How Do You Solve A Problem Like The C-Bomb?

Hugh Ryan was working for the afterschool program at New York City's Harvey Milk School for at-risk lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth when he was confronted with a problem — the "C-bomb".

His students had their own way of saying something was cool, you see: they called it "cunt." It took him a while to understand.

I put "cunt," like "faggot," in a category of words that were "problematic" and made me revert to my most academic self, so I could talk around them without ever issuing a judgment on who "could" or "should" use them. I saw it as a good excuse to use words like "reclamation" and "subjectivity." Don't even get me started on the N-word.

When called upon, I discoursed easily on the history of cunt: its contested origin (the Proto-Germanic kunton or the Latin cunnus, both of which refer to female genitalia), its history as a derogatory term (traceable back to a seedy alley in thirteenth-century London named Gropecunt Lane), and its possible relationship to words like "country" and "kin." But I would never, ever, have uttered it myself.

But then, confronted with an opportunity to get the credibility he needs with his students to get them into tutoring, he lets it loose one day in response to a student who got on well with the tutoring.

I dropped the C-bomb and the world didn't end. It hadn't felt weird, and no one else noticed. I'd given the word so much power and hadn't been able to separate it from its derogatory usage. But I hadn't realized that my students didn't use it for shock value. Well, okay, maybe they did a little. But mostly, to them, it just meant something good. Cunt was the highest compliment they had to bestow, not in a righteous act of reclamation, but through a simple equation: cunts were good, therefore good things were cunty.

He talks, too, of the reverence with which the transwomen he taught viewed the female genetalia they themselves didn't have, which probably led to his students dubbing cool things "cunty." He says:

I wish I lived in a world where cunt only meant beautiful. But at least I get to visit that world occasionally.

And damn is it cunty.

Personally, I revel in vulgarity. I love the word "cunt" for its abruptness, its harsh syllable, its ability to shock nearly everyone. I don't say it to reclaim anything, really, either, because I appreciate its base nature, its harshness, its cruelty. I would rather be a cunt than a pussy (and certainly either than be a dick); I have a cunt, not a twat; I prefer being cunty to being bitchy because I feel like cuntiness is more deliberately mean. I like that "cunt" is worse than "fuck" on the scale of things you can't say in front of your mom. I feel I would rather my anatomy be the worst insult than a lesser insult, Because I'm competitive like that and because it's seemingly all based around the fear and mystery surrounding the female anatomy (and not just a little jealousy). But I also love the idea that it could be the greatest compliment, because having a cunt is pretty awesome.

Dodai, on the other hand, hates the word. She says:

I generally dislike words that are "offensive" BECAUSE they are female anatomy. Calling someone a cunt — to me — means a vagina is something bad. I feel the same way about "pussy." I never say "He's such a pussy." I also don't like the way [cunt] sounds, like a Neanderthal grunt. I will gladly call someone a fucking jerk or asshole, as those are indeed nasty.

So are you pro-cunt? Anti-cunt? A reclaimer of "cunt"? Or just another awesome cunt?

By Any Other Name [Nerve]