A Brief Discussion of Anatomical Terms

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One of the unique challenges of writing erotica that I don’t think any other genre has to deal with is that a big chunk of it involves describing the same body parts over and over again. Not only that, but you have to describe them in terms that actually are sexy and erotic; let’s face it, the clinical terms for other body parts work perfectly well for describing them, but you can’t really write a sex scene using the words “penis” and “vagina”. Careful care has to be taken in selecting anatomical slang terms, and lucky you, I’m going to share my hard-earned insights on the subject! Obviously, these are general rules; there may be times when you can get by with breaking them in specific situations and specific characters. But they’re good guidelines to go by.

The penis, for example, has hundreds of potential options, from “anaconda” to “willy”…but 90% of them make you sound like either a middle-schooler just learning to swear or a fratboy who’s far more impressed with his genitalia than anyone else in the room. You can’t unironically use “anaconda”, “dong”, “love muscle”, “pecker”, “schlong”, “wiener”, “wang” or “trouser snake” without totally throwing someone out of the story and relegating your erotica to something they do dramatic readings of at conventions. Likewise, “member” or “manhood”, while not terrible, are so bowdlerized that you’re pretty much turning your porn into Victorian romance novels the second you throw them in.

There’s really only one clear choice for the penis: “Cock”. The hard “k” sound at the beginning and the end gives it a certain melodious emphasis that allows you to take it seriously as something someone would want to put into their hands, mouth or elsewhere, and it helps that it has consonance with “fuck”. (There’s probably a whole other essay to be written on the terms for the act of sex, but we’re staying focused here.) When you talk about a cock, you’re talking about something intense on a physical and emotional level, which is necessary to make a sex scene work. If you have to vary it up a little, you can use “dick”, but that’s something that really works best as an internal monologue. It’s emotionally neutral, a slang term for your own body part rather than that of the person you want to fuck, and needs to be used sparingly for that reason.

Women have a different problem–most of the terms for their genitals seem to have been coined by people who don’t like them that much. (The genitals, that is, not the women, although a case could certainly be made for “all of the above”.) Talking about a woman’s “gash” or “cooch” makes it sound like you’re kind of weirded out by what you see down there, and “beaver”, “poon” or “cooter” gets you right back to fratboy territory. The ones that are food-based, like “hair pie” or “bearded oyster” or “pink taco”, just sound silly and embarrassing, and they also have that same jarring effect that I mentioned above. If you’re picturing hairy seafood during a sex scene, you are probably not going to be in the mood.

Luckily, there are some good candidates. “Muff” and “cunny” both have a certain charming, even adorable connotation to them; they make it sound like something you want to cuddle up to and pet, which if your sexual preferences are anything like mine you probably do. “Pussy”, like “dick”, is a neutral slang choice; it’s not particularly sexy, but it’s also not clinical like “vagina” and can be used safely when people describe their own bodies for the most part. (Incidentally, when describing individual elements of the overall genitalia for either gender, it’s okay to be clinical–tongues can stroke the labia, lick the shaft, that kind of thing. Also, the only acceptable slang term for the clitoris is “clit”. Anything else runs the risk of sounding astonishingly stupid.) “Quim” is a beautiful term, almost Shakespearean, and sounds kind of classy. And apparently the MPAA doesn’t know what it means. “Snatch” and “twat” are both on the borderline of fratboy, and should be used with caution, but you can sprinkle them in lightly if you’ve run out of other terms to use.

“Cunt” is controversial, because it’s been used so many times as a gendered slur that many women have come to dislike the word altogether. Me, I feel that it needs to be rescued from that use, because it has the same sense of urgency and power that “cock” has; it’s a description that feels like it actually has weight on your tongue, with the hard “k” sound at the beginning and the solid “t” at the end. A “pussy” feels cute and sweet; a “cunt” feels like something you need. While I feel strongly that it should never be used to describe a person, it is a gorgeously profane term for a woman’s sex. (Oh yes, and you can get by with describing it as just her “sex” in a pinch, but once you write about someone’s “manhood” entering someone’s “sex”, you’re getting dangerously close to parasols-and-tea-sandwiches territory.)

Breasts, thankfully, are one of the few erogenous zones that can be described without needing to resort to slang terms. You can simply mention them as things to be licked, kissed, sucked, fondled, bitten, whipped and generally caressed without anyone feeling like they’re in a doctor’s office. (Depending on who their doctor is, I suppose.) But if you need to use synonyms simply to avoid repetition in a paragraph, you can generally get by with “tits” as a term on the lines of “cunt” and “cock” above. “Boobs”, like “dick” and “pussy”, can be used by a character to describe their own body in an informal but nonsexual fashion. Anything else, from “hooters” to “jugs” to “cans” to “rack” to “melons” to “yabos”, should only be used if you are describing someone who is a jackass describing a woman’s breasts. (Which can be useful to know, really.) Oh, and nipples are always just nipples. “Nips” if you’ve already written the word “nipples” so many times it’s losing all meaning to you, but that’s it.

Which leaves the buttocks, bringing up the rear. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) As with “penis” and “vagina”, you can’t really describe it in clinical terms–nothing kills an anal sex scene like the phrase, “they spread their buttocks”. You’re really down to a tiny number of realistic choices, here; unless you want to provoke unintentional gales of laughter by describing his cock thrusting into her keister, you’re down to “butt” or “ass”. And since “butt” fits in with “dick”, “pussy” and “boobs” in that category of “informal but nonsexual”, you’re looking at “ass” for your sex scenes. And so are your characters.

Hopefully, this is a help to all you would-be smut writers out there. And discriminating porn readers–the next time you read a scene about a virile stud pounding his schlong into her cooter, you know where to send them!

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