Thomas Sutcliffe: Where's the male equivalent of 'slut'?

Social Studies: Men are esteemed for their conquests, women are esteemed for fighting them off

Share
Related Topics

I was trying to think of male equivalents for the word "slut" the other day – prompted by reports on the Slut Walk protests around the world. If you've been away, these were sparked off by a Canadian policeman's suggestion – during a safety talk to university students – that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised".

As preventative measures go, that remark was about as effective as throwing a cup of water on to a chip-pan fire. There was an impressive explosion of feminist rage, and suddenly streets were thronged with young women wearing bustiers and fishnet tights.

And then there was a kind of muted back-blast as other women – though equally furious at the implication that women might be regarded as complicit in their own violation – took issue with the attempt to detoxify the word "slut". Couldn't be done, one side said, because it was simply too saturated in male misyogyny. Had to be done, the other side replied, as a way of insisting that women's sexuality was their business ... and theirs alone.

I wasn't sure what I thought and was trying to find a male equivalent to see what it might feel like to brandish it as a badge of pride. And you won't be surprised to learn that I had some trouble. Nothing, anyway, that pressed directly on the question of sexual continence. You're spoiled for choice when it comes to women: tart, slapper, slag and slut ... all of them vicious and all of them suggesting that women shouldn't really be having sex at all (unless, obviously, it's with the person doing the name-calling). But an exclusively male pejorative for someone who just can't keep it in his pants? I was having trouble.

And then Dominique Strauss-Kahn came to my help – or rather the newspaper coverage of his arrest on a charge of attempted rape. And it wasn't DSK's guilt or innocence in that matter that supplied the vocabulary, but the attempts to characterise his longstanding reputation with regards to sexual appetite. "A well-known seducer" was one formula, employed (I think) by a friend. "Womaniser" was another, and I saw "libertine" somewhere. These, I realised, were the closest you were likely to get to slut and slapper. Words like "roué" or "swordsman" or "playboy" – none of which convey much sense of moral contempt and several of which are tinged with admiration.

It's an ancient inequity, of course. Men are esteemed for their conquests, women are esteemed for fighting them off. "Men are naughty by nature," as Hugh Grant puts it. And although, theoretically, quite a few of us have moved on from this crude account of sexual relations it remains embedded in the language and embedded in our thinking. That's why a policeman could find himself telling young women that it was their responsibility to make themselves less provocatively attackable. And why some men think any woman they desire is fair game for an attempt.

I'm not a fan of sexual censoriousness, and I absolutely hate words like "slag" and "slapper". But perhaps if we had some exclusively male epithets that conveyed the same contempt for lack of sexual restraint, women would be a little safer – whatever they were wearing.







History according to Huckabee



"My heart says no," said Mike Huckabee, announcing that he wouldn't be standing for the Republican presidential nomination. Instead his heart seems to have told him to launch a company called Learn Our History, to sell educational videos to American schools.

Huckabee promises to offer animated history lessons which counter the "blame America first" school of historiography. The preview of an early instalment – "The Reagan Revolution" (http://tinyurl.com/4xy7h45) – is such a perfect satire on the far-right gestalt that it's almost impossible to believe it's in earnest. And the impetus for this new venture? Huckabee's indignation at the way that some teachers have been using classes as a "soap box to promote their own political opinions and biases".







Not even my fears included 'planking'



When my first son was born I was so overcome with a prospective terror of the hazards he would encounter in life that I briefly contemplated compiling a scrapbook of senseless and avoidable death – to be handed to him as soon as he could read. The idea was that he would never be without a warning of the ways in which youthful exuberance can go wrong. Page after page would be filled with well drownings, accidental asphyxiations and tree falls. There would be yellowing newspaper reports on doughnut-eating contests that resulted in fatal chokings, on dressing-gown cord and washing-line stranglings, on tomb-stoning paralysis, glue-sniffing casualties and train-surfing electrocutions.

In the end I decided that it might be better if only one of us spent the next 20 years in a state of dread, but even thinking about the project was an education in the zeal the young bring to the task of endangering themselves. Back then, though, I would never have imagined that "planking" would be one of the threats – the craze for photographing oneself in a rigidly horizontal posture which has just claimed a life in Brisbane, after a young man tried to "plank" on the balcony of a seventh-floor flat.

A policeman optimistically described this as "a wake-up call which exposes the potentially lethal dangers of the craze", but I'm willing to bet the next few days will see an increase in extreme planking, rather than a decrease. That was the other reason for scrapping the scrapbook. It would only have given him ideas.





t.sutcliffe@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

 

Political satire is funny, but it also causes cynicism and apathy

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links