FYI: There’s a lot of the “f-word” in this post. In case you prefer not to read that word, or want to prepare yourself before reading it a lot – heads-up, I used it a lot here.
In my first semester of grad school, I still lived with my parents and for all intents and purposes was an Orthodox Jew. I had never cursed – at least not around others. (When I was alone in my bedroom and something upsetting happened, I would often whisper “shitdamnfuck” under my breath…)
Then in one of my classes, we read a book which used the word “fuck” a lot, in the sense of having sex.
It seemed important to me as a literary comment, since the book was so full of the protagonist’s sexual encounters and thoughts, that he uses the word “fuck” to describe them rather than any other way of saying the same thing. The narrator never says “have sex,” or “make love,” or “roll in the sack,” or any other way of naming the act – just “fuck.” I wondered why, and began to have thoughts about what the use of this term could mean for the character and the story.
Before class, I hung out in the lounge with a few of my classmates. As we chatted, I mentioned to one friend that I’d had this thought, and he encouraged me to bring it up in class. I protested – I hadn’t even been able to voice the word to him now. I had to point to the word in the book when telling him about my thoughts – how could I say the word in class?
He grinned, and he goaded me to push myself and try.
I wasn’t sure I would, even as class started. What if the conversation moved nowhere in that direction, after all?
But then a perfect opening came up, the exact right moment for this point to be raised. My fists clenched at my sides. My friend, sitting next to me as usual, jabbed my fist with a finger and glared at me (kindly, gently, lovingly!).
I spoke up.
I heard my voice as if it were coming from someone else, as I calmly, clearly explained my thoughts, as I said the word “fuck” out loud, in public, for the first time ever.
“It sounds as though he treats sex as a loveless act,” I said, “it sounds like he thinks of sex – and of women – only in a crass manner, only in terms of ‘fucking,’ which isn’t a very emotional term.”
Now, keep in mind that I was still in shidduchim at this point. I had not gone to kallah classes (thank goodness) so I had no clear ideas about sex from a frum viewpoint. But I also did not engage in “idle gossip” about sex with friends – my frum married friends would never ever talk about sex, or even about their husbands. And I didn’t have any non-frum friends close enough to gossip with about things like sex.
But I got through this. I had gathered my courage and said the word “fuck.”
I sat back, relieved, a little proud of myself. My friend looked over at me and gave me a small smile.
And then another classmate challenged my interpretation of “fuck” as crass and emotionless.
“I fuck my boyfriend, my boyfriend fucks me,” she said, and I turned red and shrank down in my chair and pulled my sleeves down over my wrists and didn’t speak for the rest of class.
I mentioned this to her a few years afterwards, when I was more comfortable with myself, and with her. She laughed.
It’s of course not necessarily a crass emotionless term – I know that now. There can be a lot of emotion held in the term.
She did mean to shock, though, when she put it so bluntly in class. But she didn’t know just how much she was shocking me back then…