Eat it! The oral humiliation you deserve

Yesterday’s Wayno & Piraro Bizarro:

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

A play on desserts (on the menu) vs. the deserts of just deserts. Plus a small cascade of idioms on oral humiliations. With a nod to the nasty rough edges of the verb eat (and, while we’re on the subject, suck). (Eventually, this will lead to some very plain-language talk — not for kids or the sexually modest — about some social and sexual practices among gay men. I’ll warn you when the topic is imminent.)

The ambiguity that drives the joke. From NOAD:

noun dessert:  the sweet course eaten at the end of a meal: a dessert of chocolate mousse.

pl. noun deserts: a person’s worthiness or entitlement to reward or punishment: the penal system fails to punish offenders in accordance with their deserts. PHRASES get (or receive) one’s just desertsreceive the appropriate reward or (more usually) punishment for one’s actions: those who caused great torment to others rarely got their just deserts. ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French desert, from deservir ‘serve well’ (see deserve).

You’ll get what you deserve, you snotty-faced heap of parrot droppings, … you vacuous toffee-nosed malodorous pervert! (Stupid git.) (from Monty Python’s Argument Sketch)

The idioms of humiliating eating. Again, from NOAD:

phrase eat crow: North American informal be humiliated by having to admit one’s defeats or mistakes.

phrase eat humble pie: make a humble apology and accept humiliation. [humble pie is from a pun based on umbles ‘offal’, considered inferior food.]

phrase eat one’s words: retract what one has said, especially in a humiliated way: they will eat their words when I win.

The routes from mere eating to humiliation are variously severe: the embarrassment of retraction in the case of eat one’s words (understood figuratively); the indignity of eating inferior food in eat humble pie; the deep shame of eating disgusting stuff in eat crow.

The nasty penumbra of the verb eat. (This is where things take a turn to the dirty, and they wil get more intense in a little while. If this doesn’t suit you, bail out now, or at the end of this section.) While eat is a perfectly everyday verb referring to the consumption of food, it has (at least) two uses that hover in the background, potentially contaminating its neutral uses:

— sexual eat. From GDoS:

verb eat: … 4 to perform hetero- or homosexual fellatio or, more usu. cunnilingus [1st cite 1888-94 in My Secret Life] [The usage is metaphorical, oral sex involving taking material into the mouth, as in eating — but not food, and not chewing and swallowing it.]

From which we get locutions like these (again, from GDoS):

verb eat it: 1 to perform oral sex [1st cite 1963, which strikes me as way late] 2 to suffer humiliation, esp. in attaining a desired goal [1st cite from Studs Lonigan in 1934] [The development from 1 to 2 depends on the social attitude that performing oral sex, especially fellatio, especially by a man, is disgusting, hence demeaning. That view of sex between men is common among straight men, but alien, even incomprehensible, to most gay men, for whom sucking cock is easy, everyday, default sex. Eat it? Hell, yes!]

excl. eat it!: (… it is the penis) a general term of dismissal, disdain [1st cite 1904; all cites US]

[Digression on the dismissive exclamation eat it!  The penis as object seems never to be far away in this idiom, which made the idiom grist for “Weird Al” Yankovic’s parody mill — in the music video “Eat It”, a take-off on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”:


From Wikipedia:

Alfred Matthew “Weird Al” Yankovic (born October 23, 1959) is an American singer-songwriter, record producer, satirist, film producer, and author. He is known for his humorous songs that make light of popular culture and often parody specific songs by contemporary musical acts, original songs that are style pastiches of the work of other acts, and polka medleys of several popular songs, featuring his favored instrument, the accordion.

… Yankovic released his second album “Weird Al” Yankovic in 3-D in 1984. The first single “Eat It”, a parody of the Michael Jackson song “Beat It”, became popular, thanks in part to the music video, a shot-for-shot parody of Jackson’s “Beat It” music video, and what Yankovic described as his “uncanny resemblance” to Jackson

Jackson’s song has beat it as in NOAD:

verb beat: 7 (beat itinformal leave: [in imperative]: now beat it, will you! 

but it too has a sexual penumbra, with beat it ‘beat off, masturbate’ in it.

End of digression.]

— fecal eat. Green asserts confidently that the it of eat it is the penis, and that might indeed have been its historical source, but speakers don’t know etymologies, nor should they be expected to, and some speakers report that they think the it refers to feces — in which case the eating is literal, not metaphorical, though the idiom does involve a specialization in the interpretation of the object of eat — and many report that they think the it refers to the penis, but also calls feces to mind. As in this figurative idiom (whose force depends on the belief that eating feces is deeply disgusting, hence demeaning), from GDoS:

verb eat shit: 1 to humble oneself, usu. to attain a desired goal. [1st cite 1972 from Charles Bukowski]  2 to be utterly contemptible [one cite from 2001]  3 to suffer and accept humiliation [1st cite 1941-5 from military usage]

A note on intransitive suck. As with humiliation uses of eat it, denigrating uses of suck are easily contaminated by sexual uses. The sense in question is this one, from NOAD:

verb suck: 3 [no object] North American informal be very bad, disagreeable, or disgusting: I love your country, but the weather sucks.

This usage is very widespread, and most speakers make no conscious association with cocksucking — but some do, and find the usage offensive; and many seem to feel that the usage gets some of its punch from fellatial associations.

A note on objectless eat in special contexts. In the world of coprophagy — scat, in local parlance — eat (and feed as well) are used without an object, but are understood transitively (with understood direct object shit): I feed, but I don’t eat. An unsurprising usage in the context, and it extends to agentive nouns: Are you a feeder or an eater?

These usages seem not to have reached the world of lexicography, but maybe I haven’t looked in the right places.

Delicious humiliation: the paradoxical pleasures of SHAC: . From a little-known fetish world to a much more widely known one, usually referred to by the initialistic label BDSM, but here I’ll use the acronym SHAC: submission, humiliation, abuse, constraint.

With some detail from the world of gay men:

submission — to a better, more powerful, more masculine, man; absorbing the power of a better man, becoming more like him, by obeying him, serving him, and especially by sex magic, by taking him into your body

humiliation — losing face, especially in public, by engaging in embarrassing practices, like going naked, or in disgusting practices, like drinking piss or eating shit

abuse — verbal, but especially physical (enduring pain)

constraint — bondage, confinement, sensory blocking

Of these experiences, the greatest is humiliation; the others are supplementary: submission, accepting abuse, and enduring constraint are all routes to humiliation.

I’ve posted about much of this world on this blog — see the page on fetishes and paraphilias — with some attention to the psychological values of such experiences for the participants. Here’s a bit about dominance and submission, from my 7/19/10 posting “The truly huge”:

When gay men who fancy the sub role in humiliation scenes, and the men who relish taking the dom role in these scenes, talk about the experiences, the emotions they describe range over quite a bit of territory, but for many, on both sides, humiliation as an ordeal or test is a major, or even the paramount, the defining, aspect of the dom-sub encounter: the sub proves himself as a man by successfully undergoing the humiliation, by “taking it like a man” (just getting fucked by another man has this resonance for many men at least some of the time, even if they don’t explicitly configure getting fucked this way, and of course subs in b&d and s&m feel this way, proud of what they can endure).

And afterwards the sub’s inner fears about his own worth have been, paradoxically some would think, allayed. Indeed the sub has become “a better man”: not only does he get a shot of masculinity-by-association, he also becomes comfortable with, indeed proud of, his identity (not merely his role in a short-lived encounter) as a faggot. (Not to mention his ability to get another guy to give him what he wants, what he needs.)

On the dom’s part, he gets not only masculinity-by-contrast and a power rush, but also the satisfaction of a job — as a kind of therapist, or spiritual guide even  — well done (giving the sub what he needs).

And of course, both guys get themselves off.

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