June 07, 2006

A sudden loss of innocence

At the end of the academic year, students in Arroyo, the Stanford undergrad dorm which for the last seven years I've helped look after as a ``Resident Fellow'', are eagerly looking for ways to procrastinate, and one such way is taking a purity test. It enables you to tally your sexual, drug or otherwise off-color adventures in a notches-on-a-stick, trophy-on-the-wall or kill-sticker-on-the-side-of-the-humvee sort of a way. Many students took this at the start of the year too, so retaking the test provides them with a way to gauge the progress they've made during the year. Progress here means loss of innocence.

As for language related issues, well, I learnt several interesting words taking the test, but what I wanted to tell you about was this wonderful example of recursion.... oh, you want to know what the dirty words were first?

Cocrophilia The purity tests define this as `marked interest in excrement; esp. the use of feces or filth for sexual excitement', and all the immediate google hits are for purity test related material. The OED has never heard of the word. Hey, has someone been making stuff up? Am I allowed to do that? [No: a reader points out that the OED does list coprophilia. It's from the Greek kopros, dung. So this is a spelling error that crept into an early purity test, now to be web-propagated for evermore.]

Frotteurism Well, I guess everyone else knew what frotteurism was? It means rubbing yourself on others without consent. At least the current psychiatric diagnostic criteria take it to be non-consensual, and it's only illegal in most developed nations if non-consensual. I'm not sure if simply liking to rub yourself on someone legally and consensually has a name. Apparently the term frottage is now outdated as far as psychiatrists are concerned, though the OED still takes frottage to be the primary term. Perhaps because frottage can mean also to take a rubbing, e.g. of wood, for an artwork. This is apparently socially acceptable even without the wood's consent. Seems a slippery slope to me. Anyhow, back to the sexual sense, I particularly liked one of the OED's source quotes, from Ellis & Ararbanel's 1961 Encyclopedia of Sexual Behavior: `Frotteurs are only truly perverted when they avoid coitus and other sex acts.' So there you are: even if there was that one time in the frathouse and you were totally wasted and, well, yes, looking back, it was clearly a misdemenour, and no, he'll never talk to you again, and what harm would there have been if that girlfriend of his hadn't told him, and well, it looked like she was passed out, so how could you have known what would happen, and it's pretty damn dubious in your opinion that she watched the whole thing without saying a word until two days after... at least you aren't a pervert.

Klismaphilia Enemas for fun. Like cocrophilia, it isn't in the OED, but it seems to have a fairly established currency on the web.

Mysophilia No, don't look to the OED, but again the web is a rich source:  dependency on soiled and filthy stuff, e.g. sweaty underwear, and used menstrual pads.

Scoptophilia Here the OED does know the word, which it gives as `Sexual stimulation or satisfaction derived principally from looking; voyeurism.' The purity test's definition varies slightly but significantly: a dependency on looking at sexual organs and watching sexual activity openly, not surreptitiously, as in voyeurism.

Urophilia In context, you'd certainly have guessed what urophilia is (urine fetish), but the OED hasn't heard of that one either, although it does know the word urolagnia, which apparently has exactly the intended meaning.

Umm, why did I begin this post. Oh yes, it was question 497. So the thing is, the more Yes-answers you give on the purity test, the lower your score, but question 497 runs as follows:

497. Have you ever done something for the sole purpose of lowering your Purity Test score?
      Yes      No

Please, just for me, take the test, answer yes, and thus make it so! This way Language Log will soon be responsible for the largest drop in human purity since the discovery of klismaphilia. But, you ask, is there a nice, long, partially Greek word for someone who takes an almost sexual pleasure in such a delicious recursion as question 497 invites? Recursarecursarecursa...philia? Mungagnia? Naaah, the word is just geek, I'm afraid. But don't worry if you fit the bill. Geeks are only truly perverted when they avoid coitus and other sex acts.

[Update: see here, though, fittingly, it may be where you came from.]

Posted by David Beaver at June 7, 2006 01:39 AM