Tuesday, March 25, 2008

He put his what where?

Euphemisms. The bedrock upon which the romance novel is built. Whether it be his "velvet sheathed love sword" or her "dewy love petals," the world of romance is full of them. It is a rare author that employs the words penis and vagina. Why is this? Those are the proper terms for the male and female genitalia. A rose by any other name, and all that jazz. I know, I know, there is just something lacking in the sexy department to read "he gently licked her vagina." So instead we get the euphemism. It is in treacherous waters that an author navigates when employing the sexual euphemism. If the prose becomes to flowery or embellished the reader is liable to start to giggle...or gag. It quite kills the mood. One the other hand the sudden use of "penis" or the much harsher word "cock" can stop a reader cold. Moods begin dropping like flies.

It is not just anatomy that receives this creative rewording. Oh, the many ways I have seen the act of sex described. Such a plethora of verbs I have never seen before: thrust, push, slide, grope, impale, cram. Yes, you read that correctly. Cram. As in, "he crammed me." (You can thank the lovely Sunny for that contribution.)

It is amazing how each author treats the same subject, some more successfully than others. There is the creative sex. The hawt sex. The gentle love making. The crazy monkey lovin’. And the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad (and incredibly improbable) sex.

So I ask you this: What was the worst euphemism you have had the misfortune to read? Who do you think has found that perfect balance in language to create an effective sex scene? Have you ever come across an author who has scarred you, nearly causing you to flee from the genre with all due haste?


Kristie (J) said...

I can't think of any specific examples - but I did try reading a Bertrice Small book once and that was VERY heavy on the euphemisms. Very funny and peculiar ones. So much so that one of her books was quite enough thank you *g*. I wouldn't say I was scarred - more like I couldn't get over laughing too much at the sex scenes . Not, I'm sure, the effect she was going for.
As for some authors who get it right - Nora Roberts/JD Robb and Linda Howard come first to mind

Ana said...

You know, I much prefer the harsher word "cock" to the lighter "his throbing manhood".

I think this is why I am enjoying paranormal romance so much lately, the words are much direct - still no "penis" or "vagina" though.

Sarai said...

I always wondered what happened to the good old penis and Vagina. I tend to agree with Ana I read paranormal and contem. for that reason I prefer "Cock" to the velvet sword penatrating her silky folds. *gagging*

Shannon said...

Hmmm... maybe that is why I am on such a paranormal and compemporary kick, too. I hadn't thought about it, but now that you all mention it, it makes sense.

And gag, indeed, sarai!

Lady of the Review said...

Shannon-Thanks so much for your comment on my blog. :) It's always nice to find new readers.

I did read On the Prowl & the only book I enjoyed was Ms. Briggs. The other ones did nothing for me, which is sad since I really do enjoy the Cassandra books by Karen Chance.

We should put our heads together & come up with reading material. I'm about out of options at this point & need someone else's help. :)

As for gag-inducing euphamisms...oh, there are so many! The one that always makes me snort though is "he sheathed his velvet sword in her silken sheath." Um, yeah. *gag*

I agree with Kristie J, Nora Roberts does very yummy sex scenes. *sigh*

Shannon said...

LotR- Out of reading options??!?!?!?!!? Say it ain't so! How dreadful. Well, I am going to be posting the title of the first book for my reading club soon (hopefully later today.) I hope you will join me in reading it!

Carolyn Jean said...

I think about this a lot, actually. I don't have any bad examples, but lately I have been having a real problem with using "her sex" or "his sex" as euphemisms for vagina and penis. ie: "he touched her sex, found it wet and hot."

A lot of quite good authors are using that these days, but to me it's one step away from thing. Like, "He touched her thing, found it wet and hot."

Thea said...

Hmm I'm pretty new to the genre, but I have to admit that the "he sheathed his incredible sword in her snug moist depths" snicker-inducing. Sheathing in general just seems a bit strange for me.

I have to agree with Ana and the others that have said they prefer the straightforward "cock" to other euphemisms. Although, there is such a thing as too direct--in the book Sunshine (not a romance, but still shocking), the titled heroine in an almost sex scene refers to her vagina by the c-word. Eek.