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Unleash The Whore

An Essay By EV Knight, author of The Fourth Whore

9781947879164-Perfect.inddWhen I first wrote about Lilith building an army of four whores as a bastardization of the four horsemen of the apocalypse from the book of Revelation, I chose whore because it sounded similar; it had the rhythm that worked. And, as we all know, the word “whore” is a strongly derogatory term for prostitute or hypersexual woman. So, it worked given Lilith’s historical reputation as a succubus (a demoness who seduces/has sex with sleeping men).

As the story grew, and I really got to know Lilith, I realized that she wasn’t just trying to thumb her nose at God by building her own apocalyptic group of gals, but she was re-appropriating the word whore from society. In my novel, The Fourth Whore, Lilith accepted the mantle that history had put upon her as punishment for refusing to submit to her husband, and weaponized it. As she recruited the three others, she chose women in similar situations. Women who the public judged and spat angry slurs at for things as simple as standing up for their own beliefs, for doing what was necessary to survive, or for taking revenge for women who no longer could. She made “whores” into warriors. 

While it was being written, one of my mentors from Seton Hill University’s MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program deemed the novel “The Four Whores of the Apocalypse” and that was its working title during the drafting stage. Flash forward to titling the book for publication. I’d tried many different and less inflammatory titles like “The Book of Lilith” or “Kenzi’s Choice,” but nothing felt right. It really was Kenzi’s story, and Lilith, in her single-minded lust for revenge was the antagonist. But then, I wanted the book to stand out and say something. I wanted to be a warrior for women and I wanted the book to take the reader’s breath away with its horror and its strong female characters. I needed the buyer to know what they were getting into when they picked up the book. So, we chose The Fourth Whore and were lucky enough to have Daniele Serra craft an amazingly creepy cover. 

Now The Fourth Whore is available for pre-order and will be out in print in March 2020. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback but also some concerned looks and comments about its ability to be put into newsletters or even local/independent book stores due to the “offensive” title. I’ve given it a lot of thought. What I mean to say is that I have given the word “whore” a lot of thought. Can the word be re-appropriated? Can women take it back? Have we tried? 

In the 1990s, Ani DiFranco began using the word “cunt” in her song lyrics. She said it was a deliberate attempt to reclaim the word into a loving and affectionate use. In her lyrics, she uses it to refer to female genitals, never in any other way. Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues includes a piece called CUNT which I believe was meant to help reclaim the word as well, but unlike DiFranco, near the end of the piece, it recommends shouting the word when “feeling a little irritated in the airport…” which, for me, relegates it back into the negative connotation we are trying to avoid. But cunt is less often heard, is mainly used as a term for vagina, and while it can be employed as a harsher form of bitch, I don’t think it carries the stigma of whore. My point in bringing it up is that this word has been attempted to be re-appropriated in popular culture.

Slut has too. In fact, the reclamation has been more successful in the general public. Consider the SlutMarch and the Anti-GOP Rock the Slut Vote campaign. There have been Slut Pride workshops given at Harvard and Yale. This attempt came about in parallel to the #metoo movement. Women were speaking out against the blame put upon them for their own sexual assaults and rapes. “Was she dressed slutty?” or “Look at what she was wearing, she was asking for it.” Sluts apparently no longer need to be sexually promiscuous, only dress the part. And the judges of what sort of clothing is worthy of the title were rapists (and unfortunately sometimes female peers, religious groups and government officials). A slut clearly wants sex even if she doesn’t know it. The re-appropriation of the word slut came about more in relation to the word’s use an adjective—the way a woman dressed or acted that gives the impression (even if false) that she is asking for sex.  

We’ve successfully claimed #nastywoman and bitch (thank you, Meredith Brooks) but can we or should we try to take back whore? Let’s start with its etymology. The term derives from Old English hore meaning prostitute with a variety of similar word forms with similar meanings in other European countries. And may have picked up an even more derogatory meaning as a homonym for the Middle English word hore which meant “physical filth, slime” and “moral corruption.” An insulting moniker for an unchaste or lewd woman (without regard to money) from at least c. 1200, the wh- was added in the 16th century. 

This word has really stood the test of time. It’s likely still in our vocabulary unchanged due to some old but important literary works: those of Shakespeare (who used the word 99 times in various plays including Othello, Hamlet, and King Lear) and the King James Bible. Some English versions of the Bible changed the word whore to harlot because the word whore was “too gross.” Lilith would want me to point out that both of these works were written by men and men who clearly believed women were meant to be subservient, the lesser, weaker, and more easily led astray sex. She would want me to tell you that the ugliest derogatory names applied to women have an association to female genitals and sexuality. 

A woman who likes to have sex is a whore. We’ve shortened whore to ho but it means the same thing. THOT (That Ho Over There) featured in rap songs and a twitter fight between Rhianna and TLC over some topless videos and pictures. Women who our partners cheat with are whores, but the men can be forgiven because it was the whore who seduced him. What do we call them—the men who cheat? We laughingly call a promiscuous man a “Man Whore” and a man who has sex for money a “Male-Prostitute.” You see the problem? Men have never suffered the slings of ugly slander like women have. We just throw their gender in front of the female term and shrug it off. Men have wild oats to sew. A woman shouldn’t even consider playing the field and she shouldn’t be well-versed in sexual positions or maneuvers that make her feel good! I mean, how would she know that much about it unless she is a whore?

So, in this modern-day and age of equality, I present my work of horror fiction to you. I ask you to consider the lives of the women characters and the traumas they survived. The four whores are warriors, not sexually immoral. This novel is my rally cry. We can re-appropriate the word whore. The patriarchy has weaponized the female genitals against us long enough. It’s time to reclaim what is ours and throw their impotent words back in their faces. If female sexual behavior is a weapon, then I say it’s ours to wield.


About The Fourth Whore:

In the age of #metoo, EV Knight’s raw debut novel turns horror on its head. The time of helpless, scantily-clad female victims is over. Oh, there’s still gore and sex and terror to be had, but women villains and heroes alike are now free to break the mold and go off-script. Unpredictable, challenging, harsh and violent the new apocalypse isn’t brought on by four horsemen, it’s four whores instead.

Fans of Sarah Pinborough and Ania Ahlborn will appreciate this new, twisted, female voice in Horror.

Back Cover Copy:

Kenzi Brooks watched The Scribble Man collect her brother’s soul after a hit and run when she was seven. He gave her a present that day—a lucky rabbit’s foot. Sixteen years later, she no longer believes in The Scribble Man, she believes in survival and does what she has to in the slums of Detroit. When thugs kill her mother and beat Kenzi to near death, she accidentally releases Lilith from her prison within the time-worn keychain.

And Hell hath no fury…

Lilith is out for revenge. Revenge against God, Sariel (Angel of Death and Kenzi’s Scribble Man), and all of mankind for relegating her to nothing more than a demoness for refusing to submit to her husband. She’s put together an apocalyptic plan to destroy everyone who has forsaken her. Forget the Four Horsemen, Lilith is assembling the Four Whores.

PURCHASE FROM AMAZON

About EV Knight: 

EV BWEV Knight is an American author of horror and dark fantasy stories filled with bad-ass females. The Fourth Whore is her debut novel—the story of a young woman’s fight to find the truth in time to save her world after she accidentally releases an ancient demoness who has a vendetta against God Himself. EV is currently working on her second novel which takes place in her beloved home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Raised on Grimm’s Fairy Tales in a country home near the woods, EV inevitably developed a whimsical imagination and lifelong interest in the macabre. 

These days, when not writing something spooky, EV spends her time taking long walks through graveyards and visiting haunted houses. She collects skull art and death-related oddities. When she is feeling adventurous, she enjoys road trips to unusual roadside attractions. Yes, she has, in fact, been to see the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota. 

EV is inspired by mythology, fairy tales, and history such that there are often kernels of truth in her fiction. No scary thing is off-limits. And she doesn’t shy away from gore. Like Frankenstein, she likes to experiment and piece things together until her creation breathes on its own. EV hopes you’ll love her monsters as much as she loves making them.

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