How offensive is the F-word? The answer depends on whom you ask!
In the interest of full disclosure, I neither use the F-word myself, nor do I take any pleasure in hearing other people use it flagrantly and indiscriminately. Frankly, I think the repeated--and in some cases habitual--use of the word and others of its ilk serves only to reveal a lack of common decency, sensitivity, self-control, and a host of other commendable virtues.
A deplorable desensitization has occurred in American culture over the past six-plus decades of my life, particularly in the area of cursing and scatological language. It's not that people didn't use the F-word as I was growing up, it's just that it was not used in public, in mixed company, or in the presence of children. Generally speaking, people back then had couth; today, not so much.
Is it good at times to "push the envelope" of the current status quo in language usage? Sure, why not, particularly when shocking new words serve to elevate a people's social conscience. What was once called "separate but equal" in America is now called what it really is: racism. Now that's progress! The same cannot be said of the words tripping off the tongues of potty mouths!
Personally, I enjoy expanding my vocabulary, thereby enhancing my ability to speak and write with greater understanding, clarity, depth, nuance, and--wait for it!--grace. Words have great potential to elevate, edify, encourage, entertain, and educate. They also possess the power to debase, put down, discourage, titillate, and dumb down.
If I sound a bit prudish, so be it. Would that more people in America were prudish. Sometimes I feel I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness with no one seeming to take notice. On further reflection, however, I'm sure there are many more folks out there in Middle America who also decry the indiscriminate use of obscenities. I encourage them to speak up and make their voices heard.
Our precious First Amendment should not be used as a justification for scatology and obscenity, but as the basis for untrammeled, robust, and open debate in the marketplace of ideas. Now I can deal with ideas I find personally repugnant, irrational, and harmful. As someone said, "I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
On the other hand, to even suggest that the torrent of obscenities so much in evidence today even approaches the same level as the freedom of speech envisioned by the framers of the First Amendment is ludicrous and unworthy of debate. Rather, it is part of the darkness that the light must expose for what it truly is: a blot on American culture.