Language serves not just as a medium to communicate with others but more importantly, as the medium we use to describe events, feelings, objects and the like. These descriptions are not just external communications but also the means of informing ourselves of what is happening around us. Language thus forms the basis of our thoughts which inform our feelings, and the very basis of our analysis of the feelings that we experience. This may be why not being able to put our feelings into words is more frustrating than the feelings themselves.
Language impacts our perception of reality in very critical ways. For example, there are some tribal languages (for example, the language used by the Himba tribe of Namibia) in the world that do not have a word for the colour ‘blue’ and instead just use the word ‘green’ and refer to blue as a shade of green. This lack of a word for the colour blue impairs their ability to distinguish between shades of blue and shades of green. The results are extremely drastic when compared to people who use different words to denote the colour blue.
This emphasis on language and its effects on our perception should be used to study social behaviour in different settings. This should include connotations of words and phrases.
For most Indians who haven’t had a formal sex education, the first exposure to the world of sexuality comes from questionable sources in their teen years in ways that are truly disturbing. Vulgarities written down/drawn in public spaces, crude adult jokes, and absolutely crass words and phrases that are part of street lingo form the foundation of their sexual understanding. An entire spectrum of emotions is expressed entirely in filth and smut. It becomes a world of brutality and darkness.
This can be correlated to the outlook that we as a society eventually develop over time. Instead of sexuality being a subject of importance and a completely healthy aspect of life that should find itself being discussed more openly, it becomes a thing of shame. Even the idea of sexuality is seen as ‘impure’ (have you noticed how people suggest that their love is ‘pure’ and not contaminated by lust? Who made lust impure?).
Phrases for absolutely normal and healthy practices in street lingo sometimes have extremely violent translations. Yes, they are literally described with words you associate with violence. I guess the usage of these phrases in daily parlance is one of the factors that leads people to correlate their sexual feelings with brutal violence. The distinction between discussing sexuality in English and in local languages is stark. A lot of those who studied in English medium institutes do not know ‘neutral’ terms for genitals, sexual acts, and so on in local languages, and they are entirely expressed in phrases and words that are crass.
This should be an effective argument for including formal sex education in school curriculums from an early age. The first exposure that anyone has to sexuality should be formal, educative, and without any damaging connotations. Your outlook of sex should be positive as opposed to guilt-ridden and taboo. The case I’m trying to make is pro-sex education and not anti-vulgarity. I do think crass phrases, words, and jokes are essential but they shouldn’t be the basis of your understanding.
If you control vocabulary, you control the population; this is something Ingsoc understood very well in George Orwell’s 1984. It is time for us to use their methods but for the common good, to achieve a more sexually positive and aware society. It’s only after a basic system to educate people has been put in place that we can expect wider acceptance and participation in discussions over sexual orientations, the nuances of consent, and censorship of art.