21 January 2010

A brief treatise on wanking

Some readers may recall that Melissa McEwan recently broke the stunning news that John Edwards is a wanker. But enough about Mr. Edwards, I'm interested in wanking. Not just generally, but also strictly for reals linguistically. Several folks in that thread asserted that “wanker” was a gendered insult. My initial reaction was also that, yeah, when guys are insulted by the implication that they'd rather masterbate than, say, talk honestly with loved ones about important matters, they are in fact wankers. When women do the same, they're, er..... and then nothin'.

I'm not that interested in building a strawwang here, so I'd like to point out that Liss, deeky, Merriam and/or Webster have already put forth that wankers (and wanking) are gender neutral. Good for them. But I digress. I can find less reputable dictionaries written by uninformed Americans that say otherwise. And in the end, isn't that what really matters?

Here are a few questions for y'all to discuss:
Is wanking a gendered term (in your estimation)?
What gender(s) of people do you hear referred to as wankers?
What's the frequency?

More importantly:
Are the terms that you can think of for masturbation typically gender-specific?
If so, are there more terms alloted to any particular gender?
Is there any gender that you hear more typically insult by implied masturbatory exploits?

And best of all:
What's the origin of these terms?
Are they descriptive?
When we say a masturbational term is gender-neutral, is it because the term has gender neutral roots, or is it a term that refers to one gender (e.g. guys) that people frequently expand to include references to folks outside of that gender?

I've always had the impression that there's a lot more talk about masturbation in males than in the rest of us, regardless of whether insult is implied. This also makes me think that there's a larger culturally understood vocabulary for male masturbation than for female masturbation. Both of these hypotheses may also explain why many of us perceive wanker as a gendered term.

My minimal research hasn't been of much use. I'm not the type of person to suggest that my partner pose such questions to women she meets at a gay bar. Regardless of what certain folks in the Psychology department at Northwestern think, this isn't a valid methodology for scientific research, so I'd never post the results here :cough: weird looks :cough:. A brief survey of fiction in our household yielded similarly tangential results. Maybe we should be reading Philip Roth. In any case, I thank the internets for turning smut into work. (If there are any academics out there that write off erotica on their tax returns, do let me know.)

To wrap up, academic jibberish, cultural erasure of female sexual agency and vague references to how testosterone and Darwin totally make for teh horny (for reals, in * totes objective science reality * ) explain all.

Most comments that refrain from mentioning Inuit people and snow are encouraged at this point.

1 comment:

  1. *reads original article*. Another demonstration that female feminists don't all magically know everything about men and male culture? *sigh*.

    Wanking may be gender-neutral, but wanker as an insult isn't. There's this idea that men only masturbate because they're such losers that they can't get any women to have sex with them. Using it to insult a women makes no sense - not just because women aren't seen as masturbating, but because the cultural narrative around female masturbation is so fundamentally different. While the insult is mainly British, the attitudes towards masturbation and sexuality certainly aren't.

    Number of actual unique Google results for the phrase "she's a wanker": 36. For "he's a wanker": too many to measure, but thousands at least.