Sunday, January 2, 2011

Proud to Be a Word Whore

by Jeffe Kennedy


One of the gals I talk to on Twitter posted a note that the term "Word Whore" squicked her out.

This was in the last week, as we've been talking up the Word Whores blog. She tweeted it in general, not a direct challenge to me, but I saw it in the stream and replied to her.

I understood what she meant.

"Whore" is an uncomfortable term. It's right up there with a lot of slang terms for women that are grounded in how women behave sexually. A lady in the drawing room and a whore in the bedroom springs to mind. Of course, that's not the woman's perspective - that's the male view. I explained the Moliere quote, then suggested to this gal that by doing this, we're repossessing the power of the word. We both thought it sounded good.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Whore as:

- now confined to coarse and abusive speech, exc. in occasional echoes of historical expressions, as the whore of Babylon. I. A woman who prostitutes herself for hire; a prostitute, harlot. b. More gen.: An unchaste or lewd woman; a fornicatress or adultress; occas. applied opprobriously to a concubine or a kept mistress.


See? It's that whole Madonna complex that gets me. "Oh yeah, she's a prostitute. Or at least she's unchaste, which is the same thing." How women behave sexually has always been a subject of great public interest.

Interestingly, if you look at the root word of whore, it's KA-, which is:*

- to like or desire, whence the Latin cherish, the idiomatic charity (see below), and caress - what we often do to people or animals we like or desire. In Common Germanic, the root > a word = lover ("someone desired"), then adulterer (an illicit lover), whence whore - also illicit, but paid. Sanskrit kamah, love, desire, > the Kamasutra.


I love this bit that the author adds:

- In the Latin Bible, caritas = love: "Though I speak with the tongues of angels and have not charity [love], it is as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal." Translated into English, the word gradually took on its present predominant meaning: demonstrating one's supposed love for one's fellows by giving them money.


It always comes back to the money, it seems to me.

Which is really why I'm a Word Whore. Yes, I love writing. If I don't write, I get depressed. I write about sex sometimes, othertimes not. But whatever it is, the writing gives me a thrill. The stories flow through me in a way that's creative, joyful, magical and not entirely from me. Just as the best sex should be.

And, damn straight I want to be paid for it.

I've been a professional writer for many years now. By professional I mean that I get paid for my work. I think it's an important distinction: If you give your work away, you're not a professional. I'm not talking about doctors donating their time in 3rd world countries - that's a different thing. This is about valuing your work. There are times it's right to give it away - out of love, perhaps - but otherwise, this is about earning a living. Even if other people would like it to be free.

So, yes, take a look at what I have to offer. My silky words, my voluptuous paragraphs. I'll give you pleasure, stimulation, the ride of your life. Step into my boudoir and let me carry you into my exotic world.

Just leave the money on the dresser.

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*The Roots of English, Robert Claiborne, 1989.

28 comments:

  1. Love the concept of a word whore. While it's true that I love writing and derive a certain pleasure from it, I'm in this for the money, too. Of course, there are probably easier ways to make money. Prostitution springs to mind...

    Tawna

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  2. Ha! Very funny, Tawna. And we know you have the outfit for it, too.

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  3. Excellent Jeffe and to your "And, damn straight I want to be paid for it." line, I say DAMN STRAIGHT lady. :-)

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  4. I'm glad you agree La Tessa! and thanks Linda!

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  5. This.

    Brilliant post, Jeffe. :D

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  6. Thank you, ma'am! Quite a compliment from a sister-whore!

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  7. Just lovely...and it got me thinking a good deal about women and sexuality and why there's a cultural dislike for the word "whore."

    Men and women both trade intimacy for many tangible and intangible things: power, security, acceptance, sometimes a roof over one's head. But we only get squicked out when money changes hands?

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  8. I suppose in art it's the concept of "selling out." It's as if the fruits of our bodies and souls only have value if money is NOT involved. But since money is a placeholder for value, that makes no sense.

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  9. Ah, yes...in order to be art, it must be pure and free. I agree...what we do has value, and we deserve to be paid for it. ;-)

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  10. Hmmm. This starts heading down the road of what a woman is actually worth (and historically it was all about virginity and dowry). We were, after all, property. While men were usually perfectly happy to soil themselves upon women with dubious levels of virtue, when it came time for marriage, there could only be room for one at the inn, so to speak.

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  11. Sorry for the delete -- punctuation goof. Anyway...

    Exactly. Historically, a woman's value rested entirely on her purity as a candidate for marriage. I can't really blame her for continuing to trade on her sexuality.

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  12. So we squick on the word "whore" all because of the manly need to ensure paternity?

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  13. Great post and discussion here. I'd like to add that sex has often been the only thing a woman had by way of power - the only thing she owned that could be sold, or traded, for what was needed. Actually selling it, for money, made her a whore. Trading it in exchange for marriage and security was a virtue. All a matter of perspective, as are most things in life.

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  14. Darn sticky comma key!

    Hmm...interesting. I never really thought about the value of chastity resting on the concept of paternity. But it makes sense.

    If ensuring paternity is the gist of it, then...would whoring be considered inoffensive in a matrilineal society, when paternity isn't really an issue? *gears turning for possible sci-fi story*

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  15. Actually, in Celtic society, this is exactly why it was the woman's brothers responsibility to acknowledge her children. Genetically speaking, it was easy to see that a niece or nephew would be guaranteed to be related to him...as opposed to his own children by his own wife (who could very easily have taken a lover on the side.)

    (I explore this in the second book of BoD, btw.) ;-)

    Also, fertility in Celtic society was fairly highly prized. Handfasting (the year-and-a-day marriage thing) was not only to see if people were actually compatible, but also to make sure the couple was fertile. And in fact, a woman who'd already knocked out a few babies was considered to be a prize for just that reason. :)

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  16. Thanks Danielle - how lovely of you to stop by!

    What an interesting idea, Laura. Judaism is theoretically matrilineal, for just that reason - that the mother is the only certainty. But the men still tried to control paternity.

    And Kerry - you're so right. It's a woman's fundamental power that can't be taken from her, much as they may try.

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  17. Kerry, I love how you distilled the idea of virtue or vice being in the eye of the beholder.

    Allison, I had no idea that Celtic society was like that. Very interesting. I knew about the year-and-a-day marriages, but didn't know that fertility was so prized.

    Hmmmm...I had not thought about Judaism, Jeffe. The wheels in my noggin are turning...

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  18. @Laura - we're talking ancient Celts here - before Christianity and all that. If you think about it though, it makes sense. Given the mortality rate among infants, making as many as possible probably seemed like a good idea. (Not getting into the long term effects on the women for being brood mares or the fact that people tended to die before 40 and all that.)

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  19. So those of us unable or unwilling to reproduce are inherently worthless anyway (and/or morally suspect) so we can go off and do as we please? SCORE!

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  20. EXCELLENT point, Marcella! Childless by choice, for the win!

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  21. LOL I've always felt it grossly unfair that there are more negative terms to reference women than men, but in this case, I think it's perfect. I hadn't really considered it before, but I suppose all writers are word whores, aren't we?

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  22. Yes we are, Danica. Word whores and proud of it!

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  23. I got in trouble with a friend for using the word whore in a conversation after getting so accustomed to hearing it in Firefly. Reclaiming words is always a struggle when you have to fight against the *baggage* that some words gather 'round.

    I love the Moliere quote, and I've often felt like writing query letters is all about selling myself, so I do think the comparison is apt. :)

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  24. That's a good point, Alana, that reclaiming words is about fighting the baggage. Coincidentally another unflattering word for women... ;-)

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  25. I'd like to be a word whore someday (by which I mean actually selling my words). Right now I guess I'm just a word slut. ;)

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