What the hell is so bad about obscenities?

Ryan Wenzel

You think that it’s a cinch to get up in my ginch,

But if you got the inch, then I’ll treat you like a prince.

– Peaches

I’ve always been strangely fascinated by the obscene. Whether it’s watching bad ’70s porn, writing vulgar haikus or listening to raunchy music, I love to experience the taboo.

I’m interested in and unbothered by obscenity because, on most levels, I don’t understand it. Racial and religious insults certainly are off limits. I don’t believe in using language and stereotype to bring down groups of people. But most of the “vulgarity” we’re exposed to – and looked down upon for enjoying – focuses on sex, genitalia and other everyday things and ideas that, through simple wordplay, are made grotesque and inappropriate.

The word “fuck,” for example, grates on the ears of the verbally conservative, but it represents a natural action with which everyone – with the infrequent exception of the eternally celibate – will at one point be familiar. In its verb form, “fuck” has myriad synonyms, many of them scientific definitions or euphemisms, such as “fornicate,” “copulate” and “have intercourse.” But only “fuck” carries a negative or taboo connotation.

I admire musicians who challenge this widespread uneasiness with sexual language. Last Saturday, I went to a concert for a dance rock band called Bling Kong. The 11-piece group – which includes four cheerleaders in full costume – pumped out about a dozen high-energy songs about sex, sans subtlety. Lyrics included, “Turn to your left and give that person a hand job,” and, “Is that your cock- I want to ride it like a Kawasaki.” None of the “obscenity” was offensive or sexist. It was just eight men and three women singing usually unspoken sexual thoughts.

Other artists are more explicit. Canadian sexpot Peaches, who has the honor of opening this column, makes no attempt at discretion in her music. Her second album, 2003’s Fatherfucker, juxtaposes hard, simple beats with graphic lyrics. On “I U She,” she chants, “Whips, crops, canes, whatever, come on, baby, let’s go,” and she screams, “I don’t give a fuck” about 13 times over a sampling of Joan Jett. People often laugh at me for my close readings of Peaches, but I admire her for standing up to the taboos of foul language and, specifically, those surrounding the traditional female role. Just look at the album title.

Sexual language shouldn’t be taboo in music, but it shouldn’t be the only element of music. If Bling Kong’s songs hadn’t been fun and catchy, and if Peaches didn’t put her words on solid beats, their music would be pathetic attempts to provoke audiences.

Listen to dirty music and don’t be afraid of using foul language. There’s no shame in saying “fuck” if we all like to do it.4

Medill junior Ryan Wenzel is the PLAY editor. He can be reached at [email protected]