What’s Sex Got to Do With Laters, Baby?

Our culture uses language to subjugate women and girls into a position of lesser. Common terms of endearment, such as baby are defined by Merriam Webster’s dictionary as “something that is one’s responsibility, achievement, or interest”. The commonly used term for a classy female is lady, which Merriam Webster defines as “a woman receiving the homage or devotion of a knight or lover”. Men are defining their female love interests as responsibilities, achievements, or merely an interest and societies highest class of women are merely being known by the male they are connected to.  These words are further establishing the male dominance in a heteronormative culture which, according to Catherine MacKinnon, “defines women as heterosexual, or needing men… and therefore dependent on men”. Terminology like “lady” and “baby” are prime examples of the way the language we use defines women as precisely what MacKinnon claims our society tells women to be.

There are many things that people find concerning and alarming about the novel Fifty Shades of Grey, what I found most concerning about the book was the language used between the two characters during their more romantic interactions was what alarmed me the most. Quite frequently Christian uses the salutation “Laters, baby” right before he leaves Ana. At first this appears to be a way for Christian to mock his brother’s use of the word, it quickly becomes the main way he ends a conversation with Ana. Within this book there are so many controversies, that little pieces such as “laters, baby” often gets ignored as an inconsequential part of this book. This phrasing is anything but inconsequential, as it is one of the most realistic parts of the book for the average American. When I searched the phrase hundreds of images appeared on google; t-shirts, bracelets, sweatpants, and plain-old graphics. This is clearly a phrase that resonates with the American public, and it is a phrase that in its very essence demeans Ana’s status and demeans the status of any women talked to as such.

Calling a female baby, lady, or other similar terminology is very common in our society. Women are often told to behave like a lady, especially if they want to attract a man. Most romantic comedies will involve the female lead being called baby at some point. People know and understand what the words truly mean, and hearing this phrasing continuously has an effect on the way females view themselves and males learn to believe females should be treated. It is portrayed everyday in societal scripts such as the man always paying for the woman on dates, because of course she is a “responsibility” or paying is a way of showing “devotion”. This of course all goes back to reinforce the fact that a woman needs a man to pay for her meal, and therefore must be heterosexual in order to have needs fulfilled, which therefore reinforces heteronormativity and compulsive heterosexuality in society today.

So, have you heard this kind of rhetoric or told this to other people? Does this terminology bother you or has its use in the vernacular language of our times caused terms like “lady” and “baby” to lose its meaning?






4 thoughts on “What’s Sex Got to Do With Laters, Baby?

  1. I couldn’t agree more with your argument. In our culture, many women call their boyfriends or male partners “daddy,” while they reciprocate by calling them “baby.” What many people don’t realize is that they are subconsciously enforcing the gender roles and norms that we as a society should be ditching. Calling a man “daddy” puts him on a pedestal: he is the authoritative, dominant figure; calling a woman “baby” is demeaning, making her seem inferior. These small pet names are actually stronger than people think.


  2. I think it is very common for two people to have “pet names” for each other as a playful way of referring to one another. I have heard both heterosexual couples and same sex couples refer to their significant other as “baby” or “babe.” Until reading this, I hadn’t really considered the wider implications of what these nicknames imply. I do feel it can be a form of one partner speaking in a superior manner to another, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it enforces heteronormativity and compulsive heterosexuality since I have heard individuals of all genders and sexuality say it. I believe that in the context of the book, it is a way that Christian acts as the dominant and more “mature” figure, however, in the real world, I think the words have lost any real meaning or definition and are used loosely and even affectionately.


  3. I understand your point, and respect this opinion as valid. However, I would like to push back a little bit against the assumption that being called a “lady” is a demeaning thing. As you yourself pointed out, lady is defined as “a woman receiving the homage or devotion of a knight or lover”, other definitions include “a woman (used as a polite or old-fashioned form of reference)” and “a woman who is refined, polite, and well-spoken: ” from dictionary.com. I understand your dislike of “baby” as a title for grown women, but I am at a loss as to where your problem with “lady” lies. In fact, I find this title very respectful and reminiscent of a time when women were treated with great amounts of respect. I do not have any issue with the term “gentleman” which I believe to be the counterpart to “lady”. I think this term is appropriate and should be used more often. My boyfriend frequently calls me “lady” in an endearing way, and in no way means it as a derogatory term or to imply that he is superior or that I am his responsibility. I guess my question is what would you have women called? I suppose one could use “woman” but I find the terms all but synonymous and do not see any real reason to stop using “lady” as a title.


  4. Due to the relationship between Ana and Christian, it is difficult for me to disassociate the “Laters, baby” from their dominant/submissive relationship. Yet, in other scenarios to me, those terms such as babe or baby are used as terms of endearment rather than terms to make one individual in the relationship seem more dominant. I often see women calling their boyfriend or significant other baby far more than I see the reverse. The term lady though is often used to promote a certain type of behavior, and when a woman isn’t seen as being a lady or acting ladylike, she is often looked down upon. I think certain words have stronger connotations than others, but also that the meanings of some words, such as these, have been diluted over time and change based on the scenario in which they are used.


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