April 25, 2021

AP Stylebook bans word mistress for women who have affairs with married men


The AP Stylebook argued that writers should use phrasing that acknowledges both people in the relationship were romantically or sexually involved. Photo / 123RF

It’s a word that’s been used for centuries but according to one of the world’s leading writing style guide describing a woman as a “mistress” as it implies she is “solely responsible for the affair”.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary a mistress is a “woman other than his wife with whom a married man has a continuing sexual relationship”.

“Don’t use the term mistress for a woman who is in a long-term sexual relationship with, and is financially supported by, a man who is married to someone else,” the Associated Press Stylebook tweeted on Tuesday.

Alternatively, the style guide said, you should use words like “companion, friend or lover” as the first reference and add extra details afterwards.

The decision left many people scratching their heads, with some saying the alternatives to the word mistress were actually much more offensive.

“Always opt for the traditional ‘homewrecker’,” journalist Christian Schneider tweeted.

“We recommend you go with ‘side piece’,” another person joked.

Others said that as adultery was “bad” there “should be a negative stigma” around the word mistress.

But some applauded the move, saying it was only right when there was no equivalent term for the man involved and given the fact many people had open marriages.

“If the three of them are in a consensually non-monogamous (open or polyamorous) relationship, the more typical term would be ‘secondary partner’,” one person tweeted.

“Don’t assume that everyone follows monogamist expectations about sexual exclusivity.”

According to Inside Hook the “vocabulary bomb” was first introduced by AP Stylebook back in 2016 as there was no male equivalent.

They suggested instead “phrasing that acknowledges both people in the relationship is preferred: ‘The two were romantically (or sexually) involved'”.

After criticism on Twitter, AP Stylebook acknowledged it’s “problematic that the alternative terms fall short”.

“But we felt that was better than having one word for a woman and none for the man, and implying that the woman was solely responsible for the affair,” they tweeted.