Sylvia Plath Once Said, ‘Opinions are Like Orgasms … Mine Matters Most’?

Claim:

U.S. poet Sylvia Plath once said, “Opinions are like orgasms… mine matters most and I really don’t care if you have one.”

Rating:

Misattributed

For years, users on Facebook, X, Instagram, and other social media sites have claimed that U.S. poet and novelist Sylvia Plath once said, “Opinions are like orgasms … mine matters most and I really don’t care if you have one.”

(Facebook page Poetic Outlaws )

The quote often appears in meme form, using graphics created by popular quotation meme websites AZ Quotes and Minimalist Quotes.

However, Plath never said these words. The quote, which is a version of a popular adage that has circulated since the 1970s, was first associated with Plath in an Oct. 20, 2012, post by the satirical Tumblr account Incorrect Sylvia Plath Quotes, which has since been deleted but remains accessible in archived form. For this reason, we have rated this quote as “Misattributed.”

The Incorrect Sylvia Plath Quotes account, which began posting on Tumblr in early 2012 and which literary blog Book Riot deemed an “amazing literary mash-up” in 2015, had a simple schtick consisting of attaching a spurious Sylvia Plath attribution to reader-submitted quotes.

Many of the quotes the account shared were obvious jokes, as in the below screenshot of an archived page from January 2012 that features Bill Clinton’s famous “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” statement from 1998 as well as a lyric from R&B singer Kelis’ 2003 hit “Milkshake.” 

(Tumblr account Incorrect Sylvia Plath Quotes)

However, the satirical aspect of the Tumblr account was not obvious to all readers, and some of the falsely attributed quotes soon began circulating as if they were authentic Plath statements. In 2020, Tumblr user lovingsylvia, who describes herself in her account’s bio as “Your friendly ‘Sylvia Plath police’ of the internet,” made a post debunking the “Opinions are like orgasms” quote along with other examples of falsely attributed Plath quotes and widely shared photographs of women incorrectly identified as Plath. 

Lovingsylvia was not the first to point out the false nature of the Plath attribution of this quote. In 2016, etymologist and writer Barry Popik investigated the “Opinions are like orgasms” quote on his blog. He, too, found that the quote’s common incorrect attribution originated with the 2012 Incorrect Sylvia Plath Quotes post.

Both lovingsylvia and Popik traced the original appearance of a version of the quote to a March 5, 2010, post by X user @LeFonk, who did not attribute the words to any individual.

(X user @LeFonk)

While Snopes can confirm that @LeFonk indeed appears to have been first to post the quote online in any securely datable form, it likely circulated through word of mouth even before 2010. Ultimately, as Popik also noted, the quote is a variation on the popular saying “Opinions are like a**holes — everybody’s got one.” According to the “Dictionary of Modern Proverbs,” the “Opinions are like a**holes” adage first appeared in print in 1972. In a separate blog post, Popik pointed to versions of the saying that made reference to other body parts, such as noses, and existed as early as 1913.

Plath is far from the only famous historical figure to be the subject of false quote attributions. Snopes has previously fact-checked similar examples attributed to Sophia Loren, John Adams, and Sinclair Lewis.

Sources

CBS News. This Day In History: Bill Clinton Says “I Did Not Have Sexual Relations with That Woman.” 2016. YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aGbdni7QNs.

Ibrahim, Nur. “A Guide to Archiving on the Internet.” Snopes, 12 Nov. 2022, https://www.snopes.com//articles/463946/articlesnewarchiving-on-the-internet/.

Kelis – Milkshake. genius.com, https://genius.com/Kelis-milkshake-lyrics. Accessed 18 June 2024.

Northington, Jenn. “8 Amazing Literary Mash-Ups on Tumblr.” BOOK RIOT, 16 Sept. 2015, https://bookriot.com/8-amazing-literary-mash-ups-on-tumblr/.

Popik, Barry. “Opinions Are like Assholes—Everybody’s Got One.” https://barrypopik.com/new_york_city/entry/opinions_are_like_assholes_everybodys_got_one. Accessed 18 June 2024.

—. “Opinions Are like Orgasms—Mine Matters Most, and I Don’t Care If You Have One.” https://barrypopik.com/new_york_city/entry/opinions_are_like_orgasms. Accessed 18 June 2024.

The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs. Yale University Press, 2012.

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