On C_nts, P_$$y$, and Pri@ks
Warning: this post is intended only for those who understand George Carlin.
That said, here we go:
Bearing in mind that "fuck" comes from the Germanic "To hit or strike", and still (obviously) carries much of the same connotation. Later it came to mean "hit, strike or make love to", which gives come idea of sex in medieval Europe...
You'd think "asshole", being like opinions, would have a universal application; but I've only heard it used against men, likewise "bastard". "Bitch" and "C_nt" seem to be the only really common ones used against women in my experience, though the second is fairly rare.
Males are called all sorts of theoretically female terms for being percieved as soft or feminine ("pussy", "momma's boy", "fag"); when they are regarded as overly aggressive or masculine, that's when "prick" and "asshole" are used, but so is c_nt. "Motherfucker" doesn't have a female equivalent I've noticed, either.
Women, when they are seen as being overly masculine, are often enough called "bitches" or "c_nts", words that have no male connotation; there doesn't seem to be anything specific to be used when they are seen as overly passive or feminine. "Twat" seems to imply idiocy or incompetence.
"C_unt", by the way, is back to Anglo-Saxon, and has never changed it's meaning. Good folk for simple words, them!
More to the point, it strikes me that it's the sound of the words as much as their literal meaning that carries the insult. C_nt's a short, hard-consonant sound that's quick to say: rather masculine, perhaps? Whereas "pussy" is softer, longer and drawn out. Even "fag" is lengthened when used as a taunt. "Asshole" isn't an exception to this, being two easily separated syllables with an open-mouth start that hardens the word. The closed-mouth start to "prick" could be why it doesn't sound as harsh to us as some of the other insults.
Or am I just getting way to into this?
Note: I'm using aggressive/masculine and passive/feminine in classical yin/yang terminology here, since that seems to be where the conversation's going - but otherwise false dichotomies drive me *ahem* nuts.