This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
"Is 'titty fuck' spelled with an 'ie' or a 'y'?"
It is 2005, and I am an employee at a respected and credible national newswire in their Vancouver bureau. We publish an authoritative style guide that most newsrooms, PR companies, and journalism schools refer to when they need to figure out if "Church of Christ" is capitalized or "webmaster" is one word or two.
I'm editing interviews my colleague has filed from Penticton, BC, about a local nightclub that's hosting a spin-the-wheel contest for a pair of breast implants. Young ladies from across the province, as well as Alberta and Seattle, have gathered in this tiny town for their shot at a pair of fake boobs. While most of the women my coworker interviewed have heart-wrenching stories about low self-esteem and disgust for their bodies, one contestant is a little more frank: "I just wanna titty fuck!"
I know we can't use this quote, but I'm still curious about the spelling, as I also know for certain it wouldn't be in our style guide.
My editor, who resembles a sophisticated mid-30s Anne of Green Gables, looks at me with stunned eyes. This is clearly not the kind of question I should be asking aloud in this newsroom. And yet, I do.
It's this type of situation that demonstrates what makes me feel statically different from the general population. Inappropriate questions, comments, and remarks about sex are my special thing. I have no filter and I know few boundaries. It's my fuel. It's my voice. It's how I assert myself—brazenly. I am keen to provoke.
That's because I identify as a Sex Person. It's a noun I'd like to introduce to the English vocabulary, and I'm open to gifting it to other languages.
You're either a Sex Person, or you're not. What distinguishes the two types of people, generally, is how much they're willing to share or go there. People who have a hard time uttering the names of genitals or fluids that come from genitals, for example, are not Sex People. They will discuss matters of sex discreetly, with people they trust, and never in a public place. Even talking about sex-related matters with their doctor is a challenging notion.
Sex People will somehow make themselves known. They are generally obvious (Andy Dick, Amy Schumer) but are capable of being subtle (Oscar Wilde). Every family has one: They're generally the person to make an inappropriate joke at the family Christening or gift relatives with dildos and vibrators at Hanukkah. Even though Kim Kardashian has the sex tape, it's Khloe who's the Sex Person. Her lack of demureness—getting her sister to wax her on camera and regularly and vocally big-upping black balls—places her squarely in our camp.
I've been compelled by this term ever since I first heard it being used in the comedy scene in Vancouver, around five years ago. To be accurate, it was the masculine version of the term, Sex Guy. One incident in particular stands out: An improv group was performing a scene, as themselves, rather than characters. When one member brought up the other's recent compulsively slutty behavior, he said, "We've got ourselves a real Sex Guy over here."
When I hear the term Sex Guy, it's always with a zippy tone, as if the person should punctuate the words with a wink and fingers pointed in the shape of a gun, while making a clicking sound.
In Judd Apatow's recent book, Sick in the Head: Conversations about Life and Comedy, he talks to Amy Schumer about her sexually charged material. Though she admits she's not a promiscuous person, her willingness to share her experience makes her a Sex Person (emphasis mine):
Amy Schumer: Well, it's a part of me, too. Because the stuff you're copping to and the saddest, worst moments of your life—that's the stuff people connect to and appreciate. In reality, I've almost always had a boyfriend. Every year, if I have like one or two sexual experiences, they might both be hilarious.
Judd Apatow: And then they add up, and people think, She must be doing this all the time. I have maybe six experiences from my whole life. But if I go onstage and tell three of them, it sounds like I have hundreds of them.
Amy Schumer: Right. But you can get up there and do that, and you're not the Sex Guy. But if I do it, I am. So I just embraced it.
And yet, this isn't officially considered a thing in our vernacular, like "humblebrag" or "letter carrier"... yet.
Precious little is on Google, and the only thing on Urban Dictionary is sex girl, which basically defines a lady who is open to casual sex, and doesn't exactly align with my theory:
1. A female with whom one is not in a relationship, but is currently or potentially having sexual relations.
2. A casual sex partner.
Where's the sex girls at!?
On YouTube, there's a terrible song called "Sex Person" by the Grammar Club, and a seven-second clip from 30 Rock of Kenneth saying to Tracy Jordan's wife: "I like your top. I'm a real good Sex Person. I do it in all the different ways."
Every single linguist I approached to examine this term, including Ben Zimmer at the Wall Street Journal, had never heard of it.
"If no one knows about it, maybe it's not really there, so to speak, and the few instances you've heard are idiosyncratic," said Dr. Charles Boberg, associate professor of Linguistics at McGill. "It's true that you might be onto the very first stirrings of a future trend, but it might just as easily fizzle out and go nowhere; it's hard to predict the future of these things."
I chatted with Kurt Metzger, a writer on Inside Amy Schumer, who isn't exactly one to hold back his disdain for things. He admits to hearing the term "Sex Comic" used a lot though never "Sex Guy" or "Sex Person." While he thinks such labels are "fucking dumb," he could see it being used in his industry a lot.
"It's all packaging," he said. "I can see an agent doing that. 'Yeah, he's a Sex Guy, he'd be perfect for that.' It's all marketing."
My intention to make Sex Person a thing isn't about marketing or selling a brand. It's about validating a way of being, a form of expression that is inherent in so many of us. That way, the next time someone close to you loudly asks if you've seen more clam- or oyster-shaped vaginas in your life, you'll know what kind of a person you're dealing with.
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