Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On the Care, Maintenance and Feeding of Sluts


Here's a joke, for all you lovers of humor out there.

Q: What do you call a whore with a PhD in chemistry, an Olympic gold medal for the long-distance jump, and who was just elected as the president of the Unites States of America?
A: A whore.

Don't get it? Well, click to read on.

The point is that none of those things make a whore into 'no longer a whore'. Impressive accomplishments, all three of those things. But it simply doesn't matter. A whore with some impressive accomplishments under her belt, a whore that protocol dictates you have to call "Madame" or "Miss", doesn't magically change her behavior or her history. Now, her behavior can change. She can become an ex-whore, certainly. But it's not a matter of scaling Mt. Everest. It's a matter of not acting like a whore.

Strong language, I guess. And maybe you're surprised if you're reading this, since I've spent so much time explaining why Rush Limbaugh made an error in suggesting Fluke was a slut on national radio. Before I explain the difference between the situations, let me tell you another joke. Stop me if you've heard this one.

Q: What do you call a whore who's a single mother struggling to make ends meet, who is partially crippled due to a valiant act of pushing a baby carriage out of the way of an oncoming car, and who also happens to be your sister?
A: A whore. C'mon, pay attention - I already told you this joke!

Same justification. Whores do not magically become non-whores just because they're in unfortunate circumstances (let's put aside 'prostitute, because she's desperate to live and that's the only way she can make money' definitions and focus on 'has lots of out-of-wedlock sex with various partners for fun'), have engaged in self-sacrifice or are close to you. The president and your sister are both quite capable of whoredom.

Back to Limbaugh. I stressed throughout - not sure if the guys who read these entries got it, but I did stress throughout - that the problem with Limbaugh's move was this: he was attempting to communicate an idea to a particular audience, and his approach guaranteed that a tremendous number of people whose viewpoints he was intending to change, would not listen to him. They hear the guy on the radio call the poor little girl who looks good on camera a 'slut' and boom, that's it. Discussion over, they don't want to hear anymore. Hopefully the past week of the Zimmerman/Martin shooting coverage in Florida will help drive home the point that many people are not particularly rational people who will sit around and listen to arguments, unaffected by how ideas are presented - or even, many times, unaffected by evidence at all. And I maintain that someone in Rush's situation - the guy on the radio, attempting to persuade a large audience of people whose opinions are not set in stone - makes a mistake when he brings out the slut-guns. People tune him out, the conversation changes, and his point - the point he cares about - is lost.

But not everyone is in Rush's situation. Hell, most of us aren't. Most of us communicate with, first and foremost, our friends and family or people connected closely to them. It's a microcosm, but microcosms matter. (I'll rephrase an old line I heard: Individuals make groups, and groups make majorities.) It's precisely the area we can all have an impact, persuade people. It's also the most up close and personal area - it's easy to call someone a whore on the internet, behind a pseudonym. In person, at a family reunion? Or better yet, mixed company? It's a lot more challenging - do I even need to convince anyone of this?

And that's precisely where many times - not always, but many times - we do need to stand firm and be that frank.

I'm loathe to say this, because even - especially - when dealing with family and friends and acquaintances, there's still a need for attention to detail, being reasonable, and being careful. Tact. And frankly, a lot of people don't have tact - they're better off just being quiet, whore or no whore. To make things more complicated, you can't section off your attitude and behavior towards these kinds of things from everything else. It's a package deal - trying to be reasonable, trying to be fair (this isn't just about women, not by a longshot), etc. Welcome to the complicated world of human interaction.

But the fact is, many times we should be - in our daily lives - expressing our disapproval of someone's actions. And many of us - hey, me included - keep our mouths shut. We don't want backlash, we want to fit in, we want to get along, hell we just want to be left alone. But if we care about the culture, and if we're capable of doing it properly, we need to speak up. Oh, and this also means, biting our tongues and being ready for when we too slip up and get called on our respective bullshit. Understand the price of an improved culture.

I'll say again: this isn't easy. It's not limited to women by a longshot. And it should not be confused with being a loudmouth jackoff who just feels good when he yells at people, which is why he does it. We also shouldn't exaggerate - a whore with a PhD in chemistry and an Olympic gold medal doesn't lose her accomplishments just because she's a whore. She can still do great things, she could still be worthy of sympathy, even respect for certain acts. But she still is what she is, and - when we're being friends and family and acquaintances to others - we shouldn't pretend she's something else.

18 comments:

Ilíon said...

Whorishness isn't limites to 'she'

Crude said...

A man can act like a whore, and it's still deplorable. But complications come in.

* The term 'whore', rightly or wrongly, is associated with women. Just as 'bastard' is associated with men, even though a woman can be a bastard.

* The reaction to the claim is different. Rush could have called some guy a whore, and there wouldn't have been nearly the outcry. Most people probably would have thought it was funny, or even inaccurate (given the previous). In general, you can be a lot more frank with men and people's reactions are more muted.

Syllabus said...

Just to further my role as devil's advocate:

I totally agree that we should call things by their right names. I wonder, however, whether you're ceding to the tendency some people have of equating the act with the person. Of course, a woman or man can be a whore because he or she commits whorish acts, but is that always normative? I don't have a totally thought-out position on this, but I tend to think that it isn't always normative. Thoughts?

Crude said...

Well, I definitely don't want to 'equate the act with the person'. I actually don't think I touched on what does or doesn't make someone a whore, or how a whore could change into a !whore. And I think insofar as I got near the subject, recognizing that a person can change would go a long way towards not equating the act with the person.

I'm sure you can think of exceptional cases. I get near one myself (the woman who is desperate for money to survive and this is the only route open to her, etc.) But I think most of the time it's actually pretty obvious. "Person X has a spouse. X has sex with 4 people behind their back for fun. Spouse has been behaving reasonably and faithfully." We're dealing with a whore.

I also think there's a temptation to try and turn every case into a limit case, or at least the cases we care about. 'This is my sister, so let's think of any possible explanation or technicality or plea that avoids this conclusion!', and suddenly you're back to the Clinton era arguing over the meaning of 'is'.

That said, I know that this is a more complicated question, even if you can identify someone rightly as a whore. There's a question of what the appropriate response is, of allowing for and encouraging a path of forgiveness, etc. It doesn't end at, "Ha! You're a whore, says so right here! I'm calling you a whore for the rest of your life no matter what you do, and repeatedly in public!"

Syllabus said...

Yeah, the pull towards painting everything in shades of grey is one to which the modern mind is very vulnerable. I get that temptation myself. I'm just an incurable troublemaker.

I think that a good way to discern the difference may be to rely on something similar to the definition that one judge gave of pornography: you know one when you see one. A little broad, perhaps, but it seems to work.

Crude said...

I don't even mind the shades-of-grey thing so much. So long as everyone can admit that some shades are darker and lighter than others. ;)

I do think it's a mistake to try and codify things, which is where 'you know when you see it' comes in handy. The problem is that's great for a personal standard, or with people who are being honest. 'I know racism when I see it!' in the hands of Olbermann? Yeah, that I don't trust.

Syllabus said...

Well, no one ever said ethics were simple, did they?

Crude said...

Ha. I think it's simpler than many people let on, but the problem is trying to codify it in a foolproof way. Or 'huckster-proof' anyway.

That's why you have judges, and why it's important for judges to be of good mental and moral character. Of course the very idea of 'moral character' being important for a political position nowaday may get you laughed at in a lot of quarters.

Ah well. There's value enough in it, God knows.

BenYachov said...

>Whorishness isn't limites to 'she'.

I agree with Ilion.

Shocking! Clinton was/is a man whore.

BenYachov said...

BTW I am not so much put off by the Georgetown girl's possible slutty behavior in her private life.

I am more put off by the fact she is a rich girl mooch.

Buy your own sin pills bimbo and leave Catholics the F*** alone!

Get your Ovaries off my Rosaries!

Yeh boy'e! Power to the Papists!

Syllabus said...

@Ben:

Dude, your semi-incoherent obscenity-laced tirades are AWESOME. Don't ever change. :)

As far as Clinton goes, I think it's funny and sad that one of the more morally-questionable presidents since Nixon has been one of the less harmful ones we've had since Nixon.

Crude said...

I think Ben's plenty coherent most of the time. He's prone to trash talk - like I'm not in the right situation - but I think he's a far sight more reasonable than most commenters. He's demonstrably capable of being civil with, even praising, people who disagree with him. He pays attentions to arguments and claims where other people just drop to slogans. I think he gets shit because A) he engages in direct, rather than roundabout, namecalling, and B) his grammar tends to be flawed, which has been a Major Issue with people online since the days of fidonet.

Just thought I'd put my two cents in there.

As for Clinton, I disagree about him being less harmful. I think that comparison mostly comes since he's up against Bush and Obama, Bush's presidency having been a disaster, and Obama's basically "Bush, but the liberal version". George Sr. strikes me as the guy who didn't do much harm, except perhaps to himself.

I think Clinton's performance fit his morality. He was ultimately self-serving, and self-serving people tend to have particular flaws, but not do much harm. They avoid risks, they move slowly, and they reach for the low-hanging fruit in all cases. It was doubly the case when the Republican revolution happened, and suddenly Clinton was weighed down with legislative chains.

Syllabus said...

Oh, I don't mind his grammar or orthography too much, as his full-on blasts are usually pieces of brilliant broadsides.

re: Clinton - well, that's why I put "less harmful" rather than actually good. He wasn't especially good, true, but i he was the lesser of two evils - his egregious faults (both public and private) notwithstanding. I wouldn't have voted for him, anyway. But yeah, hindsight is twenty-twenty.

Crude said...

Nah, I get you. I think one way to put it would be "Clinton would be a lot better than Obama." I could agree with that much.

Ilíon said...

"He's demonstrably capable of being civil with, even praising, people who disagree with him."

Translation: he loves nothing more than to praise to the skies those who wish only his metaphorical (or even actual) death, which inventing blood-feud worthy differences where no substabtive differences exist -- and then, since the difference he has invented is blood-feud worthy, engaging in vendetta.

"He pays attentions to arguments and claims where other people just drop to slogans."

When it suits him; when it doesn't he's as prone to slogan-dropping as "most commenters".

"... his grammar tends to be flawed, which has been a Major Issue with people online since the days of fidonet."

THere is that.

Crude said...

Translation:

Man, what's gotten into you today?

Run with your translation if you like. The fact is Ben can't be accused of being a 'rah rah us v them' sort. Frankly I think he's too nice at times, but then again I'm an asshole.

When it suits him; when it doesn't he's as prone to slogan-dropping as "most commenters".

Again, run with this bad 'translation' if you like. That would STILL put him ahead of guys like freaking Linton, who honest to God *cannot even understand* what's being talked about. We're talking guys who quote stuff *by people they think they agree with* and cannot give a coherent summary of it on their own.

BenYachov said...

To this day I don't know what it is that made Ilion have it in for me?

Syllabus said...

If this were an elementary school playground and you were a girl (an odd thought, but hang with it), he'd be pulling your pigtails and calling you fat. Love and hate are kinda close, after all...