But before all that, the voice of legendary New York Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto interrupts to provide a familiar play-by-play for their progress: “There’s the windup, and there it is, a line shot up the middle/Look at him go, this boy can really fly, he’s rounding first…”
Baseball has long been the classic American metaphor for describing sexual activity.
And it still is. Since 1999, I’ve been teaching a class on human sexuality at a private high school just outside of Philadelphia. As we study the interaction between sexuality and society, my students often discuss their lives and relationships with great candor.
What have I heard from them? The “bases” still refer to specific sexual acts that are performed in a strict order. You can be a “pitcher” or a “catcher,” depending on whether you perform or receive a sexual act. You can “score” or “hit a home run,” or be a “bench warmer” if you’re a virgin or someone who isn’t “in the game.”
But the baseball model is hugely problematic. It’s competitive, it makes sexual intercourse the goal, and it assigns strict and unyielding roles for “the players.” It doesn’t do anything to help young people develop healthy ideas about the place of sexuality in their lives.
But metaphors—and in this case, euphemisms—serve a purpose. Baseball won’t go away as our all-purpose model for talking about sex until we have an alternative to replace it.