Today we’re going to answer the question “What the f#ck is a circle jerk?” so you don’t end up like Melissa Rauch’s parents.
To begin, clusterfuck doesn’t literally refer to a potential real-world occurrence—it just replaces a literal bomb with a figurative fuck—and it’s unpleasant for everyone involved.
I love the word clusterf%ck.
What, literally, is a circle jerk? All sources agree that it can refer to a circle of men, each jerking off the guy next to him. Some sources insist (sometimes vehemently) that this is the only thing it can literally refer to. Other sources allow for a circle where each member handles himself, and this seems to be what many early uses we can find in Google Books refer to (see below). This doesn’t make as good a metaphor, though, in real-world mechanics, it obviously requires less coordination. I'm offended.
One thing I can say for sure is coming from my ZIP Code. I never heard that term until I made it into corporate America. Let alone a sexual suggestiveness behind the term.
Can a circle jerk involve females? The expected mechanics of “jerking off” would seem to preclude it, but nothing is preventing an analogous female activity. A Reddit thread generated assorted ideas about what one would call such a thing; the most popular one was The View, but I don’t think it was meant literally. Of course, anyone, regardless of equipment, can participate in a figurative circle jerk.
So. Circle jerk started as a very literal reference, then became a graphically evocative figurative reference, and is now tame enough to appear in mainstream fiction (but not yet the New York Times).