let's stop joking about the word "whore…"

words matter

This could possibly be my shortest blog post ever, a close second to “we let women lead.”

In the past month or so I have heard several different men & women say things like this: “I’m such an approval whore” or “I’m a whore for chocolate” or “I’m an attention whore.”  Everyone laughed.

It made me cringe inside and I remember thinking, “This is what happens when your eyes get opened to injustice. You start noticing stuff you never noticed before and then you have to consider doing something about it.”

And then I pushed it down in the moment because I don’t want to be one of those hard-ass judgy people who critique every little thing that people say. That feels yucky, and I know I can say all kinds of unintentionally-not-good-things, too. I also know when they said these words it doesn’t come from a bad place or a mean heart. These people care about women and people deeply and were just using it as a figure of speech.

It’s just become normal to use the word “whore” as a common phrase without thinking of its underpinning. 

It’s supposed to be funny.

But it’s not.

No woman sets out to sell her body for sex.

No woman is meant to sell her body for sex.

No woman should have to sell her body for sex.

And we shouldn’t be joking about it.

When we use the word “whore” tacked onto our language like it’s nothing, it desensitizes us to the plight of our sisters.

It minimizes the reality that right now as i’m writing these words and as you are reading them there are countless number of women whose bodies are being used for sex because they are either being forced to or they have no other options.

Yeah, “whore” is just something I hope to see taken out of our vocabulary completely.

Words matter.

I would love for us to find another way to say what we’re trying to say that doesn’t further degrade what’s already being degraded.

It’s really not funny. And it’s definitely not the right word.

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Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

29 Comments

  • Absolutely spot on. Some things are somewhat harmless and not worth making a big deal about. This is not one of them. I appreciate the encouragement to be thoughtful
    about the words we use.

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  • I hate it also. There is always good in people, but to call people that, even in jest, is calling them everything including failures.

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  • I certainly appreciate the tragedy of those forced into prostitution, either by outright human trafficking or the lack of options. As a bartender for over a decade in New Orleans, most of my close friends were sex workers, and as a result, I have maintained interest and associations with women in this field all my life. I therefore, would like to share the inconvenient truth that the vast majority of women in this profession in the US freely choose it due to the extraordinary income opportunity it provides. The morality of that choice, is of course debatable, But I’ve noticed middle class women throughout history have shut down this avenue for working class women, perhaps with the best of intentions, to end up only increasing poverty and its attendant evils. Nobody sets out in life to be a bartender, or a telemarketer, or most of the jobs we end up falling into. Most entail far more degradation and humiliation than many professionals would believe, and I know many of them suffer indignities of their own. I’ve noticed people generally feel pretty good about themselves for taking a stand against sex work, and few in the church would argue them. I do feel when we do this, we need to examine our own classism and biases regarding what people do with their own bodies, and just how much degradation people outside of that field endure in their workaday lives.

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    • Thank you for injecting some truth into the dishonesty of this post. The idea that women only engage in sex work due to some horrible circumstance in their lives is simply ignorant.

      But Christians think that they know what the creator of the universe believes about such things as homosexuality and prostution because ‘he’ wrote a book two thousand years ago and right after the instructions for owning our slaves, offering animal sacrifices and stoning people to death he wrote his instructions for the proper use of our genitals.

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      • Thank you Ms. Escobar, for taking your time to reply. Not quite certain which vicious cycle you’re referring to (I suppose you can take your pick in our world!)–One of the points I was endeavoring to make is that most of the women I’ve known who do/have done sex work, are very appreciative for the opportunity to support themselves and their families as well as that line provides. For generally miserable people who hate every minute of their jobs, and who feel/are horribly exploited, one need go no further than places like the McDonald’s my son works at. Thanks again.

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  • Sorry if I posted twice, but I think my first one got lost. Just saying I agree and I have the same reaction to the ethnic slur “gypped.” I hate that it’s in our common vocabulary. Makes me cringe every time I hear it.

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  • @Kathy I LOVE U!! Finally someone say something about it… I’ve never been too fond of it cause we get alot of name callin in the family in a bad way … u say u cringed. .. perfect word to explain how u define that feeling!! I went thru alot in my life… i am really glad u spoke up! You rock!!

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      • Yes… it does…but if u look at it from my perspective. .. I learned not to take it too personal cause it’s not about me, doesn’t make it u or who u really are… what’s the point? Is it even worth getting upset cause someone hurt u and u hurt them back? No… i learned that the hard way… #tsk I gotta say thank god for therapy… 🙂

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  • Preach! There needs to be a reformation in our society’s “sense of humor” so that it does not include degrading people. It is completely unjust.

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  • Well, you made me think, here. We have one private silly joke my brother-in-law started last year after my parents died and we were going through estate stuff. I went along with it. Didn’t much think about it. Understandable in the circumstance, so I am not feeling bad. Just greater sense of awareness. Yep, you are right. I will come up with another word that hopefully has no connection to debasing a human being. Thank you. 🙂

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  • Yep no joke. Thanks much Kathy. Hits close to home. Thanks also to commenter RYEL08 with regard to “gypped,” which also hits very close to home.

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  • It seems like a variation of ableism. Like saying, “well that sounds crazy” or “the weather is bipolar.” We do need to be careful about the words we use.

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  • Sooo good. The word is a huuuge trigger for me, and dislike the word so much. I hear teen girls all the time use it, and are totally unaware of the impact. At all. A lack of awareness of what it really feels like to be called and treated as such, can cause so much pain. Glad that the awful word is losing its grip on me, though, day by day. #longhaulbaby #pavetheway

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  • Prostitution isn’t a problem, Timmy.

    Violence, Islamic Radicalism, Global Warming, pollution, poverty, etc.

    Now those are problems.

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  • The term “whore” for a feminist might be a term of gender equality. A lot of men don’t mind being called a “whore monger”. In fact they would consider it a compliment. I don’t consider it a compliment.

    Reply

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