Are sexual insult words ever justified? (follow on from an AIBU thread - wrong place)

(57 Posts)
kentishgirl Thu 01-May-14 13:04:23

So....

slag and slut. Strong words. Anti-women/anti-feminist?

But are there ever behaviours that warrant their use?

I'm not thinking of women's sexual behaviour that is not deliberately harmful such as having sex with however many partners, in a certain way, dressing in a certain way, etc etc that at times attracts those words in a manner that of course I do not in any way support. Slut shaming and so on is appalling.

But is there a need for a word (for both sexes) that covers sexual behaviour that is deliberately harmful to others? Because if there is, I can't think of any alternatives.

We have words for positive behaviour and people. Kind, thoughtful, courageous, hero and heroine.

We have words for negative behaviour and people. Cruel, liar, murderer, mugger.

Assuming that we need these labels (and I think we do need a vocabulary that covers these things), do we need a label for sexually harmful behaviour/people?

Those who deliberately infect others with STDs?
Those who have affairs?

Which gets to why I was thinking about this. My ex had an affair. At the time (to him) I referred to her as 'your slag' and 'your slut' and her name in my head is still simply 'Slag': it has become her identity for me. Yes I know he is the one who cheated on me. There are words to cover his actions at the time: cheat; liar; manipulative; deceitful; disloyal; etc etc etc. She did not cheat, she did not lie to me, she did not manipulate me, she did not deceive me, she was not disloyal to me. These same words cannot apply to her or her behaviour. Yet she displayed 'negative' behaviour in that she knew what the situation was, and I don't think many of us support the idea that it's ok to sleep with a married man. So what words are there for this behaviour/person, if I can't use slut/slag? When I use them here, I'm not being anti-women, I'm describing the behaviour of one woman. But I am uncomfortable with those words because of the way they are usually used to attack women who aren't doing anything wrong.

Are there any alternatives? Am I wrong in thinking we need a vocabulary to express that sexual behaviour can be wrong? Should we never judge another woman for her sexual behaviour?

KoalaFace Thu 01-May-14 13:11:35

I'm sorry about what your ex did OP sad

I always try and stay away from words like slut and slag. But I'd refer to anyone sleeping with a married man as a nasty shit piece of work.

Seriously though any word to describe that particular sort of behaviour would be misappropriated to use on women in general. Like bitches, whores, sluts... We're better off without adding more of these words into the mix I think!

I think (and forgive me if this isn't well developed, I haven't considered this before) any words that judge sexual behaviour are going to be tainted with the longstanding and oppressive social norm that most sexual behaviour enacted by women is 'bad' and most sexual behaviour enacted by men is 'natural'.

So no, I don't think we should have special words to describe bad sexual behaviour. I think we have words that can express our distaste for behaviours that surround or include sex. Such as betrayer of trust (in the case of your DH) or abuser or rapist.

kentishgirl Thu 01-May-14 13:20:13

Oh yes, plenty of words for him.

But without using slut or slag - what word is there for her behaviour?

Sad? Stupid? Amoral, unscrupulous, dishonourable, wrong, dishonest, deceitful, disreputable, unconscionable, fraudulent, dirty, unfair, underhand, devious?

I guess I'd separate the 'having sex' from 'having sex with someone you know has promised to be faithful to someone else'.

But I also realise that this is your life and I'm talking theoretically so if I am upsetting you I'm really sorry and will stop.

Bifauxnen Thu 01-May-14 13:36:28

I think it's ultimately self defeating to throw around words like slur and slash. They're words that hurt all of us in the long run, regardless of our individual behaviour. I agree with the suggestions like amoral, lacking integrity etc.

Bifauxnen Thu 01-May-14 13:38:15

Slur = slut, slash = slag. My kindle went rogue feminist on me.

ChimamandanataSecretary Thu 01-May-14 13:42:09

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

HotSauceCommittee Thu 01-May-14 13:44:18

I used the word "slut" to refer to my sometimes sloppy standards of hygiene and housekeeping in quite a pleased with myself way.
The other words I probably haven't used since childhood and I distinctly dislike the word "slapper" which has come along in decades of late as a slag/slut "lite" replacement. Just as damaging.
"Promiscuous" is one for at least both genders, but promiscuity is fine if it doesn't hurt anyone, so I don't see it as an insult.

Waltermittythesequel Thu 01-May-14 13:48:15

Do you/we need a word designed specifically to describe a woman's sexual behaviour?

What word would you use to describe a man's sexual behaviour?

Ps. Sorry about your horrible ex

rinabean Thu 01-May-14 13:48:49

Actually no there is nothing particularly wrong with her behaviour and you don't need a special word to describe it. What's the nasty word that describes a man who has an affair with a married woman? What's the word for him that's used as a threat to all men to keep them in line? It doesn't exist, but there are so many for his woman counterpart. They are sexist words and you shouldn't use them. Saying them in anger is one thing, trying to defend it is another.

scallopsrgreat Thu 01-May-14 13:57:55

"She did not cheat, she did not lie to me, she did not manipulate me, she did not deceive me, she was not disloyal to me" Yes it wasn't her behaviour that caused you pain. It was his. Yet you choose to describe her behaviour in more derogatory terms than your ex. Do you think 'slag' when you think of him?

And this is a problem. Although you are saying that you want words to describe sexual behaviour across both sexes you are still defaulting to only wanting to describe the woman's behaviour sexually.

As Buffy says the societal norm is that women are judged far more harshly a far more often than men in terms of their sexual behaviour and you are just playing in to this. I don't see why we, as feminists should perpetuate that norm. And in current society any words used to describe sexual behaviour will always be used more often against women than men.

I hope that doesn't upset you btw. I can totally understand your animosity against this woman and don't wish to invalidate your feelings.

kentishgirl Thu 01-May-14 14:30:11

My kindle went rogue feminist on me. - funny.

No, none of this upsets me, it's all water under the bridge now. I was musing over my use of those words at the time.

I think we need a word that applies to both sexes who behave inappropriately sexually. Of course, defining inappropriate is very subjective. Rinabean doesn't think there's anything wrong with sleeping with someone who is married. Ok. We'll have to disagree on that one. I think it's wrong whether it's the 'other man' or the 'other woman' being party to an affair with a married person.
There are other types of inappropriate sexual behaviour (although we won't all agree on inappropriate) and some have words, and some don't. Someone who abuses children:paedophile. Someone who deliberately infects others with an STD (rare, but it happens) - no word really. Sexual predator? But someone in an affair isn't being a predator. Or unfaithful.

'Sad? Stupid? Amoral, unscrupulous, dishonourable, wrong, dishonest, deceitful, disreputable, unconscionable, fraudulent, dirty, unfair, underhand, devious' I guess this list does describe the actions, although not very specifically. Teamed up with 'woman' it makes a sort of label.

AmberTheCat Thu 01-May-14 14:36:33

Sorry you've been through such a horrible experience, kentishgirl.

I struggle, though, with the idea that people should be condemned (whatever language is used) for having a relationship with someone who's married. They haven't made any promises of fidelity to anyone. I haven't been through this situation, and I completely understand you're unlikely to be able to think rationally about the people involved if you have, but objectively speaking I think in that scenario the married person is at fault, not the person they're having the affair with.

I can understand why you're angry with this women.

I don't agree that we need any more woman-blaming labels, but isn't 'home-wrecker' the sobriquet you're searching for?

TeiTetua Thu 01-May-14 16:10:28

I don't think you've really answered Scallopsrgreat's point--if there were "a word (for both sexes) that covers sexual behaviour that is deliberately harmful to others", would you throw it at your ex-partner? Or would it just be something you'd use against the woman your partner had the affair with-- in fact would anyone use it against a man, ever? Because then whatever it theoretically means, in actual use it would just be an alternative to "slut" or "slag".

Home-wrecker has a nice prim old-fashioned sound to it, but once again, anyone can theoretically wreck a home, but in practice only women are accused of it.

WhentheRed Thu 01-May-14 17:11:08

There is a lack of appropriate words for men that adequately cover "sexual behaviour that is deliberately harmful to others". Cad or rapist are about it, and neither work.

When a man has an affair with a married woman, there is no word to describe him that condemns him for his sexual behaviour. There are only words that condemn women.

The married man who cheats is called a liar, a cheat, a scumbag. The condemnation goes to the deceit rather than the sexual behaviour. Once again, there isn't a word that condemns him for the sexual behaviour.

I am in the camp where "slut" and "slag" are never appropriate.

And I think that the reason there is no word to condemn male sexual behaviour is because it's constructed as 'natural' that men should seek to have sex whenever and with whomever they can. Even if a man is unfaithful to his wife, there will be those who will seek to excuse his behaviour on the basis that men 'need' lots and lots of sex.

Whereas it is constructed that women don't need lots of sex, rather that women need love and intimacy with just one partner. So when women are unfaithful or promiscuous, this behaviour isn't excused, it is condemned with words like slut and slag.

stooshe Thu 01-May-14 17:25:34

The word "Whore" covers male and females undercover sexual incontinence when one or both of the errant people are involved with another person.
I feel no way in bandying "whore" around to both sexes if warranted. The reaction is usually the same. The person receiving the epithet is usually horrified. Quite rightly, too.
Even "slag" can be used for both sexes.
"Whore" and "slag". Two words that can be used on men who have acted like whores and slags! As somebody who did,just this, I can't even describe how sweet those words felt tripping off of my tongue whilst seeing the miscreant ex crumble.
I'm sure he didn't think "are those words more ordinarily used to describe females caught out in sexual situations that she, perhaps, if she had an ounce of empathy, wouldn't have found herself in?"
Maybe I didn't do myself any favours describing the female in this ensemble as a "slag', but I couldn't find a more appropriate word, what with her knowing the circumstances in which she opened her legs with a swiftness.
I still regard myself as a feminist. No gnashing of teeth 'round here!

CaptChaos Thu 01-May-14 17:32:13

And there's that 'Men need sex thing again. Along with it's old friend 'a woman who likes and indulges in sex too, well, she's just a bit of a slapper, innit'

Gives me the rage angry

scallopsrgreat Thu 01-May-14 17:49:35

stooshe, whore and slag are predominantly used to describe female behaviour. Just because you use them on men doesn't change that. In fact I would say you were calling him by recognisable female insults to add to the indignity for him. Which is sexist.

I'm glad you don't gnash your teeth over this. The fact still remains that these words do a lot of damage to women.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 01-May-14 18:23:45

Adulterer would apply to both, I think?

RamsaySnowsSausage Thu 01-May-14 18:43:31

Philanderer. Although, it sounds quite charming, like rogue and cad. No-one's going to be particularly upset to be labelled one.

Dog (dawg) and scrub are used in America but they don't pack much punch compared to slag and slut.

I don't think we really need the word you are searching for. I have been in your position and was surprised at the anger and venom I felt for the OW despite knowing full well it was all H's responsibility to be faithful.

I referred to her by a number of very unfeminist terms when I was in the throes of emotion but now she is simply 'that woman he had an affair with' and he is 'a husband who cheated. I don't use slag or slut, whore, tart, slapper or any of them, for her or anyone else.

People cheat for all sorts of reasons and in all sorts of ways eg. LTRs, ONSs, one-off, serial etc. I don't think a new moniker 'cheater' is needed.

The best name for a partner who cheats on you is 'ex' grin

kentishgirl Thu 01-May-14 18:44:43

home-wrecker - I'd forgotten all about that one. It sounds so old fashioned and quaint now. But it is appropriate, after all.

Are some of us really saying it's ok to sleep with someone who is married. I understand the idea that it isn't then you directly being unfaithful or breaking any promises. Of course it is the married person doing that. But is there really nothing wrong with the other person getting into that situation? There's no ethical or moral considerations here? What about the old idea of feminist sisterhood? I wouldn't do that to another woman. It's just as bad for a man to do that to another man.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 01-May-14 18:50:30

If it's ethical/moral I think it's more to an abstract idea then to a person, isn't it? So "thou shalt not steal" covers the corner shop and Tesco rather than my DH not stealing from the shop owner because they are both mean.

I actually didn't set out to make a "stealing objects/spouses" analogy but I have by accident.

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