When Did "Bend You Over" Become a Sexual Phrase?

Slate's Culture Blog
July 24 2013 3:47 PM

When Did "Bending People Over" Become Sexual?

Anthony Weiner, a leading candidate for New York City mayor, answers questions during a press conference.
Anthony Weiner, a leading candidate for New York City mayor, answers questions during a press conference on July 23, 2013 in New York City.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Among the apparent turn-ons for former Congressman Anthony Weiner, revealed yesterday in his Formspring chats with a 22-year-old political blogger, were “fuckme shoes,” ball slapping, and hair grabbing. During one particularly steamy fantasy, he told the woman, "i turn you around and bend you over the back of a chair. your pussy asking for it.”

Which got us thinking. What’s the earliest citation of the words bend you over as an explicitly sexual turn of phrase? You’ll find it in early and mid-20th-century texts in a disciplinary context. For example, in a short story in a 1938 issue of Collier’s Illustrated Weekly, a character (who appears to have a thick accent) says, “Now, gel, you go bock before I bend you over and poddle you on my knee. And when you learn to ack wid some monners to me, you come and say you sorry for ackin’ like a fool.” And as expected, it also pops up in a more strictly violent context (“if you give this away to anybody on earth I’ll bend you over backwards an’ tie yer big toe to yer nose every night fer a month,” from around 1898). But it seems it’s not until much later that it takes on the connotation of sex from behind. No such definition has yet appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary, though the phrase has appeared in sexual contexts for the last few decades.

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Take, for instance, the following passage from Steven Zeeland’s The Masculine Marine: Homoeroticism in the U.S. Marine Corps, a book of interviews with military men published in 1994:

The first night, we were on the deck, and I was nervous. I was shaking. The junior DI, he says, ‘You’re shaking so bad you’re making me hard. I’m gonna bend you over and fuck you right now.’ I was really scared. He’s saying that right in front of God and everybody. And from then on he called me faggot.

In the 1984 novel The Evil That Men Do (yup, the one made into a movie starring Charles Bronson), a character says, “Then I’m going to bend you over and push you around the room. We’ll knock down the pots and pans. I’ll suck on you. I’ll make you sing. You’ll know what a man is.”

Both of these usages are unambiguously sexual.

By the way, for those of you interested in grammar, I wondered if “bend you over” constituted a phrasal verb with the object tucked curiously in between. Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist and professor at UC, Berkeley’s School of Information, told me that “over” acts more as an adverb here, “on the order of ‘I sent it over,’ ‘I pushed it down,’ etc.” Of course, Weiner wanted to bend his digital lover “over the back of a chair,” which turns it into a simple preposition.

Either way, how far back does it go? Could it really have been coined as recently as the last few decades? For now, it seems that could be the case. If you can find anything earlier, let us know.

Mike Vuolo is senior producer of podcasts and editor of @lexiconvalley.