By Trevor Christian
Jill McDevitt, a feminist sex shop owner who will soon hold a third degree in sexology, helped Stony Brook students explore the implications behind language dealing with sexual organs and intercourse.
Shortly after introducing herself on Wednesday night, McDevitt pointed out that the Wang Center was an “appropriate” location for her lecture, which outlined how popular sexual euphemisms tended to either treat women as sex objects or discourage sexual activities.
Renée Reeke, the treasurer of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA), said she found McDevitt through Facebook, describing her as plugged into social media.
“I liked that she was interactive,” she said, noting that it was McDevitt’s first time giving a lecture on the topic.
The event got off to a slow start, with McDevitt arriving late thanks to a long trip to Stony Brook from Feminique Boutique, her sex shop in Philadelphia.
Once McDevitt arrived, she wasted no time extracting sexual language from her audience. She asked them to come up with as many euphemisms as they could for activities, such as sexual intercourse and body parts, like breasts. As she read off what the students had written, some suggestions received applause or laughter.
In addition to the standard slang words, Stony Brook students produced terms like “Finding Nemo” for masturbating, “Bullet Bill” for penis and “Golden Palace of the Himalayas” for vagina. McDevitt said she was impressed.
But she also found common phrases that showed less reverence for women. Oral sex words focused on mostly on males, as did euphemisms for masturbation.
“Pleasing men might be more our goal — pleasing women not so much,” said McDevitt.
There was really no audience at the lescture, only active participants. Everyone in attendance contributed slang words, answered multiple-choice questions by moving to different parts of the room and were asked to interpret McDevitt’s observations.
Her questions all focused on how and when slang words emerged. Some traced sexual insults insults like “pussy” back to its origins of meaning woman or coward.
Another question reminded the audience that no matter how “faggot” became a gay slur, it was not for a particularly kind reason. Possible theories include people in the middle ages comparing a bundle of sticks to a worthless woman or burning heretics.
“When I insult someone, I don’t want to call them something sexual at all,” McDevitt said, saying it creates a negative stigma about sex and the human body.
McDevitt emphasized equality between the two genders, but some participants thought she was focused too much on heteronormative relationships.
“My first reaction was it could have been more inclusive, especially for identities that fall outside the binaries,” said John Martin, a member of the FMLA and Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Alliance.
Martin added that he enjoyed the show, saying that he would “love to meditate a little bit more about the euphemistic aspect of sexual slang and what it means for gender relations.”