Researchers looking at the most commonly used words to describe women and men on college campuses made some interesting findings.
Labels for college men: guy, dude, boy (as in “one of my boys”), stud/homey
Labels for college women: babe, chick, slut, bitch
See a difference?
The words describing men are fairly neutral. The most negative term may be “boy,” implying immaturity, not manhood. But the phrase “one of my boys” is endearing and inclusive. “Homey” prompts thoughts of ghetto life – low class. But it also suggests streetwise toughness – a positive for men.
Stud is very positive, and was likely used a bit more ten years ago when this study was done. Player and pimp might be more common now, but they all create similar imagery: a sexually active man who is potent and adept at attracting women, conquering them, getting women to submit sexually. Powerful imagery.
And words for women? They are all sexualized. “Babe” and “chick” indicate sexual attractiveness, alerting us to how important beauty is for women.
But “babe” infantilizes, while suggesting endearment. The term can also describe men whom women are close to. “Chick” may have come from the word chic, meaning fashionable. But thoughts of a baby bird do suggest immaturity, with the added hint of animal status.
“Slut” is the counterpart to stud, but without the celebratory salute – quite the opposite. “Bitch” can have a similar meaning as in, “A bitch sleeps with everyone but me.” Of course, “extremely unpleasant personality” can be an alternate meaning.
When men seem so interested in getting sex it seems odd to use words that shame women’s sexuality and contribute to sexual dysfunction. Perhaps it all makes conquest, and the ensuing rise in self-regard, that much sweeter.
On the whole, terms describing women are much more negative than those labeling men.
Language affects our minds, it guides how we see the world and ourselves. For more on this, see my post on how language shapes us.
When words describe women as sexual, secondary, and degraded, both women and men come to see them that way, at least unconsciously. We see the effects when less evolved men easily throw these sticks and stones at women, or when too many women swallow the terms, and without much of a whimper.