Google’s banned words hinder sex dialogue

SlateDecember 4, 2013 

Google recently released a new version of its keyboard for Android, and as reported in Wired, it comes along with a list of 1,400 words “that Google has quietly deemed inappropriate for Android users.” This means that Android’s dictionary will not autocomplete these words, no matter the context.

Unsurprisingly, many of the words are sex-related, but the scope of the prudery here is rather shocking. It’s not just that you have to type out all three letters when you write sex in a text message. The dictionary also refuses to autocomplete words like Tampax, butt and even condom, which could tragically lead lazy people to resort to the word “rubber” for their contraception needs-based texts.

However, there are political implications here as well. While Google has long had good reasons to ban “a frat party’s worth of homophobia and misogyny,” as Jon Christian at Wired puts it, the ban on autocompleting words for body parts and functions like uterus and lactation reinforces the idea that there’s something shameful about having these kinds of body parts and functions at all.

There are more questionable choices in the ban list. Some genius at Google decided to put geek on the no-no list. And for no discernible reason, Sunni and Iftar are banned, though no other religious words appear to be.

But back to icky sex. Other banned words include STI; if you want to do the responsible thing and communicate with your partner about sexually transmitted infections, you better type it all out, or call. Preggers is also a not OK. Google prefers “with child.”

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer who contributes regularly to the Daily Beast, DoubleX, Alternet and USA Today. This was excerpted from Slate.

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