What’s in a name? Hooker, whore, slut, the list goes on… Recently a friend talked about being ‘slut-shamed’ – it was the first time I had heard the phrase and had to look it up. There’s lots in a name as it turns out. Name calling is a pretty good indicator of the value you place on that person.
Fundamentally I’m talking about bullying – the overt and the silent. Overt is name calling, ridiculing, belittling, and shaming. Silent is inherent disrespect, intimidation, and treating someone as inferior. Whichever you choose the behaviour is designed to render someone else powerless by eliciting feelings of inadequacy. And it is incredibly insidious.
Bullying is the lead into a cycle of negativity. It begins with a negative thought which festers, is ruminated upon, impacts your self-image & self-esteem, affects your sense of identity, and impacts your mood. This shift in mental state has a physiological impact too, your brain releases chemicals which keep this cycle going, which is when the humiliation becomes self-perpetuating.
The result of this is anxiety and depression, and people react to this in different ways, most of them negative. Often the victim then tries to overcome these feelings by taking risks and engaging in dangerous behaviour, going further than they are comfortable with, furthering the feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. And the cycle continues, all on its own.
It’s about control and dominance, and it is usually us men who perpetrate this behaviour. These men seek power and control over women to prop up their own ego, to overcome their own feelings of inadequacy, or to conform to some ridiculous image of masculinity. Often such oppression is based on a false sense of ‘ownership’, a proprietary attitude towards women where we use name calling to maintain our dominance by removing a woman’s right to self-determination.
The slippery slope of psychological abuse of women inexorably leads to the adoption of default misogyny. This is a danger sign as it can impact any relationship with women, where our misogynist behaviour becomes so ingrained that we cannot form healthy, equal relationships and we descend into a mind-set of hatred (insert our very own self-perpetuating cycle). Overt insults and even the threat of violence are the next stops on this ugly journey.
We can break this abhorrent cycle however, by focusing on the positives, stopping to think of each other as people; personalising the impact of abuse and giving it context in our own lives; asking how we would feel if we were spoken to in this manner; thinking about how our sisters and cousins would feel if it were them; or, if it were us who were being bullied…
The names we use for Sex Workers matters. Think about it in this context. You are engaging in intimate physical activity, do you think that your attitude won’t be noticed? Consider the feelings of your companion, how would she react? Would you use a derogatory term to her face, would you call her a whore? I didn’t think so.
But if you don’t care, cos she’s just a hooker after all; how good do you think it’s going to be? You know, those little things which make the difference between a basic-go-through-the-motions fuck and mind-blowing hour (or more) with a sex goddess. If you don’t, then maybe you should go back to the top of the page and pay closer attention.
If you’re a sex worker reading this; you have nothing to be shamed for or ashamed about, instead, you have lots to be proud about. You’re a strong, independent, freethinking woman, who deserves our respect and admiration. If you’re a bloke (or a client, like me) reading this, well, I hope this has stimulated some thought…