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The Definition of the Key Term “Whore” Essay

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Updated: Jul 9th, 2021

For the purpose of research, the key cultural value “whore” was selected. I decided to explore this term because its application in popular usage does not correspond to its dictionary definitions, which include “a woman who has many sexual partners” or “a female prostitute” (“Whore”).

My major reason for researching this concept is that women are portrayed in media in a particularly negative light. Specifically, popular television shows such as Sons of Anarchy and The Sopranos are known for their display of extremely violent treatment of females. I would like to investigate why the word “whore” is frequently used in such television shows toward all types of women, not only those that are prostitutes or who have many sexual partners. It seems to me that the word’s use should be subject to reasonable limits or at least the usage should reflect the constraints of the dictionary definition.

Currently, it is not possible to say that television shows regulate their language or pay much attention to the rights of women. The most disturbing outcome is that people who watch such shows, especially men, tend to believe that the use of the word “whore” when addressing practically any woman is viable. On a related note, such viewers may become accustomed to seeing violence on the screen and may go on to apply some of the behaviors they have observed to females in real life. Thus, it is crucial to analyze the reasons behind the negative portrayal of women in television shows in order to find ways of preventing violent treatment of females.

Even when the word “whore” is used in concord with its defined meaning, it is not void of prejudice. Usually, a woman “who sells her honor for base gain or puts her abilities to infamous use” is treated with contempt and disrespect (Pheterson 42). However, such transactions also have another side, and Pheterson remarks that the men who pursue a transaction with a prostitute should be the ones considered unworthy (42).

In discussing the word “whore” as a substitute for “prostitute,” Pheterson mentions that these women are known for advertising their services or engaging in sex for money (42). However, when the word is used in television shows, it does not always refer to females who do any of the mentioned actions. Thus, it is not clear why screenwriters include the word “whore” in dialogues between male characters and women that are not prostitutes. Males appear to use the word to humiliate females both physically and verbally.

In her book, Williams analyzes pornographic cinematography and discusses the ways in which violence is portrayed on the screen. This author, too, mentions that women are commonly the victims of violence after or during the acts that men also refer to in order to offend them verbally (Williams 167). In her analysis of different movies of pornographic character, Williams uses the word “whore” in its direct meaning: a woman who earns money by satisfying men’s sexual needs (136).

However, in the mentioned television shows, male characters tend to use this word when describing a woman who has betrayed them or one who did something that they consider inappropriate (not necessarily a sexual act with another man). Thus, I would like to analyze the core reasons for women’s portrayal in popular television shows since I consider such a depiction inappropriate. The Sopranos and Sons of Anarchy seem to offer much suitable material for the investigation.

Works Cited

Pheterson, Gail. “The Whore Stigma: Female Dishonor and Male Unworthiness.” Social Text, no. 37, 1993, pp. 39-64.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English Online. Web.

Williams, Linda. Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the “Frenzy of the Visible.” University of California Press, 1989.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "The Definition of the Key Term “Whore”." July 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-definition-of-the-key-term-whore/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'The Definition of the Key Term “Whore”'. 9 July.

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