Part one: “Whores”, “Sluts” and “Studs”

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Mary Magdalene

By now, we’ve all heard about the horrid verbal and political attack of Rush Limbaugh against college student Susan Fluke and by association, women in general.  If at least one good thing has come of this atrociously sexist rant, it’s the frank and open discussions that are happening in its wake.  The line is drawn in the sand. When the misogyny is so “in your face”, it can’t be ignored, both politicians and the corporate lords who fund them are now forced to choose a side of the fence.

The basic issue here of course is property rights.Up until around 1900, women couldn’t own property at all. Now at least we can own houses, cars, televisions, pets and even the clothes on our own backs. Apparently the one thing we still struggle for ownership over is our SELVES.

http://womenshistory.about.com/od/marriedwomensproperty/a/property_rights.htm

A friend posted to my Facebook wall a link to this wonderful blog entry by Cynthia Beard

http://cynthiabeard.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/to-all-my-sisters-in-this-world-you-are-not-a-whore/#comment-98 .

It was her reaction and rebuttal to the current misogyny in politics and the media and specifically to Limbaugh’s actions. In this essay, Ms. Beard basically addresses a letter of love and acceptance to women of all ages and lifestyles stating that they are not “whores”. One interesting comment came from a woman who DOES call herself a whore. She states that she is also “a mom, a sister, a friend and a co-worker” and that she” deserves the same rights as any other human being”. Ms. Beard answers that her essay is referring to the term “whore” as it is of course commonly used as a derogatory term, and that she only wishes that there was a more “affirming” term for those who work in the sex industry.

The term “whore” according to dictionary.com is:

whore (hɔː)

n

1.

a prostitute or   promiscuous woman: often a term of abuse

vb

2.

to be   or act as a prostitute

3.

(of a   man) to have promiscuous sexual relations, esp   with prostitutes

4.

( often   foll by after ) to seek that which is   immoral, idolatrous, etc

I am by no means an expert on the subject of prostitution, but I just want to point out that usually I hear the term “whore” with all of its negative connotations used primarily when describing a FEMALE prostitute.  Is there a negative term for a MALE prostitute? I have heard the term “whore” on occasion used for men but most often I’ve heard it used to describe GAY male prostitutes. When you hear the term “whore” the default picture that comes to mind is usually of the female gender. As a verb ie “whoring” it seems to be used to describe the actions that a man has taken with prostitutes of the female gender.

It was brought up in the blog comments that perhaps the word “slut” may have been a better term for Ms. Beard to use.

Dictionary .com defines:

slut (slʌt)
n  

1.

derogatory a dirty slatternly   woman

2.

derogatory an immoral woman

3.

archaic a female   dog

In common vernacular we use this term generally to describe a person of the female gender who has “a lot of sex”, who has had “a lot of sex with a lot of different men” or even a person of the female gender who enjoys sex a lot. However, anyone who’s ever been in high school can attest that all it takes is one sexual encounter for a female student to be considered a “slut”.

It is a derogatory term for which again, there seems no male correspondent.  What do we call a man who has had “a lot of sex” or who has had “a lot of sex with a lot of different women” or who enjoys sex a lot? Usually we call him a Stud.

stud 2 (stʌd)
n  

1.

a group of pedigree animals, esp horses, kept for   breeding purposes

2.

any male animal kept principally for breeding   purposes, esp a stallion

3.

a farm or stable where a stud is kept

4.

the state or condition of being kept for breeding   purposes: at stud ; put to stud

5.

( modifier )   of or relating to such animals or the place where   they are kept:   a stud farm ; a stud horse

6.

slang a virile   or sexually active man

7.

short   for stud poker

There was a time, thousands of years ago, when the act of prostitution was sacred. The temple prostitutes were the priestesses of the Goddess, and sex was a sacred gift from her to human kind. A visit to the temple prostitute was considered a blessing from the Goddess.  Under thousands of years of patriarchy and misogyny, what was once considered sacred, is now what we call “The Sex Trade” .If we look at the human body as being the property of the person living in it, said person should have the right to use it as they wish, whether that means overfeeding it, using it for procreation, OR using it to make an income in the sex trade whether we LIKE what the sex trade is / stands for or not.

We need to spend LESS time making judgments about those who work in the sex trade and MORE time looking at the social circumstances that would influence someone to choose this path.  True, some may actually choose it because they like it and as the soul PROPERTY OWNER of their bodies it is their RIGHT, to do so. Most women I would venture to say, choose to enter the sex trade out of necessity. In a system where women are disenfranchised we would call them “whores” for doing what needs to be done to feed themselves, and their children.  In a system where men pat themselves on the back in locker rooms for their virility, we would call a woman who enjoys the same sexual freedom a “slut”.

Linguistics reveals much about a culture and its values.  What does it say about a culture that calls its sexually active women “dirty, immoral, female dogs” and its sexually active men “virile, pedigree, stallions?”

Part two:  “Whores, Sluts, and Studs” in pop culture.

8 responses »

  1. Thanks for this thoughtful analysis of the gender dynamics of this dialogue about language choices and stereotypes. I appreciate you delving into the mystical history of sex workers, and I also can’t help but think of courtesans and geishas more recently. Courtesans in particular were highly educated, and in fact had access to a lot of privies that wouldn’t have been available otherwise. I look forward to following your blog!

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  5. Interesting page, and well written, even if I don’t necessarily agree with all of it. First, I disagree with Limbaugh completely – he’s not conservative, he’s an idiot. Still, I openly admit I’m of the mindset that some things shouldn’t be sold, and sex is one of them. For one thing, I think you’re looking back at history with some rather tainted goggles. It’s easy to sit and say, “look, they were sacred, they worked at the temple”. Of course that conveniently ignores the entirety of the situation, where women had no legal rights over themselves (or anyone else – including their children). Women were property. Women of the temple were property to keep men coming to temple. Well kept, yes, but house slaves tend to be. After all, one needed to keep up the image of respectability so that johns – I’m sorry, worshippers – didn’t feel bad about what they were doing. It’s impressive really. How does it go, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist”? Well, I would consider the act of convincing women that being an owned sex object is a glorious thing isn’t too shabby of a trick either.

    As for the property ownership of one’s body, yes, we do mostly own our bodies, but not entirely. For example, when we got rid of slavery, we decided that an individual cannot be sold, whether by others or themselves. By the same logic you use to support people’s rights to sell their bodies for sex, slavery – or in the least indentured servitude – should also be legal, so long as the person agrees to it beforehand. I’m sure there are some desperate men who would find living as an indentured servant doing manual labor favorable to homelessness and begging, but we have decided that some things should not, can not, be commodities.

    Related to this whole idea of the act of sex existing beyond commodity is rape law. Say what you want about rape being about control, and that is part of it, but I can hold a person down for hours while sticking dung in their mouth and I won’t see the punishment that I would for rape. This is due to the elevated place of sex in our society, and as such the increased sense of violation when it is abused. If the act of sex goes to being a commodity, rape law will have to be removed. After all, we already have a classification for the taking of unpaid commodities: theft. So, in place of rape we would have theft of service. I suppose to be accurate we would have to rank each individual as to the monetary value of their sexuality so that we could make certain people were punished appropriately for the value of the service stolen. You see, sex can’t be sacred when convenient, and just another thing to buy and sell the rest of the time. Well, unless we wanted to be complete hypocrites I suppose.

    That brings us to the gender disparity in regards to sex and sexuality. No, I’m not going to argue that it’s not there, because it clearly is. True, we now have words like man-whore and the like, and as women gain more traction in society the less they feel the need to smile and accept some of men’s poor behaviors, but the words don’t carry the same weight, nor the behavior the same condemnation. Of course, if we’re going to truly analyze the situation, we have to look at the the deeper source, which permeates our entire society. Why are women subject to harsher treatment when they act promiscuously? Well, it’s the same reason why hitting a woman is worse than hitting a man. It’s the same reason men are easily sent off to war and danger, while women are not. It’s the same reason we have the saying “women and children first”, why a kidnapped woman warrants massive media covered searches and not a missing man, and why women were forced to stay at home and turned into property. It’s the source of women’s social protections, as well as the chains that have bound for millenia. Quite simply, female reproduction has value, while male does not.

    It makes sense from a tribal standpoint, and we are nothing if not a tribal species by nature. When population is low, losing a female, whether it be to injury, illness, kidnapping, or impregnation by a rival tribe, can mean the end of your people’s bloodline. After all, the number of offspring a woman can have in a lifetime are far fewer than that of a man, and she can only participate in one pregnancy at a time. Not to forget that surviving childbirth was somewhat iffy for most of history. Alternately, one man can impregnate countless women over the same period. This made women something to be protected, and sadly, became twisted into justification for control, ownership, and all kinds of horrible treatment. In a tribal setting, men are expendable, women are not. Of course, in modern society this loses most of its relevance as we aren’t in short supply of either gender, but old habits are hard to break, and these habits are oh so old. So men continue to try and control, women avoid selective service, and I have to pay for dinner and a movie. It doesn’t excuse the behaviors, but it does help explain them.

    You may have noticed that I said that most were irrelevant in modern society, despite the continued pressure they exert upon it. Well, there are still a few that apply to modern life. Impregnation by a rival is one of them. You see, short of an accident at the hospital, a woman will always know that her children are hers. A man needs to take this on faith, and as such the behavior of the woman he is with becomes far more relevant. Maybe this doesn’t seem like such a big deal to you. It’s easy to dismiss something that one is physically incapable of experiencing. Men do it with difficulty and pain of pregnancy and childbirth all the time after all. But make no mistake, there’s a reason men rate physical infidelity as worse than emotional, unlike women who generally rate emotional as the darker betrayal. The 30% of the roughly 300,000 annual paternity tests that show the father to be a man other than the one claimed by the mother makes it clear that it’s not an unwarranted concern. And that doesn’t include cases where the mother straightforwardly admits the child is someone else’s, or where the man never thinks to ask. Throw in the flood of oxytocin that is released into the female brain during sex, inevitably making physical infidelity also emotional infidelity, and it’s doubly damaging. An alcoholic will find cause to drink, a smoker to light a cigarette, a WOW addict will ignore their life to log on, and a promiscuous person – man or woman – will have sex with someone other than their partner. Both men and woman who cheat are awful. The difference is the promiscuity of a woman can result in a man unknowingly raising children that are not his own.

    After all that my point is that if you want to have sexual behavior of both genders treated the same in society, you’re going to have to overhaul a lot more than you realize. Chairs will have to remain unpulled, women will have to mandatorily sign up for selective service, men and women will need to be able to punch each other in the face with equal impunity, and men will have to come to consensus as to just what exactly we get to flash in order to receive beads instead of getting arrested. Millenia of social evolution that permeate every aspect of our society will have to be undone, and most importantly, you will have to find a way for both men and women to play equal parts in the reproductive cycle (probably help to remove all the other physical differences as well). As of yet that is still far beyond our genetic engineering. Until then we shall have to our best to advance the need for both genders to be equal and remove the behaviors that make no sense, while at the same time remain cognizant of the fact that equality doesn’t mean that we are the same and that for some we will have settle for balance.

    • You make some interesting points. I do beleive however, that there was a time before patriarchy when temple priestesses weren’t considered property at all and that the act itself was considered sacred and therefore in general not something bartered and sold.

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