Can We Please Stop Using the Term “Butthurt”?

ElfityFeminism17 Comments

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Is the word horribly offensive? Kind of. Are there worse words? Definitely. Am I overreacting? Pshh, being an angry feminist is my job!

I think a lot about language within a social justice context. When one spends the better portion of one’s free time engaged in activism of some sort, and Internet activism in particular, language becomes more and more important. So many words and phrases never stuck out to as being wrong or marginalizing or oppressive or offensive until I saw them written down, black and white, on a sheet of paper or on a computer screen. I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the popular insult “butthurt,” which sounds benign enough until you actually stop and think about it.

There are many words within the social justice blogosphere that we don’t say. We don’t call people gendered or racially based insults. We don’t say stuff that’s blatantly homophobic or transphobic. We’ve actually gotten pretty good about it, and I credit the feminist interwebs with sneaking into my vocabulary such brilliant words as “asshat.” Feel free to suggest more, you clever people.

One word that is particularly common on the internets is “butthurt,” typically used sarcastically or to ridicule someone who is whining about something they don’t like. I mentioned my distaste for the word to a friend of mine earlier this week. “I had no idea that the word even meant that,” she said. Her first thought was that it was some rape joke, and she found it to be rather confusing in the context. She had to look it up in order to discern its common meaning. But her first thought was right. It can’t be separated from that meaning, and that’s my problem.

Just think about it. The term implies less of “pain in the ass, I sat on something unpleasant” and something far more sexist and homophobic. This is mostly because of the context the word is typically used in. Sandra is in a bad mood because Hugo took her parking spot? She’s just butthurt. Mike won’t stop complaining that his bro beat him playing video games? Butthurt. Essentially, the term is used when someone is upset that someone else has gotten the better or them or beaten them or bested them in some way. That is to say, they dominated them. You know, like when someone is raped. This just isn’t funny. Not only is the term sexist, because it hinges on domination and anal rape, which is primarily a male device, but it is also homophobic. I’m pretty sure that gay men don’t think the threat of anal rape is hilarious, and I’m also pretty sure they don’t enjoy an act they enjoy once again being used as a display of cruelty, disgust, and derision.

The English language is so wide and varied that surely we can think up a word that doesn’t have such awful connotations. No, it’s not the worst thing anyone can say. The thing is, danger lurks in seemingly harmless words like this. Words like this contribute to the ever-present rape culture that makes our society perilous for marginalized groups. So come on, I know you’re creative. Can’t we think of something better?

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Elfity

Elfity, so named for her tendency to be a bit uppity and her elf-like appearance, is a graduate student and professional Scary Feminist of Rage. She has a propensity for social justice, cheese, and Doctor Who. Favorite activities include making strange noises, napping with puppies and/or kitties, and engaging in political and philosophical debates.
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ElfityCan We Please Stop Using the Term “Butthurt”?

17 Comments on “Can We Please Stop Using the Term “Butthurt”?”

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  1. Profile photo of Brent
    Brent

    I understand the term being used in this derogatory way, however, I always used it in the sense that: “you’ve been on the internet so long, your butt starts to hurt.” Or, “you’ve sat so long and have come across a comment that sits with you, quite literally too, wrong (out of ignorance from the one who posted, putting you in a state of disbelief).”

    Only have I used it to mean this. I do apologize to anyone if the term has been taken out of the context originally intended and in response, I will stop using the word (which on further review, doesn’t deserve to be a word or even a made up one!)

    The best we can do is be respectful and use choice words carefully (out of 3/4 of a million words in the English language, there are perfect substitutes don’t you think?)

  2. Profile photo of registeringsucks
    registeringsucks

    Sounds like somebody’s butt hurt about being called butt hurt. But it’s true, there should be a little more creativity. Sounds like somebody is butt mad, sphincter shocked, colon corrupted, bottom bruised, anus aggravated, anal agitated, ass affronted, and quite possibly rectal ravaged.

  3. Profile photo of Tamalyn
    Tamalyn

    There are so many marvelously descriptive words available to us, there’s no need to rely on words that cause others discomfort or are downright insulting. If you’re looking for good insults, Shakespeare was the master.

    Thanks for this, Elfity. I’m with you. We can be much more creative.

    Oh, and the one that TOTALLY makes me angry? When they put the F in OMG. That rule is right there in the Big 10 – Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Man, why can’t lightening bolts come zapping out of the sky? It would just be kinda cool, sometimes. (Sorry, guess my vindictive side is showing today.)

  4. Profile photo of Alice Nevada
    Alice Nevada

    I guess I was clueless in my interpretation. I’ve not come across this term often, but when I did I thought it was a ‘hip’ new way of saying pain in the ass. Kind of like people someone was ‘owned’ when they were beaten in a challenge. And, yeah, I know I just made myself sound like the out of touch old fart I am. However, now that I know some people use butthurt and understand it to be a rape reference, I would never use it. But I’m also willing to give a user the benefit of the doubt, and not rule out that they recently had a case of the shits.

  5. Profile photo of Juniper
    Juniper

    This is the first time I can recall ever seeing the term “butthurt” but in general, I’m not a fan of terms like this. I’ve heard, once too often, the implication of anal rape when there’s a butt/arse/ass comment.

  6. Profile photo of Sara Habein
    Sara Habein

    I definitely interpreted MORE as “pain in the ass, I sat on something unpleasant” rather than your definition, though I do see where you’re coming from. It’s not frequently in my vocabulary, though it did get edited out of one of P-Mag articles on here by someone. Which is fine. House style rules and all.

    I’m kinda with Sally on the underlying implication of “fuck you” — which that and its sibling “fuck off” are both in my vocabulary.

    I’m of course not saying you’re “wrong.” There can be disagreement without it being so black and white as “right” and “wrong.”

  7. Profile photo of [E] Sally Lawton
    [E] Sally Lawton

    I completely disagree with this interpretation. I always associated it with spanking and that when one said, “Don’t be all butthurt about it,” one meant, “Don’t act like a child who has just been spanked.”

    Next can we not say Fuck You because it implies that someone might be fucked without their permission even if the word fuck in this sense happens to mean, “I really hate you right now and completely dismiss you.”

    As you say, language is vast, and if my interpretation of the term is that one his annoyed because something happened to make them feel like a naughty child, then it is accurate.

    1. Profile photo of QoB
      QoB

      Yeah, I agree. I’ve never interpreted it – when I’ve read it, as it seems to be more common in the US – as meaning that at all.

      Lots of profane phrases in English(es) use butt or bum or ass with another word and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything literal e.g.: English ‘mardy bum’, ‘sadass, ‘to arse around’. And even if it does (e.g.: lickarse) it’s not always homophobic.

      Not to say gendered/racist/ableist/homophobic etc. swearwords are cool (and I dislike casual use of the word ‘rape’ a LOT) , but I don’t think this is the same thing at all.

    2. Profile photo of Silverwane
      Silverwane

      For what it’s worth, one definition of “butthurt” on urban dictionary says: ” A special feeling in the lower backside after it has been kicked or fucked. It is usually characterized by noisy whining and complaining after being owned.” There’s quite a few others that make reference to anal rape in connection with the term, some of which say things like “spanked and/or fucked.” Other random internet sources say the term originated from spanking.

      However, a lot of people still see it as a reference to anal rape in some form or another in addition to spanking.

      1. Profile photo of QoB
        QoB

        Huh, good to know. Like I said above, it’s not something I hear at all really this side of the Atlantic.

  8. Profile photo of freckle [M]
    freckle [M]

    I don’t know.

    I know I can’t use the excuse of “I don’t think people will think about homophobia when saying this” because “Oh no they don’t know” is one of the most flimsy excuses in existence.

    I’d prefer people stop using it because it sounds ugly and is “over-acting” or any other synonym that hard to use?

  9. Profile photo of DrMrsJamesCole
    DrMrsJamesCole

    I had an issue with the term, but everyone I’ve ever mentioned that to (from a really diverse sample group) has said that their interpretation of it is ‘the pain after one fell on one’s rear,’ as in someone who’s faltered and been made a fool of for it. So, part of me is glad (?) to see that someone else sees the rape-y tones it could carry, but I do wonder how prevalent that interpretation really is.

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