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No Action Verb for Sex Feeds Taboo and Shame

woman making shushing gesture with finger

Have you ever noticed there is NO commonly used action verb for copulating that isn’t clinical or slang?

Think about it. We can eat, sleep, run, jump, play, drive, cycle, die, and even bury our dead. But if we refer to copulating, we are . . .

  • Having sex
  • Having relations
  • Making love

Or the euphemisms:

  • Sleeping with
  • Intimate with

Or the slang:

  • Doing it
  • Shagging
  • Banging
  • Making whoopee
  • Getting it on
  • Jumping xxx’s bones
  • F$*%ing

As an aside, that last one is not an acronym, as we all believed, and it was always used to refer to copulating with someone, who is not your spouse.

There are just a handful of words that are actually action verbs for copulating. I use RhymeZone, and it provides three, then the suggestions get wildy off course rapidly. The three words are:

  • Couple
  • Mate
  • Pair

I’m not sure even those three are even accurate enough. Especially, since they can mean other things as well. Let’s unpack this sneaking up when referring to the act of sex, and see what it might mean.

Sex is a commonly performed human act. But it’s not “polite” to talk about it. Imagine you’re at a dinner party with your lover, and all you want to do is go home and have sex. You don’t say, “Hey, it’s so great visiting with you tonight, but if we don’t get home soon, we’ll be too tired to copulate before we crash.” You might have friends, who you can be that honest with, but you’d still be left with slang terms. “Hey, Rachel, I’m sorry, but I have to get Jeremy home, ‘cause I want to jump his bones before we’re too tired.” Or, “Hey, later, dude. We’re off to shag, before it gets too late.”

Maybe it’s because it’s something that, technically, you can’t do by yourself. And not anything to do with it being taboo. We don’t have action verbs for other tandem activities. When we’re riding a tandem bike with someone, we aren’t tandeming. When we sing with one other person, we’re not duetting. So, maybe that’s all it is.

Or, maybe not. I believe our language follows our society’s taboo.

Why do I care? Our very language teaches our children that sex is shameful. Kids feel like it must be this forbidden, shameful thing; instead of a beautiful act we were built for doing. From their point of view, if the grownups aren’t talking about it, then it must be a bad thing. A nasty thing, which we should be ashamed of doing, or being curious about, or wanting to do. Yet, if our parents didn’t do it, we wouldn’t be here, we learn.

We can talk about eating, drinking, sleeping, pooping (to a lesser extent), and dying (not enough), but we can’t talk about sex. We have created a remove. And our very language feeds into the shame the taboo creates, by not even giving us a decent action verb.

I was raised with an unhealthy relationship to sex, which messed me up for decades. Clearly, I’m not the only one. I’m probably going to have Christians tell me it’s a sin before marriage. You’re entitled to that belief. I once shared it. But, like the Pharisees, who created more rules to prevent people from inching to close to the commandments, it’s all about control, and only leads to shame. The act of sex is a gift that should be celebrated, not an act that we are made to feel  is inappropriate, even when it’s within a marriage; something the wives must endure, or that is the husband’s right. That sort of indoctrination is like verbal female circumcision, and needs to stop.