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Alexander Leonard

Girlfriend, mistress, paramour and concubine

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11 hours ago, Three-Fingered Pete said:

There are subtle differences. Some are cultural in nature.

A concubine is a kept woman (or more likely women) for the express purpose of pleasuring a single man, usually one of prominence or importance. I won't go so far as calling them sex slaves, although that is one of their primary functions. A good concubine is knowledgeable about subjects that interest the man, is a good conversationalist and has some skill or talent that would be considered an art form or otherwise aesthetic in nature. Most concubines were of low birth status, but there have been notable nobly birthed concubines. Occasionally, the great love for a concubine has led to them to being raised above their station to become the wife of their master and their children legitimized. Examples of concubines as we define them can be found in the historical courts of the east Asian empires, India and the harems of the middle east where it is an open and accepted practice with the wife of the monarch/warlord in question fully on board with the cultural norm of the practice. Do not conflate a concubine with a courtesan or geisha, which are basically high class prostitutes who are available to any that can pay, but might be particular about who they entertain.

A mistress is a woman who is having a romantic affair with a married man, either with the knowledge and/or consent of his wife and society or in secret, depending on the culture and time period in question. Some men had many mistresses, but they were not kept women like a concubine. They were/are free to pursue their own separate relationships (with the requisite chance that someone will get jealous) and break things off as they see fit. Historically (and possibly currently), it was the French that were the masters of this form, but every European culture had its notable lascivious behavior in this vein.

A paramour is for all intents and purposes what we would term a girlfriend/boyfriend. It is an open and legal relationship not formalized by a contract of marriage. It sometimes involves children, which can present a legitimacy problem in certain cultures. In some cultures, a promise of marriage, betrothal or engagement would be necessary to announce this relationship. In Victorian times, this could be the term for your intended during the courting phase, but before the actual declaration of engagement to be married.

Clear as mud? ;)

This is the right answer. 

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15 hours ago, Jaak said:

Would you call Rhaenyra ser Harwin´s "mistress" or his "paramour"? He certainly is not married.

Or Daenerys and Daario - he is not married, and in that case neither is she. Or Cersei and Lancel - again neither of them married. Or Asha and Qarl. Or Arianne and Arys. None of the five is a kept woman.

In case with Daenerys and Darrio, Rhaenyra and Harwin, Cersei and Lancel, Arianne and Arys, etc., the men are "kept", not the women. Those men are male equivalents of a mistress.

A bit of info about this terminology from the web:

"For male mistress, the more general term "lover" can be used, but it does not carry the same implications. "Paramour" is sometimes used, but this term can apply to either partner in an illicit relationship, so it is not exclusively male."

"DEAR ABBY: If a single woman is having relations with a married man, then she is known as his mistress. But what do you call a single man who is having relations with a married woman? Would he be a "mister" -- or what? -- CURIOUS IN MACON, GA.

DEAR CURIOUS: He could be referred to as her lover or paramour. According to the Urban Dictionary, he could also be called a "manstress." (If there is financial support involved, then he's a gigolo and she's a "sugar mama.")"

"Noun. manstress (plural manstresses) (slang) A male equivalent of "mistress"; a male object of one's affections who lies outside of one's primary relationship."

"In common use, the male equivalent of "mistress" is "lover" or "boyfriend". Those aren't exact equivalents, though. "Mistress" is usually used for the unmarried girlfriend of a married man who is supporting her financially. "Lover" could apply to either sex with no implication whether either is married to someone else."


So mistress is a "kept woman". In case if it's a man, who is the one dependable, then he is the one, who is "kept". For example, like Daario, besides being Dany's lover, he is also working for her. She is his superior, so in their case, she is not his mistress, it's the other way around - he is her manstress.

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On 3/1/2019 at 12:15 AM, Hugorfonics said:

Cersei was married.

No, no more than Daenerys.

Asha IS married - to Erik.

Cersei and Daenerys are in position of being widows and Heads of their own House, with no man authorized to chastise her for unchastity. With Daenerys, she´s unambiguously the only Targaryen - no father, no brother, no husband surviving, head of her own khalasar and the armies taking and holding cities. With Cersei, it´s arguably also the case - Robert is clearly dead by the time she gets in bed with Lancel, and Cersei can claim that in arranging her marriage to Robert, Tywin has given her away for good - Cersei is now Baratheon, no longer Lannister, and not again Lannister even after Robert´s death. As for Baratheon, since Joffrey is a child, Cersei is the Head of House Baratheon as Regent, and neither Tywin (as her ex-father) nor Joffrey (as not-yet-adult) have standing to arrange for Cersei´s remarriage or unchastity.

Now, Arianne...

"Fucked him, Father" was after a long relationship. But Arianne was generally loose. Tried losing virginity to Andrey Dalt - gave up after a minor mishap and did not persist trying. Did lose virginity to Daemon Sand, and promptly told her father - Doran did nothing. Doran did refuse when Daemon asked to marry her. Arianne took "multiple" lovers between ages 14 and 22, including Gerold Dayne... but no children.

(Rhaenyra, between the same ages, had three sons.)

In case of Arianne, there is clearly one man in charge, Doran, and we see a bit of what he does nothing about.

In case of Rhaenyra, the authority is more ambiguous, because both Viserys and Laenor have claim to the head-of-household position, and both do nothing about the three strong sons.

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These are all old, old terms but in common use in English at least in novels. They certainly have meanings that are different and in no sense are they boyfriend/girlfriend.

As noted a concubine is a women kept usually in a harem but she is one of many other women kept by the master. She is subservient at all times and is usually of inferior social status. In English it is a term usually used in reference to eastern kings, rich merchants and emperors. She certainly can have no other lovers.

A mistress is the term used for any long term relationship, other than marriage although mistress ONCE also just meant the lady of the house, wife mother, owner etc. we use the term head mistress for the head teacher of a school who happens to be female. However in the context of sexual relationships, the term usually implies that there is a financial relationship, where the man usually keeps the woman and pays for her expenses. The reverse term ie for a man dependent on a woman is gigolo.

Paramour as above but as also noted earlier it implies equality in the relationship. The woman or man is independent and they do not set up house together usually.

In the sort of society GRRM is describing there just were not girlfriends and boyfriends.  Sex before marriage was not permitted and dates as we know them did not happen. However the term used for a young man keen on on a girl would be a suitor and if the relationship was stronger then he would be  courting ie the young man was chasing the girl and they might say a courting couple if both were keen.


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