By Mary Finnegan
When it comes to insulting women, there is an impressive array of choices. Slut, whore, skank—this is just a preview of a very long and continuous episode. Who knew there could be so many options?
When it comes to insulting men, my options have suddenly shrunk to zero. Big surprise. What am I supposed to call you? “Man-whore?” The originality is killing me.
I have no words with which to insult men. But it’s not my vocabulary that’s lacking; it’s my dictionary. And who writes this dictionary? Society. And what does society support? A virulent double standard. Our words show this. Our words show this by presenting two strikingly different images of male and female sexuality.
First, there is the image of the sexually-active male. This image is the illustrious bachelor. He is suave. He is powerful. He is sexy. His name is Daniel Craig; you can get tickets to his latest film, “Skyfall.” I heard it’s quite the blockbuster. This image is desirable.
What socially-conscious young man wouldn’t want to be known as a womanizer? Points for improving your “bro” status? Hell yeah, baby. There is no derogatory word to describe this image because society actively likes and supports a vigorous male sexuality.
Then there is the image of the sexually-active female. This image is the cheap slut. She is easy. She is dirty. She is depraved. Her name is Jenna Jameson; you can watch re-runs of her greatest porno, “Up and Cummers 10.” I heard it’s free—shocker. This image is terrifying.
What socially-conscious young woman would want to be known as a slut? Instant elimination from qualifying as marriage-material? Check. There are numerous derogatory words to describe this image because society actively shames and condemns a vigorous female sexuality.
Both of these images are wrong. The first is wrong because it tells young men that in order to be considered “manly” they must spread their seed; they must spread it far, and they must spread it wide.
There is extraordinary pressure on young men to prove their “manliness” by engaging in constant, excessive sexual activity. Besides driving up teenage pregnancy rates, this attitude robs young men of the opportunity to feel like “real men” without buying up CVS’s stock of condoms.
The second image is wrong because it tells young women that after they have reached a certain number, they fall into the category of “used goods.” It tries to control and limit women’s sexuality with the stigma of a number. Sorry, honey, you’re just not the type of girl I’d take down the aisle; your number’s too high.
Besides giving therapists a helpful boost in patients, this type of image robs young women of the opportunity to have a healthy sexuality without having nightmares about being called a slut.
Just to clarify what I mean by a “healthy sexuality,” I am not telling young women that they should go out and sleep with every living thing on the face of the planet. Besides the possibility of encountering logistical problems such as unplanned pregnancies, chronic STDs and limited energy, this approach can have equally-destructive psychological results.
I don’t think it’s healthy to treat sex like your most convenient method of cardiovascular activity. But I also don’t think it is healthy to magnify sex to such a level that a woman’s self-worth hangs on a number. A number should not define anyone’s worth, so let’s stop letting it define half of the population’s.
Ladies and gentlemen, we must think before we speak. We do not have to accept these images. Gentlemen, you can be “real” men without sex. Ladies, you can be “marryable” women with sex. But know that each time we use these words, we are actively saying “yes” to these images.
Gentlemen, know that each time you use one of these words you are throwing an open punch at a tied victim. How am I supposed to fight back when you are holding all the only ammunition? Ladies, know that each time we use one of these words, we are helping to dig our own graves. Shovels, anyone?
The next time you don’t like how a person is behaving, tell them, but tell them gently. Tell them respectfully, tell them constructively. Carelessly flinging derogatory terms at women—terms that are loaded with the dangerous connotation of the double-standard—is wrong. We have all used these words before. It’s time to stop. The terms of battle have been made clear.
And it is clear that this is not an equal battle. So please, let’s step off the field.