I have brought these two books up as an example of acclaimed Gay Literature Canon after reading this little rant over on Paul G. Bens site. He was going off because Barbara Sheridan, a straight woman, wrote a Gay Romance titled Beautiful Cocksucker.
Here is his two main arguments…
I have heard these words over and over in my life. These words are horrible, horrible things. I personally do not even like it when other gay men say them as a joke. They are not words to me that can be reclaimed.
I don’t care that in the context of the story the characters call each other c*cksuckers. In text, in context, I would still bristle at it, but I would understand. But as the title of a book? NOPE! See, I realize that there are many, many non-pro gay people — people who love to hunt gay folks — who will simply see that title — they will never read the book to understand the context, and if they did, they’d never want to understand the context — and all they will do is see that title and feel justified for their usage of that word. I don’t care how romantic or loving the D/s relationship is depicted in that book. C*cksucker is a horrible, dangerous word, one that should not be used lightly or thought of as a catchy little title for a book. It is offensive. And not until you have had it shouted at you by a group of rowdy, drunk teenagers in a passing car at night can you truly understand how damaging that word is.
So basically Paul is claiming in his rant that using “bad words” like Cocksucker or Queer or Faggots supports homophobia and Gay Bashing and these “bad words” cannot be reclaimed.
As far as the term Cocksucker, do I TeddyPig in fact suck cocks? Why yes, yes I do. Do I find that “bad word” worse than say being called a Faggot? Nope! Do I blame Larry Kramer for people using that “bad word” or threatening me? Nope!
When William S. Burroughs wrote Queer in 1951-1953 there is no argument at the time Queer was a “bad word”. We now have highly visible examples of a reclaimed “bad word” in Queer Nation and Queer Eye For The Straight Guy and Queer Fashion. I also don’t think Mr. Burroughs was at all concerned about reclaiming the word when he wrote that book. Nor have I found any online article stating that was his exact intention. Larry Kramer on the other hand is a noted Gay Activist and might have intentionally chosen to use the title Faggots for his book in 1978.
Since Faggots is now considered Classic Gay Literature Canon along with Queer I find it hard not to think this is a confirmation by members of the Gay Community in seeing some value in these literary works. If they were so concerned as a whole about the physical and political repercussions of “bad words” being used in titles then I think Queer or Faggots, “bad words” solely attributed to Gay People unlike Cocksucker, would in my opinion be at the top of their “Do Not Use” list.
I choose not speak for all Gay People. I am not about policing language or trying to censor someone using terms I might find offensive. I agree that words have power but I also know as with the word Queer there are proven examples that we, Gay People, can change the meanings and reclaim those we find hateful.
I also simply try to relate this current controversy to facts and what I see on the shelves of any Gay Bookstore. I must say Paul’s opinions do not mesh with mine or what I have read or what I see. So no, Paul does not speak for me as a Gay Man or I for him. We just both happen to be cocksuckers.
In closing this whole post kept nagging at me because of the word cocksucker because I know someone much smarter than me talked about this already…
“There are 400,000 words in the English language, and there are seven you can’t say on television. What a ratio that is! 399,993 . . . to seven. They must really be baaaad. They must be OUTRAGEOUS to be separated from a group that large. ‘All of you words over here, you seven . . . baaaad words.’ That’s what they told us, right? ‘That’s a bad word!’ Awwww. No bad words. Bad thoughts. Bad intentions, and wooooords. You know the seven, don’t ya? That you can’t say on TV? Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits. Huh? Those are the heavy seven. Those are the words that’ll infect your soul, curve your spine, and keep the country from winning the war. Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits, wow! And tits doesn’t even belong on the list! It seems like such a friendly word. Sounds like a nickname. ‘Hey Tits, come here man! Tits! Meet my friend Toots. Toots, Tits. Tits, Toots.’ Sounds like a snack . . . oh yeah, it is. Right. But I don’t mean your sexist snack, I mean new Nabisco Tits. Corn Tits n’ Sesame Tits n’ Cheese Tits . . . Tater Tits. Bet you can’t eat just one!”