When Media And Tech Acronyms CopyCat Sex Acronyms

First, it was MSM. I came across it in a NY Times blog in the following context:

“Marty Singer, the go-to guy for star-crossed stars, usually takes on big M.S.M. targets when he or his clients feel they have been oppressed by the media…

MSM? Men who have Sex with Men? This differs in my world of sex research, I should note, from MSMW which refers to Men who have Sex with Men and Women. We use these terms to make behavioral distinctions between groups of people given that sexual orientation labels don’t always reflect what people think they do. If you try to implement an intervention that targets safer sex messages to “gay” men, for example, you will likely  miss an entire group of men who have sex with men but who do not identify as gay. There are times we use gay and times we use MSM but suffice it to say that the term MSM is ingrained in my mind as referring to men who have sex with men.

So in spite of the fact that I have  a fairly active online life that includes this blog and others, it still took me a moment to figure out that, in this context, MSM meant “mainstream media.” Apparently MSM can also refer to Microsoft Messenger (but I don’t use that, so not relevant to me – though I hear that some people outside of Seattle actually use it). Oh and by the way? My version of MSM has been around way longer than the media kind, so I’m calling dibs.

Then on Twitter I saw a tweet that started out as “Following the hubbub over its new SM policy…” and my mind immediately went not to social media but to sadomasochism (the SM in my work world). I’m also – only slightly – sad that OS has come to be known as “operating system” when in some circles it has long (and I mean way, way long) meant “oral sex”.

I realize that there are only 26 letters in the English alphabet – and thus the number of different acronym combinations is somewhat limited – but lately the overlap between my two worlds of sex and media is beginning to throw me. I couldn’t have cared less when PC (politically correct) became PC (the clunky thing on my desk). But to take my day to day sex research/education acronyms and make them into something else is tricky for me. It would be almost as bad if FB (which to me means Facebook) suddenly became used in the sex research world – standing for, perhaps, Fetish Boy – and this term became popular and often-used.

Acronyms I would like the media and tech worlds not to take over any time soon include: VVS, VVD, STI, HIV, AIDS, Tx (as in treatment, not Texas), MtF, FtM, Tg, or OC.

They can, however, have VD – in fact, I would LOVE for the media world to take the icky VD term (venereal disease) and turn it into something awesome. They can even have STD now that STI is increasingly en vogue in the sex community. And while I see that NASA has taken STI to mean “science and technology initiative”, that doesn’t impede on my personal space so I’m fine with it.

I would also prefer that non-sex fields not take on terms such as “watersports”, “top” or “bottom” (the latter two as verbs) and turn them into something else for the time being. In return, I will try to learn new media and tech acronyms. Also, I will do my best to convince the sex community to not take over terms like UGC, TK, HD or RT and make them into sex related things.

Are we cool then?

About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu.

  • Pete

    FB also refer to “Fuck Buddy”… so it is in your sex world already ;-)

  • Pete

    FB also refer to “Fuck Buddy”… so it is in your sex world already ;-)

  • Pete

    I’m a software engineer and in the tech world ‘Tx’ stands for ‘transaction’

  • Pete

    I’m a software engineer and in the tech world ‘Tx’ stands for ‘transaction’

  • James

    the biggest complaint I’ve come across is TTC on twitter stands for Toronto Transit Commission (or Complaint) and Trying To Conceive. 2 completely different topics but neither community of twitter users want to stop using the #hashtag #ttc

  • James

    the biggest complaint I’ve come across is TTC on twitter stands for Toronto Transit Commission (or Complaint) and Trying To Conceive. 2 completely different topics but neither community of twitter users want to stop using the #hashtag #ttc

  • http://twitter.com/search?q=%23ttc James

    any suggestions on alternatives to TTC ?

  • http://twitter.com/search?q=%23ttc James

    any suggestions on alternatives to TTC ?

  • Debby

    Good question. Anyone? I’m stumped.

  • Debby

    Yikes! You’re right! Darn it.

  • Debby

    Good question. Anyone? I’m stumped.

  • Debby

    Yikes! You’re right! Darn it.