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

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mary Christmas: the Bethlehem story is Mary's moment, when a poor peasant girl gives birth to the Son of God in a stable  

The appeal of the Virgin Mary: A supernatural hope at a time of scepticism

Peter Stanford
 

Letters: Why Cameron is wrong about EU child benefits

Independent Voices
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'