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Ask Surly Amy: Annoyed with Comments

Ask Surly Amy

Message: Dear Surly Amy,

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in the skeptics and atheist community. Whenever I read the comment section of some of the blogs talking about a guy spreading psuedoscience and misinformation, especially if he’s a really annoying guy, I find that someone, often a guy, insults him by implying he either performs fellatio or receives anal sex. I find the concept of using these actions as an insult very irksome. To me, it feels like the poster is implying that those who do these actions are less of man, or less deserving of respect.

I’m not sure what to say, or even out to say it. Can you offer some advice to help me better communicate my feelings, or am I just being too sensitive, and just need to let people have their fun?


*Warning lots of NSFW naughty language to follow! Woohoo!

Dear Annoyed,

Ever since the blog came into being there have been annoying assholes and the ever present trolls who will hide behind a computer screen and leave all sorts of rude and ridiculous messages. They do so because they can. And when unintelligent people run out of relevant things to say the conversation often turns to ad hom attacks and nasty words. Comment threads are the road rage highway of the digital world. People will type things that they will never say to someone’s face because they know in cyber-anonymity they are protected from repercussion. You can’t punch someone through a computer screen, yet. It’s also important to remember that skeptics and atheists are people too and most people are total pussies.

Which sorta brings us to your main point. Is it ok to say things like, that is so gay, or you suck dick, or atheists and skeptics are total pussies?

No, not really. Unless you are intentionally trying to piss people off. And even then it’s still not the right thing to do. And yes, it’s ok to feel upset about it.

If you really stop and analyze the statements like the those mentioned above, you realize that they are insulting not only to the individual people they are directed at but also at large generalized groups of people. When I call a weak man or someone who I think is acting in a way I don’t like, a “pussy” I am essentially saying that feminine qualities are weak and less desired. Do I personally think that is the case? No, of course not but the sentiment is clearly implied. The same thing happens whenever someone says, “you suck dick” or “that is so gay.” It implies that behavior is wrong. In fact, the latter comment has been a very difficult habit for me personally to break. Thanks to adored shows like Southpark and my southern California upbringing I grew up thinking the phrase, “that is so gay” was a completely acceptible non-offensive way to imply that I didn’t like something. I still sometimes catch myself in front of my gay friends saying, “Oh sorry! I mean gay in the lame way, not you know, gay in the gay way which is totally cool.” Yeah, I sound like a complete idiot when that happens and I feel terrible about it. I love my gay friends. I would never want to offend them. I hope I have finally broke that verbal bad-habit. At least I haven’t caught myself saying it lately. Now I say, “That is so lame!” I sincerely hope I don’t offend any large groups of people with stubbed toes. If so, it is not my intention.

So what about when a man calls another man a pussy as an insult. Should I be upset as a woman and owner of a pussy? Maybe, but honestly I am usually not bothered by it. I understand what is meant and the context it is used in and I realize that it is meant to be inflammatory. The same goes for someone who tells someone else they take it up the ass. It is meant to make them angry, but it will only make someone angry if they let it.

The point is, you absolutely have a right to feel upset about it. But it probably isn’t worth it. As gay culture and equal rights become more prevalent and accepted in society and as the language evolves, people will feel less at home using phrases like the ones mentioned above but for now, they are for better or worse, part of the subculture and part of our slang.

People will also stop using those statements to piss people off if the statements stop pissing people off.

The best response next time someone calls you a cock-sucker-pussy who takes it up the ass is to say, “Thank you very much! And your boyfriend says I take it like a champ.”

On a related note, I just visited London and I loved how people use the word, “cunt” in a friendlier less offensive way than they do here. I have been trying to bring that back to the states but so far none of my friends have been too receptive to being referred to as cunts.

Another thing to remember is when a commenter on a thread reverts to using abusive words and personal attacks, you can always just ignore them. They make themselves look like idiots without any help from the rest of us.

*I hope no idiots were offended by this post. It was not my intention.

Got a question you would like some Surly-Skepchick advice on? Send it in! We won’t publish your real name, unless you want us to and creative pseudonyms get bonus points! Just use the contact link on the top left of the page.

*Ask Surly Amy is meant for entertainment purposes only. All advice should be taken with as much skepticism as anything else, really.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. I find this very interesting as “That is so gay” for me became not cool in High School, and yet calling someone a “cocksucker” barely ever crosses my mind as offensive, and yet it should be right? The same goes for pussy. I actually never use that word for some reason, but I certainly don’t think of it the same way I think of gay.

  2. Oh my god. Not only did that question gag on shaft, but anybody who would bother to respond to it is clearly the kind of person who “takes it”.

  3. I usually have a hard time writing out polemical profanity. That being said, as a native New Jerseyan, I vocalize obscenities often. I also alliterate a lot.

  4. Um, Amy? Over here in quaint old England, I generally don’t find many people receptive to being called a cunt either. Actually, I make a point of quietly informing people who use the word casually that I don’t appreciate them referring to me with it, or words like pussy, bastard etc. It’s just plain fucking rude, and there’s no sodding excuse for it.

    Thoughtful post.

  5. I’ve been trying hard over the last few years to erase “cocksucker” or any variant from my list of insults. Cocksucking is awesome, It doesn’t make any sense as an insult, I might as well use “cash giveme-ers” as an insult.

  6. An insult is only an insult if the insult is perceived as such by the person receiving the insult.

    The person intentionally insulting is using an insult that he thinks would offend the other.

    Often, the insulter is not the most empathetic of humans, therefore he might not be able to feel what the other would deem to be insulting.

    Thus, the insult he chooses would most likely be offensive if directed at himself.

    I’m not sure that this explains why one chooses the insults that one chooses, but I think , in part, it explains the cyclical , and self derisive nature of the obsenity chosen.

  7. I can’t say I’ve noticed a trend either. Some blogs fill up with asses. Others, like Skepchick, don’t. I like it here better.

    I have never understood cocksucker as an insult. It implies that sucking cock is a bad thing which means the speaker neither likes sucking cock nor, by extension, having their cock sucked. This is not a world I want to live in. If you ever catch me calling someone a cocksucker just assume it’s a compliment.

  8. @Amy: Perhaps you could try spreading “twat”… no pun intended, you dirty fuckers.

    Interesting note re: Deadwood and “cocksuckers”. The writers were originally going to use period profanity, but it just sounded silly/amusing to modern ears, so they chose profanity that offends us as the period stuff offended 19th century folk.

    Also, one question: If we can’t call atheists and skeptics pussies, can we call pussies atheists and skeptics? I seem to run into a lot of people who find those words to be shocking epithets.

  9. I recently gave up the word “retard” and mourned its loss a bit. There really is no substitute. Perhaps someday it will be acceptable again as moron and idiot were once clinical terms as well.

  10. I usually try to point out how silly the insult is by addressing its original meaning.

    For example, if someone were to call me a son-of-a-bitch I simple ask them how they know my mother.

    It’s very amusing when my mother calls me that and I simply say “yes I am.” :P

  11. Thanks to adored shows like Southpark and my southern California upbringing I grew up thinking the phrase, “that is so gay” was a completely acceptible non-offensive way to imply that I didn’t like something.

    I got into so much trouble when I tried to explain to various online friends why using that phrase was not really such a great idea. Try as I might they just couldn’t grasp the concpept of how the phrase has high potential to insult gay folk. In the end they just called me a grammar nazi, a pedantic asshat, and an all around pain that made things up just to make people feel ashamsed of themselves. It was a difficult debate. I eventually just totally gave up.

    A lot of people just don’t want to understand the power of language.

    On a related note, I just visited London and I loved how people use the word, “cunt” in a friendlier less offensive way than they do here. I have been trying to bring that back to the states but so far none of my friends have been too receptive to being referred to as cunts.

    Yes, and we had that discussion here some time ago, I think at the instigation of Elyse, if memory serves. As I recall the majority concluded that “cunt” was a bad word primarily, though not always, used by bad people with bad intent. Or is that a flawed memory?

    Also, isn’t it Scotland and not England where “cunt” is just about the same everyday descriptive as the word “person”?

  12. @spurge:
    While I haven’t noticed this phenomena as a specific trend in skeptic/atheist blogs, it does occur. Perhaps not as often as on other more “mainstream” (in the pop-culture sense — Ever spent any time on YouTube?) blogs/forums, but does still happen. I do think, tho, that our “community will tend to shut such people off more quickly than happens elsewhere.

    I think @halincoh: has it right… people tend to use an insult that they think it would be bad if someone else called them the same thing. That said, the prevalence of what I regard as anti-gay terms used as epithets comes (typically) from straight-male social circles, where, in my experience, it *is* still a bad thing to be perceived as gay or accepting of gay culture/sex/people. And I live on the west coast…. It’s changing, but ever so slowly.

  13. It all makes sense. See Skeptics are all pussies, meaning we have cat like qualities, are free thinking, hard to heard, quick and agile in critical thought. The problem is with all the knobs who are always trying to fuck with pussies.
    All that pussies want, is to live in a utopia with evidence based medicine, gay chocolate rainbows, and possibly a few unicorns. But knobs just have to fuck it all up with their alternative medicine and general knobbiness.

    In conclusion pussy is not a swear word. It’s fucking awesome. It means CAT and VAGINA at the same time. Seriously how is that in anyway bad?
    Now Knob is way worse, that means Penis, which is pretty sweet I guess, but also doorknob, which is at best neutral.
    And leave Gay alone, I just put that in a sentence with chocolate pussies, medicine rainbows and utopia unicorns. It’s clearly way to cool to be derogatory.

  14. I was in the habit of using the word “gay” for “lame” after my brief stint in the Navy. After my time ended there, this was pointed out to me by a few of my gay friends in Austin. I made a point erasing the meaning from my vocabulary. I never really ever called people pussies or cocksuckers, but did call my guy friends bitches as an insult. I’m still trying to stop that.

    I’ve found that I’m rarely so pissed at a person that I feel the need to call them anything. But in those few instances, I go back to gradeschool for material. There is something very satisfying about calling someone a butthole when they cut you off on the freeway. Or occasionally, when I’m really pissed, I just go for the throat and call them a Republican.

    Honestly, I read this blog pretty regularly and haven’t noticed this type of insult being thrown around too often. Generally the people here seem to have more to say.

  15. @mrmisconception: I went through a brief period where I couldn’t stop replying “your mom” to just about anything anyone said (because I’m mature like that). One day I exclaimed (during an otherwise wholesome conversation), “Your mom likes balls!”

    My son has still not quite forgiven me.

  16. I am aware it occurs.

    The questioner stated as fact that there is a increasing trend of this sort of behavior on Atheist/Skeptic blogs.

    I don’t see it.

  17. I’m constantly amazed by my own use of “cocksucker” as a pejorative. I rather like that women are cocksuckers, and have no problems that some men are… whatever lifts your luggage and all that. I find myself using it as a pejorative (frequently in the car, when my mouth runs like an open sewer), and it always winds up with me reflecting on its use.

    As to pussy being a pejorative for a weak man, I suggest you check out Savage Love for a reason that works poorly.

  18. Got any evidence that this is a trend Elyse?

    “The person who wrote this letter clearly had a penis in his mouth.”

    Trying to smear me Elyse?

    Real classy.

  19. One danger in casually using the word “gay” as “lame” is when you’re addressing a gay person but don’t know it.

    An acquaintance, who didn’t know I “take it like a champ”, was mortified by the chorus of laughter that erupted when she asked me if a particular gift was too “gay-as-lame” to give her boyfriend.

    I guess the moral is, don’t use grade-school slang in mixed company.


  20. @Sean

    That’s why I like to stick with “doodiehead”.
    First it’s shocking coming from a fortysomething man.
    Secondly it’s cute and inoffensive to most.
    Thirdly those who truly have shit for brains can’t actually figure out that they’ve been insulted.

  21. @spurge:

    Yes. I’m trying to smear you. That is the only reasonable conclusion that anyone could come to. Not that I was pointing out the ridiculousness of you saying that you don’t see it and therefore it doesn’t exist, even if the writer’s perception is that it is… and even the fact that whether it is or isn’t is sort of irrelevant and was really a segue into the conversation. And therefore, I implied the writer was a homosexual and has no business being on the internet.

    I apologize for smearing you. I should have gone the joke-route instead of being gay.

  22. The questioner is claiming there is a trend. Why should I accept their word for it?

    I am not allowed to ask for evidence on a skeptical web site?

    Why are my observations irrelevant but the questioners are to be taken on faith?

    If they stated that people make homophobic and sexist comments on skeptic blogs I would have no problem with that statement.

    Claiming an increasing problem is something else altogether.

    Pretty pathetic that the only person using hateful language on this thread is you.

    You clearly have some sort of grudge against me. I am not the only person here that said they did not see a trend.

  23. Here’s the wiki rub;
    …”the Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines “cunt” as “an unpleasant or stupid person”, whereas Merriam-Webster defines the term as “a disparaging term for a woman” and “a woman regarded as a sexual object”; the Macquarie Dictionary of Australian English defines it as “a despicable man”. When used as a slang term with a positive qualifier (good, funny, clever, etc.) in countries such as Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia, it conveys a positive sense of the object or person to which it refers.”
    It’s all about location apparently.

  24. @James Fox:

    For the record, those definitions are all secondary or tertiary definitions.

    In various Oxfords (the Concise; the Canadian; the Shorter) the primary definition is “female genitals”. Same for Merriam Webster online.

    Interestingly, Merriam Webster online has as the second half of the primary definition a definition I’ve never heard: “sexual intercourse”. Odd, that one.

    “So, Bob, what did you and your wife do last night?”

    “Oh, well, we cunted.”

    /scratches head

  25. @spurge: Why are you quoting a sentence not directed at you and claiming it is evidence that Elyse is smearing you?

    I think Elyse was just trying to force a joke by using the very thing complained about in the original question against the original questioner (Annoyed), on the basis that Annoyed was wrong about it being a trend.

    I’m not sure if this is an ad hominem or not since it reverses the non-existent cause and effect of the classic ad hominem. “You are wrong, so therefore you are an ” vs. “You are an so therefore you are wrong.”

    So the thing being complained about by Annoyed boils down to people using logical fallacies to refute other people, which is especially wrong when claiming to be a skeptic.

    However, your (Spurge’s) original point was also perfectly valid, which is was Annoyed also committing a logical fallacy by making an assumption without evidence, namely that the first constitutes a trend.

    Seriously, either you and Elyse are throwing jokes back and forth at each other, and I’m just not getting it, or one or both of you are completely misunderstanding each other.

    I think it is fine to ask for the evidence for the initial assertion of Annoyed, the original Amy-asker, who says it is a trend in the first sentence, but it’s fine to say “There’s none that I know of, but even so, this kind of bashing does exist”, and cite a few examples.

    Am I correct that calling something “a trend” means its increasing in frequency, and not just that it happens occasionally?

    But does it matter if it’s a trend? I think Annoyed exaggerated the commonness of it.

    And Elyse, I think the burden of proof is on Annoyed, not on Spurge for the claim that it is a trend.

    So both of you stop being pussies.

  26. One of the best insults I ever received was in high school. I was passed a note in the lunch room that simply said,

    “You are a gay lesbian transexual chainsaw hooker from hell!”

    I don’t know how long it took the brain trust of “popular” kids to come up with that one, or if they even understood half the words they were writing, but I do know they weren’t expecting me to react with quite as much joy and mirth as I did, or that I would still remember it fondly and with pride to this day. It’s only failing was that they left out “cocksucker!”

    @mrmisconception: Nah, it was just the two of us, so his horror was not multiplied by embarrassment. We’re cool.

  27. @spurge & @Buzz Parsec:

    Annoyed is not saying that this is the fact. He’s not saying this is the way things are. He is talking about his perception. You can understand this by reading his words. He uses these phrases:
    I’ve noticed…
    I find that…
    I find…
    To me, it feels…

    You’re asking him to defend his perception, as if his question was not worth addressing if what he’s noticing isn’t a problem. Let’s say he rephrased it to not say “disturbing trend”, then could we move on and just say that the behavior, on the increase or not, is disturbing and answer his question?

    God this thread is so gaytarded.


    Also, you are correct.

    And what about “cockbite?” Biting cocks is bad, right? Can we all agree on that? Maybe we can turn this around. Instead of “that’s so gay,” say “that’s so westboro!” And I think “gaybasher” is a lot more offensive than “cocksucker.” Or what about: “I hate driving in the city. Some gaybasher totally Phelpsed me on 3rd st! Fucking cockbites!”

  29. I use terms like “gay” or “faggot” from time to time but I like how Doug Stanhope explains his usage and I’d stand behind it. From his “No Refunds” special:

    I use ‘faggot’ too liberally, but I use it as a word of weakness. I attach no sexuality to the word, and if you’re gay and you’re in here and you’re offended, I’ll be at the door on the way out and I’ll suck your dick just to show that I meant no offense. I’m not going to get wicked into it and, like, yank on your balls, like, like, like you’re coked up and that’s the only way you can cum. I’ll just pinch it with two fingers and, uhh (makes a squishy, uncomfortable suck face) …just to show that I mean no disrespect, ’cause it’s too strong of a word to let go.

  30. I think this is a difference between high speech and low speech that we are not so familiar with in English. The word “fucker” could be substituted in many of the above situations. It could be angrily shouted or jokingly applied to a friend, but people rarely mean it as an insult to the asexual. It, as well as gay, pussy, cocksucker, cunt, and a lot of other fun words are only used in familiar language and one of the ways we mark our in-group. Some people are more formal and don’t want to be spoken to like that by even their closest friends. Some people have difficulty speaking any other way, and don’t do so well at job interviews. This is normal for low speech and many languages have much sharper distinction between high and low and are much more aware of it. See diglossia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diglossia

    Also, has anybody else noticed that tiny smiley face at the bottom of the page? How long has that been there?

  31. @Garbledina:
    There’s only one reply you can offer to a note like that: “That’s ridiculous, I don’t own a chainsaw”.

    Personally, I think “poltroon” is a vastly under-employed insult, so I like to bring it out for special occasions.

  32. @Garbledina Wouldn’t a gay lesbian be straight? I mean, not like I know or anything. I’m just bisexual :-)

    Yeah, the whole “That’s so gay” thing still bothers me. But I’ll put up with that before I’ll sit still for gender-oriented insults like “Cunt”. Yes the gay-means-lame thing has become a part of culture but consider that into the mid to late 70’s there was a chain of restaurants in the deep south called “Little Black Sambo’s” and it wasn’t uncommon to hear black men referred to as “Boy” or even the N word.
    It’s the same story but the characters have changed.

  33. What about insults that are derived from male body parts? “He’s such a prick;” “Don’t be a dick.” I’ve used these so many times–it just occurred to me that those are kind of the same thing as calling someone a “cunt”…am I wrong?
    Fortunately we have one insult that is totally appropriate–“douchebag.”

  34. @Buzz Parsec:

    I don’t plan to derail this thread about it any more. It is not really that pertinent to the important part of the question. What to do about it.

    I just get mad at all the unsubstantiated attacks on Atheists/Skeptics.

    I feel that Elyse personally attacked me. I may be wrong in my PERCEPTION but That is how I felt.

    I will not be responding to her any more.

  35. I always felt like the word cocksucker should be used as a compliment instead of an insult, because it seems like most people with that appendage enjoy having it sucked, and therefore I’ve never really used the term much. However, having recently watched the whole series of “Deadwood” in about 3 weeks time I have found that I can’t stop calling everyone cocksuckers, or just shouting it whenever I am drinking.

    I try to never say “that’s so gay” but I do call things “weak” all the time. *shrug*

  36. @ArgentArdor: My mother has a real problem with the word “bastard”, especially when I apply it to my younger brother. I’ve attempted to explain to her that, while some people are born into bastardy, others, like my brother, make it their life’s work.

  37. @ninjaplatypus

    That reminds me of the old Elayne Boosler joke about why is “fuck you” the final insult. It seem you should say “audit you” instead of one of the nicest things you can do to a person.

    I paraphase, but it’s something along those lines.

  38. @Mark Hall: My mother had a problem with my younger brothers calling me a bastard. I was at my parents’ wedding (although too young to remember). It never bothered me coming from them, though probably because I could use it to get them in trouble.

  39. i’ve always seen motherfucker or fucker as non serious insults myself.motherfucker especially,cause i have this thing for “milfs” and cougars,so calling me a motherfucker is like calling a potential senator a constituent fucker.

  40. @ArgentArdor: I noticed the smiley some time ago and just assumed it was a Web Bug, though I didn’t know these were actually still used much since the late ’90s. Is it?

    I agree with spurge here. I have definitely NOT noticed this trend on skeptic and atheist websites and I read A LOT of them. If anything, skeptic websites are some of the least likely places I will see the sort of insults we’re talking about here for exactly the reasons mentioned above and for the reason (I conjecture) that skeptics and atheists just tend to be more intelligent than the general population. So, yeah, onus is on the claimant for this one.

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