|Madam Belle, Gone with the Wind - the whore with the heart of gold.|
Sometimes the comment boxes are good things!
As I write this, there are two very perceptive comments on my post "Parsing Tolkien's Letter on Love and Romance".
Paul Stilwell points out the age old double standard that is implied in Tolkien's letter, and how we internet apologists would be quite wrong to run with it. Arguing that promiscuity is wrong - but that it's somehow excusable in men (those endearing scamps) while being utterly offensive in women (tramps and harlots!) can only do more damage than good in an age where people very easily pick up on stereotypical distinctions that are either unfair or simply wrong.
Chris Chan brings up the challenges to the Boy Girl Thing presented by the New Media, which is reshaping who we are and how we relate in ways we don't even completely understand.
As to Stilwell's point, think of terminology. You can think of a dozen words off the top of your head to describe a sexually promiscuous woman, but can you think of any term to describe a sexually promiscuous man? Horn Dog is crass, but probably comes closest to painting the picture. Player or playboy is less derogatory. Don Juan is a term that describes a seducer, whose goal is to charm and flatter as much as to bed. Cad is an old fashioned word that was usually used in reference to the emotional turmoil such activity caused. A cad would break women's hearts and move on: that's why you called him a cad. But a cad would have other unseemly characteristics, as would a bounder - these words described a man who was generally untrustworthy, whereas tramp or slut or vixen or whore - these words refer not to a woman's overall character in general, but to her sexual promiscuity in particular - as if once you knew that a woman slept around, you didn't need to know anything else about her.
Interestingly, we have the tradition in melodramatic literature of the whore with the heart of gold - the promiscuous woman who is nonetheless trustworthy in all other aspects (Madam Bell in Gone with the Wind is the most memorable example). But is there a tradition of a cad with a heart of gold? No, because once you know a man is a player, you can't really trust anything about him.
Why is that? If our culture is harder on promiscuous women than on promiscuous men, then why do we see such activity in men as a thing that seeps through and corrupts their whole natures, while we see promiscuity in women as an aberration, as something that such women secretly regret, or at least indulge in at a level that is more superficial than when a man sleeps around? Really. Think about that.
As to the New Media and its effect on the relation between the sexes, one thing is certain. Email and texting can offer an avenue for emotional intimacy that can be illusory. Folks have always known the perils of "long distance" relationships. It's easier for some folks to open up in writing than in person, and now with instantaneous communication, it's very easy to "cheat" with the same techniques - even to fall into an affair without fully intending to. In other words, if you're cheating on your spouse or steady boyfriend / girlfriend by physically meeting with another person every day, talking about things that are very close to your heart, and maybe even having sex with that person - there's no doubt you're cheating. But if you both bare your souls more than your bodies via emails, IMs and texts, it's harder to see the slippery slope until you're mired in the muck at the bottom.