“This is a very thorough account Nick, well done indeed. You mention things a few times that would be better in the evaluation section – though perhaps you didn’t know about this heading? Also there are times when you could be clearer or explain your ideas more. Overally though, this is impressive and I’m glad to see you take it seriously. Don’t forget you can refer to this experiment Cameron’s and yours in the exam (if it’s relevant to the question!)”
That was the statement left by my lecturer, marking a piece of work. I hadn’t even written it properly (nor am I even convinced that it’s finished), yet my seriousness still earned me a smiley sticker. What must be so difficult to take seriously that I am worthy of a sticker? Asking a classroom full of 16-year-old students to write about penis and vagina synonyms, and semantic fields. That’s what. This was written almost nine years ago, but having stumbled across this while clearing out my computer’s documents, I can’t resist misguidedly posting this. I’m going to regret this, aren’t I?
I actually re-did this experiment myself with my fellow music student for the final big essay on my English Language A-Level, and got an A for it, but sadly I can’t find that one. Mum wasn’t impressed.
In the Mid-Eighties, Prof. Deborah Cameron conducted an experiment inspired by lists of synonyms for the penis created by students in two groups, male and female. For fun the two groups of students came up with as many examples as possible, with unexpectedly the males coming with more than the females, one-hundred-and-ten synonyms versus the females’ seventy-five. Cameron was inspired to conduct a similar experiment to decide whether these results were down to a male’s further familiarity of the penis, or something more. She gathered two groups, one male, and one female, led by an investigator of the same gender. Both investigators took a different approach to the experiments, as the female group when encouraged to talk about their sex lives so they felt more comfortable discussing these synonyms, whilst the males were encouraged to dive right in and come up with as many as possible, despite barely knowing each other.
This competitive attitude caused the men to come up with almost three times as many examples. The approach of both teams proved that there more to the exercise than knowledge of the penis and that it was down to psychological aspects such as the male group’s confidence and competitiveness. In response to this experiment, a similar investigation was conducted within class to see if there is correlation between results and to find more evidence of psychological aspects affecting them.
A recent study by Dr Luan Brizendine claims that sex comes to mind every fifty-two seconds in the mind of a man, whilst a woman only thinks about sex once a day. This study has been disputed by many scientists as the book that the results were featured in, The Female Mind, is biased towards females, claiming what a woman has that a man doesn’t. Another study in the book is that women speak almost three times as many words in a day than a man. This experiment was allegedly conducted on just one male and one female over the course of a day, with their conversations recorded for twenty-four hours. What wasn’t taken into consideration was the scenarios that each would face in their normal lives. The female may have needed to talk more than a man, possibly because of a career for example. Instead of stating that women may talk too much, it states that men have difficulty communicating. Again, it fails to take something into consideration; diexis. Men may make more sense to one another with actions. These studies have in particular been opposed Prof. Cameron who says that communication depends on the environment and not on gender.
In response to this experiment, a similar investigation was conducted within class to see if there is correlation between results and to find more evidence of psychological aspects affecting them. This test can also be used as a piece of evidence for how often sex comes to mind in males and females.
The class was split into to two groups, similar to in Cameron’s experiment, and were set the task of coming up with as many terms for the male genitalia as possible. This was followed by a second round which required the two groups to come up with as many terms for the female genitalia as possible. Again, like the Cameron’s investigation, there was no preparation for it as the assignment was set straight away, without warning. This caused several. A five minute time limit was set. This caused brief panic and instinct to start as quickly as possible. The results would be analysed in two ways; each gender’s total of synonyms and the number of synonyms that the one group had whilst the others didn’t. The first total could be used as a piece of evidence for or against Dr Brizendine’s analysis.
The first round was met with slight panic, causing a difficulty in communications. Whoever had the pen would have the rest of the groups rapidly telling them their synonyms. This means that some of these names could have been missed by the writer. One prediction was that the males would come up with more synonyms, solely for their familiarity with the penis. This also works in reverse, with boys possibly coming up with fewer synonyms for the vagina than the females. This prediction turned out to be incorrect as the female group listed more names than the male group, scoring 55 and 46 respectively. This supports Brizendine’s case that females have better communication skills. This practical exercise does take into consideration diexis, so her analysis has further support. However, there is also support for Cameron. The groups were unequal, with several more males in the class. This meant that communication between the males in the state of panic was more difficult.
It was predicted that these synonyms would fit certain semantic fields. These were food, weaponry and animals. The weaponry stood out in particular as it represents the power of the man, and without going into fine detail, this could be metaphorical for how it protrudes from the body. This was proven correct. The animal field was bizarrely anthropomorphic on the male list. Again this could be down to their knowledge of the penis’s appearance. The food field was particularly intriguing because on the female list, there are numerous different terms for meat, in particular, sausage. The female group’s list contains seven different terms for meat (ie. sausage, bratwurst, salami etc), whilst the male group’s list contained just two. This closes the gap between the male and female totals. A good explanation for this would be that because of the unfamiliarity of the penis, the females made their list bigger for coming up with many terms for a single synonym.
The panic had died down as both groups had become familiar with the task. Both teams were now competing, a trait which was treated as almost exclusive to males by Cameron. One prediction was that the females would come up with more synonyms, solely for their familiarity with the vagina. This prediction turned out to be correct as the female group listed more names than the male group, scoring 54 and 46 respectively. This supports Brizendine’s case that females have better communication skills. This practical exercise does take into consideration diexis, so her analysis has further support. However, there is also support for Cameron. The groups were unequal, with several more males in the class. This meant that communication between the males in the state of panic was more difficult.
It was predicted that these synonyms would fit certain semantic fields. These were food, defense, disgusting metaphors, and receptacles. The defense field stood out in particular because in contrast to the male genitalia, it is primarily internal and is represented by an opposite to the males. This was proven correct. The animal field was bizarrely anthropomorphic on the male list (bishop, one eyed ninja). Again this could be down to their knowledge of the penis’s appearance.
The receptacle field was interesting because on the male list, many different terms that fitted it. These eleven contrasted with the penis list, with words such as tool, ‘dinkle’, and meat, being matched with toolbox, ‘dinkle muncher’, and meat wagon respectively.
A good explanation for this would be that because of the unfamiliarity of the vagina, whereas the female group came up with more despite not having as many synonyms that fitted into the receptacle field. Another aspect that emerged on the list was how there were made up terms on the male list such as ‘the blob that ate everything’. This too was like how females came up with many terms for sausage to compensate for their shorter list.
In both cases the females came off best, with more synonyms. This supports both Cameron’s and Brizendine’s cases. It has been made apparent that despite the smaller group, the females were coming up with synonyms at a faster rate than males, possibly meaning that they communicate and talk faster. This exercise could not use diexis as it required verbal suggestions. Cameron’s case too was supported because the environment definitely affected communication ability, as too many in the group meant that communication was increasingly difficult. However, against her analysis that males are more competitive, this was portrayed as incorrect as the female team came up with more. Males were still competitive as in a time of panic; they made up synonym to attempt to catch up.
In conclusion, a stereotype that males think about sex more often then females can not be proven in this experiment. However, there is evidence for Brizendine that males may have difficulty in verbal communication.
And as for the list? Ta-da. And no. I don’t understand half of them either.
Penis, Phallus, Knob, Cock, Dick, Captain Helmet Head, Pocket Rocket, Purple headed Yoghurt Chucker, Wiener, Dinkle, Meat And Two Veg, Dong, Sausage, Winky, Bishop, Lizard, Third Leg, Tool, Little Man, Wanger, Todger, Willy, Rod, Monkey, Soldier, Johnson, Big Dogg (with two Gs!), Big Boy, Pee-pee, Schlong, Tackle, One Eyed Ninja, One Eyed Monster, Trouser Snake, Bell End, TInkle, Gonads, Stiffy, John Thomas, Tally Whacker, Banana, Prick, Trunk, Wood, Corey, Woody, Octagon, Fire Hose, Charlie, Jap Eye, Pencil, Package, Master, Big Daddy, Donkey, Beast, Ding A Ling, Frankfurter, Bratwurst, Salami.
Vagina, Rug, Beaver, Pussy, Cunt, Flange, Fanny, Beef Curtains, Bacon Flaps, Salmon Fillet (ugh), Twat, Axe Wound, Slot, Box, Spam Purse, Gash, Quim, Sausage Wallet, Front Bum, The Black Hole, Bush, Mound, Furry Cup, Meat Wagon, The Cave, The Blob That Ate Everything, Burger, Piss Flaps, The Bermuda Triangle, Muff, Cuff, Crevice, Dinkle muncher, Garage, Toolbox, Cement Mixer, Bucket, Orifice, The Dock, The Harper, Minge, Minnie, Pencil Sharpener, Punani, Slash, Funnel, Mrs Johnson, Slippery Slide, Tunnel Of Love, Dartboard, Passage, Fish Factory (ugh! why fish?!), Cock Case, Forest, Lady Garden, Flower, Plum.