This is the manuscript blog; new sections added every few days.
Best read in sequence so start with 1 and work your way through
enjoy, get mad, and comment!
These dictionaries and their definitions of women – by men – have served as a framework for relationships between the sexes, for all users of the English Language. This is why –
- so many of the words refer to men
- so many of these words portray men in a good light–
- And why so many of the fewer words for women – are negative, vicious and sexually offensive
There are 220 words for sexually promiscuous women in the dictionary and they are intended to define women as wicked and wily and wilful and wrong: harlot, slag, skank, ho, ‘slut talk’ etc.
And for those who want to count – there are VERY FEW WORDS FOR SEXUALLY PROMISCUOUS MEN; about 20 in all. And the words that do refer to promiscuous men don’t necessarily portray them as bastards.
Words such as ‘stud’ and ‘rake’ and even ‘bounder’ and ‘philanderer’ or ‘sugar daddy’, ‘womaniser’ or ‘gigolo’ – generally suggest an element of seduction and achievement: a conquest!
So why this extraordinary difference in the number, and nature, of the words that refer to women’s and men’s sexuality?
It can’t be that numerically women engage in 10 times as much sexually promiscuous behaviour as men. And there can be no linguistic reason that we need such awful words for women’s sexuality, and such admiring ones for men’s.
What we can say with some authority is that the men who contributed to the dictionary and its meanings had a very limited and lascivious view of women and a distinct sense of their own perfection. Mary Wollstonecraft hadn’t even written VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN at that time – so they weren’t used to having their view of the world challenged.
The only women they knew were their wives – and prostitutes – or mistresses; madonnas and whores! (Hardly a representative sample of the female sex on which to base the gender meanings for an entire society.)
Feminism has made enormous gains since those days – but we are still stuck with these meanings in the English language – these definitions that have been recorded in dictionaries and passed on from one generation to the next. And we haven’t seriously questioned the impact they have on our lives.
ONE REAL EXAMPLE FOR WHICH WE DON’T HAVE A WORD
THAT WOULD MAKE SPECIFIC FEMALE EXPERIENCE MEANINGFUL
Just recently, there was the case of a 13-year-old girl in England who had sex with a 41 year old man; this was illegal as the girl was under the age of consent and the man was charged.
But in court this 13-year-old child was described as predatory and sexually experienced BY THE PROSECUTOR WHOSE JOB IT WAS TO PROSECUTE THE 41 YEAR OLD MAN ON BEHALF OF THE 13 YEAR OLD VICTIM.
And the judge agreed. ‘The girl was predatory and was egging you on’.
As Polly Toynbee writes in The Guardian, no matter the circumstances it is the woman who is in the wrong.
Even when she is only 13.
‘The little vixen had led astray a 41 year old man found to have images of child abuse and bestiality on his computer’. In court the girl child was the predator and he was the 41 year old victim.
He walked free with a suspended sentence. There is really no word that can adequately describe the trauma for the 13-year-old girl! And no word that can begin to suggest that this was NOT her responsibility or her fault! No word to validate what happened to her! Just a female in the wrong!
Yet again the courts have added what may be worse abuse than the original crime. So many young women who do stand up and recount such violations can be so distressed and desperate as to self-destruct, to give in to shame and self-loathing. By feeling irredeemably WRONG. Left with just the ‘slut words’ and no way of correcting the record.
Sexual assault and rape are one of the few instances where it’s a woman’s word against a man’s and so corroboration is required: and a woman’s word doesn’t count as much as a mans!
It isn’t necessary for someone to have seen your wallet being stolen before you report it to the police – and you don’t have to prove that you didn’t consent to the theft. But there has to be corroboration in relation to rape – which these days may take the form of DNA — but the onus is still on the women to prove it was not with their consent!
Women can’t be trusted; and the fault lies in the absence of words that would shock the world in conveying the fear and sense of violation that are the nightmares of women. All women who are raped are frightened they are going to die. But such raw emotional authenticity – and the light it shines on men – is not the stuff of the witness box. Certainly not for a 13 year old girl.
Polly Toynbee also found herself very much in the wrong for having written such a ‘slanted’ article. One that exposed the institutionalized misogyny – the default position that has women in the wrong – and that lurks just below the linguistic and social surface.
‘You only have to look at the domestic violence figures’ she says: two dead women a week’ – to identify the undercurrent