September 25th, 2007

Warning: linguistic dork out imminent.

Okay, usually stuff doesn’t just happen because we say so. But that’s actually the basic idea behind something called a “speech act.” “Speech act” is a linguistic term for the things we say that are completed just by saying them. Take, for example, “I baptize you,” or “I marry you.” The pronouncement of those words is the same as acting them out.

Though we don’t often think about it, speech acts play a big role in cybersex. Of course, it depends on our verb tenses. Sometimes cybersex takes on the conditional (“I would totally fuck you so hard”) or the past perfect (“then I totally fucked you so hard”), but it’s when it’s in the present that we’ve got some interesting linguistic phenomena.

When you say, “I fuck you so hard,” does it really happen? No. But in the realm of cybersex it does. It’s a bit like improve theater; once you’ve thrown it out there, you can’t take it back. Once you say, “I’m a mail clerk looking for a good time,” you just are. Once you say, “I fuck you so hard,” your partner can’t reply, “No you’re not, you’re fucking me softly,” because for all intents and purposes, in the realm of collective fantasy, you really are fucking him/her “so hard.” Say it, and it happens. It’s a cybersex speech act.

Does this topic need more research? Sure. Does it need a full essay on linguistics and cybersex? Double sure. Am I hoping to get that done sometime in my sunny, southern French future? You bet your academic-loving ass I am.

Tags: cybersex, language, my articles

4 Responses to “Because I Say So: Speech Acts and Cybersex”

  1. Cybersexy Says:

    You are referring to a closed comment (i.e. “I slap you”) as opposed to an open comment (i.e. “I lift my hand to slap you”). An open comment leaves your partner room to respond to your action without forcing them to accept it. On the other hand, without closed comments, the action would not progress.

    There is a fine balance needed between the two in order to make cyber roleplaying work.

  2. nectarine Says:

    I’d love to read you’re essay when you finish, will you webify it?
    My sister studies linguistics so I can get her to translate the dorky bits for me.

  3. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Hmm, good distinction, Cybersexy. Those are actually terms I haven’t heard used before–though maybe the people I’m cybering with are less cyber conscious than the cool people you hang with :). It seems, with the open comment, that it becomes a two-part speech act. One person poses the action, and the other person must speak acceptance in order for it to become true.

  4. Cybersexy Says:

    Actually, the terms I’m using are from roleplaying, although they work just as well in cybersex.

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