Jul 17 2012 1:30pm

Author Sarah Anderson on a Penis by Any Other Name...

A Man of Privilege by Sarah M. AndersonSo 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 https://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 https://www.heroesandheartbreakers.com/page/official-rules-sarah-m-andersons-a-man-of-privilege-comment-sweepstakesSponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

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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

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Vanessa Ouadi
1. Lafka
Funny enough, I'm generally more turned-off by euphemism describing female lower body parts rather than male's _ some are just downright ridiculous, especially when they are all flowery and poetic ("pearl", "petals", "valley"...) or, on the contrary, too descriptive ("tunnel", "channel", "passage" and so on, always bring to my mind thoughts of scientific excavation that somehow kill the mood).

As to penis-euphemism, I do like to call a spade a spade, so I prefer blunt euphemisms such as "dick" or "cock" (especially "cock", I do like how it sounds). "Shaft", "arousal", "erection" or "length" are a bit too plain for my taste. Some will either make me roll my eyes or snicker like a teenager, mostly when the author tries a rather hazardous metaphor ("sword of flesh", "pillar of manhood", "manroot"...). The worst would still be those that bring quite yucky images to your mind, such as "seed bags", "man meat" or "male nectar". These are definitely, IMHO, worst than "balls", "cock" and "semen".

Not to mention that if a boyfriend of mine dared to propose to fill my honeypot with his male nectar, he would more likely make me burst out laughing rather than melt with arousal. O_o
Sarah M. Anderson
2. Sarah M. Anderson
Lafka--can anyone read 'pillar of manhood' without snickering? I dare them to!
Heather Waters
3. HeatherWaters
I've always been curious about the rules in category romances, so this was awesome insight, thank you!
4. ACarroll
I agree with Lafka--the euphemism can be more distracting than just plain speak in this case. I'm all for authors knowing their audience and abstaining from offending them, but we're not in a junior high sex-ed class. There's no reason to be embarrassed. Come to think of it, if we were in a sex-ed class, we would most definitely be using the "official" names.
5. wsl0612
I would rather the sex was behind closed doors in the novel than have to read vanilla euphemisms and don't get me started on those idiotic slang/twitter words - peen, ugh! Seriously I think cock is a better word than dick, dick makes me think of those guys you don't like, you know, dicks.
I don't read much in the way of category stories, probably because of those rules you've mentioned above.
Sarah M. Anderson
6. Sarah M. Anderson
Redline--I think the rules are also dependant on the editor, so that's something else to keep in mind!

ACarroll--right? That's what makes the names so hard to say--having to hear the health teacher (usually a gym coach) describing anatomy in awkard detail was always uncomfortable (for me at least!).

wosl612--I know for my writing, it's not about describing Tab A into Slot B--and I think that's true for a lot of category writers. We use sex to deepen the emotions and the connection between characters.
Sarah M. Anderson
7. Anne C
I am withLafka on this - call it what it is.. but if me and my friends are in mixed company I call it sinep (sin ep) which is penis spelled backwards.. you would be surprised how many people do not get this.
Sarah M. Anderson
8. Sarah M. Anderson
Anne--sinep?? Well you would have had me hornswaggled! (ha!)
Sarah M. Anderson
9. Glossaria
"Feminine core" and "male part" always make me roll my eyes, personally.
Sarah M. Anderson
10. Anne C
lolol When I see maleness that really makes me laugh.. The sinep is just something we say being funny..
Sarah M. Anderson
11. Robin Covington
Sarah - great article! When I wrote my current release, A Night of Southern Comfort, I did moderate the language because I knew the house style of my target house. But, when I sold to Entangled I was thrilled when my editor let me loose. She told me to let my guys talk like ex-Marines and that opened up a whole new world. It was heaven. They watch their mouths around their mothers but after that all bets are off.

And . . my fave word for the male member is "cock". I use it the most.
If I ever see "turgid stalk of desire" - I'll chuck. ; )
Sarah M. Anderson
12. Sarah M. Anderson
Glossaria--I did read in a book once, "That which deemed him man" and burst out laughing.

Anne--well, you did make me smile, so that was good!
Sarah M. Anderson
13. Sarah M. Anderson

Oops, ahem. Yes, that is off-putting, isn't it? I get to say almost anything in my upcoming Samhain release, and after all this time of writing Desires, it kind of strikes me as odd now. Weird, huh?
Sarah M. Anderson
14. Lea F.
As long as the male part is not called a throbbing lance of love (yes I did read this in a book once & threw it against the wall), I'm totally good with most euphemisms. I read categories and very hot erotics and would be surprised but not offended if I saw cock used in a Blaze but not to the point where it would take me out of the story.

Thanks good column! :)
Sarah M. Anderson
15. Sarah M. Anderson
Lea--Oy! Throbbing Lances of Love sounds like a horrible name for a rock band! And you're welcome!
Lege Artis
16. LegeArtis
Heh, everyone has bad penis name experience... ... The one that make me cringe is manroot. ::shudder::
But I think the worst ever words are used to describe sperm. There are just too many food references...
Sarah M. Anderson
17. PennyA
Generally, writers do a good job with the euphemisms. They are meant to draw the reader into the story and sometimes a story is better being a little more graphic. You can't get offended. It's a story. Stories draw you in with the characters and characters should be true to life (with some fantasy mixed in).
Sarah M. Anderson
18. Sarah M. Anderson
LegeArtis--Ugh, manroot! Although I guess that does bring new meaning to the phrase 'tap that', huh? (Get it? Taproot? Manroot? No? Oh, well.)

Penny--You're right. And I think a lot of us *think* in euphemisms, so it's not something that throws up out of the story.
Jennifer Walter
19. jlc341
That was an interesting article. I never really thought about whether or not editors asked their authors to tone the language down. It seems amazing that some very popular books were even published as they are.

I agree with Lafka about the male euphemisms. Some of them are just ridiculous; however, now I'll be more likely to wonder if that wording was from the author or the editor. Manroot and male nectar. Yeah ok. I don't know too many stories I could read those without cringing (or smirking). To me, cock is appropriate in most sex scenes. Penis sounds a bit clinical, but it's the correct term, so why not?

I do understand to a certain extent where the editors might want to soften the language. My grandmother has been a big reader of romances, especially Harlequin books, for as long as I can remember. I really doubt that she would appreciate sex even appearing on the pages. It has to be like a tightrope walk to keep pleasing readers from all walks of life.
Sarah M. Anderson
20. Sarah M. Anderson
JL--yes, both my Gram and I read similar books--how hard is it to make sure both kinds of readers are happy? VERY, it turns out!
Sarah M. Anderson
21. TracyS
As we can see just from reading these comments--there are so many different opinions! It must be very hard to try to please everyone.

Honestly, some of the euphemisms jerk me out of the story more than just using the corect word. Yeah, they made me giggle back when I got "the talk" from my parents, but they really don't anymore--usually. ;o)
Sarah M. Anderson
22. Elizabeth Crawford
My husband and I once kept telling each other different words, but latched oonto one I had read and kept it for his own. "sequoia of love". Man-I lost it!!!! He likes to give me a hard time about reading romances, but he sure does like the end results......
Gail Siuba
23. gsryley
I have to admit that some of the euphemisms; i.e. manroot, make me roll my eyes and shake my head. I agree with Lafka that blunt is a better choice and I prefer 'cock' to 'dick'. IMO a' dick' is a euphemism for a jerk or a PIA.
I can see how it must be a slippery slope to make everyone happy. I guess you just have to make yourself and your editor happy;)
Sarah M. Anderson
24. Fiona Marsden
I'd like to send a thankyou to house rules in the Desire line. I'm the prudish old fashioned person who gets jolted right out of a sex scene by the use of C*ck and D*ck. Sorry guys. I'm happy with erection and arousal and when appropriate (not in the actual sex scene perhaps) the use of penis. I like the bulge in his chinos, that ridge pressing against her thighs or stomach, the tip probing her sex. On the other side of the fence I don't mind folds, heart, nub, centre, core. Annoyed by florals, nectars, honey and pussies (meow). Can live with sweetness, being wet and moist and slick although I'm inclined to doubt the sweet bit but hey I've never tasted it. (Is this the overshare part of the equation?)
Ass will almost always throw me simply because it's an Americanism that doesn't get used that much in my part of the world. We have an arse here and it isn't quite as polite a word though less likely to be mistaken for a donkey.
Sarah M. Anderson
25. Isabel C.
I like cock. Er, wait. ;)

Straightforward four-letter words work best for me. ("Dick", as above, I'm more used to thinking of as an insult, but I can deal. "Prick" can go either way.) Can deal with "rod," "organ", etc. No sequoias. "Penis" is fine. "Purple-headed warrior" is hilarious, and makes me snicker whenever I watch anime, where half the guys *do* have purple hair. I am amused by the stuff that shows up in actual 1800s porn--"mighty engine of love" and "Sir Priapus" and so on--but obviously couldn't use it in anything remotely serious.

There are no good words for female parts. None.
Sarah M. Anderson
26. Sarah M. Anderson
Tracy--this has been quite the eye-opening discussion, hasn't it? All I know for sure is that I've identified several phrases that I will *never* use! (Manroot, anyone?)

Elizabeth--Sequoia of LOVE? Oh, for Pete's sake! Talk about a size complex!

gsryley--Hmm. See, dick is my go-to word, but you guys are putting forth a strong argument that no one ever names their kids 'Cock.' I may have to reconsider my position (HAR!) on this one.

Fiona--you guys don't say ass? Really? Well, ya learn something new every day!

Isabel--totally agree on the woman parts/words. I'm still dealing with va-jay-jay--whatever the hell THAT is. I'd almost rather go back to the old fashioned days of 'pocketbook' than deal with vag or va-jay-jay. I don't dislike 'clit'--there's your strong four-letter word--but, as we all know, that's not the whole thing! (This sounds like another whole blog post!!)
Sarah M. Anderson
27. Isabel C.
@Sarah: Ew, va-jay-jay. Yeah. Just too cutesey and little-girl: like calling a penis a "winkie" or whatever. Are you over ten? Yes? Find another damn word.

I remember a male friend reading my first book and commenting that, for a modern (or post-apocalyptic) liberated woman, my heroine was awfully vague in her references to her bits--to which I replied that *I* am a fairly modern liberated woman, and awfully vague about mine. (And when I'm not, I use terms that most publishing houses wouldn't allow.)

On the original subject..."peen", ye gods. I'm also having flashbacks to being fourteen and reading "Forever," where the hero named his penis "Ralph." Hee. (Despite popular myth, I have yet to actually meet a guy who names his junk, or at least who admits to doing so.)

I have an Uncle Dick (though not a dick uncle, as far as I know) which might be some of the reason I'm less inclined to use the word.
Sarah M. Anderson
28. Lynn A. Reynolds
The one that turns me off is when an author calls it a "tool". Why would you call it that? I think of shovels, hoes, and other gardening tools when I hear that. Otherwise, I'm not offended by anything. Call it like it is. At our age, and after sex education classes, we know what it's called. If vagina isn't off limits, why then is penis?
Sarah M. Anderson
29. JAGL
I agree, there really are no good words for a lady's bits - and while there are numerous complaints about the heroine in 50 Shades refering to her business as "down there" - I read a survey a while back that said that is the #1 most common term women themselves use for...that part! I was startled by the use of cock when I first started reading romance only because I'd never heard anyone refer to it as that in real life - but after a while, I got used to it and now it's dick that startles me as it's used a lot less, IMO. My ex used to jokingly call his Thunder Stick!
Rakisha Kearns-White
30. BrooklynShoeBabe
I'm actually pulled more out of the story by euphenisms than I am by actual coarse language. I've been married for 17 years and I've never thought my husband's penis felt like hot smooth velvet (an euphenism I've read often). I prefer the word cock because it is hard and coarse sounding---very sexual. Maybe not a word I would use when describing foreplay or dry humping, but when the hero and the heroine are having intercourse, cock is the perfect word. Dick, to me, is too pedastrian. Little boys call their penises dicks. Maybe we could start replacing the word dick with Don a la Jon Hamm's character in Mad Men. lmao.

In mixed company, I do use the word "junk" as a catchall for both male and female genitalia but I wouldn't want to read it in a romance novel.

I also loath the word va jay jay.LOATHE IT!

My 7 year old once refered to her vagina as her va jay jay and she almost got put on time out. When talking about one's biology, I do not tolerate play words. That was how I was raised but when it comes to lovemaking dirty talk, I can take the coarse euphenisms.
Sarah M. Anderson
31. Zoe E. Whitten
Possible alternatives to penis or dick:
crotch rocket
purple missile of love
veiny anaconda
turgid tower of tuna seek
trouser snake

Hope this helps. =^D
Sarah M. Anderson
32. Sarah M. Anderson
Isabel--yeah, on Twitter, it took me a long time to figure out what 'peen' was. I don't like it because it sounds way too much like 'peeing'--which DEFINITLY kills the romance for me!

Lynn--Tool! See, when I hear tool, I hear jerk--but a lot of people said they had the same reaction to dick.
Sarah M. Anderson
33. Jessica R.
I heard someone call it 'pleasure rocket' before and I nearly lost it. Well, after looking at them to see if they were serious or not. They were. My friends and I jokenly call it 'twigs and berries' but for a romance novel, it seems like that description would be too small ;) As long as I'm not reading it outloud, I don't think any description really bothers me too much.
Sarah M. Anderson
34. AZKaren
I laugh more when I read all the funny, off the wall terms for penis. I love it to be called cock or dick...just sounds more erotic! But I understand why it has to be toned down for the category books. Different strokes for different folks! lol
Sarah M. Anderson
35. tadyena
Oh my goodness what a lot of horrible words to call a penis. I am not that picky, do not really care what you call it as long as it fits in the story. I will admit that I once read man-meat and had to put the book down before I dropped it, I was laughing so hard.
Linda Banche
36. lindabanche
I agree with Isabel C. There are no good words for female parts. I don't like "clit" and "cleft" and they definitely do not work in an historical. When one historical referred to a woman's vagina as her "hole", I tossed the book against the wall, and that book was by an author I used to love. And "c**t" is just plain coarse.

Euphemisms for male parts don't bother me. I don't read erotica, and I don't like coarse terms for either male or female in mainstream romances and I don't care who's talking.
Sarah M. Anderson
37. angela deppeler
My daughter is tossing these at me as I die laughing. Apparently, these are ones that have actually been used in on line role playing rooms.
one-eyed willie winker
pleasure rod
purple helmeted short snake
dragon horn
rhino horn
trouser snake
massive missle of manhood
fox hunting rifle
magic wand
38. jezebellydancer
I write romances and erotica but haven't gotten the nerve to try and publish anything yet, but when I read some of the books that have gone ballistic in popularity, I get tempted. Most of my stuff is historical or fantasy/supernatural. I try to fit the words to my characters, so yeah, sometimes I use flowery terms, but in context, I think it works.

I also hate 'dick' and like 'cock.' *ahem* John Thomas is a pretty popular old term (hello DH Lawrence). But I've never used it. It seems silly.

One of my characters is a nature god/faery of sorts, so to continue with the metaphor, I've used staff, stalk, stem and root. And he thinks of his lady in flower(y) terms as well. But I stayed away from wood and woody. Although my beta readers have all joked about it.

A pirate might refer to his Dangling Johnny. But if he talked about booty, I found go into hysterics.

If someone is writing in modern times, I prefer the basics. Also once my characters to down to actual sex, the words get very down and dirty. If the person is a good writer, even if they use words I don't like, I can usually get back into it, if the words make sense for the character.

I used to cringe at c**t (are we even allowed to write it out here?) but considering the other words for female parts that all seem so stupid, I am learning to embrace it when used as a body part and not as an insult. I dislike pussy, esp now that so many women shave 'down there' it doesn't even make sense as a term any more.

I did come across 'adamantine warrior' somewhere and nearly choked on my wine.
Maya Amis
39. mayat7
Probably the one I hate most is manhood (as in "He plunged his throbbing manhood into her soft femininity." Lots of books used to do that sort of thing - and some still do.
I almost exclusively read historicals, so terminology that is wildly anachronistic throws me every time. So can the really coarse language, perhaps merely because I don't expect it, but it's better than moist manroot any day.
Sarah M. Anderson
40. Cherim
I guess I prefer you call it what it is: penis, cock, whatever. My friend and I often laugh about "man-roots" and "love-petals" that we actually read in a book. Those are the ones we avoid. To hard to read when your eyes roll back into your head.
Sarah Smith
41. sasmith361
I have to agree with mayat7, I don't care for the manhood description. But for me it also depends on the story, if I'm reading a book heavy on sex I would prefer cock or dick, but if it's a middle of the road sex book it seems more appropriate for it to be refered to as shaft, groin etc.
Sarah M. Anderson
42. terrymike
I also don't have a problem with blunt or crude descriptions for sexual parts. I do however, have problems with trying to describe a penis without calling it a "cock", "dick", etc. Trying to make it "flower-y" or descriptive just doesn't work----that makes me quit reading to giggle like a 5th grader!
Lora Patten
43. LadyRed
Unless I am totally blind and skimmed too quickly I haven't seen the ever popular "member" used in correlation to penises. I personally can't stand the term "dick", "cock" sounds like a rooster, however "cock-stand" works. "Schlong", "snake" or "willie" all sound juvenile to me. I'm not one that bursts into fits of giggles over the term "penis" but then again, I am currently in the process of dealing with a 12 y old boy going through puberty 0_O I have read countless genres and have seen so many different terms used for genetalia, both male and female, that nothing really surprises me any more and I've almost gotten to a point that when I read a steamy scene my mind automatically inserts the terms that I am most comfortable with regardless of what is actually written in the book LOL! I once shared a few paragraphs of a WIP with my husband (who absolutely despises romantic fiction works) and asked him what he thought, trying to avoid the "it's totally cheesy" response and was pleasantly surprised with his "It made my eyeballs sweat!" response explaining that yes, it was a positive thing and that I would need to excuse him for a moment so he could go take a cold shower... ^_^
Sarah M. Anderson
44. Wendy W. Durden
I have to say, while "manroot" is silly, in certain types of books, it fits the characters using the term. I refer to Sandra Hill's Vikings. It seems appropriate to them, so it does not throw me out of the story. However, if I saw that in a Blaze or Desire, I would hoot and holler until I fell off the couch. Cock seems to fit most situations. Dick just sounds wrong, sorry. Both dick and tool are too associated with dirtbag types rather than sex organs. And "va-jay-jay"? The first time I heard that it was on Grey's Anatomy when someone was about to give birth and the situation was dire/hilarious. In that one instance, it worked for me. Every other time I have seen or heard it, I cringed. Please! Vagina may be clinical, but it does not offend me. Luscious pink petals? I see Georgia O'Keefe's paintings (which are sexual). C*nt is just mean, but the other version of it (c*nny) in historicals seems to fit. Why are we so hard up (snicker) to find a happy medium in naming or nicknaming our female anatomy? And "twigs and berries" always makes me picture Austin Powers, and I just burst out laughing. I guess there's just no pleasing everyone. But keep being creative, and maybe we'll read something that hits it just right.
Sarah M. Anderson
45. Isabel C.
See, it may be a generational thing, or the circles I run in, but "c**t" for anatomy works for me personally if I need to use a sexual word. (If I'm just talking casually about the area--you know, as you do--I usually refer to "my bits" or "the plumbing".) But I think it really doesn't work for a lot of people, and so I try to avoid it when writing. "Pussy" makes me think of either cats or the really smarmy guys who try to explain why the cat comparison is appropriate and DEAR GOD NO, SHUT UP, THAT GUY.

I tend to prefer things more on the coarse side myself--I'm sort of on the way-opposite end of the spectrum from the sex-as-mystical-union-of-souls attitude--but even I have limits, and "hole" (or worse, "gash") is one of 'em. Also "fuckstick", which I've read as a term for penis, which is why I tend to stay clear of Penthouse Forum and the like.

I wonder what it says about me that I'm okay using the same terms for both sex scenes and people who cut me off in traffic.
Sarah M. Anderson
46. Melissa from Clearwater
The only one that makes my eyes roll is manroot. Really? Maybe it is because I hate to work in the yard and that hits too close?

I agree with LadyRed. I have a 13 y/o boy and when we discuss anything, I always make sure we use the technical terms. At least for me, it takes the giggle factor out. Of course for him it doesn't.

I also agree with everyone that there really isn't any good terms for women's bits. The flowery terms really take me out of the story.

Very interesting post.
47. jezebellydancer
That's 'TWIG and berries' and my kilted hero in one of my stories uses that one, but he was being a little cheeky at the time.

I think I read somewhere that va-jay-jay started when the Vagina Diaries came out and a theatre refesed to put vagina on the marquee. But I don't find vagina a sexy word at all. There is something about all of the hard consonants (LOL) that makes them sexier. Or coarser, depending on your viewpoint.
48. jezebellydancer
Gash and slit and cut are all from Middle English I think. There's some story about the Devil cutting women there, and therefore it's a sinful place. So in certain histoical contexts it would be appropriate even if it isn't sexy.

I can see my novel(s) is going to have all sorts of footnotes and a glossary and appendix in the back to explain my choices. I lvoe doing research and that includes the sexual kind.

In my faery novel, one of the chars has a very hairy chest and it turned off some of my beta readers. I also made my High Elves uncircumcized, which turned off a lot fo the beta readers as well, but hey, why would elves be circumcized in the first place?
Sarah M. Anderson
49. Sarah M. Anderson
Good heavens--go to work one day, and you all go nuts (NUTS! HAHAHA! Ahem.) with the terminology!

I purposefully didn't cover female anatomy in this post, but now I'm thinking I may have to in a future post, because we, collectively as a gender, have GOT to come up with some decent, user friendly (!) terms!

I also see that cock is outweighing dick by almost a 2 to 1 margin. I guess I'll be asking my editor about that one in the near future!
Adria Kovaly
50. CopperPayne
Most of what I tend to use when writing has already been mentioned. The one that makes me snigger the most is "manroot," the ones I use most often are "shaft," "length," or simply "manhood." Now and again I'll make use of "member," but not often. Never really been a fan of using "dick" (Unless I'm insulting someone) or "cock," simply because I find them to be short and harsh sounding. I guess it all depends on the context. If I'm working on something romantic, I don't want the mood ruined with what sounds like course language, but I recently had a very blunt character who has no problem spouting out "cock."

I agree, too, with a lot of the above commenters that there really are no good euphemisms for the female anatomy. At least ones that don't sound vulgar, silly, or just "wait, what?" Although one of my personal favorites to use in typing or conversation is "vagoo," which I stole from a web comic, but will probably never use in a story unless it's dialogue.

Before I leave, though, I have to share the one that my friend texted me with. At work.

Purple-headed custard chucker.

You're welcome.
Sarah M. Anderson
51. J-me
I read a book and the bad euphamisms were the main reason that put me off the book, I couldn't stand it, nearly didn't finish it.

The first time I read the word 'ROD' I cringed, by the third and fourth, I was rolling my eyes praying for it to be over, so I didn't have to imagine the hero with his ROD and only one ball, with all this emotional insecurities.

You can use, cock (my fave), dick, penis, love wand, might wang, dingle dangle, shaft, member, even stiffy, don't ever use the word ROD. (oh god, penis isn't in my thesaurus)
And never ever ever call a woman's doodah, a cunny!!! What is that?? urck!!
And do not have your hero, in the midst of sex with your heroine, compare sexual intercourse with his hand. People, what is going on?? Focus!!!!
Furthermore, do not under any circumstances have your hero call the heroine a 'whore.' WHAT THE??

Well if anything, it was a lesson on what not and how not to write, sex, romance, characters emotional background, etc etc..

Sarah M. Anderson
52. Charlayne
I've seen the usual suspects used, cock, dick, rod, staff, shaft. I have used all of those, plus penis (I have no qualms about it) in my own work.

My husband, teasing me, usually tells me I should put the term "Purple helmeted warrior of lust" or "one-eyed Willie the Wonder Worm" in somewhere. That usually gets him smacked on the shoulder. Trouser Smake I've seen used too.

Oh, and he confessed to me, just before we got married, that he DID name his penis, the guy was named "Charlie" which made me erupt into a classic case of 5-minute giggles, complete with hic-ups because my nickname (the short form of my name) is Charlie. So, Charlie; meet Charlie....HA!
53. jezebellydancer
Cunny was a word for rabbit, Shakespeare used it. The Middle English equivalent of pussy, although I think there are cat references in Shakespeare as well.

Stiffy? Ew. Sounds like an adolescent boy.

If you want a thesaurus of sexual things, please check out www.sex-lexis.com. It is not for the faint-of-heart, nor is it work friendly, or family room friendly if any of your kids are prone to read over your shoulder. But it is an awesome site, and in many cases gives hisotircal time periods for when certain words were used.
Sarah M. Anderson
54. Charlayne
Oh, and I forgot one: the old "Tab A into Slot B" I've actually seen once too. And as for "cunny", that's an OLD term for vagina, 17th and 18th century useage.
Quote: Thomas D'Urfey, Wit and Mirth (1719): ' All my delight is a cunny in the night / When she turns up her silver hair.'

I would say that anything out of that period, unless it's an English Professor or an old Vampire with a death wish that used the word would be such a blatantly wrong usage, it would need to be cut (and the writer flogged).
Sarah M. Anderson
56. Sarah M. Anderson
Seriously, I love how we're throwing out cock and Willie the One Eyed Wonder Worm and Purple Helmeted ANYTHING--but everyone types c**t (just like that).

I'm going out on a limb here and say I don't hate cunny. Maybe because I've never heard a man in real life use it, much less in a derogatory way. Maybe I don't read enough historicals, but I'd take cunny over va-jay-jay every day of the week.

I hate member. There, I said it. It's just so...non-descript. Give me a cock or a dick any day of the week!

(And I can't belive no one has brought up D*&k in a Box, the SNL/Justin Timberlake song!)
57. jezebellydancer
Frankly, I never heard c**t spoken aloud until I watched Spartacus! And the fact that they used the term for men and women. And not in the way that guys will call other guys pussies. I think Howard Stern got a ruling that he could use pussy on-air if it was in reference to a guy being a wuss, but not in reference to a woman's genetalia.

And I guess I'm still not used to typing out cunt.

LOL, D*&k in a Box is hysterical.

I've used 'member' or 'manhood' when writing from my more shy heroine's POV.
Sarah M. Anderson
58. choffy
I ve read some books where it goes something like this....
He impaled his sword in her...or in her feminine sheath...
Makes me crack up every time....
Virginia Green
59. vloveg
Every time I catch the name of this article in the "Recent Comments" list, I'm reminded of the old SNL Jeopardy skit where Sean Connery says "Penis Mightier." ("That's what your mother said, Trebek!")

Any time a male character names his bits (especially assigning a middle name, e.g. John Henry), I giggle. Anthropomorphizing (warrior, conqueror, etc.) can pull me out of the moment. References to "his organ" are awkward, as are plant comparisons. Makes me think of creepy tentacles. *shudder*
Sarah M. Anderson
60. Archeress
I love erotica and can't stand the tame books!! So the soft euphenisms will cause me to ditch a book quicker than anything. I love the terms cock and dick. Shaft, member, and rod are all terms I've read repeatively and I think they carry the scene just as well. Penis though- akward to read, akward to say, and hard not to giggle when heard, lol.
Since it was mentioned: female terminology is different because it sounds weird talking about your stuff that way, lol. Clit, pussy, and sex are more of a turn-on, in my opinion. It's harder to keep reading when they say crotch, vagina, sweet spot, etc.
Rakisha Kearns-White
61. BrooklynShoeBabe
has anybody mentioned prick? I feel like that means jerk more than dick.
Melissa Keith
62. MelK
I love the word 'turgid'. But I'm not a euphemism kind of gal. Give it to me straight. 'He plunged his turgid penis into her slick, wet vagina.'
I hate 'va ja ja', 'member' and 'core'.
Oh, gotta run. All this talk of 'penis' has made me 'wet where I sit down.'
Virginia Llorca
63. VirginiaLlorca
I end of using most of them. I guess the subject comes up too often. But "turgid"? No. Sometimes, searching for a euphemism not yet used on the same page, I stoop to "interest" or "expression of interest" poking insistently. I am never very serious about any of it.
Sarah M. Anderson
64. Sarah M. Anderson
This has been *such* a fascinating conversation! Who knew we could all sit around and discuss different names for the penis, huh?
S Tieh
65. infinitieh
Does it depend on the genre? Manroot is okay for historicals, especially Medievals, but not contemps and only use in PNR if said hero/male is a plant fairy or dryad.

Frankly, the phrases that cracked me up were from Medievals (I think) and referred to female pubic hair: "nether curls" and "woman's fleece". Obviously, the women in those stories didn't have straight pubic hair but had some that were slightly ovine in look and texture.
Sarah M. Anderson
66. GH89
I prefer "dick" "cock" and "shaft" over penis. And I also prefer "hard-on" over "boner." I really hate the word "boner." "Boner" and "Woody" lose the whole scene for me. Sounds like we are in high school, LOL!

For the female parts, I would rather read "sex" I can't stand the words "cunt" and "pussy"
Sarah M. Anderson
67. Isabel C.
Returning, again, to note that all of these euphemisms make being a teenage D&D player hifuckinglarious, because you and your friends can get plastered and read the magic items list in Porn Voice:

"Rod of Lordly Might, baby."
"Wand of Wonder. Awww yeah."
"Heward's Mystical Organ. Produces 1d100 random effects per round. LADIES."
68. jezebellydancer
Ugh, crotch is not a sexy word at all. I have seen crux used to vaguely reference a man or woman's spot where their legs join thei body.

Maybe I was a Medieval/Ren person in a past life. The historical words don't bother me very much if they don't go too over the top. I do remember reading something taking place in medival Japan and there were reference to Jade Pestle and Ivory Palace which seemed a mixed metaphor to me.

I've seen pubix hair referred to a 'nest' or 'next of hairs.'

Oh goddes, boner! Does anyone/guy use that word who is over the age of 15?

LOL, yes, Isabel C. so many spells, so little time! Well met, fellow gamer. When you conside the types who were designing the game, the spell names aren't surprising at all.
Sarah M. Anderson
69. Modern_Lover
jezebellydancer: The use of c**t you describe is a fairly common British Isles usage of the word. I remember reading Irish comic writer Garth Ennis say in an interview that in Britain, "c**t is like punctuation" which is maybe stating it a little broadly but not that far off either. Fanny is also a euphemism there for lady parts and not bowels and is roughly as offensive as c**t is in America. Also Jade Pestle into Ivory Palace sounds like the medieval Japanese equivalent of the modern phrase, "throwing a tennis ball down a hallway."
As far as my personal tastes go, I don't mind most terms for anatomy that are nouns annoying, whereas there are a lot of adjectives that I find tiresome or hilarious, especially throbbing or turgid. Especially throbbing, because penises don't really do that, especially not so much so that you should use it as one of the only one or two words you use to describe a penis.
Adria Kovaly
70. CopperPayne
@Isabel and Jeze - And why am I now hearing the Dead Alewives in my head. Thanks, guys.

One other one I tend to use/seen used for women is 'crease.' Don't use it often, but it sometimes comes in handy. Then again, I think I also prefer to use 'slit.' And while I don't use the descriptor 'nether,' I have used curls, but usually when talking about foreplay and occasionally oral but not during sex itself.

Maybe it's lack of female synonyms that's part of the reason I write m/m stuff *laughs*
Sarah M. Anderson
71. A Voracious Reader
I know this can be a huge problem for writers, trying to find words for the naughty bits and not sound ridiculous or repetitive. So...I almost have myself trained to ignore any word used for said naughty bits and replace them with the ones I like. Cock and pussy. In my mind that's my substitute for any other word. It's been a struggle, but I'm almost there. Hopefully, the day will soon arrive when I will never again have to shudder over manroot or love blossom. *shudder*
Sarah M. Anderson
72. Nae
What a great article and discussion.
I've been doing a similar thing to A Voracious Reader, I just skim the words I don't like and replace them with ones I do. I don't really like c**t, fanny or passage with women and with men I go with the majority, manroot.
I like the word cock, I think it has the manliness vibe going for it, without needing to throw up.

However, I have never stopped reading a book because the words threw me off. I suppose if you read enough books with euphemisms, you get used to it.
Joan Boose
73. joan.boose
I think you have all covered the entire vocabulary! Just as long as the tone and era of the words match the occassion, then I will read on.
And please exagerate!!!!!!!
Sarah M. Anderson
74. Sarah M. Anderson
Thanks to everyone who commented! MayaT7was the winner!
75. jezebellydancer
Yes, I know people who use fuck as punctuation :) Getting back to my Irish roots, I have started using feck, it doesn't seem quite as offensive and if I slip in public it's not so bad.

My aunts always used fanny to mean bottom or rear-end. They were older than my mother, so maybe it was from their 'time period.' So now Fanny Hill has an entirely new meaning for me...


I ended up writing M/M as an offshoot of an online (literary) role playing game I was in. It was rather funny. Our two characters just hit it off and the next thing we new we were private messaging love scenes and other players were begging to read what was happening behind closed doors.

My biggest problem was all of the him/his/he. Very hard to know whoch one was doing what with the same pronouns. But that something for another article.
Adria Kovaly
76. CopperPayne
@Jeze - That's sort of what happened with me. A friend of mine (who was a slash shipper for a video game) gave me a plot bunny and the rest was sort of history *laughs* But yeah, funny how RP can turn into literature now and again, isn't it?
77. jezebellydancer
I use RPs quite a bit to flesh out characters and try out plot ideas. I learn so many interesting things about my chars when other people's chars ask them questions and interact with them. And writing with other writers makes me up my game. Now I just need to finish something.
Adria Kovaly
78. CopperPayne
Can definitely agree there, Jeze, on all counts. Going to pause there, so as to not hijack the thread, heh. Good luck getting your stories done!
Sarah M. Anderson
79. amriksingh
my new name is "colapseable misile" shrinkable
Sarah M. Anderson
80. JohnFPiper
A penis is a penis is a penis. And that's the word I use. Why wrack your brain trying to find a euphemism?
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