Good To Be Bawdy

Readers of this blog know I'm on the earthier side of the behavioral spectrum. So you will surely not be surprised to find a defence of bawdiness here. Let us define our terms, figure out how much wiggle this thing has, and preserve our modesty as a precious thing all the while.

I begin by telling you now, and explaining to you later, that I despise all things indecent, nasty, unclean, abusive, and immodest.

The concept of obscenity is a good bellwether for us to talk about how to be bawdy. Something is obscene if it ought to be off the scene, but isn't. There are some things that ought not to be scene by certain people (i.e. sex between a husband and wife ought not to be scene by the entire rest of the world's population). But obscenity is not defined by the act; it's defined by its appropriateness.

I won't ever be obscene (put better, if I do, I do ill), but I'll certainly be bawdy in the right circumstances. Which come around more often than you'd think.

The following comes from a Ship of Fools article.
[C. S.] Lewis virtually chain-smoked throughout the day and night, both cigarettes and pipe, enjoyed bawdy humour with his beer, and was very loud and cheery – not at all retiring in manner or pious in outward behaviour.
According to Terry Lindvall in Surprised by Laughter: The Comic World of C. S. Lewis, Lewis loved bawdiness and jokes about sex, but despised dirty stories containing smut or blasphemy, which when "told in his presence, he did not disguise his annoyance."

"So then he said, 'A fresh bar of soap, sir.'"

There is a difference between people who joke about sex as an appreciation for the way God made us and the world, and those who joke about sex as a way of "dabbling in their lusts." But people who do the latter aren't being bawdy; they're being obscene. How do you know if you're being obscene? If what you're saying is cruel, if it would embarrass, compromise, or shame someone, if it's contemptuous (particularly of women), if it's not something your wife could hear, it's obscene.

It's bawdy if it's hilarious.

And I don't mean hilarious "I laughed a lot". You might be laughing at something nasty. I mean causing delight and joy and hilarity. Something your mother, if she's not overly prudish, would be amused by.

Something your wife would only minimally roll her eyes at.

I've brought up women a couple of times here. Women are as bawdy as men are. But I write for men, so let's talk about bawdiness around females.

It's fine.

No, really.

Bawdiness is for friends. If you're in a mixed group of friends, there's nothing wrong with being bawdy, as long as we remember that part of how we defined bawdy earlier is appropriateness. (Yes, it's one of those things you'll have to figure out!) Be bawdy around the right people. Sweet, sweet, much-loved Modesty, which I treasure as a rich thing, loves to dance with Bawdiness. It seems like half the women in our church are either midwives, midwife apprentices, or doulas. As you might imagine, these women can handle themselves in the bawdy arena.

(It is very possible to become tiresome in one's bawdiness, I often run that danger. The problem is not the bawdiness; the problem is being tiresome. Don't be a bore, darling.)

Then there's bawdiness around the wife. Be kind to her. If she was brought up prudishly, don't be an ass and start pushing things. You probably have bigger fish to fry anyway; joyfully take care of those first. Which leads into a pretty big idea:

Bawdiness is a sign of a healthy perception of sex. According to Lewis, it can break the bonds of obsession, the "erotic enchantment". This whole thing we do, and the way we do it, is awe-inspiring. It's amazing to think that God made it for us, not just for the pleasure of it, but for how it brings a husband and wife together. But it's also hilarious to think that God made it the way he made it; admit it, it's kind of funny. Which means its kind of fun.

Sex is more about fun than it is about pleasure or release. So stop obsessing about it and start laughing about it.


  1. An intersting idea, Joffre. My Christian friends and I engage in bawdy humor regularly. I tend to agree with your assessment of the situation.

  2. Anything worth doing is worth laughing about.

  3. I agree in principle, but lately I've been so weary of deliberate and cheerful blasphemy/obscenity, I've lost the taste for bawdiness.

    I feel as if I need a week of isolation, at least, to recover. That and a good way to block certain people ;-)

    1. Always easier in principle! :-) Thanks for reading!

  4. Please write a book about this subject and I promise to buy a copy.

    1. Man, what a fun project that would be...

  5. People are strange when you're a stranger. Bawdiness seems obscene when you're a legalist.


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