Friday, August 20, 2010

Letter: Can I call you "whore"?

Dear Grace,

I noticed you use the term "whore" to refer to yourself. So I find myself wanting to use the term, but I wonder if I'm prohibited. Much like Dr. Laura caused a public out roar by using the "N" word in her radio show.

Can "whore" be used as a term of endearment by someone who isn't one? On this season's True Blood, Lafayette has started calling his cousin, Tara, "Hookah", but he does it in a way the conveys his deep love and respect for her. Maybe he gets away with it because he's black and can use words a middle aged white guy can't.

S.


Dear S.,

Speaking only for myself, I wouldn't like it one little bit if you called me a whore. While I would know you weren't trying to insult me, it would strike me as clumsy and tasteless.

My sex-worker friends and I don't call each other "whore." I know there are circles of friends in which that is totally cool, and that is fine by me. Friendships have their own cultures. If you are in a circle where it is cool to call each other "whore", you will know it. But if you have to ask, the answer is probably not only no, but fuck no.

See, whore, like nigger, is not a factual description. It is not a term of endearment. It is, in point of fact, an insult, loaded with layers of hostility and hegemonic oppression. When I invoke that word, I am dealing in some way with my ambivalence about the role and towards myself in the role. This is a minefield into which you would be a fool to tiptoe.

You cannot know where my head is at when I say the word "whore." You have no context for knowing. You don't know what it feels like to perform a sex act for money, or what it feels like to be insulted by daylight for the same things for which you are sought out at night, what it feels like to be handcuffed on the hood of a police car for doing work you choose and do well and which harms no one, what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a culture's desire and self-loathing and ambivalence around its sexuality. You don't know what it's like to be a whore. Maybe you think you can imagine, but you don't know it in your bones.

From time to time a subculture may choose to take in a word that has been used as a tool of alienation and oppression, a word that expresses not only "otherness" but the wrongness and dirtiness of that otherness. We may adopt it to claim it's power, play with it and bat it around to rob it of its sting, alchemize it through our experience into a term of inclusion and acceptance. But once we have done this, we can't help thinking of the word as ours. When you say it, it means something different, because you are speaking a different language.

Unfair? Sorry.

I know it's probably meant in a friendly spirit. You want me to know that you don't see me as different, or that you feel like the difference is casual enough to kid around about. But we are different. And maybe I'm the one to whom the difference isn't casual.

Sometimes the most genuine show of friendship is to admit what you don't know about someone, show them respect, and give them some space. See, for camaraderie to work, you have to be someone's comrade. And if you were really my comrade, you would already know that I don't like to be called "whore."

Love and Friendship,
Grace

11 comments:

Ropes4u said...

Every time you post I love you a little bit more. J

Katana Barnett said...

Yes.

This is such a wise answer, and although I don't know personally the term "whore" and what you know in your bones, I know "Indian" and the way it feels in my bones coming from my mother it's different then coming from a white male who says "my drinking buddies are Indians."

It's not the same.
It IS a different language.

Thank you, lovely soul.

Frank said...

You got served, dawg.

I kinda understand why he asks it, but it's still stupid to ask a black person if it's ok to call them nigger. Even if you've known the person for years.

It's just the way it is, man. Those words have power in specific cultural interactions and that ain't gonna change.

Besides, you never call a pretty girl you want to kiss a whore.

violet badbunny said...

that was a dumb question. if you have to ask, then you should know. people are ignorant. but at least he asked. lol

Mister Blue said...

"alchemize it through our experience into a term of inclusion and acceptance"

very pretty

Curvy Gal said...

No,no, no. There is always a subtext. I had one client, who I knew had dangerous tendencies, and he sent me messages with titles like "My sweet little Whore" and I just knew at a gut level there was all sorts of nasty and power around his use of the word.

I also felt odd when one of my friends made a joke along the lines of me being openly a whore, rather than "just a slut" like her when she talked about sleeping with married men. Ouch. And judgy.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad the question was asked, it evoked a clear response. Thank you.

Shaman Hawk said...

Whatever the word, if it involves the sharing of affection, it's a good thing.

Dion said...

Nice to read the female side of stripping. My experience as a male stripper is much different, though "male whore" comes into play here and there..

Hi! I'm Scout. said...

Hi Grace.

I started reading your blog yesterday. I just finished. You inspired me to write my own blog, starting from the beginning. I have an audition at a stripclub on Monday in Detroit. I'm nervous, excited. Check out my blog maybe?

I love you, platonically. <3

-Scout

Anonymous said...

Thanks for these teachings, these are important conversations and help me to understand sexuality and its place in life and culture. Respect Grace.