“Whores” and Scriptures: Epithets, perceptions of women, and divine texts

August 15, 2006 | 87 comments
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Recent comment discussions at the Exponent II and Feminist Mormon Housewives blogs have examined the propriety (or impropriety) of using terms like “slut” and “whore.” A few male commenters used those terms in comments; in response, female commenters, making an argument I tend to agree with, have asserted that there is no place for these words in general discussion. I think that’s right; people should not use these kinds of terms in general conversation. And yet, how can I make that argument with a straight face, given the frequent usage of these kinds of terms in scripture?

First, the case against words like “slut” and “whore.” It’s not too hard to make, really. As AmyB notes at X2, they are terms that tend to objectify and degrade women; they are terms that focus on a woman’s past sexual experiences (or even on her sartorial choices) to make conclusions about her value as a person; they focus on her first as a sexual object rather than as a human being.

They are terms that are terribly offensive to women (and men) because they label and devalue women in that way. They also link to harmful cultural messages that do the same. Women already face a barrage of negative messages tied to their bodies and to their status as objects of sexual desire; followers of Christ should not use words that link to those labels. And they are terms that create a terrible gender-based double standard: There is no male equivalent of a slut; that is, there is no universally degrading term applied to a (straight) man based on his sexual history.

Because these are gender-skewed terms that seek to give primacy to women’s status as sex objects, they are problematic and should be avoided. They may be discussed in examination of the cultural concept (as in this post) but should not be used in a way that affirms that cultural concept, such as in the blog comments at X2 and FMH that drew the initial criticism (“People get labeled as sluts, and treated like sluts, because they dress and act like sluts” and “we are raising a whole generation of girls who start to dress like sluts from the time they enter kindergarten”).

Now, the tricky part. My first inclination, on seeing the X2 comment a few days ago, was to write essentially the above: A post about why church members should avoid terms like “slut” and “whore.” But as I thought it through, a much larger problem occurred to me: Those kinds of terms are used frequently in scripture. A word search at lds.org for the term “whore” in scripture gives 32 different results, ranging from the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) to the Book of Mormon to the Doctrine and Covenants.

And suddenly, I’m stuck with a disjunct of sorts. I tend to feel that people should avoid using epithets that degrade and objectify women; yet these terms seem to be ones that God uses regularly. This raises all sorts of hard questions. I can’t say I know the answers, but let me set out a few of the questions that come to mind:

Why in the world is God so apparently comfortable using terms that reduce women to sex objects? Why is God willing to use “whore” as a general-purpose epithet (as in D&C 29:21, and many other verses)? Is God unaware of the cultural problems (objectification of women) that arise from using words like “whore” in this way; does he not care? Does God hate women?

Are these perhaps just particularly ugly cases of God-working-within-existing-cultural-limitations-of-the-time? (But if so, then how should we treat conference talks from the past ten and twenty years that reiterate the usage?)

And finally, what does the existence of these scriptural passages mean for my own initial thoughts on the usage of these words? Does the use of these terms in scripture mean I should stop caring so much about their use in other contexts? How can I suggest that rank-and-file church members avoid terms that objectify women, when our scriptures seem to be a record of God using such terms regularly? Is the answer that feminists are wrong, and women are supposed to be objectified?

Or is there a way to read these passages, consistent with the ideas that women generally should not be objectified, and that words that tend to objectify women generally should be avoided?

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87 Responses to “Whores” and Scriptures: Epithets, perceptions of women, and divine texts

  1. Mardell on August 15, 2006 at 9:35 pm

    Good question, Kaimi. My thoughts – I wonder whether God really used that term in whatever language he was speaking in, or whether men translated it that way due to their own cultural biases against women. I don\’t know if God wants to objectify women, but maybe the bible\’s translators (prophets) were more comfortable with doing that. People are influenced that way.

  2. Julie M. Smith on August 15, 2006 at 9:47 pm

    Leave it to me to always put a positive spin on things–

    Most of the ‘whore’ references in the scriptures are playing on the imagery of the covenant between God and Israel as analogous to the marriage contract, with God as the groom and Israel (or the church) as the bride. Hence, Israel is a ‘whore’ when she is unfaithful to the covenant she has made with God. So before you get to the whore imagery, you have symbolized Israel (or the Church) as a woman. In order for this imagery to work, she has to be someone who can act independently and make decisions about her personal relationships and enter into covenants. Therefore: not the picture of an oppressed sex object, but an actor with agency. (Some) Catholics make a big deal about the idea that only men can be priests because only a man can represent Christ to the congregation. Well, the whore imagery relies on the idea that a woman can represent the Church. Maybe we should make a big deal out of that. (But I think this is pushing the image too far.) As far as actual whores, Tamar (I don’t think whore in the KJV for her, though harlot is used) and Rahab (again, harlot) end up with pretty good outcomes. (Are there other actual harlots?) That at leasts speaks to the possibility of justification/redemption.

  3. Deborah on August 15, 2006 at 9:51 pm

    I’ve recently been thinking about scriptural references to women (specific or metaphorical) in terms of archetypes, Virgin/whore would be among the most prominent . . .

  4. Eric Russell on August 15, 2006 at 10:03 pm

    Kaimi, this is interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone even attempt a claim that a word meant more than what it means. Even with swear words or other colloquially strong words, the implications of their usage are part of their meaning.

    My question, I suppose, is what about all the other similar words? Do all words that mean “a sexually promiscuous woman� necessarily objectify all women? What about “skank� or “tramp�? What about “prostitute�?

    It is an unfortunate result of a history that looks passively on male promiscuity that most words that refer to sexual promiscuity refer specifically to women. But that’s not the words’ fault. I don’t think you could prove that the meaning of the words themselves include that history.

  5. Wacky Hermit on August 15, 2006 at 10:03 pm

    “Whore” isn’t a term used to objectify women, it’s a term used to describe women who have objectified *themselves* by making their living (or their lives) out of being sexual objects. That’s why it’s such an insult– it says the woman in question has made herself out to be a mere object. “Flattening” yourself into a two-dimensional object on purpose is a wholly different thing from reciting your sexual history. Thus Judah’s daughter-in-law was a harlot, but the woman with seven husbands in the hypothetical posed to Jesus was not.

  6. Wacky Hermit on August 15, 2006 at 10:05 pm

    Oh, and there is a male equivalent for “whore”: “gigolo”.

  7. Julie M. Smith on August 15, 2006 at 10:10 pm

    Re #6: I think you make Kaimi s point for him: gigilo has fun, swaggering connotations and is missing most of the negativity of whore.

  8. Clark on August 15, 2006 at 11:02 pm

    Wacky Hermit, I’m not at all convinced all or even most women who become prostitutes necessarily “objectified” themselves. Most in the world and almost certainly most in the old world were basically slaves. Even today in rich nations I’ll bet most suffer extreme emotional difficulties due to abuse or related problems in their childhood. To say that they choose in a simple straightforward manner to be sexual objects rather than men providing structures to make them into such seems a bit misleading.

    I recognize though that this is how the term is used in the scriptures. But I think it useful to unpack how women are treated in OT times. God has to speak to us within our culture even if perhaps he hates our culture.

  9. s on August 15, 2006 at 11:42 pm

    (Okay, I think this got stuck in moderation the first time around since I’ve switched names (I’m going by “Seraphine” now instead of “s”), but since I don’t have the patience to wait for it, I’m going to repost it with my old name.)

    Kaimi, your post gets at some of the questions at the most recent post I’ve made at ZD(my boiled down point: to what extent do we attribute the language of the scriptures to God, and to what extent do we allow for cultural influence?). The use of “whore” in the scriptures (and the absence of any male term) is a cultural phenomenon that still exists today (in my women’s studies classes, we discuss at length the sexual double-standard), which is why it has shown up in conference talks in recent decades.

    Julie, while I agree that “whore” often occurs in the context of Israel and covenants, I don’t think it’s a term that is completely redeemable by saying that Israel has agency in her covenant-making. I think that we would all agree that Israel breaking covenants is a bad thing. While I understand the metaphorical value of using a female-gendered word as a representation of Israel’s bad choices (Israel is described as the bride to Christ’s groom), a term that is typically used to objectify women–or at the very least, discuss her in terms of her body and sexuality–is being used to describe wicked behavior in general, which I think is a move we should resist making.

    Also, how often are we really talking about things like the “whore of Babylon”? Typically, when words like this appear in modern usage, they appear with modern references (and all the resultant problems which have already been outlined by Kaimi). So, I would argue that we should resist the impulse to use words like “whore” and “slut” (unless we have to specifically discuss these scriptures).

  10. MLU on August 15, 2006 at 11:43 pm

    “Sexual objects”? How about they use sacred powers for personal gain? Along the lines of priestcraft. . .

  11. Blain on August 15, 2006 at 11:58 pm

    A couple of thoughts. First, I guess you’ve not run into the term “man-whore” which my daughter uses not infrequently (and she’ll refer to a male as a slut as well). Gender-specific usage is optional.

    Next, a lot of the “whore” language in scripture makes sense if you recall the ritualistic use of sex with prostitutes in Mesopotamian pagan religions, and that “whore” was one of the phases of goddess worship along side “virgin” and “crone.” Somebody someplace (great cite, huh) speculated that Isabel, the harlot in the Book of Mormon, might actually have actually been a goddess in this kind of a ritual, and that Corianton wasn’t exactly whoring around so much as engaging in pagan worship (which may have included some whoring, but may not).

    Just a couple of thoughts tangential to your question.

  12. Idahospud on August 16, 2006 at 12:30 am

    #6: I don’t think “gigolo” comes close to “whore” as an equivalent–it’s not derogatory enough. In fact, many of the words used for a sexually experienced man (“Casanova,” “rake,” and the like) have a bit of a positive association with them.

  13. Idahospud on August 16, 2006 at 12:39 am

    Julie (#2): How about the harlot Isabel, that Corianton dallies with? We do know that Corianton repents, but I suppose his repentance could have come in the form of marrying Isabel (“making her an honest woman”) rather than in rejecting her. It’s all conjecture, of course, but I think it is interesting that we do have some specific harlots in the scriptures but “whore” is more of a general term; I’d be interested to see how the pattern holds (or doesn’t).

  14. Starfoxy on August 16, 2006 at 1:12 am

    What about “skank� or “tramp�? What about “prostitute�?

    I think skank and tramp mean the same things as slut and whore even if they aren’t as snappy. It’s like the difference between Poop and Shit. One is how polite people insult others.

    “Whore� isn’t a term used to objectify women, it’s a term used to describe women who have objectified *themselves* by making their living (or their lives) out of being sexual objects.

    I wholeheartedly disagree. Slut and whore are words that people apply to a woman when they don’t approve of her sexual choices. The most common usage I’ve seen is when a girl breaks up with a guy, the stinted man (and his friends) call her a whore regardless of her sexual status. It happened to me. Women who actually choose to sell their bodies would be more likely to call themselves prostitutes, or escorts.

  15. Mark Butler on August 16, 2006 at 1:12 am

    I agree that certain terms should be used with great care. However, they must be used, because certain ideas are difficult to communicate any other way. How else is one supposed to convey the problems with dressing like Brittany Spears? That she is immodest? provocative? indecent?

    The fact is that Brittany Spears dresses as much or more like a harlot than any person on the planet, and she does it on purpose, for pecuniary gain. She is a living breathing idol of her own creation, with millions of followers from the age of eight on up.

    So who is the objectifier here? Is there anything more objectifying than making oneself into an idol? Some people are sufficiently wicked that they deserve the title, and certainly it applies in comparison to those who worship at their feet, and imitate them in dress, language, style, beliefs, and so on. The tragedy is that so many adults think that it is fine and dandy for their daughters and sons to dress like the wantonly immoral.

    Now perhaps it is a matter of some dispute, but I believe that God would describe what is going on in our culture using very similar language and metaphors that his prophets used in ancient Israel. If anything we need more of it, not less. These things are an abomination unto the Lord.

  16. DKL on August 16, 2006 at 1:42 am

    The whole “power of words” thing. Geez. The problem I have with the power of words things is that it ignores the power of ideas. Call me old fashioned, but I agree with Aristotle that ideas are the important part, and the words are just marketing. Unless someone is purposefully using words to distort or obfuscate their ideas, then then you may as well complain about someone’s grammar or spelling as complain about their word choice, because none of it has much to do with the substance of their statements.

    I take a pro-choice stance on issues of usage. I’ll use whatever words I want to use, and you use whatever words you want to use. If we can’t develop some understanding of how our ideas map to each other given our own modes of expression, then we’ve not got a lot to talk about.

    The only good reason I can think of for avoiding offensive terms is that you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar. And this is a basically selfish reason. Problem is, sometimes you’re just not looking to attract bees at all. And I’ve got every bit as much right to offend people as they have to be offended.

    At any rate, I find it suspicious that all the same people who tell me that I should “live and let live” when it comes to homos are all the same people who want to tell me what words to use. (Surely sexual relations have more moral import than vocabulary!) It leads me to conclude that they’re more interested in lording their morality over others than granting them the license classically associated with freedom.

  17. Mark Butler on August 16, 2006 at 1:58 am

    Words are ideas.

  18. Mark Butler on August 16, 2006 at 2:06 am

    I generally agree with DKL of course, though I think one is obligated to make sure one’s chosen words reflect the truth of the matter, and to be careful not to mislead if the conventional sense and originary sense disagree.

  19. DKL on August 16, 2006 at 2:12 am

    Words are ideas? Uh, no. They’re not. If they were, than the notion of restating your argument would be sheer nonsense.

    Words express ideas. The proof is that the same idea can be effectively communicated in several different languages and in several different ways in the same language.

    And another thing. I’ve never gotten the whole “objectify” thing. Supposedly, it involves treating someone as if they were an object. But what on earth would it mean to (literally) view someone like (say) a coffee table or a bag of wheat? I think the obvious answer is nothing at all. It’s a fantasy that invented to villainize men with a pretense for moral high ground. When a man shows reckless disregard for the emotions or feelings of a woman with whom he has a consensual relationship, we say he’s “objectified” her, and though he’s done something worse than being terribly rude and disrespectful. One shouldn’t pretend that introducing new, hip words that play to the current moral hoola-hoops of our culture makes the ideas that they express different or more important. The word “objectify” is just vacuous marketing for a notion that we should treat each other with respect.

  20. Mark Butler on August 16, 2006 at 3:08 am

    In a manner of speaking, yes. However the an idea can rarely be expressed properly when translated from one language to another, because even precise synyonyms carry different cultural associations in different languages. There is nothing more cultural than language.

    Now in order for words not to be ideas, one would have to demonstrate that an idea can exist in non-representational form. No doubt that debate still rages among philosophers. As for myself I cannot begin to comprehend an idea divorced from some sort of representation. All representations correspond to ideas, or they are not representational.

    That many ideas in mind have a different representation than natural language is no object. The point is that, in memory, an idea or even an association has no existence apart from a representation of some sort. The idea is determined by the representation. If you change the representation, you change the idea.

  21. Dorothy Parker on August 16, 2006 at 3:15 am

    You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.

  22. Mardell on August 16, 2006 at 3:37 am

    DKL (16): “I take a pro-choice stance on issues of usage. I’ll use whatever words I want to use, and you use whatever words you want to use.”

    And I will too. DKL, you’re a skanky man-slut. (And pro choice? You ought to consider aborting a few of your comments).

    Mark (18): “I generally agree with DKL”

    See above re: DKL . . .

  23. Mark Butler on August 16, 2006 at 4:31 am

    Mardell, Emphasis on “generally” – and that comment only. What you mention is part of what I object to, as I clearly stated.

    Starfoxy, I can’t imagine any principled fellow calling his former girlfrield a “slut” simply for breaking up with him. Presumably the term denotes someone who engages in sexual relations at the drop of a hat – i.e. worse than a prostitute, who may do it out of material necessity.

  24. Frank McIntyre on August 16, 2006 at 9:02 am

    Kaimi,

    Here’s another one to add to your list of “how could I be wrong”. Maybe the actual objectification of women resulting from such usage (when done in the way the scriptures do) is minimal to nonexistent. Thus, you ask if feminists are wrong and women _should_ be objectified. But you fail to ask if feminists are wrong about the _quantity_ of objectification empirically transmitted by _certain_ uses of words like whore. For example, I find it hard to believe that referring to an evil church as a whore (because she (the church) sells that which is precious for worldly gain) is necessarily going to cause a perceptible increase in objectification of righteous women.

    The fact that some words matter sometimes to some people does not mean that all words matter all the time to all people.

    I don’t know the empirical answer of which words matter to whom and when. My point is that I don’t think women’s studies programs do either (with apologies to Seraphine).

  25. JKC on August 16, 2006 at 9:08 am

    Words are definitely ideas. Language itself is an idea.

  26. JKC on August 16, 2006 at 9:11 am

    The same idea cannot always be expressed in different languages. Similar ideas can be expressed, but as anyone who knows two languages knows, there is always a slight connotational difference, and sometimes a completely distinct connotation despite the literal denotational similarity between words. Maybe that’s just because the cultural contexts within which these words are used create cultural baggage that tweaks the meaning of the words.

  27. Julie M. Smith on August 16, 2006 at 10:26 am

    Re s in #8: you are going in circles: we’re trying to determine _if_ this wording in the scriptures objectifies women but your comment presupposes that it does. My point is that the harlot/whore language in the scriptures is (usually) doing the opposite of objectifying women: it is seeing them as rational actors capable of making independent decisions that, incidentally, are only secondarily concerned with sex. The fact that our two proto-harlots (Tamar and Rahab) take matters in their own hands and are later praised for their choices is telling.

  28. DKL on August 16, 2006 at 10:43 am

    Mardell: DKL, you’re a skanky man-slut.

    ROTFLMAO. I’m inclined to view that as a complement. But seriously, if you’re going to impugn my morality, there’s not much point in being polite about it. The words you’ve chosen are about as good as any. Really, what’s the difference between saying that I’m a skanky man-slut or that I’m a serial philanderer? But if I may say so without appearing defensive, I most certainly am not guilty of the kind of immorality you seem to be accusing me of.

    Mardell: And pro choice? You ought to consider aborting a few of your comments

    Likewise, I’m sure.

    JKC: Words are definitely ideas.

    This is just plain silly. If this were true, then spelling would be more important that it is, and malapropisms would fail to convey meaning. Read Donald Davidson’s, “A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs.”

    Moreover, words have many properties that simply don’t correspond to the idea that they express. Words have fonts, sizes, and length is a way that ideas simply don’t. For example, the word “dog” has 3 letters, it can be italicized or bolded, and it can be displayed with letters that are serif or sans-serif. The idea dog can’t be said to have 3 letters or to be italicized or to have serifs in any meaningful sense.

    JKC: Language itself is an idea.

    It’s fallacious reasoning to assume that because language is an idea that words are ideas, or even than language is only an idea. Animal husbandry is an idea, that doesn’t mean that all ideas are some form of breeding.

    JKC: The same idea cannot always be expressed in different languages.

    This is a tired, old, relativistic canard. Back before people thought about it very hard, Benjamin Whorf’s essay on translating the Hopi Indian language into English was considered definitive proof that this was true. Once people began to actually look at what he was doing, it became obvious that he was using English to explain what people said in Hopi in order to demonstrate that what was said in Hopi couldn’t be explained in English–a self-defeating project to be sure. It’s not that the Hopi ideas couldn’t be expressed in English; Whorf did an admirable job of expressing just those ideas. It’s that they couldn’t be expressed with the same economy in English as in Hopi. In the end, communication isn’t nearly as difficult as Whorf was trying to make it out to be (thankfully).

    Moreover, ideas can be expressed (and frequently are) expressed in graphs and illustrations.

    JKC: Maybe that’s just because the cultural contexts within which these words are used create cultural baggage that tweaks the meaning of the words.

    Once you admit this, then you’ve given up your entire thesis of identity between words and meanings.. The notion that cultural baggage can tweak word meanings presupposes some level of separation between the words and the meanings.

    Mark Butler: in order for words not to be ideas, one would have to demonstrate that an idea can exist in non-representational form.

    Ideas frequently exists in non-representational form. Work on any real-world software project: A primary challenge to make sure that all the ideas being dealt with get represented somewhere. Such ideas may already be latent in some undocumented business process, but unless you actually give the key ones explicit representational form in both documentation and code, your project will fail. If ideas couldn’t exist apart from their non-representational form, then specifying software projects and writing software would be a heck of a lot easier.

  29. Russell Arben Fox on August 16, 2006 at 10:47 am

    “In fact, many of the words used for a sexually experienced man (‘Casanova,’ ‘rake,’ and the like) have a bit of a positive association with them.”

    But what is needed is not an emphasis on “sexual experience” alone–in fact, that’s part of the whole imbalance here; historically, the labels a promiscuous man has had to negotiate have usually neutrally (or even admiringly) referred to the experience alone, whereas a promiscuous woman has been faced with labels that are hardly neutral in regards to the consequences of such sexual adventurism. What is needed is a judgment that can be attached to men, as appropriate, that describes their sexual wantonness in the negative terms it deserves to be.

    “Man-whore” is, I think, entirely a Saturday Night Live creation–not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it means it carries a whiff of ridiculousness with that it’ll probably never shake. Why not “cad”? Yes, it sounds like the sort of thing F. Scott Fitzgerald was called; clearly it’s about a century out of date. But it’s definitely a negative, and gets at the heart of what needs description: someone without any (sexual) self-respect or respect for others. I say we start a movement.

    (This coming from a man who has been trying to get his students to bring back “boss!” and “keen!” for years….)

  30. MikeInWeHo on August 16, 2006 at 11:09 am

    “Cad” isn’t strong enough, Russell, but what a nifty idea. Neato! We already have the term “Player” in the vernacular to describe men who seduce multiple unsuspecting women, but even that doesn’t come close to the intensity of a word like “slut.”

    I’m struck by how quick-to-judge some of these comments are. Virtually all women who get involved in prostitution have been sexually molested as children or raped early in life. It’s kind of grotesque to make comparisons between “rational actors” (like Brittany Spears) and the tragic women who really are prostitutes.

  31. JKC on August 16, 2006 at 11:13 am

    DKL:

    Maybe you have misunderstood me. I have no “thesis of identity between words and meanings” as you seem to define it. Of course I can’t speak for Mark Butler, but I am not saying that ideas cannot be anything other than the words used to convey them. I am saying that they cannot be expressed or communicated without language (graphs, computer progamming languages, and mathematics are all languages). Can you honestly conceive of a complicated abstract idea, or anything other than the most basic literalism without language? It’s no surprise that cognitive development seems to parallel linguistic development–as we gain the ability to express our thoughts, our ability to think is increased. Many ideas never could have existed without words.

    Probably one area of confusion is that the word meaning seems to have two distinct definitions that are not always clarified. In a discussion like this, some people use the word meaning to talk about the things that are expressed by the words that are uttered. Others use it to talk about the intent of the speaker of the words. The first is wholly determined by the listener while the second is wholly determined by the speaker. You may have on idea that exists in your mind independent of language, but as soon as you put that idea into words, you have lost ownership of the meaning, and the idea that is conceived in the mind of your listener is based not on the idea you originally conceived but on the words you used to express that idea. Again, I’m not saying that ideas cannot exist apart from words, I am saying that they cannot be communicated without passing through some alteration caused by the imperfection of language.

    Maybe if we were all speaking adamic…

  32. Kiskilili on August 16, 2006 at 11:16 am

    LOL Mardell (#22)!

    Words express ideas, and every idea can be phrased a number of ways, but word choice definitely does have consequences. To take Starfoxy’s example even a step further, can we use “shit” and “excrement” interchangeably? (Sorry to be crude.) Both words refer to the same thing, and yet they have very different overtones.

    I’m not thrilled with scriptures’ tendency to sometimes cluster negative associations around female imagery, such as describing the Great and Abominable Church as the “mother of harlots” and “whore of all the earth.”

    However, regarding the issue of word choice specifically, as Julie noted, harlots aren’t universally frowned upon in the OT. One of the motivations behind choosing words like “harlot” and “whore,” I suspect, is that that KJV was translated at time when there was a resurgence of interest in the English’s Germanic roots and a reaction to elaborate Latinate “inkhorn” terms. Germanic terms were usually favored where possible over Romantic ones, and Germanic words have typically developed baser associations than their sophisticated-sounding Romantic counterparts (for obvious reasons associated with class). In addition to the example cited above, think of “dead” versus “deceased,” “flood” verus “inundate,” etc. I suspect the unfortunate choice of “whore” rather than “prostitute” was made for just such reasons, and repeated in Restoration scripture in an effort to imitate the style of the KJV (for the same reason that, in the KJV, “piss” was selected over “urinate”).

  33. Starfoxy on August 16, 2006 at 11:18 am

    I think one of the major things is that the word is very rarely used accurately. When it’s not used to describe how women are dressed, it is used by women who feel threatened by another woman, it’s used by men who have been snubbed, and it’s used by parents who disapprove regardless of how much or little sex is actually involved. It’s usage equates a woman’s autonomous behavior with low moral standards and prostitution.

    Mark (23), I’ll admit, the man who called me a slut didn’t do it to my face (instead he did it in conversation with a mutual friend). He also didn’t do it just because I broke up with him, he did it because I broke up with him then started dating someone else. This man was a returned missionary and was member in good standing, and had great grades and all sorts of extra curriculars. The majority of people in this world would consider him a principled fellow. I can also attest that I did *nothing* to warrant this insult other than have the gall to not want to be his girlfriend anymore.

  34. DKL on August 16, 2006 at 11:50 am

    JKC: Can you honestly conceive of a complicated abstract idea, or anything other than the most basic literalism without language?

    Oh, yes. In fact, even very many mundane ideas prove elusive when trying to obtain an adequate expression in language. That’s why it is usually easier to demonstrate how something works than explain how it works. The fact that we can demonstrate ideas through non-linguistic actions is a huge boon to educators. It’s much easier to show someone how to use a sewing machine for to achieve certain results than it is to actually explain it. That’s why there’s no “definitive” instruction book on how to use a sewing machine.

    I’ll go one step further and stand against nearly all linguistic philosophers since WWII: Language is reductionistic in the most literal sense. Meanings can be taken in isolation, have their impact on other meanings examined, and put back together with a great deal of precision. Computer languages are a perfect example of this. If you take the same program written in C (a popular compiled programming language), and compile it with two different compilers, the compiled result of each compiler will be different. And if you run the two compiled programs through a de-compiler, you’ll get two different C representations that are different from each other and different from the original. Compiling the de-compiled programs with the other compiler and decompiling them again will yield yet another novel set of C programs. To the extant that these programs behave differently in any respect other than negligible differences in performance, it will be considered the fault of the compiler (or de-compiler).

    And it’s not that C is some sterile language. On the contrary, it has a tremendously nuanced semantic system–and that’s why many people find it to be so very difficult. Not all of the decompiled programs will be “good” C, and it takes a practice of work to get to the point where one can write good C. Indeed, most programmers cannot write really good C even after decades of grinding away at the language (same as most writers in English–like me–can’t write much better than adequate English). A “well written” C program is (I can attest) something that has no small amount of aesthetic beauty (to the trained eye), and it has a lot more to do with understanding the semantic nuances of the languages than the classical buzzwords associated with “good” programming like encapsulation and modularity (in my mind, these buzzwords represent necessary conditions for adequate programming, not good programming).

    And in practice, we find that effective communicators in English likewise can and do use and recombine words with great effect to convey the exact same meanings. For example, to the extant that Kant’s Prolegomena represents a different philosophy than his Critique of Pure Reason, it’s not because of his word choice.

  35. Amanda on August 16, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    I have been taking an institute class this summer on Revelations and feel like I now understand the concept of the “whore” as used in the scriptures much much better. I may just be reiterating what Julie already said in (2), but allow me to indulge myself. It seems as much as we talk about the “whore of all the earth” and other similar ideas, we also talk as much in the scriptures about the image of the bridegroom (Christ) and his bride (the church). The parable of the ten virgins and scores of scriptures talking about the last days, not to mention numerous example in the Old Testament, constantly use this imagery.

    Prostitution, whether we like it or not, is not really meaning sexual relations, per se, but about covenants. As our institute teacher tells us each week, going “a-whoring” is not a condemnation on sexual promiscuity but on turning our back on God and following other Gods. It is leaving the promise of covenant marriage and following idolatry. So, I think the terminology used in the scriptures can only really be understood in terms of the symbolism that is embued throughout the entire history of Israel. It isn’t objectifying women as in using the example of marriage and prostitution as an example. If we, as enlightened intellectuals or feminists, have issues with this view of woman as whores on one hand, we also cannot allow ourselves the comparison of women to the church. I am sure the analogy could have been taken the other way, – i.e. using a man-whore, except that Christ is a man.

  36. john f. on August 16, 2006 at 12:41 pm

    Kaimi, I think Frank did a good job of identifying how you have set up the same type of false dichotomy and straw man argument that you have often accused others of. The only choices you provide force us either to conclude that God is BS or that we should want to objectify and degrade all women.

  37. Cyril on August 16, 2006 at 1:01 pm

    Kaimi, sorry to do this, but I don’t know any other way to bring this article to your attention. Maybe you have already seen it, but I think you might find it interesting and worth maybe a cite on the side-bar, if not a post. Jesus and money and breast implants in Salt Lake City.

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/4119391.html

  38. Seraphine on August 16, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    Julie, I think that perhaps you misunderstood me. I did acknowledge that when whore was used in the Bible, it was generally used in the context that you outlined. My complaint here was the same as Kiskilili’s: “I’m not thrilled with scriptures’ tendency to sometimes cluster negative associations around female imagery, such as describing the Great and Abominable Church as the ‘mother of harlots’ and ‘whore of all the earth.'”

    My objectifying comments mainly had to do with my complaints about it’s modern usage. Typically when it’s used in a modern context, we are not talking about the “whore of Babylon” and Israel breaking her covenants. It’s typically in examples as outlined by Starfoxy–women being called whores or sluts when they break up with their boyfriend, or wear immodest clothing. In those case, I find the term highly problematic–instead of critiquing their behavior for what it is (i.e. “you were insensitive when you broke up with me”, or “she’s wearing clothes that are too immodest for my tastes”), bad decisions by women get cast in really negative terms that discuss the women in terms of their bodies and sexuality (in very intensely negative ways).

    Frank, you’re right that using words like “whore” in the context of the scriptures is probably not going to have an extreme effect on women (though I would argue that there’s a linguistic double-standard here that has at least a small effect). But Kaimi was also asking about our current usage of the word (outside of the context of the scriptures). I don’t think we need empirical studies to prove that women being called words like “whore” and “slut” are going to have a negative impact on at least some women. Name-calling in general is not really a positive thing.

    Seraphine

  39. The Apologist on August 16, 2006 at 2:03 pm

    This one is easy.

    When the Book of Mormon says “whores” it actually means tapirs.

    I hope that clarifies things.

  40. DKL on August 16, 2006 at 2:16 pm

    The Apologist: No, no, no. When it says “whores,” it means steel scimitars. You apologist guys keep trying to redefine things so that they can sound more plausible.

  41. DKL on August 16, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    When I hear people use the word “whore” to refer to women in any non-humorous context, I always make a rather harsh judgment about them. Specifically, I tend to think that they’ve got an axe to grind, and that their usage reflects that axe more than to the virtue of the woman being referred to. Kind of like what’s portrayed relative to ships in this cartoon. I wonder if that’s what’s going on with God when he uses the term “whore.” I mean, when He says, “whore of Babylon” is He saying it because he’s like, “screw that Babylonian monstrosity! I hate it!”?

  42. Blain on August 16, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    41 — He’s referring to the ritual prostitution of the predominate Babylonian religion. There’s a *lot* of jealousy against pagan religions, especially goddess worship, in the OT, with some still showing up in the NT.

    Or were you just being rhetorical?

  43. AmyB on August 16, 2006 at 4:01 pm

    If we are truly striving toward being Christlike, I would think we would be motivated to treat people respectfully, including in the ways in which we speak to them and about them. I don’t see scripture as coming directly from the mouth of God, but rather written by men who are products of their cultures. The Bible is full of practices we now find deplorable. I doubt many of us believe that God goes around smiting and killing wicked people, even thought that’s how the Bible describes it. Similarly we do not need to treat women they way they are treated in the Bible nor speak about them the same way.

    I am troubled by a church culture that in any way makes people think it is okay to make judgments about a person’s sexual, moral, or ethical behavior based on how they are dressed. And I think it reflects poorly on a person who uses derogatory terms to speak about anyone.

  44. DKL on August 16, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    Blain, though I’m choosing many of my words for humorous effect. I’m actually trying to ask a serious question. The modern tendency (even in Mormonism) is to make God into a bland, boring, passionless, all-loving, all-forgiving know-it-all who does stuff for us for our own good. As though he’s somehow above human emotion. Like someone who’s perfected the art of “having an eternal perspective” in the way that people use it as an excuse for being really boring and disconnected from the action in the lives of those around us.

    You’re spot on that the Old Testament doesn’t bear out such an analysis. Neither does Joseph Smith’s theology. And the image of apostates as people who drink their own piss is much clearer than the image of them sipping at urine, like doctors used to do when they tested for diabetes. So when God uses the term “whore,” does it reflect a genuine animosity on his part, analogous to the animosity expressed by a man who calls a woman a whore? or is that just some relic of superstition from some ancient religion? I honestly don’t know.

  45. Jim F. on August 16, 2006 at 4:30 pm

    AmyB: I am troubled by a church culture that in any way makes people think it is okay to make judgments about a person’s sexual, moral, or ethical behavior based on how they are dressed.

    I’ve seen people make those judgments, but I’m not sure I’ve seen a church culture that makes people think it is all right to do so.

    It reflects poorly on a person who uses derogatory terms to speak about anyone.

    I tend to agree with you, but I wonder how you justify that it is wrong to make judgments about people based on the way they dress, but all right to do so based on the words they use. Though, as I said, I tend to have the same gut reaction as you–it is wrong to judge people for their dress; it is all right to judge them for using words like “whore” except in a few, limited contexts–I’m not sure I see any clear line between the two.

  46. JKC on August 16, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    DKL:

    Amen. I likewise am irritated by portrayals of God as an emotionless being, or even worse, as one incapable of emotion. Let’s just strip God of all his personality. That is the God of the creeds, without passions. The difference between divine emotion and human emotion, I would imagine, is that God does not allow his emotions to get out of control, and that he does not direct them at the wrong things. Obviously, we do. But if we are going to create a God that never experiences joy nor sorrow, nor anger nor love, then we might as well, as one writer has said, make Socrates our redeemer instead of Jesus. If God were emotionless he could not be love. One reason I appreciate the old testament is because it restores this view of a passionate God, one who gets so mad at his people/children/covenant spouse depending on the imagery, because he loves them/her so freakin’ much.

    Unfortunately, since our culture and language is gender-biased, God’s expressions of his passion (or images written by prophets to convey his passion) when translated into our language take on those same biased connotations. As far as individual instances of “whore” or “harlot” I have no idea what their origins are or if they are justified.

  47. Dan Y. on August 16, 2006 at 4:56 pm

    Jim F.: “I’m not sure I see any clear line between the two.”

    The line may not be crystal clear but I think there is a rough rule of thumb that might be useful, one based on the two great commandments. If some action violates the first commandment (love God) but not the second (love your neighbor), we should be very hesitant to judge. After all, God is a big boy and can take care of himself. Society has a greater interest in discouraging actions that violate the second, so the case for judging is stronger. In the case at hand, using words that gratuitously disparage another person obviously violates the second commandment. That dressing inappropriately violates the second commandment is much less obvious.

    (This is a long-winded way of arguing for making a distinction between victimless crime and crimes with victims.)

  48. Frank McIntyre on August 16, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    Seraphine,

    “I don’t think we need empirical studies to prove that women being called words like “whoreâ€? and “slutâ€? are going to have a negative impact on at least some women.”

    Indeed, we actually don’t need empirical studies because to establish the claim all we need to do is find at least some woman that felt she was negatively affected. Of course, that is basically just a very easy empirical study.

    I don’t really have much to say about the broader question of the actual costs of name calling or the power of words. But I’ve yet to see many other people who actually have much to say either- in the sense of the ratio of theory to evidence on objectification and similar feminist theories seems to be very high. If you know of any competent empirical studies on the subject, let me know because that would be very interesting.

    Jim,

    “I’m not sure I see any clear line between the two.”

    indeed

  49. DKL on August 16, 2006 at 5:02 pm

    AmyB: I am troubled by a church culture that in any way makes people think it is okay to make judgments about a person’s sexual, moral, or ethical behavior based on how they are dressed.

    I make all kinds of judgments about people based on how their dressed. I make them reflexively. Sometimes they’re accurate, and sometimes they’re not. Provincetown, Massachusetts on Cape Cod is the gay Mecca of New England, but (oddly) it’s also a family vacation destination. When you go there, you frequently see pairs of men on tandem bicycles with nothing on but tennis shoes and skimpy running shorts. When I see that, I immediately recognize that they’re gay. Big deal. Maybe they’re just brothers. Who knows.

    I’m fully aware of the fact that people judge me based on how I dress, and it doesn’t bother me in the least. That’s why I’ll pay to get a new suit altered by my tailor instead of letting some in-store tailor do the work. People judge me by how I look–that’s why they have eyes, you know.

    But here’s the bad news: Dressing ain’t the half of it. People will judge you from your posture, from the way that you speak, from the way that you laugh, from the way that your children act, from the way that your parents act, from the job that you have, from the jokes that you tell, from the comments that you write on blogs. That’s life. Get used to it, and stop being so judgmental about the basic human faculty that people have to sort others into categories of those who are more and less like themselves.

  50. AmyB on August 16, 2006 at 5:13 pm

    I tend to agree with you, but I wonder how you justify that it is wrong to make judgments about people based on the way they dress, but all right to do so based on the words they use.

    To be honest, I make plenty of judgments about people based on the way they are dressed. I take cues as to whether I am safe around them (very important when one lives in the inner-city). If I were interviewing someone for a job, I would be more likely to choose someone who dressed in a business-like manner than overly casual. I think it’s a good idea for people to dress appropriate to whatever context they are in. I just don’t think it’s proper to judge their character or make disparaging remarks based upon how a person is dressed. Likewise, I think some modes of discourse and use of words are better than others. I prefer words that show respect. I’m not always good at this in practice, but I do hold it as an ideal for myself.

  51. YL on August 16, 2006 at 5:28 pm

    For the honest person the question of judging is a strenuous exercise of determining what authority we have [all people have some authority to judge], what the facts show, what the facts don\’t show, what other information is needed, how the Lord feels about the situation.

    But the dishonest person uses false judgments to achieve dishonest goals: e.g. the store employees are mean so you can shoplift their things; you need money more than another person does, so you can falsely accuse the other person and steal from that person; you call someone a hypocrite if they righteously judge someone else a whore, because the behavior of the whore resembles your own.

  52. Mark Butler on August 16, 2006 at 6:34 pm

    Starfoxy (#33),

    I am implying that such a person is indeed unprincipled or morally defective in a critical respect if he calls a person a slut in such a circumstance. The only thing that would even come close would be if he had justified reason to believe that you were stringing him along or toying with his emotions. And in such a case I think terms like “flighty”, “unserious”, “insensitive”, or “uncaring” would be rather more appropriate.

    Now, for technical reasons, I would be reluctant to call Britney Spears a “slut”, but I cannot see that stating that she dresses like a “slut” is anything but the truth. Any time anyone dresses with the express purpose of provoking lust, covetousness or idolatry as opposed to looking generally attractive, upright, and healthy is certainly comparable to some degree or another. I do not think all sexual attraction is evil. The point is that it needs to be controlled and disciplined not to wreak havoc upon society. So a righteous woman (with some greater license to the unmarried) tries to look attractive without shoving it in our faces.

    Seraphine (#38),

    We cannot easily control our culture’s tendency to soften many evil terms, but relatively male equivalents include:

    animal, beast, monster, pervert, deviant, abuser, bully, criminal, crook, murderer, rapist, devil, dictator, powerhead, despot, idolater, drunkard, villain, terrorist, imposter, sorceror, child of hell, son of perdition, Anti-christ, man of sin, felon, hustler, gangster, hoodlum, deadbeat, miscreant, fraud, prodigal, rake, reprobate, knave, louse, heel, wretch, cheat, swindler, robber.

    I think “beast” is the most direct counterpart of “whore” in the scriptures. In Revelations 17, Babylon sits on the back of the beast. It is also worth noting that the Devil is a man. If women were really at the root of most evil, (s)he would likely have been a woman instead. It is also worth mentioning the term “son of perdition”, which is about an evil a descriptor as there is in our faith.

  53. Mark Butler on August 16, 2006 at 6:59 pm

    DKL (#44),

    Genuine animosity? Absolutely. Unjustified animosity? No.

    I think there is a weird thing in contemporary Christianity where there is no such thing as righteous anger, disgust, judgment, and so on. It is critical that we do not judge unrighteously, but avoiding judgment altogether is fatal.

    You are stretching things with your analogy with the C language. The compiler doesn’t understand all those added semantics. The practical inability of the compiler to optimize the most common C constructs (pointer aliasing) is evidence that the semantics of the language are very weak.

    Most of what you described is either plain English transliterated into C symbol names or a convenient understandable organization for later programers. In other words you are describing custom languages built on top of the C language, not the C language itself. You would have a better case with C++. I am a big fan of close to the metal programming, but such languages are inevitably weak, in terms of what the compiler can legitimately do.

    Also, “words” have multiple senses, including the word “word”. I see the essential part of a word as a functional definition of a concept in terms of other concepts, including natural concepts. The form of a word when actually committed to paper is secondary. Indeed the pronunciation of a word is far more important than the written form of a word. People learn to speak and listen long before they learn to read and write. And yet even the pronunciation is an incidental aspect of a word. The critical part of a word in mind is some sort of conceptual definition or collection of association.

    As such I say again, that a word is an idea, independent of pronunciation or form on the page. Or in other “words”, all words in mind are concepts, nominative concepts in particular. The words you seem to be referring to are more properly called “tokens”. Tokens can vary (in mind, out of mind, pronunciation, abbreviation) without changing the semantics of a term, but the base language generally cannot. The language is where the semantics of any given term are “stored” – i.e. in the minds of all the speakers thereof, according to common convention founded in shared experience.

  54. Costanza on August 16, 2006 at 7:59 pm

    “animal, beast, monster, pervert, deviant, abuser, bully, criminal, crook, murderer, rapist, devil, dictator, powerhead, despot, idolater, drunkard, villain, terrorist, imposter, sorceror, child of hell, son of perdition, Anti-christ, man of sin, felon, hustler, gangster, hoodlum, deadbeat, miscreant, fraud, prodigal, rake, reprobate, knave, louse, heel, wretch, cheat, swindler, robber.” That reminds me, it’s almost family reunion time.

  55. DKL on August 16, 2006 at 9:38 pm

    Mark, you don’t seem to get what I’m talking about. I’m talking about C itself, not languages built on top of it, and not standards of documenting C in English. And my argument doesn’t have anything to do with what the compiler can legitimately do or any manner of optimization. Nearly everything you’ve said is either wrong or beside the point. The rest undermines your thesis. This is starting to get the feel of a fake argument again.

    The inability of compilers to optimize is evidence of the semantic complexity of the language, Mark. If C weren’t semantically complex, then there’d be no real problem with optimizing any given portion of it. But the question of optimization has nothing to do with the reduction. A compiler written by a graduate student that has no optimization whatever is sufficient to prove my point about reduction. The success that the compiler meets with in compiling the language in spite of this complexity is the proof that the reduction succeeds. And the plethora of programs and operating systems and other languages written in C is proof that it succeeds with greater regularly than could possibly be imagined by anti-reductionists just a few decades ago.

  56. DKL on August 16, 2006 at 9:45 pm

    Submitted to early. Here’s the rest:

    Moreover, you’ve taken far too narrow a view of the C language. When you refer to “convenient organization” or other elements of code readability, you’re pretending that they have no semantic import. On the contrary, these are part and parcel of the nuanced semantics that I am referring to. Yet in spite of this nuance and the inability of a decompiler to preserve it, the reduction succeeds repeatedly and with 100% reliability. The proof of this is that there is no discernible difference between the actual running programs created from the same source code using the different compilers.

    The question of which language we choose is mute. I chose C because it is so ostensibly simple. My dog-eared copy of Kernighan and Ritchie is at the office, so I don’t have an exact page count, but it’s quite short–on the order of 100 pages and change (shorter than Language, Truth, and Logic). Most C programs compile on C++ compilers anyway (and, again, into different code than a C compiler would generate, which leads to no discernible difference in the program that actually gets run. But my argument holds true for C++, objective C, C#, Java, and even entirely interpreted languages like Python or Ruby.

    Your exposition on words is bewildering. You’re trying to argue that words are ideas, and then you offer as evidence the fact that words are associated with ideas? That’s the position that I put forth to begin with (i.e., that words are associated with ideas). Are you really arguing here? or just saying stuff to play Aaron Cox and doge a real discussion the way that you did over at Purim?

  57. Grammar Nazi on August 16, 2006 at 9:52 pm

    I think you mean moot, DKL. But thanks for the laugh.

  58. Mark Butler on August 16, 2006 at 11:35 pm

    DKL,

    The C discussion is getting far off topic. You have a tendency to interpret everything I say using your semantics, instead of looking to the semantics that not only I but a large number of others have used for centuries, if not millennia. I do not mean an interpreter or a compiler implemented in C, but the added semantics understandable to a programmer in a well designed program, that are unavailable to the compiler in any formal sense. That is the synthetic higher level language I speak of. Every good size program has one – it is the basis of OOP methodolofy, among other things.

    If one wants to prove that two potentially different concepts are in fact the same concept, the very first thing to do is demonstrate that there is a mandatory one-to-one relationship between them. Or in this case, demonstrate that every instance of a word in mind has a mandatory corresponding instance of a concept. This is in fact the case. What possibly can we say about a word’s concept that we cannot say about the word itself? Or in other “words” what manifest fact prevents me or anyone else from regarding words-in-mind as a particular kind of concept?

    If you do not have an actual objection, then I would conclude that our disagreement is here is largely a matter of nomenclature. However, your objection seems to be based on the proposition that there is a distortion free transformation between concepts conceived/expressed/stored/represented in different languages, and that concepts exist inside the brain in a form that has generally has little or nothing to do with natural languages, or perhaps have no form at all. I consider all three propositions to be untenable, and I understand modern cognitive science to be on my side, with a possible exception for analytic propositions.

  59. Mark Butler on August 16, 2006 at 11:44 pm

    …and also demonstrate that two words in different languages rarely correspond to quite the same concept. Thus the word-in-mind and the word-concept-in-mind are generally speaking one and the same.

  60. Mark Butler on August 16, 2006 at 11:57 pm

    And finally, the logical implication of the semantics I just described is that where two external words have precisely the same semantics, they correspond to the same concept, and hence to the same word-in-mind. Or that so far as the brain is concerned there is no particular distinction between the number “uno” and the number “one”. The number one is a concept / idea / word-in-mind that has multiple tokens in multiple languages, both verbal tokens and written tokens.

    However, arguably the terms “bueno” and “good” correspond to slightly different (though extremely similar) concepts / ideas / words-in-mind. A Ockhamist account of similarity (both conceptual similarity and real similarity) is pertinent here (q.v.).

  61. s on August 17, 2006 at 12:41 am

    Frank, it’s been awhile since I’ve read any linguistics (who are the people most likely to be doing empirical studies on language and words)–I can look and ask around and see what kind of empirical stuff I can find.

    Mark (#52), most of the words in your list are relatively gender neutral. A few are definitely male-gendered (rake, knave, man of sin), but they’re not terms that are used all that often (with the possible exception of “son of perdition”).

  62. Mark Butler on August 17, 2006 at 1:49 am

    s (#61),

    “whore” is regularly used in a gender neutral (though usually non-sexual) sense as well. I maintain that the preponderance of those terms are much more often used to describe males in actual practice. This may change in time, but women are not yet stereotypical villians, perverts, felons, swindlers, nor despots.

    The closest corresponding female leaning terms include:

    witch, harridan, shrew, hag, gossip, hussy, floozy, siren, seductress, slattern, prostitute, scold, and whore

    The only reason I can think of for the difference w.r.t to sexual terms, is that men generally commit sexual sins in private. Relatively few purposely advertise their bodies, and for whatever reason women seem to be much less sensitive to the preponderance of the male physique than vice versa.

    So the stereotypical bad male is a liar, a swindler, a cheat, a coward, or a sell-out – that is typically how a male loses his honor. If the world followed the standards of true religion, “whore” or something comparable would of course apply just as much to men as to women, even if relatively few males actually dress like whores.

  63. s on August 17, 2006 at 2:59 am

    I think that the reason men are referred to more often as things like villains and despots is that men generally are talked about more than women in our culture in general. Men also have more power and run more societies (so there are going to be more men in the position to be a despot). :)

    I disagree with your thoughts on the word “whore”–I think “whore” is a pretty female-gendered word. I’ve never heard it used to describe a male before (though, I will confess to not being in a large variety of settings where the word is used).

    Also, I’m confused by your next to last paragraph. Are you arguing that women dressing immodestly is a “sexual sin”? If so, I’m going to have to disagree with you on that, as well as your argument that men commit sexual sins in private. Men are often quite open/flamboyant about their sexuality–they just do it in different ways than women (i.e. bragging about conquests, etc).

    Seraphine

  64. Mark Butler on August 17, 2006 at 3:15 am

    Yes, I think dressing like Brittany Spears is a sexual (or sexually oriented) sin, if one has any clue as to what one is doing.

    Now as to prevalence, suppose a man makes one lewd remark about his sexual conquests to his buddies in a day. Perhaps half a dozen hear that remark. Now compare that to a severely immodestly dressed woman spending all day at Disneyland – she broadcasts her sexuality and her attitude about it in a most explicit manner to hundreds, if not thousands of people. To have a comparable effect the man in question would have to get a bull horn, and make the lewd remark at least once an hour.

  65. Kaimi Wenger on August 17, 2006 at 4:14 am

    64. Now compare that to a severely immodestly dressed woman spending all day at Disneyland – she broadcasts her sexuality and her attitude about it in a most explicit manner to hundreds, if not thousands of people.

    Yes, yes. Heaven save us all from women, more so from women-who-have-sexuality, and most of all from women who broadcast their sexuality at Disneyland. Put the lot of them under a burka, says I,* and free us all from the pestilent presence of malicious midriffs and calamitous clavicles. The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Where’s my vorpal blade, dammit?

    *Individual burkae, that is, not one large communal burka. Heaven only knows what kind of damage all those devious slatternly women would do if they were placed together in a single garment.

  66. Mark Butler on August 17, 2006 at 9:22 am

    Kaimi,

    Is it really possible to be sure about these things according to the reasoning of the natural man? As I see it, we have three more conclusive sources to go by here: the testimony of living prophets and apostles, the scriptures, and the witness of the Holy Ghost. I believe all three are quite clear about the principle here. And if we discard them, what is left, but a religion created in the image of the world, the natural man, Babylon, which shall fall.

  67. MikeInWeHo on August 17, 2006 at 9:52 am

    Sounds like somebody as been looking at more than Mickey and Minney at the Magic Kingdom. Talk about Fantasyland! But seriously, while it may be problematic for a faithful Mormon woman to dress like Brittany Spears, it’s quite the norm these days in a secular environment. Casting about moral aspersions (even if it’s only via tone/mindset/non-verbal signals) only reinforces a lot of negative attitudes people have about the LDS. As to prevalence, a lot of non-members view Mormons as judgemental, right-wing, sexists. Wonder why?

  68. Russell Arben Fox on August 17, 2006 at 10:00 am

    “Heaven save us all from women, more so from women-who-have-sexuality, and most of all from women who broadcast their sexuality at Disneyland.”

    A humorous bit of rhetoric there, Kaimi. Completely stupid, but humorous.

    For the record, I, for one, do not want heaven to save me from women in general (as I am raising four of them), nor from women-who-have-sexuality (the aforementioned daughters, after all, would not exist without at least one such). I don’t even particularly want or expect heaven to save me from women who broadcast their sexuality at Disneyland. However, I really wouldn’t mind community expectations, social norms, and maybe even a little bit of legal enforcement, to save me–and my daughters–from the embarrassing and indecent sight of a woman wearing patsies, or perhaps a thong, or maybe a fully see-through blouse, while we wander down Main Street at Disneyland. Astonishingly enough, the existence of the aforementioned restrictions do not, in fact, constitute an impossible obstacle to women broadcasting their sexuality in all places and contexts that are not Main Street in Disneyland, such as perhaps during a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire or A Chorus Line. Neither do endorsing the appropriateness of said restrictions prevent one from simultaneously and with equal force endorsing the appropriateness of restrictions on men wearing Speedos or going bare-chested in Main-Street-in-Disneyland-type locales. Finally (I know: I’m piling impossibility upon impossibility here!), I would argue that all of the above is perfectly compatible with an awareness of the unfair distribution between the sexes of the burden generated by such restrictions, reflected in both language and policy, and a desire to mitigate the effects of that historical injustice by, for example, not using words like “whore” while expressing any and all of the above.

    I know: conservative standards while also acknowledging gender-based injustices and seeking to rectify such?!? Surely I must be mad.

  69. Mark Butler on August 17, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    MikeIWH,

    For the record, I have never been to Disneyland, nor do I have any particular inclination to do so.

  70. Mark Butler on August 17, 2006 at 1:03 pm

    Also, it it any wonder that the worldly resent being called a lost and fallen people? As Anne Shirley once said, I don’t think God himself would entirely meet with their approval.

  71. Mark Butler on August 17, 2006 at 1:09 pm

    The fictional Anne Shirley of course. Or should I say Lucy Maud Montgomery?

  72. DKL on August 17, 2006 at 4:36 pm

    Mark Butler: your objection seems to be based on the proposition that there is a distortion free transformation between concepts conceived/expressed/stored/represented in different languages

    No, it’s based on the fact that there is no distortion free medium of meaning conveyance. Distortion is endemic to communications. It is the very nature of communication. The process of communication is a distorting process–by the end of a conversation, two communicators are often using words in a sense that would have been unrecognizable at the beginning of the conversation. Translation causes distortion because it is a communicating process–not because it distorts the communication process.

    Mark Butler: your objection seems to be based on the proposition that… concepts exist inside the brain in a form that has generally has little or nothing to do with natural languages

    I consider this proposition to be so obviously and irrefutably true. So much so, that it’s difficult for me to believe that those who believe otherwise have even thought very hard about the issue (or at least if they have, then they aren’t terribly smart).

    Take traffic directions. There are a great many places where I can show you how to get there, but I can’t for the life of me explain it. In such cases, I have a verifiable and clear concept in my brain of how to get from point A to point B, and I cannot express it using natural language. Non-linguistic behavior frequently embodies concepts a person need never express linguistically–indeed, they may be very difficult for even the most linguistically fluent to express linguistically (see my earlier example of sewing). This is why it is very frequently easier to show someone how to do something than to explain how to do it.

    The C discussion is pertains directly to this discussion about language, because I’m advancing a forthrightly reductionist thesis. What is off topic is how or whether the C discussion itself is far afield.

    In any case, I interviewed someone for a job today, and I laughed when I thought about your idea that writing good C is actually utilizing some synthetic non-C language (as though C is not already a synthetic language). Specifically, it occurred to me how ridiculous it would be to ask him how fluent he was in the synthetic non-C language that people use to encode what appears to be actual C programs.

  73. Mark Butler on August 17, 2006 at 5:24 pm

    DKL,

    It seems to me you have a habit of eliding out important qualifiers from quotes. I said “[the proposition that] concepts exist inside the brain in a form that generally has little or nothing to do with natural languages. That qualifier makes a big difference.

    You also misread my comment about synthetic higher level languages. I said each program of any sophistication has one, but the C was such a low level language that level of semantics could not be made visible to the compiler. Note that the basis of this confusion (assuming you are not just misreading me on purpose is that language is a term that can be used in both an amorphous, non-discrete sense and a discrete, pluralizable sense. I switched from the former to the latter to be clear what I was talking about in the context of particular programs or systems. I am *not* talking about a general meta-language for all programs or systems.

    This is still, I suspect, rather far from the beaten path of epithets, perceptions of women, and divine texts. My point was simply that a term like “whore” is a concept with a shared, cultural meaning and its propriety of use depends on accurate knowledge of the real similarity between the concept and the conceptualized. Since we cannot read others minds nor hearts as a rule, I restrict it to describing a manner of dress sufficiently severe that it could not be incidental.

  74. DKL on August 17, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    Mark Butler: It seems to me you have a habit of eliding out important qualifiers from quotes

    Really? Based off one instance you’re able to deduce a pattern?

  75. Mark Butler on August 17, 2006 at 6:43 pm

    Multiple occasions.

  76. YL on August 17, 2006 at 7:55 pm

    DKL: 72: In any case, I interviewed someone for a job today,

    Were you as augumentative in your job interview as you are in your comments here? Did you get the job, and what was the company: a bill collection agency where you get to argue with debtors? You must be a young college student, certainly not a family man with kids.

  77. Starfoxy on August 17, 2006 at 9:16 pm

    I’m waiting for Kaimi to step in and threaten to “turn this post right around and go straight back home!”

  78. Mark Butler on August 17, 2006 at 9:48 pm

    YL, I am afraid you have the situation reversed.

  79. DKL on August 17, 2006 at 10:28 pm

    YL: Were you as argumentative in your job interview as you are in your comments here?

    No. I also didn’t pray like I do at church, cheer like I do at a football game, or wag my finger like I’m prone to do when scolding a puppy. As appropriate as those may be for some occasions, they’re not appropriate for a job interview.

    YL: Did you get the job[?]

    I’m sorry. I wasn’t perfectly clear. I have several positions in my own department that I’m trying to hire for. The recent interview to which I refer went well overall, but it’s not appropriate for me to discuss my evaluation of the candidate in any detail in this forum.

    YL: …and what was the company: a bill collection agency where you get to argue with debtors? You must be a young college student, certainly not a family man with kids.

    If it makes you feel better to think that I’m just some out-of-touch loser without friends, family, or prospects, then far be it from me disabuse you. I mean really, it’s no skin off my back; anything I can do to add a little light to your humdrum life is good by me.

  80. Kaimi Wenger on August 18, 2006 at 3:07 am

    Russell (68),

    I’m relatively sympathetic to your views; they’re probably not far from my own. Clearly, there are some standards of dress that are going to be less appropriate in many social settings. Your examples of pasties and thongs are not examples I’m inclined to argue with.

    Mark Butler’s version of problem dress seems to be much broader. He has defined “dressing like a whore” on several occasions as meaning “dressing like Britney Spears.” Now, I’m not much of a follower of Ms. Spears’ style, but my impression is that her wardrobe is the typical pop-singer ensemble of short skirts and midriff shirts. And if that’s the awful, terrible “broadcasting” happening at Disneyland . . . well, some views are sufficiently overblown and cartoonish that they merit a cartoonishly overblown response.

  81. YL on August 18, 2006 at 6:54 pm

    DKL: 79 No. I also didn’t pray like I do at church, cheer like I do at a football game, or wag my finger like I’m prone to do when scolding a puppy. As appropriate as those may be for some occasions, they’re not appropriate for a job interview. I’m sorry. I wasn’t perfectly clear. I have several positions in my own department that I’m trying to hire for. The recent interview to which I refer went well overall, but it’s not appropriate for me to discuss my evaluation of the candidate in any detail in this forum.

    YL: Your augumentative attitude means that you argue in your prayers, in between cheers, and during finger-wagging. You must be an expert in your technical area because you are NOT an expert in employee relations. You would have made a poor missionary. Were you one?

    DKL 79: If it makes you feel better to think that I’m just some out-of-touch loser without friends, family, or prospects, then far be it from me disabuse you. I mean really, it’s no skin off my back; anything I can do to add a little light to your humdrum life is good by me.

    YL: Oh my, so now the augumentative one seeks sympathy. There are much better ways to ”add a little light” to people’s lives. Unfortunately adding only ”a little light…is good by” you.

  82. Mark Butler on August 18, 2006 at 8:41 pm

    Kaimi, It is true I find what you describe immodest, and in the knowing, immoral as well. However that is not the core of my concern. The way every day young girls dress tends to be a seriously toned down version of the way Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera dress, and the decline in their dress standards over the past decade or so has been extremely severe. The Internet has greatly accelerated the propagation of this decline in morality – both in dress, and in every corresponding aspect.

    The most cursory search of the Internet for pictures of Britney Spears will demonstrate that she specializes in wearing as little as possible, and in the most sexually explicit way possible. The rapid decline in the way many girls dress in public is just a shadow of this decline in public morality.

  83. fMhLisa on August 18, 2006 at 9:10 pm

    Britney Spears is so yesterday, don’t we have any new young nubile exploitees to demonize?

  84. Mark Butler on August 18, 2006 at 9:23 pm

    Perhaps Britney’s radical lack of clothing is an act of desperation. A demonstration of the impotence of sexual attraction divorced from the spirit of virtue. The fact that the natural man leads only one direction – down, and in a hurry. A parasite on greater and holier things.

  85. Mark Butler on August 19, 2006 at 2:28 am

    I cannot speak for her in real life, but if there were ever an example of balanced modesty and virtue in film, it is Justine Waddell’s portrayal of Molly Gibson in BBC’s production of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters. [I thought I would throw that in for balance.]

  86. MikeInWeHo on August 23, 2006 at 4:02 pm

    re: 68 The Disneyland that I frequently visit with my family does not allow pasties and fully see-through blouses, nor shirtless men wearing speedos (even on Gay Day!). If the things you see at Disneyland are offensive, then it’s probably time to home school and live a more isolated lifestyle.

    These trends toward immodesty in dress, sexuality on display, etc, cannot be reversed proscriptively, especially in a democracy. People will stop behaving this way when their hearts lead them in a different direction. Finger wagging, moralizing (see above), and proposing legal restrictions will do nothing, or even have the reverse affect.

  87. Kaimi Wenger on August 23, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    “re: 68 The Disneyland that I frequently visit with my family does not allow pasties and fully see-through blouses, nor shirtless men wearing speedos (even on Gay Day!). ”

    Dang. And here I was all ready to schedule a vacation to Anaheim. Back to the drawing board, I guess.