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She moaned, as he guided his … er… into her …

I have to make a confession: I have always loved bodice-rippers. As a teenager, I used to raid my mothers nightstand drawers to purloin her romance novels – carefully avoiding the one on top, which she was presumably still reading herself. The covers alone fascinated me. They were usually historicals, so they had a lady in a beautifully flowing gown on the cover. Standing behind her with her arms around her, or holding her by the shoulders and kissing her from this fairly awkward position, stood a man – his muscular, sun-bronzed torso either shirtless or scarcely covered by an open shirt. The covers alone used to make my knees weak with all the thinly-veiled erotic tension. 

To me as a teenager with little experience and only the most basic information from sex education at school, these novellas were also quite informative in terms of what went where and how. The problem was, that they used a lot of euphemism like "He touched her intimately, his fingers pushing into her wet heat." or "She moaned, as he guided himself into her most intimate flesh." There was also a lot of talk about "petals", "stems" and "roots" – as if humans were, in fact, plants.

Now, I don't know about you, but I personally prefer to call things by their actual names. But the problem is – what to call them? Some terms are just too clinical (penis, vulva, vagina), some too militant (battering ram), some too esoteric (lingam, yoni, holy grail, wand), some too zoological (snake, beaver) some too funny (pecker, joystick, jerkin gherkin, sugar hole, salami garage – this list is actually endless). I also can't deal with any references to food in that area (especially any kind of seafood instantly kills the romantic mood) – but that might just be me.

So, what to call his shaft/cock/dick? And her pussy/cunt/hole?

Of course, there is also the problem of context and narrative perspective – especially with historicals. The gently bred nineteenth-century heroine wouldn't know what to call her own cooch, even if it defeated anatomy and bit her on the arse. But even if you're reading or writing contemporary erotic romance: what terms would be too crass? What would be too euphemistic? What feels natural?

I'd love to hear your opinion on this in the comments! You're also welcome to drop by my blog A DARK KIND OF DESIRE to discuss more weird questions like this and I'll be back here next month.


Ranae Rose said...

I personally find it harder to decide what's appropriate for female anatomy than male. I mean, a cock is a cock, no matter what the time period, really. But then when I write historicals I realize precisely what you mentioned - my heroine doesn't know what the heck to call her...well...insert appropriate term here. lol

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, Mina,

I find that it really depends on the story and the characters. Sometimes "pussy" seems right, sometimes "cunny" (for a Victorian romp), occasionally "cunt" if the story has a hard edge.

You have to watch out for those euphemisms - but sometimes they're appropriate, if the character who's voicing the phrase is innocent, shy or inexperienced.


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Mina Dorian said...

Hi Ranae, Hi Lisabet,
Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I do agree that the female parts are more difficult than the male. Maybe I'll call it the "insert appropriate part here" from now on :-).

Incidentally: I seem to have used the magic word(s) to attract a spam-bot. Yay me!

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