Driving back from a funeral, the spouse spotted a flatbed moving a forklift-type device bearing the logo “mytoolsrental.com.” She said that sounded like a gay prostitute. She, of course, was not thinking of a conventional definition of “tool” but its slang as synonym for the male sexual organ. Her comment made me think about the many terms for “penis” but also how often that slang has been turned into a derogation. He is a “tool” or a “dick.” Some such terms seem to have lost their origins as a genital description and live on only as deprecatory or belittling terms—think “dork” or maybe even “prick.”
I can’t document this, but men most likely originated the slang words for penis, as they probably also did for the many terms for the female genitalia. However, men of a certain sort were also the ones who expanded sexual slang into words of derogation. I wondered why the testosterone-fueled who might brag about their sexual prowess and organs would turn terms for their proudly possessed penis into something that was meant to be an insulting description.
The spouse responded that not all penis equivalents are used to demean and cited “willy,” which always seems slightly humorous. I then thought of the neutral-sounding “Johnson,” and cock sometimes seems to be a praiseworthy term. And surely there must be others that aren’t derogatory. (Surely you, too, have such meaningful conversations with your partner.)
At first I thought, a comparable female term to the male ones is “cunt.” She has a cunt, or she is a cunt. But “cunt” is always harsher than the male terms. “He is a dick” is not a compliment, but it is only slightly risqué in my polite circles where “She is a cunt” is strictly off limits. “He is a prick” refers to behavior. “She is a cunt” might be triggered by behavior, but it is not simply describing conduct. It is misogynistic. “You’re a cunt” seems to be saying “You are only a cunt. You are only a woman and women are only cunts.” It tries to reduce a woman from a person to her sexual organ, and that organ, that woman, is only for fucking.
There are, of course, perhaps as many terms for female genitalia as for male ones, but perhaps the only other one that has become a derogation is “pussy.” While the derogatory “cunt” is just used for women, the “pussy” is invariably used to describe a man meaning he has some stereotypical female characteristics, such as lacking daring. If a male term is applied to a woman—she is a “dick” or “prick”—it does not so much imply some stereotypical male characteristic as it unsexes the woman and means she has the nongendered characteristics of a jerk.
And I can’t help but feel that men have transformed the slang terms for their sexual organ into derogations out of a certain insecurity, knowing that somehow a penis, perhaps especially an erect one, is always somehow ridiculous and vulnerable. (“Boner,” I almost forgot “boner.” It, of course, is an erection, but it is also a blunder, a giant mistake. Perhaps the second comes from the first. I have been told that young males sometimes have gotten a boner at an inopportune time—during a school assembly, a glimpse of a friend’s mother’s breast, etc. In other words, the boner was a boner. On the other hand, a bone-headed person makes boners. I think I need a linquist.)
I would like to draw some deep meaning from these ramblings, but I don’t have one.