Fine image of a bra with its contents as a motif for the John Money pages    

The Psychology of Sex

John Money

SEX AND DIRT. In the terminology of sex, there are clean words as well as dirty words. The clean ones are chiefly of Latin or Greek derivation and were originally of aristocratic usage, a heritage of the Norman Conquest. The dirty ones, many of them playful euphemisms, are chiefly of Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse derivation and were originally plebian in origin.

The cultural relativism of dirty versus clean sexual terminology is well illustrated by the complete reversal of the categories in English usage in Nigeria. In the history of acculturation, the moral taboos of sex were taught by missionaries and administrators who used only clean words. These were the words that became taboo. The dirty words used as part of the vernacular of sailors, traders, and the like, became part of Nigerian vernacular English, with no taboo attached. In consequence, today it is as forbidden to say sexual intercourse, penis, and vagina on Nigerian television as it is to say fuck, cock, and cunt on the national networks in the United States. In Nigeria. the latter terms are considered normal and respectable. In individual conversation, the same holds true. To say that a young woman has a vagina or that she has sexual intercourse is an affront to her modesty that is not tolerated. The correct and expected reference is to her cunt and to fucking.

The taboo on the word, fuck, has left generations of people whose native language is English without a publicly usable verb or noun that fits in everyday usage as colloquially as does eat, sleep, think, talk, and dream. That is not fortuitous, for it is in the very nature of a taboo to proscribe an activity in which human beings otherwise might ordinarily engage.

John Money, Love and Love Sickness: The Science of Sex, Gender Difference and Pair-bonding, pp. 50-51. John Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, London) 1980.

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