Fuck is my favorite curse word. I like it because it’s fairly nondenominational. It does not insult anyone’s religion, race, or creed. It’s a word that can be used for everything but doesn’t actually mean much of anything. I say it a lot. If you’ve read my blog before, I used to do my writing at times as well, but not as often as I would like. My writing style is very conversational but there are times when I have to limit it. I don’t like limiting the way I speak or the way I write. It’s a necessity rather than a desire. Curtailing my use of the word fuck makes me feel a little less myself, a little less honest. So, why do I do it?
Because people don’t like it.
I live in America, land of the free as long as you don’t say the word fuck too much. Americans don’t like the fucking word. An American can take the names of various deities in vain and get a slap on the wrist from society but say the word fuck at the wrong time or in the wrong place and you risk outright censure. For the reasons I stated above, it’s a shame. In American society, a curse word that implies something sexual is considered far worse than those which denote violence or negativity towards people’s religious beliefs.
I have a friend from Australia. She says the word fuck quite a lot. It’s her favorite curse word too. One of the hardest things she sent to learn while being in America is to not say it in front of children. She refuses to curtail her use of it in front of adults, regardless of location or situation. My friend finds it ridiculous that people are offended by such a nonsense word. She does try not to say fuck in front of children, though that is difficult for her because in Australia nobody cares. Around grown-ups, she doesn’t bother. In her opinion, if people judge her harshly for it, they can fuck right off.
Picture this: you’re in Chuck E Cheese amidst an entire herd of happily playing children. You hear people say damn, you hear people right and left saying the going to kill someone, and no one bats an eye. Say the word fuck too loudly and you’ll likely be asked to leave the establishment. Because in America, it’s quite alright if you threaten to kill children, but heaven forbid you say the word fuck. That will apparently scar them for life.
I try not to say the word fuck in front of children. I try not cuss in front of them at all. Sometimes I fail. When I do, the conversation goes rather like this:
“Sorry about that,” I say, chagrined.
“Don’t worry about it,” says the child. “It’s not like I haven’t heard that word before.”
“I know, but I’m allowed to say it and you aren’t, so I don’t think it’s fair of me to say it around you.”
That’s what I always say because that’s what I believe. I don’t think any word in the English language is going to traumatize a child. Where children are concerned, the only rule I agree with is not saying curse words around children too young to know better than to save themselves. That will get the child in trouble if it runs around cursing and doesn’t understand why it shouldn’t. I don’t want to get children in trouble. With older kids, I’m more concerned with the unfairness of it. And when I give children that explanation, it makes sense to them, and accept my apology for using the words they are not yet old enough to get away with. That’s what it’s about really. I don’t think you’ll find a child psychologist in the world who thinks an accidental curse word will ruin a child’s life. Far worse, in my opinion, is the casual way we treat words that denote physical threats. It makes it seem like threatening someone with physical violence is no big deal, but saying a word that sounds sexual is a horrible sin.
As a writer, I wanted to be true to my own voice and my books had the word fuck in them. My romance novel, Descending, still has a few instances of that word. I think if a character is being threatened by a grizzly bear, they have the right to say the word fuck. However, I de-fuckified the rest of my books. While in my heart I wish I could remain true to my love of the word fuck, the truth is that I am an American writer writing for an audience which is comprised mostly of American readers. While I believe very strongly that the word fuck is not the bugaboo that many people think, I decided that I did not want readers to miss out on any of my books because of one tiny word.
My work still has cuss words and it, I’m not that dishonest. I write adult fiction for adults. There’s adult situations, occasional violence, and strong language involved. But not the word fuck, that is, unless you read Descending. I never did de-fuckify that one. Perhaps I will when I get the time.
It mystifies me though. We have teen fiction that has graphic violence, sex, and drug use, yet a writer of adult fiction has to make this big decision about whether they’re going to use the word fuck. It seems to me our priorities are bit fucking backward.
If you write fiction for adults, you will have to make this decision too. It is absolutely your right to use any language and any words you wish, but know that your choices will have a real effect on who reads your books and who chooses not to. I dream of an America where people are more concerned with their children hearing about violence and seen it in movies and on the TV then they are worried about their child hearing the word fuck. I think we have a long way to go to get there.
Don’t forget to nominate Ghost in the College at Kindle Scout! Everyone who nominates it will get a free copy.