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Trevor Stone's Journal
Those who can, do. The rest hyperlink.
Euphemasia 
29th-Aug-2007 11:29 pm
rush counterparts album cover
I really dislike the euphemism "adult" for "sexual."

When I hear a phrase like "adult activities," I think of things like doing taxes and shopping for bathroom fixtures at Home Depot. "Adult entertainment" brings to mind midwestern grayhairs watching Lawrence Welk. "Adult material" could mean paper from old trees bound in leather from old cows.

Part of the problem is that a lot of mainstream porn strikes me as adolescent in style. My image of adult relationships is one of caring for a partner who's had a rough day, going for a romantic walk and reminiscing about youthful exploits, and so on. Depictions of such acts aren't very good for selling magazines, low budget films, and monthly website subscriptions. What I call "adolescent sexuality" is very genital focused, high in kinetic energy, and with a sense of the forbidden. "Girls Gone Wild" brings to mind copious alcohol in red plastic cups and a bunch of sorority girls ready to hump anything that moves. "Women Gone Wild" brings to mind a retreat in the woods with middle-aged women excited to hear guest speaker Clarissa Pinkola Estés.

I don't mean to imply that adult relationships lack sex. On the contrary, intercourse is something 35-year-olds, in general do, but 5-year-olds, in general, don't. But sex isn't the only thing that distinguishes children from adults and it certainly doesn't distinguish between 17-year-olds and 27-year-olds.

"Adult" and "mature" are often used synonymously. If your boss says "We're having an adult conversation," it's not an invitation to share the kinky exploits of your weekend with the conference call. It's a reminder that name calling, whining, and sulking don't have a place in a business meeting and that coworkers are expected to behave maturely with each other. Yet "M for Mature" video games like Grand Theft Auto feature hours upon hours of immature actions like stealing cars and killing hookers. The Seventh Seal is a movie with mature themes. Barely Legal Teens 37 is not.

Further confounding the terminology is the word "family" (which is taken to imply children are present). "Family-friendly content" is saccharine Disney films where a one-frame erection beneath a robe gets people riled up about indecency. But while adult doesn't imply sex (monks, nuns, etc.), it's an odd family (implying children) that doesn't start with sex.

Taboo subjects oft beget linguistic acrobatics. America may have no greater taboo than sex and no end of euphemisms with two backs.
Comments 
30th-Aug-2007 12:20 pm (UTC)
I hadn't thought about "adult" and "mature," but I agree wholeheartedly. I wonder what it inputs back onto our culture that Grand Theft Auto is considered "mature" and Girls Gone Wild is considered "Adult." Like how the use of those words affects us.

"Family" has been one that's gotten me. Especially since people ask, "Do you have plans to start a family?" I want to be snarky and say, "I already have a family*, but I do plan to have children." But you and I both know I don't have it in me.

*several, depending on how you count. Sometimes almost too many.
30th-Aug-2007 02:14 pm (UTC)
And yet nobody uses "Trying to start a family" as an out-of-context euphemism for "having lots of unprotected sex."


"I have plans to start a family... a family of bees that will pollinate my flowers and make me honey. I'm a beekeeper. I'm in the family business."
30th-Aug-2007 04:13 pm (UTC)
Have you noticed that there are far more words for "things we don't talk about" than for things we don't care whether we talk about or not? That is, your knee, chin, or elbow, only have one name. But your "down there", your "cookies", your "stuff", your "privates"...I could excede the character limit just listing names.

And a chair might be a chaise, if you're feeling French, but a toilet is a can, a commode, a john, a head, "the necessary". If you ask for a bathroom in England, they have no idea why you'd want to take a bath in the middle of your meal at a restaurant or a day in the park. Sure, you can ask for the loo or the water closet, but use American euphemisms and the bobby is likely to get a sudden look of realization and exclaim, "Oh, it's the terlet you want!"

The daughter of a proper southern lady (I was born in Virginia), I was punished for saying "cop" instead of "policeman", and "trash can" instead of "waste paper basket". At five, I was asking to "powder my nose", and when someone was looking for a family member who was in the bathroom, I knew to respond that s/he was "indisposed" or "in the reading room."

Apropos of nothing, I'm reminded of Stephen King, who responded to a review calling some piece of his work, "Harry Potter for adults", with, "Harry Potter is Harry Potter for adults, you idiot."

What would the world be like if we said what we mean?
3rd-Sep-2007 05:11 am (UTC) - Euphamisms with Two Backs...
is clever-kinky, hnh!
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