Monday, June 30, 2008

What is a Prostitute?

Don't you want to know? Here be an interesting article on the use of the term prostitute in an Egyptian context. Like the ending to a M. Night Shyamalan movie, the answer may surprise you.

(Wait, what?)

No, but seriously. Really solid anthropology. Do read.

Via Culture Matters.


Bess said...

OH! Maybe this could somehow tie into Visweswaran! Maybe? Just a thought.

Cobalt said...

The fact that they're using the English word apparently doesn't mean they're tied to "western" definitions of it. I think in English we've got some terms that might be better used, but Egyptians might not be as familiar with the myriad ways of insulting sexually uncontrolled women that English-speakers have at their disposal.

For example, a "skank" is a woman who carries not just a note of easy availability, but of low-class "trashiness" as well. You could fit the word into the article in many places where Egyptians used "prostitute," and asking an American or a Brit or anyone else to give criteria for identifying "skanks" from crowds of acceptable females would probably get a similar response. We don't know how we define it except that a skank's a skank, and you know one when you see one.

The fact that actual sexual availability doesn't necessarily factor in, though... it makes sense, but it just doesn't occur to you, y'know? When you insult a woman's sex life, you think you're insulting her sex life. It seems that, when you look at what makes a woman a "prostitute" that isn't the case at all, and it's undoubtedly something that shows up in other cultures as well.