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a rose by any other name

I was watching TV the other day when I noticed something really interesting. Well, I think it’s interesting. I tend to geek out on sex and words, but maybe you don’t think it’s a big deal. Anyway, the word “bitch” has lots of meanings and at least two of them are completely contradictory, which I think is fascinating.

On the one hand, a bitch is a powerful woman. Any time a woman is in a position of control, one of the words that gets thrown at her is “bitch.” It’s especially true if she’s sexually powerful, which can mean anything from speaking up for herself, making her own sexual decisions or simply being sexually assertive. Ultimately, “bitch” in this sense of the word gets thrown at independent women. This seems to be linked with the use of the word to mean “complain” since women who speak up for themselves are seen as complaining (i.e. bitching) even if the same statements from a man are seen as assertive or confident.

On the other hand, “bitch” also refers to someone (of any gender) who has no control and especially no sexual agency. It often means someone who is under someone else’s power, or someone who has no sexual agency because they are forced to acquiesce to someone else’s sexual demands. When someone say “S/he’s my bitch,” is means “that person is under my control.”

Words change meanings a lot, and words about sexuality morph especially quickly. I’m sure that someone out there could do a really great research piece about this. I’d do it if I had the time, but since I don’t, I thought I’d just put this out there.

I’m just saying, is all.

Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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