new sexicon, one that is foreign to the abuser. Until then, be like the English major (and the Peer Educator) and speak with intention. Do not be careless with your words. Rather, put the utmost care into what you say — our society is in desperate need of it. 

Missed the previous column about body counts? Check it out, here: