American Women: Their Cursing Habits and Religiosity

  • Timothy Jay


Cursing is the use of offensive emotional language to express one’s emotions and communicate them to others. Cursing is ubiquitous in American social life. Many questions remain to be answered since scholars have given the phenomenon scant attention over the years. Here I focus on two questions: Why do American men curse more than American women do?; What role does religion play in the process? These questions allow us to review research on three psychosocial factors, gender identity, religiosity and cursing. My aim is to demonstrate that people who curse use offensive language primarily to express anger or frustration, and that gender and religiosity moderate this habit (as do mental status, hostility and alcohol use). Religious women seem to be doubly restricted from cursing, first for their gender (men can express aggression more openly than women can) and second for their religious beliefs (Christians should not use profanity). I review religious restrictions on language, the relationship between religiosity and cursing, the relationship between sex anxiety and cursing, women’s use of taboo language, and working-class women as a counter-example. I begin the discussion with an examination of recent increases in women’s public cursing and an outline of cross-cultural cursing comparisons.


American Woman Sexual Harassment Gender Identity Tourette Syndrome Language Pattern 
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© Timothy Jay 2005

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