We recently heard from an unhappy purchaser of my partner Sheri Winston's award-winning book, who complained that it contained "crude language ... words I would never use out loud let alone during intimate moments with my loved one. Both my partner and I were appalled by the language [Sheri] feels should be normalized by having everyone say it out loud."
Now, this isn't quite accurate. Sheri doesn't proselytize people to use lewd language. She encourages them to use whatever they're comfortable with.
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There is a case to be made for talking dirty, though. Here's the letter I didn't send to Sheri's disgruntled reader.
Dear Unhappy Purchaser:
I'm sorry you were offended by the language in Sheri's book, and even sorrier that you are horrified at the thought of using dirty (I'll spare you the quote marks) words in the bedroom. Genuinely sorry, as in compassionate. Why? Because you seem not to understand the power of transgression. The healing power of transgression.
Wherever you look, whatever you look at, a person has two options. There is the acceptable, the appropriate, the authorized. Call it "Plan A." If you're at a dinner in a restaurant, use the cutlery, don't eat with your hands. That would be Plan A. If you're the President of the United States, don't use the F-bomb at a press conference. That, too, would be Plan A.
Plan A is always situational, always contextual. If you're at a picnic, it's fine to eat with your hands. If you're sharing a barrack in the military, a sentence would be lonely without an F-word in there somewhere.
At any time, we have the option of diverging from Plan A -- if we're not on automatic pilot. We can choose to break with habit, to conduct ourselves in a way that is not customary personally or culturally.
There are two reasons for doing this: to shock, and to grow.
Teenagers specialize in breaking with Plan A as a way to shock the authorities. They put pierces in weird places; they're surly and otherwise break the rules of polite (read: Plan A) discourse. In fact, they're so predictably Plan B that it's like a virtual Plan A for them.
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Many artists make a career out of challenging Plan A. It's their calling to illuminate the margins outside the conventional text, and one way to do this is by exposing Plan A as the usual way, not the only way. They invite their audience to see the world transgressively.
But we can also break with Plan A for personal-growth reasons. Let's say I have a bad habit. (I know, it's unimaginable, but work with me on this.) The whole point about a bad habit is that it's ... habitual. It's a default position, something we fall into over and over again because we're operating from a comfort zone where we're not really choosing, we're just doing. When the zombies take over my body and I find myself in front of the freezer (yes, ice cream talks!), I can choose not to open the door. I can choose not to listen.