Warning: naughty language ahead.
The “C” Word. I’ll Have That Back Now.
I use this word freely and deliberately in an erotica novel that I have penned.
It is a word that I appreciate for its rich expressiveness of a woman’s sex—a body part that I am particularly fond of.
I am not offended by the use of the word, but do bristle at its misuse.
English is a second language for me. I had the distinct privilege of learning English at the age of 10—falling in love with its fecundity. In fact, I adore it.
The “mother tongue” as I reverently but also sometimes laughingly call it, will always be my first love affair.
So what is the big deal about a word that for most is vulgar and offensive? Why did I use it more frequently in an erotica novel instead of the more tame word “pussy” or the impassive, clinical noun “vagina?”
Allow me to digress for a moment, to the word f*ck, another expression that carries the stigma of vulgarity.
F*ck can either be innately dark or light, depending on how it’s used. In itself, it is incredibly useful as a way to release profound emotion. In fact, I have heard of a study which found the word f*ck to be a stress reliever, and that using it diffused pent up emotions otherwise inexpressible in the moment. As such, it was considered deservedly healthful.
One might come up with other ways to express themselves—in time—when the urgency to release that vague something we are feeling passes, but in the moment, f*ck is a purposeful tool worth its weight in gold.
To me, it’s neither good nor bad, it just is, an empty vessel waiting to be filled with an intention.
Words evolve from their original meanings—this is to be expected. Humanity evolves and uses words to create bridges or walls, war or peace, intelligence or ignorance. Words are our tools.
The word cunt has not escaped this evolution and my purpose here today is to share why I find the word deserving of a lot more than a basement tenancy within our speech pattern.
Without boring you with a detailed ramble of the word’s etymology, I’ll begin with the dictionary meaning:
Cunt. Middle English: of Germanic origin; related to Norwegian and Swedish dialect kunta, and Middle Low German, Middle Dutch and Danish dialect kunte .
As far as etymologists are concerned, this is where the word began. But of course, not all words have medieval births.
The word became taboo near the end of the 18th century and was not admissible in print until the latter part of the 20th century.
Remember Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence, circa 1928. The word cunt was used 14 times in that notorious work, as its 1960 trial revealed to those who had not had the pleasure of reading it.
Now when I read it, at age 17, surreptitiously hidden in a dark corner of the library, I was blissfully unaware of any negative connotations associated with the word as I was quite virginal and naive of worldly ways.
The dictionary told me that it was bad. I read that and shrugged my shoulders, muttered a quick “hmm” and continued on with the story.
Presumably I lived in a cave because by the time I heard someone calling a woman a cunt I was in my 30s. I then clued in that the insult was misogynistic in nature and hated the word for years.
I actually hated the act of misogyny but just blamed the word instead.
So, later on, a sexual revolution in my life brought me face to erm…cunt once more when I began to write erotica. There I was, happily typing away, caught up in the heat of the scene and out flew the saucy little thing, and no other word would do!
There was no way for me to avoid it, I had to explore what word I was using, why I was using it and could I get over my prejudice to the it?
Here are some facts about the word that might help to dispel the taboo:
In ancient Egypt, an earlier form of the word was used as a synonym for woman. When Egyptologists found the word in the writings of Ptah-Hotep, the word was distasteful in the eyes of the modern scholar only, but was not used negatively by the Egyptians.
Anglo-Saxons used it as a utilitarian word for female genitalia and the Oxford English Dictionary traces its earliest English usage back to 1230.
Chaucer uses the Middle English variant “queynte” liberally throughout his randy Canterbury Tales.
Shakespeare used suggestive connotations of the word in Hamlet and Twelfth Night, he was a lover of puns and saucy exchanges between characters.
Cuneiform, the most ancient form of writing, derives from “kunta” meaning “female genitalia” in Sumerian of ancient Iraq.
Kunta is woman in several Near Eastern and African languages and is also spelled ‘quna’ which is the root of “queen.”
Priestesses were known to be accountants/administrators of the Temple of Inanna in Sumeria c.3100 B.C. when Cuneiform was first used.
Kunta is also the root of kundalini (energy—found in the Kundalini yoga practice).
In matriarchal societies any words starting with kw, qu, or kh. served as a root for Kunta. Some examples are:
Cunda, mother of Buddha according to Japanese.
Cunti-Devi, Goddess of kundalini energy, India.
Kunta, means literally one who has female genitalia and describes a priestess, ancient Sumeria.
Kun, Goddess of Mercy, India.
Quani, Korean goddess.
Qudshu, female priestess of ancient Canaan and Phoenicia, which became the Roman province of Palestine after they conquered it.
The Sumerian word for a type of priestess Qu’ can also mean love, sensuality, sexuality, the divinity present in all females.
To reclaim the word from patriarchal misogyny, is to say that when a woman is called a cunt, she is actually being called a queen who invented writing and numerals. A compliment to be sure.
Additionally, use of the word “prostitute” (law giver of the temple) and “whore” (houri, Persian, which means a gorgeous semi-divine female that awaits men in the seventh Heaven) can be reclaimed to its rightful meaning.
So now I had the history of the word and understood its meaning. I could begin the conversion of it in my own mind, but why did society cling to its taboo nature?
In a 2006 segment of the BBC’s etymology-themed T.V. series Balderdash and Piffle, Germaine Greer proposed that the condemnation of “cunt” was an inevitability in a patriarchal culture with a fear of female desire.
“For hundreds of years, men identified female sexual energy as a dangerous force. Unlike other words for female genitals, this one sounds powerful. It demands to be taken seriously.” ~ G. Greer
The word vagina implies something quite clinical, a vessel for birthing, it does not bring up images of pleasure. The word cunt on the other hand is dangerously pleasurable.
Restrictive boundaries around female desire have been at the forefront of patriarchal rule for centuries.
When I use the word cunt in my novel, full of powerful, magical, sexually awakened women, I am voting for the liberation of our right to be openly and unabashedly pleasurable.
We are at the end of allowing patriarchy to rule our sensuality.
We refuse to have our queenly natures hidden or to have the words that describe that nature be used against us.
We allow ourselves to be sexually explosive and have no guilt surrounding it.
The next time someone tells you that cunt is a bad word, you can say that on the contrary, it is a divine word, and we women own it.
I refuse to conform to the status quo and accept that the word cunt is bad. That’s mind control of the masses. I’m not into that. I’ll make up my own mind, thank you very f*cking much.
There is no negative power in a word unless you believe it yourself. What do you believe?
Author: Monika Carless
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock