So many men, so little time: Today we welcome author Sarah Anderson to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Sarah’s A Man of Privilege was released just a few weeks ago, and then in September, she’ll release A Man of Distinction (A Man of His Word came out in late 2011). Sarah is talking about the penis today, and the many words there are for it, and we are glad to have her here. Welcome, Sarah!
(See the end of the post for a comment contest!)
Let’s just get this out there in the open: To quote Kindergarten Cop, “boys have a penis and girls have a vagina.” These are scientific, official names, used in medical establishments just as commonly as “mandible” and “cranium” are.
Show of hands: how many people giggled anyway?
There’s the problem for romance writers. No matter how legitimate “penis” is, that word will almost always throw a reader out of the story and into a junior-high mindset.
So we don’t use “penis.” Few people are comfortable saying it, even fewer don’t snicker. It’s safe to say that we, as authors and as readers, don’t want juvenile giggling in the middle of our sensual, erotic love scenes.
That leaves us with euphemisms. The kind of euphemism an author gets to use varies widely, depending on what kind of book it’s being used in. New York Times Bestselling author Vivian Arend has never had a word cut from her single-title books, although her editor did talk her out of ‘smeared’ once.
I don’t write erotica or single-title. I write category for Harlequin Desire. There are words that get cut under the umbrella of “house style” every single time.
The biggest one that trips me up is “dick.” It’s my go-to word, not as aggressive as “cock” and not as ridiculous as “peen,” which I hadn’t even heard until I joined Twitter. You know what my editor writes in the margins I use “dick”? “Is there any way to soften this? House style.”
Every. Single. Time.
Why? A fair number of category readers have been reading Desires or Presents for twenty or thirty years, back when the sex was more likely to occur behind closed doors. A substantial number of our readers do not like these words, and a certain segment of those readers will complain. (And not just about “dick,” but also about “hell” or “damn.” But that’s another blog!) Loudly.
So the words get cut or changed. I’m not the only one that has this problem. USA Today Bestselling Author Maisey Yates has had problems with her Presents. “I got to use balls twice, but only in a non-sexual sense—‘had Wall St. by the balls.’ I also had ‘orgy’ cut. I use ‘erection’ a lot.”
Desire author Andrea Laurence has fought many battles over “ass.” “Men don’t think a woman has a nice ’rear’ or ‘bottom.’ When in the hero’s point-of-view, he thinks ’nice ass.’” And we want our heroes to be true-to-life, right? (Okay, maybe true-to-life with better abs.)
So what can we say about our friend, “penis,” in category novels? “Shaft” is okay, even with such adjectives as “velvety.” “Head” is okay to describe the tip of a man’s penis, but not as a euphemism for oral sex. “Groin” and the broader “body” (i.e. “Desire coursed through his body” instead of “dick”) are acceptable. Casting a wider net, “his lower half” or “below the belt” are other phrases that give our readers the general idea without those distracting giggles.
What about you? What euphemisms throw you out of a category story? Which ones turn you on? I’m giving away a signed copy of A Man of Privilege to one lucky person who’s not afraid to overshare!*
To enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Sarah M. Anderson’s A Man of Privilege, make sure you’re a registered member of the site, and then simply leave a comment about the post below!* *NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 or older. To enter, fill out entry at http://www.heroesandheartbreakers.com/blogs/2012/07/author-sarah-anderson-on-a-penis-by-any-other-name beginning at 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) July 17, 2012. Sweepstakes ends at 1:29 p.m. ET on July 24, 2012 (the “Promotion Period”). Void outside of the 50 US and DC and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules at http://www.heroesandheartbreakers.com/page/official-rules-sarah-m-andersons-a-man-of-privilege-comment-sweepstakes. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.
If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
- You Want Me to Put That WHERE?: Heroes and Their Large Penises
- Pimped-Out Penises: That Little Something Extra Heroes Bring to the Table
- Squick Me Out!: Words Not to Use in Moments of Passion, Part 1 (+ Part 2)
Award-winning author Sarah M. Anderson may live east of the Mississippi River, but her heart lies out west on the Great Plains. With a lifelong love of horses and two history teachers for parents, it wasn’t long before her characters found themselves out in South Dakota among the Lakota Sioux. She loves to put people from two different worlds into new situations and to see how their backgrounds and cultures take them someplace they never thought they’d go.
When not helping out at school or walking her rescue dogs, Sarah spends her days having conversations with imaginary cowboys and American Indians, all of which is surprisingly well-tolerated by her wonderful husband and son.
This post is brought to you as part of the A Man of Privilege/Distinction Blog Tour. For a complete tour schedule, visit www.sarahmanderson.com.
Plus—bonus—every week I’m giving away one of these handcrafted (by me!) book necklaces from everyone who commented throughout the week! (Official rules here—scroll to the end.) Check the Authorial Moms blog every Sunday to see if you were the winner!
Next tour stop is July 18: Amy Alessio’s Vintage Food Blog