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Caveat Lector

Sunday, October 23, 2005
It means Reader Beware. I had to look it up.

Anyway, I've got this question about language and if you're one of my rather more sensitive readers, skip this.

What word do you use in your descriptive sex scenes that falls between the harsh-sounding cunt/pussy, the clinical vagina and the flowery petals of her womanhood? I know there are a few other words out there, but unless I want my reader to either go "ewwwww" or double over in laughter, I'm kind of stuck. (To be frank, cunt still puts me at a dead stop before I can read on.) Geez. I feel like George Carlin over here.

I mean, there are a hundred different terms for penis, some funny, some vulgar, but why is female sex organ terminology so limited? Is it because it's something good girls just don't talk about? In childhood, we get taught the inaccurate pee-pee or just plain down there, as if it's something that should be hushed up. I'm guilty of it myself. I mean, kids will blurt out anything you teach them and did I really want my daughter talking loudly about how much her pussy itches in the midst of a yeast infection? I shudder to think of it.

So what's the answer? Do we need new terminology or do we need to somehow mount a de-ickifying campaign on some of the old words? Opinions, suggestions and "You just watch your mouth, young lady!" are all welcome. Well,a little less of the last one, please.
10/23/2005 07:52:00 AM : : Sela Carsen : : 10 Comments


ROFL picturing your daughter in a public place saying that. Cringing a the thought it could be me...

Going to lurk and see if someone smarter than the average bearette can figure this out. I know I can't!

By Anonymous Karen, at 10:22 AM  

I think you use whatever terminology suits the characters/story/situation, AND what *you* feel comfortable with. If you're forcing slang/description that you feel ill at ease using, it'll show. Some of the HAWTEST, pulsing racing, seat squirming love scenes I've ever read labeled *nothing*. Everything was inferred. (and ‘everything’ was usually something pretty vanilla. ::wink::) It was all about emotion, sensation and subtext.

By the same token, some of the most boooringest, eyes glazed over, let's start skimming, fuc- er, love scenes I've ever read detailed and named everything in the most explicit, carnal way possible. (and by ‘everything’, I’m talking Rocky Road with extra fudge and peanuts. Two scoops.) yawn.

One author could use cunt/pussy/cock/dick and I’d cringe and be jerked right out of the moment, while another writer could use those words and it would barely register.

By Blogger Jaye, at 1:21 PM  

tutu :)

By Anonymous Suzanne, at 6:35 PM  

OMG. Tell me you did NOT just use the word "tutu." As in, "She impaled her tutu on his throbbing log o' love."


By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 9:49 PM  

Go with what you are comfortable with. If you are not comfortable it will show.

Remember every line/publisher has different ways of saying the same thing.

Usethe emotions to get you through it.

By Blogger Michelle Styles, at 1:58 AM  

I agree Sela, go with what you're comfortable with. I find that I can get a lot more dirty when I'm in the Hero's POV than the Heroine's.

And I'm cracking up at tutu!

By Blogger Tess Harrison, at 5:45 AM  

Everything Jaq said!!!!!!!! And I agree w/Tess. I tend to be more graphic when I"m in a man's pov.
I have a writer friend in my local chapter who doesn't use a lot of raw language (she usually opts for "sex" vs pussy) but her stuff is good, it's evocative and you can really "feel" it.

To be frank, saying pussy gets old *snicker* sorry.

By Blogger Amie Stuart, at 10:55 AM  

I think the lack of terms for female genitalia is disturbing. I think it's more disturbing that in informal surveys I've done (and yes, I do these things), cunt is rated one of the most, if not the most offensive swear word in the English language.

There's something called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which is that the language you speak determines the parameters of your perception and thought processes. What does this tell us about our culture's perception of women and their sexuality?

Julie, with a bee in her bonnet. --Hey, "bonnet"'s a good euphemism, isn't it? ;-)

By Blogger Julie, at 8:28 PM  

Excellent points, Julie! You made me look up the SWH and exercise my brain a little bit, too. I recalled my linguistics theory as well as communication theory and was able to wade through the academic speak to a working understanding of the theory. I checked out a couple of websites and found an interesting bit on Wikipedia on political correctness and linguistic determinism.

If you're interested in this convuluted area of theory, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapir-Whorf_Hypothesis

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 11:23 PM  

Hey, you know, leave it to me to bring a discussion of sex down to my level... ;-)

By Blogger Julie, at 5:19 AM  

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