Big news in swearing today, guys. The New York Times dropped an effer. It was in the context of a quote from a book, and in a well-buried section of the The Gray Lady, but it was there. And oh, how the world gasped.
Before commenting further, let me first expose a bias of mine. I love discussing swearing in media and literature so much, that this isn’t even the first time I’ve written about it. It’s fair to say I’m passionate about swearing. I don’t do it for shock value; I don’t write swear words into my writing when it’s not appropriate, but I am fervently committed to saying exactly what I want to say the way I want to say it, using the entire spectrum of word tools in my writer’s toolbox. I think everyone should, writers and speakers alike. Censorship is censorship is censorship, right?
Here’s the thing that really gets me about the NYT thing, though. As Mother Jones reports, this is not the first time this has happened. Nope, they’ve done it before. And I’m sure the world became equally verklempt, fanning their faces and dabbing their brows, wondering what hath become of the world. So it is only for the meaningless extension of this ridiculous farce that some words are just too harsh for human ears.
Here are some other things that society has, at one time or another, deemed too harsh to discuss publicly: Menstruation. Rape. Homosexuals. Child abuse. Safe sex. Interracial marriage. It’s pretty clear what happens when people feel censored from saying what they need to say in the way they need to say it. Traditions of oppression and inequality continue.
Is it a stretch to connect the censorship of swearing to the censorship of these important issues? Maybe. Maybe I’m not the one who gets to decide where the lines of censorship should be drawn. But maybe The New York Times, which has “broken” the story of how college women have sex in 2013, 2012, 2010, 2008, 1997, 1988, 1976, 1972, 1968, 1967, 1963 and 1940, shouldn’t be in charge of it either.