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Anatomy of the Anatomy (From LN&V, March 1, 1999):
More on Words – Anatomy of the Anatomy: Back in November, we began a discussion of various words to describe male and female body parts. I started the discussion about the word “penis” and the term “to come,” and readers and authors continued the discussion, expanding upon it and naming words and phrases they’d seen used to describe the, ah, male member and the act of completion. Of course, my own twisted mind wants to know who came up with “orgasm” or “coming” to describe said orgasm altogether? We know that Thomas Crapper invented the flushable toilet. Where did orgasm come from (she wrote with a perfectly straight face)?]]>Support our sponsors Readers are never shy about stating their preferences in this arena, so let’s continue that discussion now:
Dee wrote that she prefers realism to euphemism. “I don’t want to be in the middle of reading a steamy love scene and find out that the heroine has decided to ‘cup the masculine sacs’ of the hero. I burst out laughing. I don’t mind the ‘p’ word since, basically, that is what it is. I have the ‘manroot’ issue as well (/wp-content/uploads/oldsiteimages of carrots and beets – yuck!) Sex is an okay word but it seems kind of impersonal in the context, as though the body part is behaving independently of the character (course, in some cases it is). Personally speaking, C_ck needs to be used when the pov is from the hero. That is what most men call it – especially in contemporaries. I have yet to find a word for the female anatomy that doesn’t, if I concentrate too long, make me giggle. And as far as the act of completion goes, that is tricky business. How does one actually verbalize such a unique experience? Climax is a place in Saskatchewan – people should “come.” The word can be very sensual if used properly. Granted this is all coming from a reader who likes more spice than nice in her romances, but even the racy ones can be destroyed if the adjectives get too ridiculous.”
Mark, our resident humor expert, calls our culture Dionysian Puritanism, which sounds about right to me. He commented on Amanda Quick’s use of imagery and language based on the characters themselves in her love scenes. He wrote, “In Dangerous, there was the lock/key and fire/ice language. In Desire, it was flowers and scents. In Deception the language was of the sea and exploration. The character theme distracts from or adds to the basic bodily language.”
Although I’ve enjoyed many an earlier Amanda Quick love scene, the one in Mystique referring to “the entrance to her secret citadel” seemed altogether silly to me. On the other hand, in Jayne Castle’s Zinnia (Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle are both pseudonyms for Jayne Ann Krentz), I didn’t care for the reference to proud nipples or to the use of clitoris. Proud nipples seem silly; clitoris seems clinical.
An anonymous reader prefers “penis” for nonsexual situations; when in the midst of a love scene, “manhood” and “his sex” works better for her. In the right context, she wrote, “I kind of like “c_ck. Susan Johnson uses it well. It’s a word best used by hardened characters (you know what I mean – those men and women who have had a lot of sex without love).”
Reader Nora had this to say: “There is definitely a hierarchy of male reproductive organ euphemisms in romance. It is ok for men to say whatever about their parts, especially when they are around other guys and being all manly. Whores get to use an extensive vocabulary, too. But God forbid that our litle heroine should say anything other than breathless metaphors. Personally, I prefer penis to some of the other things that I’ve read and for once I would like a heroine who has at least some clue about male anatomy.”
The author Kat Mallory doesn’t mind the word “c_ck,” especially if a male character describing himself uses the term. She added, “This is something one of the characters in my books does. After all, when a man refers to himself, he usually tells it like it is. Right? However, I agree with Laurie that it does take the “romance’ out of a lovemaking scene to use such a vivid description. Especially by a female character.”
The Come Conundrum (From LN&V, March 1, 1999):
Queasy can’t stand the term “to come” at all. “It is so distasteful,” she writes, “that even in a clinical setting I can only bring myself to whisper it. It causes such an unpleasant mental image that I can’t read it without wincing, blushing or vomiting. A dignified couple should by all means ‘climax’. It is rude and coarse to do otherwise.”
While some readers find coming too vulgar, others find it that way only when spelled as “cum.” I’d have to agree; “coming” is fine but “cuming” is vulgar. As for dignity in romance? I couldn’t disagree more. Sex is not dignified; it is wonderfully wet, squishy, and altogether funky. To picture a man and a woman making dignified love seems rather sad to me and connotes sexual intercourse solely for the purposes of procreation.
A Couple of Questions (From LN&V, April 1, 1999):
Anyone who can explain “pouting” or “pouty” breasts, please do! And, aren’t heroes’ afraid they’ll put an eye out when they settle down to feast on those “diamond-hard” nipples?
Answers to These Questions (From the LN&V message board for April 1, 1999):
From Candy: Pouty breasts never made much sense to me either… I associate pouting with puckering up and smooshing your mouth out, and while it can be sexy if done right, I can’t imagine it would be particularly attractive on breasts. In fact, it would be well-nigh impossible, if you think about it. Perky, yes; pouty, no. And as for ‘diamond hard’… I don’t know about other people out there, but I don’t think it’s particularly attractive (or comfortable) for nipples to get that hard. And speaking about pointy objects, what’s up with ‘cones of flesh’? Yuk! Globes (a word favored by Karen Robards, I discovered) is another silly sex word for me. They bring to mind hard, cold, round objects. Unless the heroine has had a boob job, I don’t think ‘globes’ really describe breasts. The hero might get concussion if he slipped and fell against the heroine’s chest, to my thinking… You know why I think authors (and not just romance novelists, either) get silly with breasts? They’re trying too hard to hide the fact that they’re basically globs of fat with some glands thrown in. <g> Now that’s sexy! And can someone explain to me how hard, continued thrusting can drive a virgin to ecstacy? I mean, owwwwieee….. I know the hero is supposed to be a studmuffin, but couldn’t he demonstrate his prowess later? Like, when the heroine isn’t bleeding on him?
From Mary Lynne: That’s the exact problem I have with globes. They make me think of breast implants. As to the virgin in passion on her first experience as the hero drives into her over and over – oh, please. It’s become a cliche. I actually give credit to the author who’s willing to *avoid* this lately.
From Alb: Diamond-hard nipples makes me think of precious jewels and pierced nipples. I’d be afraid he’d swallow one. And how fun would that be to have ‘em sucked? Ouch.
From Katarina: As for diamond-hard nipples, I can’t get rid of the picture of uncut gems being licked into their sparkly, cut shape by the hero. Now that’s an abrasive tongue! Or should be think that “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend?”
Mine Never Have. . . Pulsated, That Is (From LN&V, May 15, 1999):
There was also lots and lots of sex in this book (Patty Salier’s The Sex Test), most of it out-and-out silly. Here are a few of the silliest descriptions: “naked globes,” “chestnut patch of pleasure,” “pulsating breasts,” – well, you get the point. If reading a love scene makes me grab a pen, it’s just not working.
Ouch! (From ATBF, June 1, 2000)
“He plucked pert, woolen-covered nipples into prompt obedience.” – Corbin’s Fancy, Linda Lael Miller
Oh, those wacky Corbin boys! Linda Lael Miller came to prominence in the mid-1980’s with the Corbin family quartet – we’ve even got it listed on our Family Series list. So when I ran across the books at the library and UBS, I decided to give them a try. I’d read LLM before, both in hardcover and paperback. Her most recent releases have been far tamer than the books she used to write. Comparing her recent The Women of Primrose Creek: Bridget to those older books (I’m speaking of her historicals and time travels), her writing has gotten better. Apparently when all those love scenes are removed, there’s a need to write an actual story. Because, you see, those Corbin books are so filled with plucked nipples that I felt like covering my own with Band-Aids after reading them.
I was going to read the entire quartet before commenting on it, but after the third book, I realized I was beat. I could no longer read these books wherein the couples fell in love immediately yet fought incessantly while surrounded by explosions, leprosy, stabbings, shooting, etc. We’ve all read romances where the couples fight constantly, but usually by the time they’ve each realized they love one another, things calm down. Not so with these books – both hero and heroine fall in lustful love immediately, and when they’re not boinking like bunnies, they’re fighting like mad. Maturity is not a hallmark among this clan.
What am I missing here? LLM’s Princess Annie is a romance I remember fondly, but if I read it again today, would I find it as unappealing as I found the Corbin books? Until recently, Miller’s style was so sexual that her characters practically came to orgasm from a heated look or baited breath. Yes, I think her new books, while still not all that good, are filled with better writing than her older ones, and the toned down love scenes are more erotic than in those earlier books with page after page of plucking and suckling. There is so much nipple action going on that in Corbin’s Fancy, the hero at one point must soothe the heroine’s disobedient little nubbins of love with Bag Balm. While I was reading, I wondered what happened when nipples were disobedient. Would my own husband shout, “Bad, bad, nipple!”?
Since two very recent issues