A random thought upon a familiar subject


Should a female masturbator be called a masturbatrix?

UPDATE: I just looked up Masturbatrix on Google and got 31,900 hits. I'm not as clever as I thought.

UPDATE 2: Actually, looking at some of the links, they don't seem to be quite what I had in mind. That is, they seem to be combining Masturbation on the part of a third party with a dominatrix who is in control of that masturbation. This is in keeping with the previously observed phenomenon of attaching dominance connotations to the suffix "-trix," when the only meaning that should be attached is "person who is female."


It's tempting to ascribe some sort of meaning to the conversion of a suffix meaning "female" into a suffix meaning "dominant", but unfortunately I think it would be total crap. If anything, it might be a case of exception-proves-the-rule; the concept of the dominatrix, being out of line with what (in the straight christian western add other modifiers here world) is generally accepted as feminine, shocks and titillates people so that they're actually looking and hoping for references to it. It's much more thrilling to think of gender-role-flouting BDSM every time you see the suffix "trix" than merely to think, "Oh, that means the person is female," and, by god, we do love to be thrilled.

Tangential fun fact: my birthday falls during National Masturbation Month.

I realize I've just begged the question of how much the "classic" dominatrix actually does flout the woman-submissive gender role, and there are a number of ways in which I'm willing to argue she does not. This is, however, tangential.

I stick by my theory that the association comes from Dominatrix being the only word in common language (that is, non-legal jargon) with the suffix "-trix."

I read an argument somewhere that gives me a little pause here. Normally, as a language geek who enjoys the sound of certain words, I'm all for the use of "trix" in as many contexts as it is applicable. On the other hand, its argued, somewhat persuasively, that gendering nouns is a bad habit to be in. I was walking around the other day and noticed a sign at a restaurant saying "Now taking applications for waitresses and busboys." So can men not apply for waiting positions, and women not apply for jobs bussing tables? (As it happens, the restaurant in question did employ an all-female wait staff and an all-male bussing crew, but that's probably more the cause of the gendering than the symptom.) Using the gendered terminology tends to reinforce gender roles.

Of course, this leads to another interesting argument I've witnessed, and I don't know where I stand on it: Should the Academy Awards have seperate awards for Best Actor and Best Actress, or should that gender distinction be eliminated? Does the seperate category imply that women can't compete with men when it comes to acting? (Or vice-versa)

Final tangent: Well done using the phrase "Begs the question" properly.

I'm trying to think of ways that I've seen the phrase "begs the question" used improperly, and am coming up blank. How else could it possibly be used?

You used it in the rhetorical term-of-art sense of meaning "Assumes the conclusion it reaches is true in order to make an argument."

The way I've heard it used, much more frequently than I've heard it used properly, is to mean "Demands that the question be asked." To use a silly example: "I went to the store. This begs the question: What did I buy?"

Ah. To beg off the question, rather than to beg for the question.

On the subject of gendering nouns, I'd like to point out that English is inherently a far less gendered language than many. I found myself explaining last week that in Spanish, there is no proper way to use an article or adjective without indicating its gender. If you want to wave a hand vaguely at something and say, "that's red," without even mentioning what the object in question is, you still have to decide between ese es rojo, masculine, and esa es roja, feminine (as well as whether it's singular or plural and whether its redness is an inherent quality or merely a state). Compared to that, a few gendered nouns hardly seem like a threat to gender-equality.

On the other hand, the lesser of two evils is not the same as a preferable choice. With that thought, I bid you happy election day.

I should have said gender neutrality, there, rather than gender equality. Please imagine that I did.

I've actually heard that the "Begging" in "Begging the question" is derived not from "To Beg," as in to ask for, but rather from "To Beggar" as in to impoverish. So when you Beg(gar) the question, you're robbing it of its value by assuming your answer is true in order to answer it. Or something.

Or perhaps pushing it into the gutter as you shoulder roughly past it on your way to making your point. There's nothing it can do but rub its bruises and sullenly ask passersby for alms.

Hey, I like that image.

And of course beggaring the question should never be confused with buggering the question, a rhetorical technique entirely inappropriate for polite discourse.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on November 6, 2005 4:31 PM.

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