Daily Archives: April 17, 2010

Attacking a person’s chastity through cursing: the evils of the F-word.

`I read somewhere recently that the MPAA decided it’s OK to have the “F-word” in PG-13 films if it’s not used in a sexual context. Then, the other day, a friend mentioned in a Facebook status how an internet discussion had devolved to someone telling him to go “F—” himself, and I got to thinking about this word in the context of blasphemy and cursing.

Let’s first consider the word itself. Literally, the word is a verb referring to the human sexual act. So far as I know, it is the only verb in English that specifically refers to this act. There are many nouns that refer to the sexual act, and many of them are quite polite: the sexual act, intercourse, coitus, and so forth. Yet there is no verb. Every other verb is a metaphor. The word that comes closest, often used interchangeably with the “F-Word”, is itself a metaphor and even in its pejorative meaning does not necessarily refer to anything sexual.

Indeed, this convergeance of the two words adds to the offense of the “F-word,” because it is often used in a manner that degrades sexuality.

The sexual act is referred to mostly by metaphor or euphemism for several reasons, which are the same reasons we clothe our private parts. One is, of course, to protect purity, particularly the purity of children, but of other adults as well. It is also done to avoid vulgarity-speaking of common things that are a little gross (i.e., it is polite to speak of food and eating, but it is not generally polite to speak of chewing or digesting). Thirdly, it is to guard the sanctity of sexuality.

There is little need in polite conversation to refer to sexuality with a verb. For those situations, the common use of a helper verb and noun form will do: “to have sexual relations,” for example, or just “to have sex.” The shorthand of an active verb is unnecessary in any context other than marriage itself.

So, under those considerations alone, and focusing on the MPAA ruling, it would seem to be the opposite. To use the “F word” as a sexual verb is to use it in its proper context. For the MPAA to keep that usage under an “R” limitation is to admit that it’s wrong to talk explicitly of sex in a film, and thus verify my greatest complaint against the Transformers films, that the explicit terms used in those films should not be in PG-13 movies.

Instead, the MPAA has said it’s OK to use this word merely as an expletive.

Now, let’s stop to consider something else. Think about the formulation, “Oh, $@#%”–insert word here. If this expression were listed in a thesaurus, the thesaurus would provide a list of “synonyms” which could be used in place of the symbols. Among those synonyms would be a word referring to human sexuality, a list of names and titles of God, and at least two words referring to excrement. It is hoped that the use of the Lord’s Name in such situations is at least partially meant as a prayer. But in literal usage, the expression, with its interchangeability, equates the Lord’s Name and the sexual act with excrement.

That in an of itself would seem to be a far worse usage of the word than to use it in its literal meaning.

Now, with these considerations in mind, let us consider the sinfulness of the use of this word, particularly in the other context I mentioned above.

The word refers to the sexual act. At its best, the use of the word violates the privacy and intimacy of the act. In most usages, it disparages and cheapens the act, and at its worst, it refers to the act as something negative.

So, in all those senses, the use of the word, except possibly in a marital context (and even then it seems inappropriate), is a violation of the Sixth Commandment.

Secondly, the word is referring disparagingly of the human body and could be interpreted, in that sense alone, as a violation of the Fifth Commandment.

Yet the violation is more direct when the word is used against another person in an act of name calling or cursing.

Our Dear Lord is very clear in Matthew 5:22 that to curse someone, to verbally abuse someone, is to violate the fifth commandment. It’s spiritual assault. In some ways, it can be worse than physical assault or even murder, as it can do great damage to the soul.

And, of course, as I’ve said many times. Fr. Gabriel Amorth says the most common cause of demonic possession is people using the words “damn” and “hell” in the wrong ways (or, worse, the right ones), literally invoking Satan to curse the person, object, place, situation or action.

To curse is literally to curse, and it violates both the first commandment (by paying worship to Satan rather than God, and by claiming God’s right to judge), as well as the third.

I find it puzzling that people will say, when they use the name or title of God, or use the “h” word or the “d” word as expletives, “I didn’t mean anything by it.” Well, of course, and that’s what it means to “Take the Lord’s name in vain.”

Of course, personal intention is a key factor in whether a sin is mortal or venial, but that’s not the issue right now.

So, to use the “F” word as an assault against the person, either in the form my friend experienced, or else in the form of some kind of name calling, is really to violate at least four commandments in some respects, and to violate one of them in two respects. It is, precisely, to curse someone, and to curse that person in a very specific way, by attacking his or her chastity. In short, it’s