SeMANtics, SHEmantics

by Kristie LeVangie

As a writer, I often deal with semantics.  I’ve always been fascinated by the power of certain words, the eloquence of certain words, the overuse of certain words, the mechanics of certain words, and the duality of certain words.  For those who truly value writing for what it is, words can be the difference between getting your point across and losing the reader in the murkiness of thought.  It can be the difference between creating a mood or creating a mess.  So it was interesting to me the other day when I ran across the following entries in an online thesaurus.

Women who are considered extremely sexual are referred to as babes, bunnies, centerfolds, lookers, pinup girls, pussycats, sex objects, sex symbols, and stunners.  Men who are considered extremely sexual are referred to as Adonises, beefcakes, dreamboats, Greek gods, hunks, lookers, sex objects, and studs.

While some of the nouns appear to be unisex (sex objects and lookers), it was blatantly apparent that there are dramatic gender differences in the choice of synonyms.  Women are referred to as objects and as cute little animals.  (I think that Heff had a larger part in the sexual evolution of our species than he is given credit for.)  Men are gods, Greek ones.  They are brutes – beefcakes, hunks, studs.

The male words are powerful, viral, subjective.  The female words are cute, powerless, objective.  It’s completely symbolic of the evolutionary idea that the man is the viral aggressor and the woman is the timid enticer.  And biologically, evolutionarily, it made sense.  But the more thought I put into it, the more I was struck by its antiquity.

We now live in a society that places a certain value on the female aggressor.  Let’s face it.  Sharon Stone did not rise to the top of the Hollywood ladder because of her acting ability.  Mrs. Robinson was not a nymphette lying in wait for Dustin Hoffman to take her in The Graduate.  And Demi Moore did not innocently pursue Michael Douglass around the office.

Lots of men crave aggressive women.  I think it’s a relief when some of societal pressures are alleviated from them.  It’s exciting.  To be the taker instead of the takee allows one to open themselves up for adventure, for surprise.

But where are the words to describe these women?  Where are the words to capture the malicious, the deliberate, the powerful vixens?  What words can we add to the list that would include these dominant women?


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