McKenzie Gets “Punny”


ESU Professor of Communications Studies


This article was originally written for the Pocono Record.


Why are people so obsessed with sexual innuendos–statements that have a dual obvious meaning and an implied sexual meaning?

High-school males eagerly pursue sexual innuendos to cope with their changing hormones. As in this classic exchange:  “That test was hard,” says a 12th-grader.  Then his buddy deadpans, “That’s what she said.”

Unmarried women have fun with these innuendos, too.

Like the woman who notices a 1950s Chevy outside her neighbor’s apartment and asks, “Your boyfriend has a hot rod?” To which her friend replies, “I sure hope so.”

Even prudish parents offer up mild sexual innuendos.

Like the mom who says she can’t wait for dad to come home so she can hold him in “all the right places.”

People use innuendos because talking openly about sexual activity in our Puritan-based culture is taboo.

This leads us to experience ongoing tension between our natural feelings of sexual arousal versus societal expectations not to speak about those feelings in public.

Sexual innuendos merely take this inherent conflict and bring it to a climax.

We get off on making ambiguous jests, knowing that we can’t be pinned down if someone tries to get us to admit we just made a sexual statement.

And if someone does accuse us of having a dirty mind, we just deny it with a half-drawn frown, skillfully turning the allegation back on the challenger.


Therefore, sexual innuendos allow us to express ourselves openly, but they also give us room for cover.

To use an unfortunate phrase, innuendos help us practice safe sexual expression.

Men often go too far with their innuendos, though, because their sexual expression is more repressed by society than is the case for women–leading men to overcompensate by making remarks that are too crude for comfort.

Which is why citing examples of their standard sexual remarks in this column gets the big stiff.

Since men have a twisted sense of normalcy in this area, a more balanced perspective can be sought from a woman who has big tips.

The biggest of which might be:  Men just aren’t as mature as women when it comes to sexual talk.

Be that as it may, the joke is really on any of you if you think you are cleverly hiding your sexual titillations under ambiguous innuendos.

Because everyone can see you under there.

What did you just ask?




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