On Language

Keith Grubb 

There are few words that feel right. “Queer,” “feminist”—two such words—help me understand how I exist, how I am, and, more importantly, how I want to be. “Fuck” doesn’t.

But “fuck” is empowering. Its weight gives me strength. Telling a person off for being “a fucking asshole” feels great. Asking “what the fuck?” is stronger than asking “what sexist assumptions led you to that conclusion?” A drawn-out exclamation of “fuuuuuuuuck” means more than mere grunting.

On a fundamental level, “fuck” is about reclaiming something that society tries to withhold from people, especially poly-queer people like me.


At its core, “fuck” is about sex. Sex is inextricable from power. “Fuck” is sex is power is sex is “fuck.” When I say the word, I claim sex and pleasure and desire. I reclaim myself. I assert myself as a sexual being. Claiming sex, claiming “fuck,” is liberating; it helps me think about myself in new, positive ways.

But what happens when the power that infuses “fuck” is used negatively? When you “nail” something, you are successful. As the subject, “fucking” is great, it’s awesome, it fucking rocks. On the other hand, being “fucked” is shitty. It positions whoever is “fucked” as the object, without agency.

So what about “fuck you?” Implicit—the unspecified subject, “I.” Explicit—the object, “you.”  The phrase “fuck you” becomes a threat of sexual violence. It says, “I will fuck you up. I will objectify you, strip you of agency, and fuck you.”

This scares me.

I’m afraid of how this word, which has helped me assert agency over myself, can so easily be used to strip others of their agency. I’m afraid of the threat of violence that this word can convey. I’m afraid that using the phrase jokingly—“Fuck you, dude!”—normalizes sexual aggression.  I don’t mean “I will sexually assault you” when I say this, but that’s the literal meaning of the phrase.

Fuck. Fucking A. Fucking fuck, fan-fucking-tastic, in-fucking-credible.


I fucking love this.

I don’t know, however, if I can reconcile “fuck you” with the word’s other uses, or justify the violence inherent in the phrase.

Nor do I think I want to.

2 responses to “On Language

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