History of Swear Words (2021) s01e05 Episode Script


[Nicolas] It is a thing
of great wonder and mystery,
quivering with complexity,
strength and resilience.
However, also, buried within,
a delicate femininity.
And dare I even say, naughtiness.
Look one way
and you see a gentle feline innocence.
Look another way and… oh, my.
Yes, it has the power to steer our souls
and intoxicate our minds.
Men have died for it.
Women have moved in
with each other way too soon for it.
And to fully capture its essence,
we must plunge unafraid
deep within its enchanted garden.
Oh, my friends, we are so close now.
Feast your eyes upon
the very house of life and death,
the temple of sensuality.
And a term for that kid too afraid
to play dodgeball in gym class.
It also could be a cat.
[cat meows]
- I love the word "pussy."
- Pussy.
- [laughing] Pussy!
- It's sexy.
Pussy. Do you want me to define it?
Pussy is the vulva or vagina,
but it's a much more fun word.
It's not too harsh.
It sounds, like, light and airy.
Pussy, pussy, pussy, pussy, pusssssy.
"You're acting like a pussy."
You see the word "pussy" everywhere,
but there's some sense
that it's still off-limits.
[woman] This man boasting
- about grabbing a woman's pussy.
- Exactly.
Will you stop saying that word?
My daughter is listening.
"Pussy" is like a…
I think a more potent swear word.
Definitely an attention-getter.
Oh, and this one time, at band camp,
I stuck a flute in my pussy.
I say all the shit in the world,
motherfucker, dick,
but pussy's always weird saying it,
I don't know,
because I have so many sisters.
It is something that we,
as women, are… um…
feeling more empowered to say in public.
"Pussy" is comfortable.
[laughs] Pussy's comfortable.
It's the only acceptable word
to refer to a woman's vagina
if you are wanting
to have sex with that woman.
- Knee-deep in pussy.
- Uh…
- Oh…
- No…
Today, the word has several definitions.
Cat. Vulva. Sexual intercourse.
Derogatory slang for a weak man,
and the homograph, "full of pus."
A cat was a cat and a kitty.
And it wasn't until I was way older
that I heard someone call it a "pussy."
And I was like, "You have a very
strange relationship with that animal."
[Nicolas] While we know
its modern sexual connotation,
the meaning of this word has had
several iterations throughout history.
However, there's no one theory
about how the word developed,
but there are similarities between them.
The earliest meaning of "pussy"
is as a slang term for a cat,
and that's in the early 1500s.
Immediately afterwards,
It becomes a term of affection
used for a specific woman,
like "darling" or "gal."
A woman that you have affection for
might have cat-like features, right?
She's cuddly or she's sweet
- or, um… she's she's tender.
- [purring]
There were pamphlets
and screeds from 1583.
It uses "pussy" as a pet name for a wife.
The phrase says, "Taking a saucy boy,
making him marry a woman so that
he has his pretty pussy to huggeth."
Pretty soon after that, "pussy"
comes to refer to female genitalia.
"Pussy" I think comes from cat,
because it's, like, furry and feminine.
Because these meanings
all come in at the same time,
there are competing theories
as to where the word comes from.
[Mireille] Theory one is that the word was
derived from the Germanic call sounds
- used to attract a cat.
- [Nicolas] Here, pussy, pussy, pussy…
Theory two is that the word stems
from the Scandinavian word in Old Norse,
uh, referring to a pocket pouch or purse.
- [Nicolas] Here, pursey, pursey, pursey…
- [giggles]
The idea of a pouch or a bag.
Something that's a receptacle
that's there to be filled.
[Nicolas] Over time, the popularity
of profane words fades.
Slang terms for "vagina" are no exception.
So what were some other names
for "vagina" through history?
Old words for vagina,
they're all hysterical.
Honeypot. Hoohaa.
Garden of Venus.
Cypriot bag.
Flower pot.
Cecily Bumtrinket.
This is sort of everything that you want
in wordplay for genitalia.
First, it takes a common
woman's name of the time, Cecily.
So we've personified the vagina.
And then it gives,
as a surname, Bumtrinket.
So "bum" meaning, you know,
the bottom part of your body,
and "trinket" being something
that ornaments it.
I guess a vagina is a bumtrinket.
It's like… it's like a hood ornament
to the arsehole.
Sadly, it's out of use now.
Writers have played
with the word's double meaning
since it first appeared in print,
in the 1500s.
The jump from woman
to genitalia is entirely wordplay.
And it's wordplay on both
the "woman" meaning and the "cat" meaning.
The earliest use
where we know it means "genitalia"
has more to do with, um…
stroking your pussy, meaning your woman,
but also, obviously, her genitalia.
I remember being at Spencer Gifts.
There was a book in the adult section,
How to Wash Your Pussy.
And it had, like,
a picture of a cat, you know.
And my sister, who's Jodyne, said…
"Um… 'pussy' means 'vagina.'"
And I was like, "No, it doesn't."
There's a time
at the end of the 19th century
where there were adult stage acts,
there were the Barrison Sisters.
[Mireille] The Danish-born
Barrison Sisters were
a traveling dirty stage act
during the 1890s.
They would sing about their pussies.
[Mireille] Most notably,
a song where they'd sing,
- Do you wanna see my pussy? ♪
- [applause]
By the end of the song, they'd pull up
their skirts to reveal cute live kittens
- strapped to their groins.
- [meowing]
Be clever with your pussy.
You know what I mean?
Don't just put your pussy on a pedestal.
Hide your pussy in innuendo,
and surprise me with a kitten.
That's what I want.
And that's what led
to the formation of PETA.
So "pussy" has maintained
the same meanings
for all 500 years of its existence.
It only adds one additional meaning.
It's in the late 1800s, early 1900s,
to refer to a weak or ineffectual man.
I hate you. Stop smiling!
You pussy.
It's very gendered.
If someone's calling,
like, someone a pussy,
they're calling them, like, weak.
"You a pussy.
You a pussy-ass bitch."
A man who is a pussy is likened
to a vagina in that it is passive.
It is meant to be a receptacle.
It is not meant to be active.
I hear a girl at the office
got you pussy-whipped.
Don't be pussy-whipped.
Whip that pussy.
I really actually like
calling guys "pussies,"
because it seems to really upset them.
And there's not that many words
that you can call a guy
and have them get as mad as, like,
the c-word would make a woman.
And "pussy" is just one of them.
The male use of "pussy"
to mean a weak or ineffectual man
has kind of dropped off in use.
And the reason that you don't
It's not because it's negative to men.
It's because it is denigrating
a woman's body part.
Now I'm at a real crossroads
with the word "pussy,"
because I really did love
calling people a pussy.
But, like, that connection is, like
for my people.
You know, we should be calling people,
like, "ball sacks."
Because "ball sacks" are like
fucking Fabergé eggs.
We're calling people "pussies"
when ball sacks are like, "Oh, I'm cold.
I have to get up close to the body."
Whenever you have anything
that refers to genitalia,
it pretty quickly will generally refer
to the person who has that genitalia
as a sexual partner.
It's purely sexual.
And it eventually became taboo.
There used to be a time where
"pussy" was part of the underground.
It's this thing you didn't say out loud
in front of mixed company.
Unless you lived in the city, heard it
all the time, and thought, "So what?"
In the '30s and '40s, "pussy" was glimpsed
in Henry Miller novels,
heard in old blues songs.
So you knew somebody who knew somebody
who had it, they'd bring it to the house,
and play it in the basement
when everybody was asleep.
Lots of titles of books and movies
about pussy cat,
pussyfoot, pussying around pussy.
Dirty versions of comic books,
books that were printed by small presses.
The 1937 novel
I Can Get It For You Wholesale
really grabbed people's attention because
it was frank about sexuality,
it used the word "pussy."
That really galvanized
attraction for that book.
You just pick the book up,
put it inside another book,
and look at that word
as much as you wanted to,
and feel like you had done
something wildly different.
According to recent statistics,
many of us actually get our sexual
and anatomical education from porn.
- Wow, this is graphic.
- [gasping]
From the '70s on, we see "pussy" being
used pretty frequently in pornography.
However, it really goes
into hyperdrive in the '90s.
It makes sense
that porn popularized the word "pussy."
First of all, people are watching
more porn than they ever admit to.
So it influences pop culture, I think,
more than anyone would ever let on.
I learned about sex from porn.
They had it as a VCR tape,
so my grandfather left
and I put in one of his tapes.
It was called…
Something of the Gods. Something of the…
I can't think of the word but I put it in.
I tried to rewind it to the place
he had it. It just didn't work out.
More people talked about sex.
You had the sexual revolution, the women's
movement, the gay rights movement.
And you had disco.
But I think it's the mainstreaming of
pornography that happens in the early '70s
with films like Deep Throat
and Behind the Green Door
brought pornography
into the popular culture.
It was called porno chic.
And everyone from
Johnny Carson to Barbra Streisand
were going to see Deep Throat.
It's such a graphic word
and it's so informed by, I think,
the male gaze through porn, that, like…
It's like, when men talk
about, like, a woman's pussy,
it's usually in. like,
a very disrespectful,
like, hyper-sexualized way
that I think can be degrading to women.
This is embarrassing,
but I remember as a kid…
there was, like, a porn magazine…
that it was a Penthouse Forum,
that was in my older sister's bookshelf.
And I would sneak it out and just look
at the word "pussy" to, like, masturbate,
'cause it was so dirty to me.
It was, like, electric inside my body.
Just to read the word "pussy."
[Nicolas] Why do we use
animal nicknames for vaginas?
A lot of our slang terms for genitalia,
um, also have analogs to animals.
Kitty, coochie.
Clam, chowder, clam chowder.
Because sex is an animalistic act
and we've always kind of seen it
as sort of the thing that animals do.
- Pussycat.
- Cat trap.
My mom calls her pussy a lizard.
Our society tends to normalize "dick."
Kids draw them on desks,
and you might say I've drawn one.
But across much of mass media,
female anatomy is usually
hidden away, invisible.
Women are just made
to feel bad about the way they look
and who they are so often.
Especially this thing in between our legs
that we're never supposed to talk about,
never supposed to look at,
and only supposed to share with, like,
Jesus and one man we choose to marry.
I am 52 years old.
My pussy is not containin' itself.
[applause and cheering]
My pussy is like lava. You understand me?
We've become obsessed with our pussies
because for so long, we couldn't even
acknowledge that we had them.
And so now it's like,
"Yeah, it's all I wanna talk about."
I think words can be reclaimed.
And I think "pussy" is one of those words
where we're watching it happen.
Okay, back up a second.
Before we can talk about
the reclamation of "pussy,"
we need to go backward
and talk about Rudy Ray Moore.
He was a phenomenal comedian.
He put out comedy albums in the '70s,
uh… often under his character, Dolemite,
speaking about explicit sex
in really funny ways.
It was a big influence on the vulgar type
of rap that we saw later in party rap.
Case in point is 2 Live Crew.
They came out with a song
called "We Want Some Pussy" in 1986.
Any woman who hears
a group of horny-ass men goin'…
Hey, we want some pussy ♪
…like 50, 60 at a time,
they are going to run.
I'm talkin' Flo-Jo,
Jackie Joyner-Kersee speed. [laughs]
Whether by design or by accident,
the raunchy rap group 2 Live Crew just
can't seem to stay out of the headlines.
And after last night's
South Florida performance,
some members of the group
couldn't stay out of jail.
[Baron] 2 Live Crew was making
very sexually explicit music.
People are driving around playing it,
they're playing it from the club.
Of course, people walking by are like,
"That's pollution."
And so law enforcement
would show up at their concerts,
would confiscate
their albums at record stores.
And actually led to
a really famous court case where…
2 Live Crew took
the issue of censorship to court.
And they won.
It doesn't feel good
to be referred to
as women who are penetrated by men
as just "pussy."
I mean, we're so much more than that.
We're our necks, our backs,
our pussies and our cracks.
While groups like 2 Live Crew,
up through Ice-T, NWA
were pushing the boundaries
around censorship,
they were absolutely being
conventional and problematic
when it came to… oppressing women
in their videos and in their music.
And so it really took a huge revolution
among the women
to be able to speak up
and speak back to men.
People like Lil' Kim. I'd say Foxy Brown…
Talking about their pussy
as a powerful thing…
that can do shit,
and that you will ruin
your life for this pussy.
That's the way they were talking about it.
And so, like, Cardi B
and Megan Thee Stallion
are definitely standing on those shoulders
and definitely taking it
to the next level.
You heard the song "WAP"?
It's "Wet-Ass Pussy."
I think there's an interesting
conversation to be had about the way that
"Wet-Ass Pussy" got such a reaction,
specifically amongst white conservatives.
Because so much of profanity is
us quoting songs and quoting movies.
And even lines from poetry.
It's good to let them
short-circuit a little bit.
I think it's That's like, good art.
Yeah, and I think
"Wet-Ass Pussy" is poetry.
[Nicolas] How is "pussy"
being used in protest?
Currently, "pussy" is undergoing
this really interesting transformation
in that there's an attempt to reclaim it.
Um… you really start seeing that…
uh, actually with Riot Grrrl punk music.
So Pussy Riot is a great example of that.
It's the name of a band,
and they were jailed in Russia
for saying negative things
about the government and the church.
Part of reclaiming a curse word
that is derogatory, like "pussy,"
is, like, understanding
where the power is in the word.
You know, we're talking about
the way the male gaze has been projected
onto cis women's bodies.
And to take that back in
political protest, it's a powerful tool.
You start also seeing
a lot of backlash to, uh…
Donald Trump's reported comments
that came out in 2016,
where he said that he, you know,
moves on women like a bitch
and he grabs them by the pussy.
Don't tell me you're offended
when I say "pussy,"
- but you're not offended when Trump does.
- I am very
And suddenly you have
a whole lot of marches.
Women who are so incensed at that action,
that suddenly you see "pussy"
all over protest signs.
There were pussy hats
that were pink with cat ears.
So really, in recent years,
you're starting to see a push
into at least the acknowledgment
that this word has been weaponized
and can be unweaponized by women.
But it's right at the beginning
of this reclamation process,
which means it's really controversial
still for a woman to use the word "pussy,"
even of her own anatomy.
I personally have…
criticisms of the pink pussy hat.
I think there's some complex layers
uh, to mainstream feminism.
I think the pussy hat stuff,
that was not for me.
With its many uses and evolutions,
it seems that the word "pussy"
is a universe unto itself.
Or is what we call the universe
actually just one giant cosmic pussy?
And what will
the pussyverse's future hold?
Will it blow up like a supernova,
or collapse into a black hole
and suck us all in?
These are the questions
I ask myself at night.
Our new society is
redefining gender, sexuality,
to think in really inclusive ways,
so that we could talk about pussies
as anybody having a pussy,
as including trans women,
but including men having pussies.
In the queer community,
there's like, "bussy…"
So, really detaching the language
from the actual physicality
or what somebody's body looks like
in the traditional ways.
And that, to me, is really exciting.
I think the word "pussy"
has a bright future.
Be strong.
"Pussy" is for everybody.
Not just comedy clubs and strip joints.
Be flexible.
I think it's gonna go to,
like, a cool school.
Be resilient.
Your Aunt Susan is puttin'
pussy memes on her Facebook right now.
Be a pussy.
Uh, it's gonna make
a lot of friends and, um…
it's gonna come out as, um, bi.
Pussy just may be
the strongest muscle in the human body.
Pussy. Pass it on.
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