‘Mistress’ is an archaic and sexist word, says Associated Press. It should not describe women ‘in a long-term sexual relationship with, and supported by a man who is married to someone else’, according to the news agency.
So a woman can be a keep, sugar baby, hetaera, escort, geisha or concubine—but no longer a mistress. She can happily set up chinna veedu with her Richie Rich lover, let him pay all her bills and pray he’d be bigamous one day.
The tired economical implications of the usage of ‘mistress’ are well known; it is the stereotypical male as breadwinner, philander and erotica expert. That women may prefer a six-pack hunk however financially strapped to elderly men who look freshly dead is a modern thought. Wealthy women with high libidos may make 'mistress' a full-time job for the man concerned; he may start calling her ma’am!
Traditionally mistresses are trespassers. But what if wife doesn’t want husband back and mistress is waiting for him to return to wife? One can imagine the texts:
He’s still here…
Things get complicated when women are wives and mistresses to different men. Maybe one is wife to an impoverished poet and mistress to an ageing entrepreneur… having the worst of both worlds. Imagine scrubbing pans in dirty housecoat for hot hubby and then lying back in see-through lingerie on satin sheets for frumpy uncle type.
Mistresses haven’t fared too well in the past. Maria Callas was a famous soprano but reportedly her millionaire man Aristotle Onassis, who dumped her for Jackie Kennedy, drugged and sexually abused her for years. Lyndsy Spence, author of Cast a Diva: The Hidden Life of Maria Callas, depicts mistress Maria as a fool. When he hit her in public, saying she was good for only one thing, she never said: ‘You are not good even for that one thing.’ Oh, the things good mistresses won’t say!
‘When you marry your mistress, you create a job vacancy,’ said tycoon James Goldsmith while marrying his mistress Annabel Birley, which must have been hugely reassuring for Annabel. Because that’s what all women worry about: employment opportunities for other women.
The ban on ‘mistress’ perhaps takes into account the absence of a male word in tandem. Both mister and master do not exclusively mark the man as a financial and sexual provider to a female of his acquaintance. You know that poet who wrote ‘To His Coy Mistress’? He’d probably title it today as ‘To His Stuck-Up Babe’ or just ‘Give it to me, baby’.
(The writer is an author and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)