So after setting the last shred of my soul politely on my boss's desk and making an ad for a restaurant chain that, karmically, I can never mention again lest I compound my sin, one of the tasks in this ad campaign was to remove it if somebody typed a dirty word in an instant messenger conversation.
So, with a few brilliant lines of code,1 I made a little function called isTextDirty. You send it the text, and it says true or false. All well and good, but begs some linguistic and cultural questions. Before I give you the two lists of words that our advertisers don't want to be associated with, a little about the lists and how they were created: There are two lists, "Strict" and "Loose". "Strict" are words that no matter where they appear, they are dirty, so "fuck" is still "fuck" even if it's "whathefuckRutalkinbout?". "Loose" are words that could be parts of other words, and not dirty in that context, so they only qualify if they're by themselves, so "cumquat" and "shuttlecock" will fly even if some of their syllables wouldn't, although it's still impossible to say either word without sounding dirty, and it still allows for "cumshot" which is probably on most of our advertisers' excrement lists.
Now these lists were created with a combination of common sense, lack of common sense, and advertiser requests. The advertisers in question noticed that we had many user tests on our site, some of which have content less than palatable to advertisers. So the advertisers would find certain tests, hop on the phone, and tell us to add a certain word to our banned words. The users aren't banned from writing these words, but certain ads won't show up on any page of the site that has them.
Without further ado:
Now, if you're anything like me, you immediately noticed that these lists include pussiology, and that despite cock and suck being in the loose list, the set will still allow cocksucker. Also, you can apparently be dominant, but not submissive, a sadist, but not a masochist, and even though you can't masterbate, you can engage in masturbation or be masturbating. You can get a handjob, but not a footjob, you can't fuck, and you can't cum, although you can still skeet, which proves white people still haven't caught up on that one. You can't give an oral presentation, discuss the social implications of porn, or mention that your friend is being a masochist by staying at his job. On the other hand, you can complain about staying home masturbating when you'd rather be skeeting over that fine booty on that whore receptionist. And though you can't talk about bdsm, you could slip this passage in from the Marqui de Sade:
"After some deft caresses bestowed upon the same altar at which, in me, the Count had signaled his devotion, he suddenly exchanged the object and fell to sucking that part which characterized the child's sex. He continued to finger me: whether because of habit in the youth, whether because of the satyr's dexterity, in a very brief space Nature, vanquished, caused there to flow into the mouth of the one what was ejected from the member of the other."
This was probably the least shocking passage I could find while skimming "Justine". I honestly have trouble reading de Sade, but nearly all of his most nightmare-inducing prose would pass muster on our advertiser approval test.
So, once again, banal words that might offend people, in no way other than because they think they should be offended and that other people might be offended, are banned, while the truly disturbing continues to meet puritanical standards.
I’m not going to go into how tiresome and stupid it is to keep children from saying fuck. The mentality that approves of fining radio stations for swearing is so far below adult I just want to give it a lollipop and tell it to shut up. What’s more amazing is how completely this mentality fails at doing the job it claims to be trying to do. In its attempts to cultivate its narrow view of morality, it stomps out arbitrary symptoms of what it perceives to be an immoral worldview, and so creates an easy to read set of rules you can use to circumvent the whole effort. And, of course, as with all arbitrary rules, hearing them immediately instills a desire to break them.
Even in the honest efforts of people whose worldview I agree with, there’s a pervasive lack of the imagination and will needed to approach a perceived problem as a complex thing with causes and symptoms that needs to be understood and addressed as a whole. Dieting is a perfect example. You won’t get perfectly healthy by eating Slimfast. You will get healthier by eating well at normal times, sleeping right, and exercising, all of which are difficult, complicated, lifelong efforts. Not worth it? Well, die young.
People are trained to think the problems of the world are, at their core, just some variation of sixth grade arithmetic, and they just need to plug in the right answer. Since that’s not the case, we end up being among the least efficient of species, stomping on symptoms of and trying easy fixes for problems that actually need serious attention.
1 Not really.