BB Exclusive: John Waters on the Origins of Teabagging.

There's been a lot of talk of "teabagging" lately. Conservative anti-tax advocates in the United States have been organizing "tea party" protests, fashioned after the colonial-era protests of British rule. In doing so, they and the right-wing TV punditards who cheer these spectacles on for ratings have ranted about "teabagging," and the desire to "teabag Barack Obama" and such, without apparent knowledge of the word's more common street use.

More recently, news anchors and bloggers have giggled knowingly over that sexual reference, but nobody has acknowledged how the word first entered popular American slang.

I'll tell you how. John Waters.

Here is the email exchange:

XENI: Dear Mister John Waters: We at Boing Boing are devoted fans of your work, and we consider you one of the greatest heroes of the "happy mutant" culture we celebrate. Where does the term "teabagging" come from? Is it true that the term was first popularized, or originated, in one of your films? Also, what is the deal with right wing nutbags (if you'll pardon that term, too) appropriating a perfectly good term for a sex act in such an offensive manner? Your humble devotée, -- Xeni.

JOHN WATERS: "Teabagging" is by my definition the act of dragging your testicles across your partner's forehead. In the UK it is dipping your testicles in your partner's mouth. I didn't invent the term or the act but DID introduce it to film in my movie "Pecker." "Teabagging" was a popular dance step that male go-go boys did to their customers for tips at The Atlantis, a now defunct bar in Baltimore. Hope this helps. -- John Waters

* Yes, this is an actual transcription of an email exchange between Boing Boing and John Waters.

Below, the clip from his movie "Pecker" that started it all. (YouTube Link).


Mr. Waters' work in sculpture and photography is currently the subject of an exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles: REAR PROJECTION. Snip from show description.

"Rear projection" is a movie term for the process whereby a foreground action is combined with a background scene filmed earlier to give the impression the actors are on location when they are, in fact, working inside a studio. In Waters' latest work, this artificial and outdated visual effect is embraced, attacked and taken to extremes.

Glorifying the struggle, humiliation, and wild excitement of a life in show business, Waters uses an insider's bag of film tricks and trade lingo to celebrate the excess of the movie industry. Rewriting and redirecting existing film imagery snapped off the TV screen, he assaults, elevates, subtitles, and startlingly alters these one time classic, respected, even honored movies to attain a new kind of equality: a cult film that only needs one viewer - John Waters himself.

And finally: below, a rare John Waters short praising the merits of smoking in movie theaters.


(Special thanks to Mr. Johnny Knoxville and the incredible Richard Metzger, who you really ought to be following on Twitter instead of Ashton Kutcher or CNNBRK.)

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