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Davis, California

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Column: Spouting off

It’s always interesting to hear from readers, regardless of what they have to say. By saying “great job,” “what the fuck, son” or something in between, it shows they cared enough to pick up a paper and formulate an opinion. And their opinions in turn lead me to formulate opinions of my own, regarding what I’m doing and how I do it.

Last week, I received an email from “E$” (E-Money). E$ respectfully told me that he found my writing distasteful, citing “The ability to manipulate interactions and words is like having a second cock. Anytime you unleash your linguistic load, it’s the best” as particularly offensive.

E$ stated there were more sophisticated ways of expressing ideas, and I agreed. “Second cock” was an exceedingly crass way to phrase it, and I might have been better served with “ancillary penis” or “supplementary shaft.” Kidding aside, I took some time to carefully consider the issue at hand.

I don’t want to alienate readers, but I also don’t want to write in a way that’s not self-representative. High school journalism involved writing articles like “Football team finishes 0-16, but everyone’s a winner.” As a columnist for The Aggie, I actually have an opinion. But the reality of writing in a less-insulated world is that people also get to fire their opinions back at you. And that’s just the way it goes. I made a few penis jokes, and those penis jokes became lightning rods for criticism — journalistic boners that grated against people’s sensibilities.

In high school, people used to ask me: “Why are you so obsessed with penis jokes? Is it because you don’t have one, or because the one you have is like two inches long?” Disregarding the part that’s a little bit racist, this raises some fair questions. Why am I so obsessed with phallic humor, and why might that rub some readers the wrong way?

For starters, phallic humor is hilarious. While it’s undeniable that there are more clever and sophisticated brands of humor, I’d argue that there’s virtually no brand more accessible than the traditional dick joke. Accessibility is often a linchpin in humor, as people laugh at what they understand and identify with. Most people can attest that inside jokes make for some of the best humor, but within the context of a newspaper column, there’s no such thing as an inside joke.

Phallic humor is special in that it’s humor everyone understands, even if it’s not humor that everyone enjoys. When a single word can set a roomful of people snickering (regardless of whether they’re 16 or 69), you know you’re invoking a versatile brand of humor.

Additionally, phallic humor speaks to immaturity. E$ implored me to regard readers as “intelligent adults and not 18-22 year old children.” And I see where E$ is coming from. College is serious business. The work is harder, the stakes are higher and only a short span of time separates most students from the rat-race. Davis students are intelligent and driven, but they’re also human. Being serious 24/7/365 burns you out, and life is about balance. An atmosphere that calls for hard work and maturity is also an atmosphere that calls for levity and immaturity.

Ventilation through vice is something people need from time to time, and one of my vices is phallic humor. In my response to E$, I acknowledged that I am prone to being incredibly immature. A girl once told me that she played the flute, and I reflexively thought, “Lol. That’s the most phallic instrument of them all, except for maybe the trombone and the harmonica.”

However, I understand that phallic humor isn’t everybody’s flavor. The second cock simile worked for some people and was just offensive to others. Despite its apparent crudeness, the simile still illustrated my point in a way that was memorable, if nothing else. Ultimately, it comes down to being mostly a stylistic choice. Different strokes for different folks, different rubs for different scrubs, different loads for different chodes, and different crafts for different shafts.

Spout off to BEN CHANG at bcchang@ucdavis.edu.

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