A lot of my new year’s resolutions tend to center around language – which I guess makes sense, because I’m a writer and a very linguistically focused person.
Last year I resolved to eliminate ableist slurs like “crazy” and “lame” from my vocabulary. This year my linguistic resolutions are mostly sex-related. Here are some of them; maybe you should make the same resolutions!
• Use the words “vulva” and “vagina” properly, even in situations where the audience/listener probably doesn’t know what the difference is, or has maybe never even heard the word “vulva” before. Take the opportunity to educate.
• Make a point to say “women” and not “girls” to describe female adults. Again: even when it’s uncomfortable or doesn’t fit the speech patterns of other people in the vicinity.
• Say “PIV,” not sex, when referring to penis-in-vagina intercourse. Specificity matters, especially when trying to avoid heterosexism!
• Use the term “sex worker” in lieu of antiquated terms like “prostitute” or “whore.” It’s helpful because it describes the work as work rather than dumbing down sex workers’ entire identities to the work that they do. (Read more about this?)
• Stop using “clean” to mean “STI-free”: people who have STIs are not dirty or immoral. (Read more about this?)
• Be better about gender-neutral and trans-inclusive language. I got called out at a sex toy workshop months ago for fucking up on this, and it’s a shameful moment that still sticks with me now, which makes me think I really need to work on it. People with vaginas are not necessarily women, people with penises are not necessarily men, and calling someone “female-bodied” or “male-bodied” can be problematic because a trans man’s maleness makes his body male and vice versa. (So I’ve been told. I don’t claim to speak for trans and gender-variant folks! Feel free to pipe up in the comments if you have objections or caveats…)
• Check on pronouns before writing about someone. I am usually good about this with people who I know to be trans and/or gender-variant, like Jiz Lee (who uses they/them) and Roger Wood (who I think uses he/him?). I start getting into trouble when I perceive someone as looking relatively gender-normative and then assume I don’t need to research their pronouns. (For example, did you know that Courtney Trouble prefers they/them?) I need to get better about checking the pronouns of every person I write about!
What are your sex-related new year’s resolutions for 2014? How do you plan to see ‘em through?