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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 19. 2nd August 1973



Germaine Greer points out that many terms which were originally sexually neutral have "gained virulence by sexual discrimination." She cites examples like 'harlot', 'hoyden', and 'chit' which are nowadays used to refer to only women and in a derogatory sense. The number of terms used to refer to women as sexual objects is enormous. This may be due to the fact that our society regards women as primarily sexual beings, and thus automatically relegates them to the status of objects.

What are the male equivalents of terms like 'slut', 'whore' and 'an easy lay'? Also notice the metaphorical connotations and derogatory implications of expressions like 'bitch', 'filly', 'kitten', 'chick', 'bird', 'goose' 'vixen', 'cow' and 'hen' — animal terms frequently applied to women. Or the food imagery like 'dish', 'sugar', 'cookie', 'crumpet' and 'a juicy piece'; and the derogatory implications of 'a bit of fluff', 'a scrubber', 'a bit of skirt', or 'tail', 'a piece of ass' and so on.

Similarly the use of some specialised terms when applied to women again treat them as primarily sexual beings. Compare "he's a professional" and "she's a professional". As Lakoff says "a man is defined in the serious world by what he does, a woman by her sexuality." The words promiscuous' and 'cheap: are words generally applied to women rather than men, and in a sexual context rather than any other. The words 'prostitute' and 'virgin' have no commonly used male equivalents. Even 'groupie' which was intended by Frank Zappa to be free from pejorative colouring, is now used and reacted to as an insult by the women it refers to.