From the May-June Gay & Lesbian Review / Worldwide, p. 8, on the “BTW” page by Richard Schneider Jr.:

Saddlebacking The choice of Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church to deliver the invocation at President Obama’s Inauguration upset many people, who objected to the pastor’s extreme positions on abortion and gay rights. Some wrote letters, others protested at the swearing-in. Columnist Dan Savage ran a contest to see who could come up with the best definition for the gerund “saddlebacking.” (Readers may remember Savage’s 2006 contest to define the word “santorum.” [The winning entry for “santorum”: “the frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes a byproduct of anal sex”; the American Dialect Society chose it as the Most Outrageous Word of the Year for 2004]) The winning entry went as follows: “Saddlebacking: the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities.” The sly definition refers to a curious development among teenage girls and young women who want to preserve their virginity until marriage. Many have reportedly turned to anal sex as a substitute for vaginal sex on the belief that this will spare their maidenhead while allowing them to have intercourse. In effect, they end up “barebacking,” a well-known practice among gay men, while allowing their boyfriends to be “in the saddle,” so to speak, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof.

(Well, if the saddlebacker uses a condom, it’s not barebacking. But you can appreciate the instinct to treat saddlebacking as a portmanteau.)

The usage has entertained many people on the web; there are already 17,500 raw webhits. And back in January, the contest made the Economist, although the magazine was too decorous to quote any of the candidates. Of course it has Urban Dictionary entries.

The word saddleback is now a verb with a full set of forms — base form (as in to saddleback), present and past tenses, present participle in verbal (as in the progressive) and nominal uses (as a “gerund”), past participle (in passive and perfect uses) — plus the related agentive noun saddlebacker. It seems to have both intransitive (“they saddlebacked all night”) and transitive (“she let him saddleback her”) uses.

(The practice of anal sex between straight people is not at all new, of course, though the association of it with Christianity, premarital sex, and maintaining “virginity” might be recent, in the sense that it is recently fashionable.)

7 Responses to “Saddlebacking”

  1. Nick Says:

    Is the use of “virginities” meant to imply that both partners want to preserve their virginity?

  2. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To Nick: probably so (though the wording isn’t mine). There are lots of people, especially young people, who hold that the only sexual practice between male and female that counts as “having sex” is penis-in-vagina sex.

  3. mollymooly Says:

    “Saddlebacking” ought simply to be the opposite of “barebacking”, both literally and figuratively. “Warrening” would have been a better target, what with the rabbits and the tunnels.

  4. arnoldzwicky Says:

    To mollymooly: this interpretation was in fact suggested to Savage; the image would be that the condom was a “saddle” for the man’s penis. But Savage seems to have gone for some sort of portmanteau, in which the man is seen as “riding” the woman.

    There are a number of possibilities.

  5. Clarification « Arnold Zwicky’s Blog Says:

    […] By arnoldzwicky David A. Daniel responded to part of my saddlebacking posting (on this blog) I am surprised that in your article you would categorize the association […]

  6. Portmanteaus « Arnold Zwicky’s Blog Says:

    […] from various blogs: AZBlog on 5/22: Saddlebacking Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words on 8/8: appvertisement AZBlog on 8/18: […]

  7. Inventory of portmanteau postings « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] AZBlog, 5/22/09: Saddlebacking (link) […]

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