What’s So Wrong With “Sucks”?

A reader writes:

In light of the discussion of Alec Baldwin’s homophobic rants and your insistence that his use of the phrase “cocksucking fag” reveals much about his deeply-held views on homosexuality (a point I agree with, whole-heartedly!), I’d like to push the discussion in the direction of considering the use of the word “sucks” in general. It is remarkable to me, a heterosexual man, that people in America use the word “sucks” in a pejorative way. Here we have reference to a sexual act that is generally acknowledged as being particularly enjoyable by most men – gay or straight and anywhere in between. And yet, we use the term “sucks” pejoratively. Why?

I believe that the connotations are nothing more than homophobia and sexism in their plainest, ugliest forms. Now, maybe “sucks” is meant metaphorically in some other way. For example, “Broccoli sucks!” could mean that broccoli metaphorically sucks all the enjoyment out of dining. Maybe. But my gut says, no, that’s not what is meant at all.

Something sucks. Sure. But what does that something suck? The answer is often given: it sucks dick! Or, in a few cases that I’ve heard, it sucks ass. I think the answer is plain, that when something sucks, we’re referring to fellatio (or the sexual act of “rimming”, which carries many/most of the same connotations in this particular usage). Something sucks because it is not powerful; it is not manly; it is less than.

I know I sound like an earnest “queer studies” student in my email above. I don’t mean to be. I don’t want to police language, and I don’t want the world to be a sterile place where the use of a particular word can destroy a person. But, as I try to become more understanding of how my privilege as a white-looking heterosexual male affects my life, I can’t help but consider the use of the word “sucks” as being ultimately destructive. And, so, I have stopped using it. I hope you’ll do the same.