Mitigating the Discomforts of Sexuality How do women talk about sex? This is the question that drives the heart of this research. In the proposed ethnographic research, I will investigate the linguistic tools that women use to mitigate the discomfort in talking about sex. The selected field of study is a passion party, in which a group of friends and family members gather at a private residence with the explicit purpose to learn and talk about sex. A passion party consultant is invited to demonstrate sexual products, sell the products to the guests, and stimulate talk.
Nevertheless, with the foremost purpose to educate women about sex. Passion parties are often part of a bacholorette party. Therefore, the data that I will later analyzed is derived from a friend’s bacholorette passion party and video recordings posted online. Subsequently, the data will be analyzed with a focus on the linguistic semiotic process that index sexuality and the linguistic construction of humor that serve to alleviate embarrassment of talking about sex among women and overcome linguistic ideologies of female sexuality.
First, lets explore the linguistic inequalities that exist in gender which provide the building blocks of the construction of the linguistic ideology that places female sex talk as a taboo subject. “At the heart of language and social inequality is the idea that some expressions of language are valued more than others in a way that is associated with some people being more valued than others and some ideas expressed by people through language being more valued than others (Philips, 474). ” Susan U.
Philips argues that social and language inequality is the outcome of the ideologies that value features of language and society over others, in which the people with the dominant feature or trait is valued more than others and thus the ideas of the less valued individuals are suppressed through the suppression of their forms of speech. Furthermore, Philips states women are often placed in linguistic ideologies like the idea that women‘s language is perceived powerless compare to the male counterpart which indexes them as the marked gender .
I will expand her argument by stating that American Culture has a linguistic ideology that places female sex talk as a taboo subject and suppresses forms of speech in which women communicate about sex. As described by Phillips, women frequently speak freely in the privacy of their own home, but sometimes there is denial of complete access of the public sphere through a silencing process. For instance, as illustrated by Philips in the Tonga culture women are not allowed to participate in political and authoritative decisions and therefore their opinions are silenced. I will further expand Philips argument by applying it to American culture.
In which, the ideology of no sex talk limit women to the private spheres to talk about sex and in the public sphere women are not supposed to talk about sex, explicitly sexual experience and experimentation. Second, I will investigate further how the linguistic ideology of no-sex talk develops in young adults specifically young women and subsequently into adulthood. According to West, sex education is salient in the development of the youth, but the subjects most ignored because of their taboo content are masturbation, pleasure, wet dreams, and other explicit sexual experiences.
She argues that sex education in school is limited to reproduction and abstinence that warns students in particularly females about the risk of having sex and often in the public environment men are encourage to have sex while young women are warned of the consequences. Furthermore, West states that legal rights that give the right to parents to withdraw their children from sex education illustrates how sex education in youth is not universally accepted.
West’s argument functions as the backbone to my argument that of the construction of the language ideology in American culture in which women are not supposed to talk about sex, because women are proscribed from having and talking about sex. Finally, humor is used to mitigate the discomfort when women talk about sex. According to Norrick, humor can be used to overcome taboo subjects. Furthermore, he illustrates that irony flaunts Grice’s maxims and “irony can elicit laughter, disrupt conversations and lead to further joking (Norrick, 233). I argue that women can use techniques that flaunt Grice’s maxims like irony that save face and then triggers humorous language that can be framed with linguistic semiotic features such as intonation and embodied communication. Additionally, I will argue that women utilized this linguistic tool when confronted with sex talk as a form of coping mechanism. In the following data I will illustrate my argument that states that in American Culture the linguistic ideology that places female sex talk as a taboo subject suppresses forms of speech in which women communicate about sex.
For instance, women form private spheres like a passion parties to explicitly explore sexuality and in these spheres women use specific language that mitigate the discomfort of sex talk. For instance, the following data illustrates the usage of indexicality to alleviate discomfort. (1) While bride maid’s mother eats a chocolate covered banana 1 G: Hey(. )Your mother likes to SWALLOW? ((pointing towards the BM)) 2 FB : Mother ((puts her hands over her eyes)) 3 BM: What (. I love^ chocolate covered b-a-nanas ((then takes a big bite out of the banana everyone laughs)) [G: guess, FB: future bride, BM: bride’s mother] During this conversation, the reference to chocolate covered bananas indexes sexuality based on its pragmatic context rather then referring to an actual chocolate covered banana. Although the banana is part of the discourse during the conversation, the banana is used as the mediator to facilitate communication of a sexual reference. Furthermore, the semantic meaning on the utterance is dependent upon the pragmatics of the context.
The following examples further exemplifies indexicality as a form of mitigating sex talk. (2) Party consultant rubbing lotion upon the forearm of a guess 4 PC: Its Good to eat (. ) Rub on it and lick it? 5 G : Hmm then its good with eggs and SAUSAGE [G: guess, PC: party consultant] As the party consultant rubs an eatable lotion upon the forearm of the guess, in line 5 the guess responds with a reference to eggs and sausage. Like I mention previously, the semantic meaning of the utterance is dependent on the context.
Therefore, the eggs and sausage are do not index actual food, but it indexes a sexual reference. Like Ochs illustrates in “Indexing Gender”, Indexes have constitutive property in which there is an indirect index and an direct index to social reference that comes from linguistic features. For instance, the direct index of eggs and sausage in line 5 is the actual food and the indirect index would be the sexual reference. This is a very ingenious way in which women play with linguistic tools to facilitate the discourse of sex talk.
In addition, it can be seen as a linguistic limitation in which women feel the need to facilitate conversation using indexes rather than directly conveying sexual references. The linguistic construction of humor is a linguistic tool women use to alleviate embarrassment of talking about sex among women and overcome linguistic ideologies of female sexuality. Furthermore, humor is a methodology in which women’s sexual expression is bound by linguistic ideology in the United States that prevents women to sexually express themselves freely.
The following data would look at the framework of humor and the way in which is linguistically constructed by flaunting Grice’s maxims. The following data was extracted from an online video taped data. (3) Party consultant rubbing lotion upon the forearm of the guess 6 PC: Its very [moisturizing 7 GM: I got one] in every room? ((sarcasm)) 8 PC: Ohh (. ) Dats So GOOD? ((explosion of laughter)) 9 GM: (2) soo I think it would of helped a lot 10 GM: ? maybe not in my marriage but with a boyfriend or somthn? 11 GD: Grand MAMA? ((explosion of laughter)) 12 GM: I know? ((smiling but slightly irritated)) PC: party consultant, GM: grand mother, GD: grand daughter] The above data reflects my argument that women can use techniques that flaunt Grice’s maxims to save face and then triggers humorous language that can be framed with linguistic semiotic features such as intonation and embodied communication. In line 7, the grand mother cuts off to the party consultant with a sarcastic response. “I got one in every room”. This exemplifies how Grice’s Maxim of Manner is flaunted by the grandmother because she is purposely disobeying and creating obscurity of expression with sarcasm.
This violation of the maxim triggers a humor which in turn triggers further humor. The humorous utterances are framed with intonation that accents humor lines like Grand MAMA and high pitch on the end of senses. Embodied communication accents humor in which silly facial expression and gestures that index sexual references. For instance, In line 11 the grand daughter hears her grandmother speak so explicitly about sex that triggers her to respond with wide eyes that express shock which contradict her smiling face.
Although the grand daughter is shock by her grandmother’s comment, she accepts it because it was put in a humorous context. Therefore, humor is a linguistic tool that women specifically can used to linguistically express sexually by mitigating the discomfort that comes with sex talk. How do women talk about sex? This is the proposed question that drives the heart of this research. Attempting to answer the question, I have argued that American Culture has a linguistic ideology that places female sex talk as a taboo subject and suppresses forms of speech in which women communicate about sex and limit women to talk about sex privately.
Women find private outlets like passion parties, but the form in which they communicate is limited with method that mitigate discomfort. For instance, indexicallity is used to indirectly index sexual references that facilitates communication. Furthermore, flaunting Grice’s maxims as a linguistic tool to mitigate sex talk, a trigger of humorous responses that open the channels of communication through humor. Works Cited Duranti, Alessandro. “Language and Social Inequality by Susan U. Philips. A companion to linguistic anthropology . Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub. , 2004. 474-495. Print. Norrick, Neal R.. “Humor in Interaction. ” Language and Linguistics Compass 4. 4 (2010): 232-244. Print. West, Jackie. “(Not) talking about sex: youth, identity and sexuality. ” The Sociological Review 47. 3 (1999): 525-547. Print. Ochs, Elinor. “Indexing Gender. ” . ” Rethinking Context: language as an interactive phenomenon, ed. by A. Duranti & C. Goodwin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (1992)pp. 335-358. Print
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