Aug 29 2012 2:00pm

Author Sarah Anderson on Names for the Vagina

A Man of Distinction by Sarah M. AndersonWe're thrilled to welcome author Sarah Anderson back to Heroes and Heartbreakers! Sarah had a memorable post on the variety of terms authors use for the penis, but we knew she was only telling half the story, so we've asked her back, just in time for A Man of Distinction to be released. Thanks for joining us, Sarah!

(Plus, read to the end for a comment sweepstakes!)

So, About that Vagina…

So glad to be back at Heroes and Heartbreakers! As you may (or may not) recall, I stopped by the blog a few months ago to start a Very Important Dialog about Our Friend The Penis, the many wonderful, varied nicknames The Penis goes by, and which of those nicknames one could safely use in a category romance.

We covered all the highlights: cock, dick, erection, turgid velvet-covered shaft of love . . . boy, those were good times. But I couldn’t help but notice that Something Else was happening in the comments section. Namely this: readers came for The Penis, but they stayed to talk about The Vagina and all of its little buddies, The Clitoris, The Labia, and The Vulva.

I don’t know about you, but I feel this is a conversation that is more than worthy of its own blog post.

Now, ostensibly, this is about words you can and cannot use in a category novel, because the clinical, medical terminology (see above) can be a) unintentionally funny or b) offensive to some people, both of which throw readers out of the scene. That is what we do not want.

But here’s the problem. Almost no one uses vagina in sex scenes. (Tiffany Reisz is a rare exception. She makes vagina work. In more ways than one!) Maybe it’s just too clinical to be sexy, but our poor little vagina almost never gets a mention by name.

So what to do? This is where things get very, very tricky. For too long, women didn’t get to name their own reproductive organs. Men did it for them, and in a vast majority of the time, the names men gave our vaginas were not meant in a complimentary, loving way.

I’m just going to say it. Cunt.

Of all the words readers discussed in the comments on the last blog, cunt was, hands down, the least favorite. Plus, it had the bonus power of being so derogatory that people refused to even spell it out. Almost everyone wrote “c*nt”.

Other words for vagina that are more suited to the world’s oldest profession include pussy, hole, twat, poontang, and more that I probably don’t even want to write down. Some readers helpfully highlighted old-fashioned insults such as cunny, slit, and gash.

On the other side of things, we women tend to get all soft and flowery in our descriptions. Rosebuds unfurling, all glistening petals and beads and pearls, are almost as bad. I’m not a freaking garden. Don’t plant me.

And how many of you had the discussion with an older parent or grandparent about your pocketbook? I don’t know about you, but I’m not keeping loose change anywhere near the area.

So we come to today. What the heck do you call the genitalia for a woman? Surprising, a lot of the readers who commented didn’t have a really good name for their own parts. Readers used bits, plumbing, lady parts, junk, and more to describe their sexual organs. Which is all fine and good, I suppose, but I have to tell you, writing, “He thrust his junk deep into her junk and sighed at the feeling of their junk joined together” kills the romance for me. Just kills it.

Now I get Glamour and Cosmo (which I read for the articles) (really!) and have been alerted to the hip, happening words that the young ladies of today (which are the wives and mothers of tomorrow, may I remind you) use to describe Our Friend the Vagina: vag and va-jay-jay.

Maybe vag isn’t so bad. Maybe vag can be like clit—shortened from a medically correct name into a powerful word that can carry a positive sexual reference without being demeaning or shameful. (At least, that’s how I feel about clit. I’m not there yet with vag.)

But va-jay-jay? Ladies, come ON. I have never heard such a ridiculous, comical name. Hell, I’ll take cunny (a medieval insult) and pussy over va-jay-jay every damn day of the week. You can bet your bottom dollar that va-jay-jay doesn’t work in romance. “He ran his thumb over her va-jay-jay, delighting at the way her body shivered at his touch.” Um, no. Not happening.

Instead, we wind up using center or core (which are not particularly sexy), or fumbling the handoff (ha!) even more with ‘where she was wettest’ or some other vague, Where-in-the-World-is-Carmen-Sandiego?-style set of directions.

So, I ask you—as a woman, wife, mother and, most importantly, an author—what words for vagina work for you? One commenter will be randomly selected to win an autographed copy of A Man of Distinction

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

To enter for a chance to win one copy of Sarah M. Anderson's A Man of Distinction, make sure you’re a registered member of the site, and then simply leave a comment 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  beginning at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) August 29, 2012. Sweepstakes ends at 1:59 p.m. ET on September 7, 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 Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010

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 Distinction Blog Tour. For a complete tour schedule, visit Comments on this blog post will be entered to win a signed copy of A Man of Distinction* (see rules in the post above). Plus—bonus—I’m giving away a handcrafted (by me!) book necklaces from everyone who commented throughout the week!  (Official rules here—scroll to the end.) Check the Authorial Moms blog September 11th to see if you were the winner! All comments will be added to the weekly book jewelry prize drawing.

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Jacqueline Code
1. JacquiC
Ha. Your quote about "He thrust his junk..." has me howling with laughter at my desk.

As a mother of two boys, I am all for using anatomically correct terms. Vulva, labia, clitoris, vagina. And for getting the right names for the right parts -- drives me crazy when people use the word "vagina" to refer to the whole female genitals, rather than using "vulva" correctly to refer to all the external parts. I think it is my responsibility as the only female in my household to help them get this terminology right.

But despite having grown up with a feminist mother in the era of sexual liberation (1970's), I have a really hard time finding a word that I like to use as a more casual way of referring to my own "bits", let alone a word that is more or less the equivalent of "cock" (which is, I think, the best word to use in romance/erotica for male genitals). I hate "pussy" or "cunt". Clit is not bad, but it obviously refers only to one specific (though important!) part. I'm with you in reacting with horror at Va-jay-jay (though I don't recall ever having seen anyone use this in a romance or erotic novel).

I think it is very common for romance novels in particular to simply duck the issue and not really refer to any specific part, referring obliquely to "wetness" and to the hero being "inside" her. This is better in my view, than some of the more flowery, petal-ly metaphors in the more purple prose sex descriptions I used to read in more old-skool romance.

Looking forward to reading what others say in this thread!
Heather Waters
2. HeatherWaters
Yeah, vag and va-jay-jay in romance just would not work for me. Cunt and pussy both used to bother me, but I feel like they're being reclaimed these days, as I see them being used more and more and I don't generally mind it anymore.

Anyway, great post, thanks, Sarah! I think it's great to have discussions about these sorts of things; I know I'm always curious about why category romances go with the words they do.
Melissa Cutler
4. Melissa Cutler
Great post, Sarah! As a Harlequin writer, I struggle with this too, but I think it's easier to overcome than the lack of good options for naming the butt in a book (perhaps a new blog post to round out the trifecta?). Like the first commenter, JacquiC, discussed, I tend to avoid naming the vagina altogether whenever I can ("he thrust into her") because everyone has such different opinions on what's sexy vs. what's repulsive. For example, I find the term pussy very sexy, but that's such a matter of personal taste. Like you, the main point is to keep readers in the story. For the same reason, I (heartily) resist flowery language or metaphors.

I think descriptions like "he dipped a finger into her wet heat" is sexy. And I think wrapping a love scene's focus around the hero and heroine's emotions vs. the choreography is a great to take attention off of what digits or members go where.

Thanks again for the *arousing* discussion!

Melissa Cutler
5. Sarah M. Anderson
JacquiC, I was aiming for HOWLING with laughter--glad to know it actually worked! I can't think of anything sexier than a bunch of 'junk' in bed. Ew!

Redline, I read a book last night with a pussy-positive approach. It did sort of shock me a little, but it wasn't too bad. This may just need to gather a little steam for the rest of us to get used to it!

Las Vegas, I guess we could work to make vagina least Tiffany Reisz has a head-start on that for us!
Melissa Cutler
6. Stacy Boyd
Love this post! People are looking at me funny because I'm laughing out loud at my phone.

For category, I'm with Melissa. "Into her" or wetness/heat work well to keep me in the story. And for romance (not erotica) I like the sex scenes to be about more than sex anyway.

I'm much more open to other words in different types of fiction and in real life, but I hate twat no matter the context.
Melissa Cutler
7. Andrea Laurence
Oh, I had to wade in on this one. :)

As a writer, I tend to lean toward "her," "heat," "core," etc. I write for Desire so stronger words like pussy just won't fly there. I'm not offended by them, but I think their use needs to be appropriate to the heat level of the book. I think there has to be a balance. If its too textbook technical, my inner 7th grader giggles. I can't help it. At the same time, if her "glistening feminine petals" are on display, I'll roll my eyes and totally lose the mood.

Since I'm hip with the lingo, I'll say I don't think vaj or va-jay-jay are really intended for this context. When Britney Spears gets out of a limo without panties, she's flashing her vaj or va-jay-jay to the world. Or when one chats about grooming habits, you might refer to a waxed or neatly trimmed va-jay-jay. But a hero most definitely (especially in his own POV) won't be doing anything with one of those.
Melissa Cutler
8. Sarah M. Anderson
Melissa, you're very welcome--and thanks for contributing to the 'arousing' discussion!

Stacy, this brings me to a new tangent--the sudden emergence of the word 'twatwaffle' as an insult. CAN. NOT. STAND. Very insulting to everyone!

Andrea, I knew I could count on you! But here's the thing--I was recently doing a little 'research' in a 'fun couples store' and they had MANY products on display for "Vajazzing your Va-jay-jay." It didn't suggest a 'fun couples' time to me for *so* many reasons.
Melissa Cutler
9. proser
One term I've been seeing lately is "gate". I don't particularly like it, but others may disagree. I tend to feel, when the language is particularily awkward, that the author must be a man who is writing as a woman. In those cases, I mentally replace the words with those that feel more feminine. I've also noticed that I am less likely to be offended by crude words when they are in the context of sex scenes that include talking dirty, as opposed to expressing a female character's thoughts or feelings.

It can be enlightening to learn the origin and history of word usage -- a topic covered on NPR today regarding a new book, Ascent of the A Word. I remember reading a similar discussion of the F word in college, which added a major twist to my understanding of using the term. Any possibility you'd like to do the same in a follow-up post?
Melissa Cutler
10. Fiona Marsden
I crawled out of bed straight into this discussion (sleeping in Australia, just so you know). I laughed so hard I cried. I'm quite happy without the direct use of any specifics. A well written love scene can hint quite nicely about where everyone's 'junk' is without being overly explicit and can actually be more erotic for allowing one's own imagination to fill in the blanks. I for one have some experience (shock horror, don't tell my children) and am well aware of where my own bits are and what they can do. I don't need a primer. Seriously.
Laura K. Curtis
12. LauraKCurtis
Hmm... I usually see core, center, tightness, wetness, heat...they're vague, but they work for me. I hate pussy. I'd rather see cunt. I realize I am weird that way. The various parts are weird to describe, I think, except for the clit, which works just fine as a word for me. Lips sounds...mouthlike. I dunno. It's all very odd.

I use vajayjay in conversation with my girlfriends, but it's a sarcastic term, like "oh, she of the glittering vajayjay". I would never want to see it in a romance novel unless it was part of girl talk like that.
Melissa Cutler
13. Kelly L
LOVE. It's choking-on-coffee funny, officially.

I think "vagina" and "clit" are my favorites, for pratical purposes. I would absolutely lose it if I encountered "va-jay-jay" in a romance novel--hysterical! I think I would actually prefer "nether region," "down there," or "downstairs parts," but only by comparison. I don't mind "pussy" if it's used in the right context, but I hate "cunt" and "cunny." I'm OK with "nether lips" if I don't think about it too much (if I do, I start giggling). I strongly dislike "tight" or "tightness" used in context with ladyparts--those terms seem to tie in to our cultural obsession with having little-girl ladyparts, and that bugs me.

I'm totally comfortable with very occasional use of medical terminology combined with more vague references (the "wet heat" other commenters have referenced, for example). I think we should consider our own experiences a tad when writing these scenes. The female character is probably not terribly analytical about which specific area of her ladyparts is receiving attention at any given moment ("ooh, I think he's touching my outer labia!" I mean, if she's thinking that during sex, he's not doing it right.).
Julia Broadbooks
14. juliabroadbooks
I will confess I find vagina and labia bit clinical sounding for a romance. They're the words that I'd use in real life. It doesn't seem like it fits in a love scene, but I'm willing to be convinced otherwise. Still preferable to va-jay-jay which sounds more like a joke.

I don't object to pussy or cunt. But I hate twat. I have no reason for this hatred, but it burns pretty deep.
Jennifer Walter
15. jlc341
What a great post. It's true that there don't seem to be any good nicknames for the vagina or at least a universal one that doesn't offend some readers. I don't mind pussy or a few of the others in books. The flower references don't work for me either. Pocketbook is a new one for me though. Can't say that I had heard that one before; and the whole "junk" scene gave me a good laugh.

To me, va-jay-jay seems too awkward for an erotic scene. Meanwhile, vagina is almost too clinical in most cases.
Melissa Cutler
16. Sarah M. Anderson
Boy, I like this discussion! In the Penis blog comments, everyone detested cunt, but here I'm seeing much more hatred of twat. It's just hard to see any place where twat can be sexualized in a fun way. I suppose in certain kinds of erotica, cunt could work, but does twat work for anything other than an insult?

Kelly, goodness--that's so true! If that's what you're thinking, then he's doing it wrong!
marion bergner
17. ducky
I think it's okay for a woman to call the vagina "cunt" but I don't like it when men use the word because coming from them it's usually meant deragatory. I don't like "pussy" at all and in general I don't like flowery and cutesy terms for vagina.

For the penis the best word is "cock".
Melissa Cutler
18. Rebe
I'm still not sure why anyone would find the clinical terms offensive! And depending on the erotic content, pussy doesn't really bother me, but I really dislike cunt. So offensive!
Melissa Cutler
19. Bonita62
I am perfectly fine with vagina or pussy. Cunt has been made derogatory. Twat and tweeter are what my teenage daughters call it. My eighty year old mom calls it a flitter!! (hahhaha) I call it her or she. ( Her juices are dripping. She wants you inside her now!!) If I wrote a book the word pussy would be my choice.
Melissa Cutler
20. LemonWitch
I really really want to be onboard with people reclaiming cunt, but I can't do it, I hate that word too much. Not because of its derogatory past usage, but because its an ugly sounding word. It's harsh and clipped which vaginas don't generally tend to be. I dislike the word vagina for the same reason, but don't hate it like cunt. Vagina's just to clunky a word to ever sounds sexy, in my opinion. It could be used in conjuncture with more purple prose though: "the wet channel of her vagina" might work. For some reason cunny doesn't bother me. Maybe because it's so close to cuddly? How can you hate something cuddly? You can't, that's how!

Snatch and twat are both used more for insulting terminology than to describe my personal area. I always kinda like delta of Venus as an old fashioned kind of deal, but cannot see myself using it in casual conversation at all. "So I was at the gyno's and the doctor totally reamed my delta of Venus with that damn speculum..." Actually I might use that just to freak my friends out.

"Mons" isn't too bad a term-- it's Latin for "mount" according to Google translate, and let's be honest, that applies. Plus I kinda like the thought of Mount Vag between my legs! ;)

I do use "vag" in casual conversation (yep. Just having a casual conversation about my reproductive organs. Pure class, baby!) with friends, but I like it because it's a neutral term. It's not clunky like vagina and doesn't have the sexual or derogatory back history of pussy or cunt.

I use vajayjay when drunk, as God intended.

I think I like talking about naughty bits just a smidge too much.
Melissa Cutler
21. Isabel C.
Nothing twee-sounding or cutesy, which lets out both "va-jay-jay" (because we are not six, oh my God*) and, to my mind, "pussy", which sounds...not quite twee, exactly, but whatever the sleazy-seventies-guy-with-pornstache equivalent is. Smoove Twee?

I like "cunt". I don't think most of my readers would, so I don't use it; when writing, I'm either pretty vague or I refer to "her sex". I also like "quim", but that's wicked old-school, as the kids today say. "Cunny"...maaaybe, but it sounds *too* much like bunny/cuddly to me: I'm on the harsher side of the terminology spectrum. "Clit" works for modern stuff, but I don't know that any of my characters would use the term.

"Twat" is an insult for me--even if it didn't get used that way, it sounds like "twit"--so no. No flowers. No hidden gardens of wonderfulness. No pocketbooks.

When I talk about my own parts, it tends to be, as people have said, in casual conversation, so it's "junk" or "plumbing" or "the bits". Not very erotic terms, but I'm usually either in a flamewar about ridiculous gender essentialism or sitting around with a few friends and a lot of malternatives, so that's just as well.

*Ironic/drunk usage is fine, because ironic/drunk usage of just about anything is fine.
Melissa Cutler
22. Jenna M.
Ugh I discuss this with my fella all the time! Vagina is such a clunky word, vag does not sound pretty in the slightest, and pussy makes me think I need to go shave again, since I'm obviously fuzzy enough to inspire that comparison. I don't really have a favorite for sexytalk, but in common talk with other ladies I call it my ladyjunk. There must be a better option, can we all make one up that is less awful?
23. wsl0612
Vag is right out, because it rhymes with Madge which makes me think of chain-smoking wrinkly blue hairs, not SEXY at all! I am fine with cunt or pussy, although being owned by cats sometimes my friends and I fall into fits of 5th grade silliness, talking about stroking our pussies ;-)
Melissa Cutler
24. Blythe Gifford
Just another day of talking shop... As an historical romance writer for Harlequin, medieval time period, I have another layer of complexity. Virtually none of these words are options for my characters. The "c" word, on the other hand, would be historically accurate and I once tried to use it in the hero's point of view. Not as an insult, but just the way a man of his times and vocabulary would understand it. It, uh, didn't make the final edit.
Melissa Cutler
25. Sarah M. Anderson
I think Lemon Witch wins for best quip with "I use vajayjay when drunk, as God intended." I'm still laughing over that one!

Blythe, good show on trying to get cunt in there. For you, it's probably what your hero really is thinking--but that doesn't mean women want to read it, which is the problem I think we all have!
Stacy Parker
26. LemonWitch
Thansk, Sarah! My older sister always assures me I'm just awkward (my rebuttal is that *I* don't feel awkward after the things I say. Therefore it's everyone *else* that is awkward!) but it's nice to occassionally make people laugh!

I forgot about quim! I like that one-- it's a more elegant sounding description than cunt and packs a similar wallop. Plus they used it in The Avengers and that was just awesome.

As a reader I don't have a problem with authors using cunt as the actual descriptor. It's just not a personal choice to refer to my genitals that way, and it's unlikely I'd use it in a story.

My hypocrisy however is that I like the word "fuck" when used to describe a really primal version of the act. And that's a pretty harsh word, so I'm not sure why cunt makes me steer clear. That and because "fuck" is the best word ever.
Kiersten Hallie Krum
27. Kiersten
I'm so digging this convo - tho not digging the va jay jay as I agree its too cutsey and juvenile. If a heroine uses it, I immediately lose respect for her and after that, the book's a DNF.

Twat is an insult tho I don't hold it as negative as the c-word which is a deal breaker for me and I absolutely don't use it. In our society, when a man uses that word, it's meant in the worst way possible and I'm not going to perpetuate that perception.

I do use pussy but only - um - wield it in my writing when can make impact b/c think it's still a bit startling for non-erotic/erotica readers (it is for me) though not as off-putting as c-word. Plus I think it's more appropriate/realistic coming from a guy b/c in my "experience" is often used in guy speak.

With a Mom who's an RN, clinical terminology like vagina or labia or clitoris/clit doesn't bother me at all but it's not necessarily romantic or sexy (tho clit is). While could be internal thought for the heroine, I'm not so sure is natural terminology for a hero. I actually like quim, but agree it's old skool and could trip a reader up - unless they've seen The Avengers and get Loki's brilliant insult.

I like the use of mons though seems more used in historicals than contemps or RS. Maybe that's the key: terminology for genitality is, like all things, defined by it's time and setting. What works for a Regency may seem de trop for a romantic suspense while what's used in a sexy contemporary might be excessive for a Medieval. The cool thing is finding the words that were used in those historical settings (I think quim, for example, goes back quite far...Isabel would know...) and learning new words for - erm - old parts.

Love this post! Excellent job!
Melissa Cutler
28. Anne B.
I had to give myself a minute to dry my eyes after reading this. So freaking hilarious.

Anyway, I think context is the big key. Reading pussy doesn't bother me if it's a reallys steamy book or in conversation with a guy (dirty talk? perfect word). Vagina can work, but isn't sexy sounding by nature. Cunt and twat are absolute no-goes. Ugh. SO offensive. Like Kiersten, I love 'quim' but doubt I'd use it describing actual sex. Vag is fine but mostly in dialogue or thoughts.

Vajayjay makes me laugh. Also funny/not sexy is a term no one's mentioned yet: kitty. I can see using it in a snarky way, but otherwise? No way. As a feline owner, I actually find the term distracting. Though it makes for some really nasty innuendo, if you go for that kind of thing.

I tend to avoid specifics in my own writing, but that's a personal preference. I like to stay away from fabric descriptions (wet silk is NOT soft and slippery, people!) and flowery language in general. A historic term I actually like (gasp!) is 'sheath' - because it's the literal Latin translation for vagina. I think I like it because it makes me feel smug and nerdy to know the logic behind that word choice.

Ladies' naughty bits are awfully complicated to come up with just one acceptable term. Clit is great, but doesn't apply to enough territory. (*snort*) Must say though, trying to find good terms is certainly entertaining!

Great post. I'm off to read the older, penis posts. Heh heh heh.
Rakisha Kearns-White
29. BrooklynShoeBabe
Oprah Winfrey is a walking saint however, I hate her because she introduced that va-jay-jay phrase into the popular lexicon. I HATE THAT WORD. It's childish. It sounds like a song and a finger play I would do for the toddlers during story time at the library. 0__O

I'm probably one of the few women who doesn't mind the word cunt but not as insult nor in any catergory romance. I don't mind it in erotica or whispered. Pussy is the same thing. In straight/category, I don't actually mind the vague fade to black euphenisms--wet opening, etc.... I like the word clit.

When I talk to my daughters about their body parts, I do use the incorrect but all inclusive vagina. They also know they have a clitoris. (Long story. My oldest daughter, at age 3, thought my youngest had a really small penis and freaked out. lol.)
Melissa Cutler
30. Renable
I don't really have a preference. I'm not too big a fan of flowery names. I jokingly use ladygarden, but usually only if I'm being mean. It really depends on the context and what the scene calls for. If it's more romantic than erotic, vagueness is perfect. If it's more erotic, throw all the pussy and cunt in there that you want. :) As long as it works for the scene, it works for me!
Melissa Cutler
31. Sarah M. Anderson
Oprah? Really, Brooklyn? Oprah started va-jay-jay? *shudders* No wonder we can't get rid of it!

A lot more people than I expected seem to be okay with either pussy or cunt in an erotic situation. I'll admit that these non-statistical results surprised me!
Melissa Cutler
32. Juliet Chastain
I'm pretty happy with vagina--especially after seeing The Vagina Monologues which is amazingly liberating. And yet, I don't use the term in my books (gentle folds, the very center of her, etc.), nor much with my boyfriend (pussy). Quim suddenly seems to be around, and I quite like it, but not for romantic scene. I might use twat myself but would smack anyone who used it about mine. Might do the same if someone called it a va-jay-jay. I mean that is a grown up and serious part of me!
Melissa Cutler
33. Austin
I know a lot of writers and readers don't like or are reluctant to use the word "cunt." I personally don't think the word is offensive in the context of a really hot sex scene between two consenting adults and is, in my opinion, for a woman's genitalia the equivalent of using the word cock to refer to a man's penis. In a steamy sex scene, where the hero and heroine are wild for each it other, I think it is perfectly fine to say he "thrust his cock into her cunt." But like any word it shouldn't be overused and only used when and where appropriate. I don't much care for pussy, it just sounds too cutesy and camp to me, but I'm fine with a writer using it sparingly. I think vagina and vulva and labia are perfectly fine to use as long as a writer uses them with care and doesn't get too clinical. Yes, I think it is important to be anatomically correct, but I don't need an anatomy lesson either when I'm trying to get swept away in a good sex scene. Words like "melting core", "hot, wet heat" and "sheath" are okay, but I cringe over "hot hole", "gate of ectasy" and "portal of pleasure."
Virginia Green
34. vloveg
I saw someone use "hoohah" recently, but that wouldn't really set the mood. I've seen "chat" ascribed to French-speaking characters, but my study of the language never delved into *ahem* intimiate vocabulary.

Personally, I prefer silly terms in conversation and vague (but non-flowery) phrases in books. Pussy doesn't offend me, although I will always remember the quasi-feminist lecture my mom gave me for using it as an insult before I knew about it's non-feline, non-weak meaning.
Melissa Cutler
35. Jez
I read that va-jay-jay made it's first appearance on Grey's Anatomy (in 2007) and the Oprah popularized the term. However, there was a dj in 2000 who referred to Mrs. Va J.J. But before that came the Vagina Monologues. I read that in one of the theatres, they did not want to put vagina on the marquee and so put va-jay-jay in stead. That would have been around 1998.

Frankly, va-jay-jay sounds stupid to me and is only good for a laugh line.

I tend toward the oblique references in my writing as many have already said.

Twat just sounds rude and offensive to me, so unless it was used in an historical setting and said by someone who would use that term, I don't like it. It certainly would throw me out of a romantic sex scene.

I think part of the problem is that men have very specific and obvious parts (penis, balls--there's another one we need to discuss). Women have a clit which is very important, and a vagina, but the entire area is more generalized for women. We don't have any good general words.

As Kelly L said, I don't think women are thinking about their specific parts during sex, except maybe their clit.

To me, pussy doesn't make sense if the woman is trimmed or waxed. A pussy is soft and furry. I've even read 'her naked pussy' and that conjured up a picture in my mind of those hairless cats for people who are allergic--NOT a pretty picture in the best of times and definitely not what I want to think about when I'm reading sexy stuff.

I think it has taken me 5 yrs to come to terms with cunt. I don't ever speak the word--I'm not that enlightened. But I have reclaimed it in my erotic writing. Cunny does sound cuddlier and I've used that in histoical settings. Maybe we need to start a trend. Make Oprah use it, or Jennifer Love Hewitt who has no problem talking about vajazzling her vag-jay-jay. Ugh on so many levels.

I like quim and use that in historicals. It sounds softer than cunt. Although by the Victorian era, quim referred to the fluids and not the female genitals.

In the Avengers movie, Loki calls Black Widow a "Mewling Quim" probably because the censors had no idea what that meant, or decided the audience wouldn't know. I'm sure he would not have been allowed to say "whining cunt." I was upset that he said it because it was an insult and I don't like losing another great word to misogyny.

I think it's interesting that in the UK cunt is used as a derogatory term for men and women. I guess the same way pussy is used. Basically calling a guy a woman, ie coward.

To me, guys have 'junk' not women.

Once again, I think the key is knowing your reading audience and what works for them and for you. My word choice depends on the situation, a really romantic scene calls for more vague descriptions, but a hot, hard and fast sex scene requires more earthy harsh words.
Renee Moore
36. Nae28
I think its really about the context.
I like the word pussy but only in a sexual sense, so between lovers.
I don't mind cunt under certain circumstances but I prefer it said by the woman rather than the man, otherwise it sounds harsh. I personally never say cunt.
I don't like twat, vag or vaj-jay-jay, for all the reasons stated above.
If I was having a chat with mates I would use the term vaginia, simply because the word is the clinical name.

This is an awesome post/discussion.
Melissa Cutler
37. parawriter
First, LemonWitch, you made me laugh until I cried! Most anything goes for me in the right context when the writer knows how to carry off the scene and is not repetitive throughout the book. The more crass words work in the really hot sex scenes, especially with dirty talk, softer words and less focus on anatomy in a more emotional sex scene, and anatomically correct words can work if the author is very good at pulling our attention away from them and focusing on the people, their intensity, and love. But please, no petals, flowers, or va-jay-jays!
Melissa Cutler
38. tadyena
In RL I try to be clinically correct. I have 2 small children and if I have to say it, I would like it to be right. Little pitcher have big ears and all that. Not that I go around talking about it.
As for what I read. I generally don't mind anything as long as it is in context, I'm can pretty much go with the flow. That being said I do not like c*nt. Although I have read it a few times and will admit that it can work if used correctly.
Melissa Cutler
39. DrJCE
Love the conversation. This is a serious problem in our culture! I've found that "ta chatte" works well (pronounced like "shot"), the French term. It technically means "female cat" and conjures images of sleek feline forms for me, like a puma. But, I respectfully suggest that you gals choose a name and all use it. Make it short, elegant, and visceral. It'll be in the lexicon before you know it! My suggestion: bell or belle. With immediate lexical connections to "beauty," it is both literally/physiologically descriptive and metaphorically/emotionally evocative. It also is short with an elegant sound. I'd love to hear what you women think.
Melissa Cutler
40. FrannyZ
Beaver, Box, Cha Cha, Cherry, Clam, Cooch, Cooter, Cooze, Creampie, Cunt, Cupcake, Furbuger, Gash, Gorehole, Hole, Hair Pie, Hot Box, Honey Pie, Kitty ,Kookah, Lovebox, Love Tunnel, Meathole, Meat Curtains, Meat Pie, Meat Sleeve, Muff, Panty Hamster, Peach, Poon, Poontang, Pussy, Quim, Rat, Slit, Snatch, Sphynx, Squeeze Box, Trim, Tuna Taco, Vag, Vagina, Va Jay Jay, My partner personally prefers cupcake or peach
Melissa Cutler
41. Issy Stone
I don't normally comment on blogs and things, but this was one I just couldn't resist. I recently had a conversation with my grandmother, aunt and cousin (all women!) and they all seemed to shy painfully away from the word vagina. I was even told to drop the conversation when I used it. I can't help but think that this kind of avoidance is only furthering the problem we have with finding elegant words for one of our most important body parts. In the 21st century, I would have liked to see more acceptance for the talking about it. My family have never been shy about anything, so their avoidance of it shocked me. That being said, I'm pretty sure my grandmother uses the word 'fluffy' which would definitely not work in romantic or erotic writing.

So sex scenes. I would say it depends on theu scene and the characters involved. If the piece of writing is flat-out porn, words like 'cunt' or 'pussy' can work perfectly. I personally have no problem with these words in the right context; whether or not they were originally insults or words pushed on us by men, they now refer to female genitalia and reclaiming them is only part of positive sexuality on behalf of women. Which can only be a good thing.

In more romantic prose, or rather prose that isn't flat-out porn, these words might still be appropriate. I would say it depends entirely on the personality of the characters involved; if they are a sex positive, blunt, or perhaps even crass person these words that some people may not like can definitely be used well.

For more elegant or romantic characters, euphemisms might be better. A character who wouldn't use the words themselves should not be seen "taking it in the cunt" or anything similar.

I'd actually like to see more use of the word vagina. Its male counterpart is used reasonably regularly, so why not vagina? There should be no more of this replacing it with words like "fluffy". Perhaps in the next sex scene I write I'll try using the word vagina and see how it fits. Wish me luck!
Melissa Cutler
42. Sarah Randall
I find the medical terms to be so sexy and the most clear, but I am going into the medical field and find it frustrating when people can't say the medical term like it is shameful or smething. I don't know, maybe its just because I took Anatomy and Physiology and I was super pissed at having to spend over two weeks worth of lab and lecture on the male reproductive and only half a lecture on the female anatomy or the fact that most women don't even know their own bodies, but I find the slang medical terms to be hot. Although the full on medical terms gets a bit awkward because the clitoris is made from the same tissues and the penis.
Melissa Cutler
43. Steven Smith
When women refer men's private parts as junk then why womens vulva or vagina can't be called "cunt"? Why it is so derogatory?
Melissa Cutler
44. Jennifer Skidmore
I'm wading into this conversation WAAAY late, since I was trying to find out why so many authors refer to a woman's parts as their "sex" while men get penis, dick, and cock negative connotation free. Why should the actual terms be considered bad or negative in any way? If we got used to the terms, got comfortable calling our vulvas, vaginas, pussies, what-have-you, by those names, without shame, then that would make everything easier, yeah? Why shouldn't we? I'm not ashamed of my vagina, why should I feel weird about the name of it?

Just my humble thoughts on the subject, especially since I find it a little unnerving that no one can seem to name it. Maybe I'm the only one bothered by that, I don't know.
Melissa Cutler
45. ParisJade
I haven't thought of it in the context of a novel before now, but my husband and I have discussed what I would like him to call my parts in bed. I think the harsher terms like pussy, clit, cunt, box and snatch actually work in the steamier situations. The best we could come up with for more romantic moods was mound, gate or quim. I agree that the medical terms and the cutesy terms like vagina and labia or va-jay-jay and orchid are not sexy or romantic. Food terms like taco, clam, cupcake and peach are definitely out for me, although I don't know why. The most off-putting, horrific words for me are axe wound, gash and gorehole.

I am up for using a completely new word. It should be a rarely used word that sounds organic, (Without being a plant or animal! Like beaver, seriously?) elegant, exotic and preferably short. Belle is okay. How about firth, fosse, eclat, vesta, chel, sylph, epicene, blush or cerise? I think my favorite is sylph.
Melissa Cutler
46. Nitpicker
It's absolutely fascinating to see how women struggle to name this most important and wonderful part of the female anatomy. Why the bashfulness? And what precisely IS wrong with 'cunt' for that surprisingly not so large majority who dislike it? Sex is after all a raw and basic event whose beauty is more in the mind than the eye, so why not use a raw, impactful term? I don't see that it matters that 'cunt' has a derogatory side in everyday slang; so does 'prick'. Yet both can be very erotic too. It seems most women find the word 'fuck' has a raw, erotic emotion, so let's apply it to 'cunt' and be done with it!
Melissa Cutler
47. jacob
My grandma raised her 5 girls and and me she has all of us in our family calls vagina a flitter
Melissa Cutler
48. LCT
Had a female OB--a FEMALE--who referred to it as Hoo-Hah. As in, "I hear you're feeling pressure in your Hoo-Hah. Let's take a look at your Hoo-Hah. Sounds like the baby might be pressing down on your cervix and causing some discomfort in your HOO-HAH."

Yeah, she wasn't the one who delivered me, thank God.

I don't have a problem with using the proper names for genitalia in life (my kids didn't learn wee-wee or wiener from me, they learned vagina and penis), but unless it's hot erotica, it's jarring to see the technical terms (vulva will pull me right out of the moment) or coarse slang. Euphemisms work for me. (Sheath, core, wetness, walls, softness, etc.)
Melissa Cutler
49. Lori P.
I'm kind of partial to calling it "the sweet spot." His hand slowly slid down her waist, until he hit the sweet spot. It's twenty times better than "the hair taco" as I've heard it refered to once. Ewww.
Melissa Cutler
50. Kenny M.
I must say, I love this piece as well as the comments. I've been struggling with what I would like to call my character's pussy. As a reader and a man, I love the term PUSSY! Pussy just sounds so dominating. However, I am aware that not most people feel the same way. What do you think about "My Beauty" or "My essence"? I know this is an old blog, but perhaps there are still some of you out there.....
Melissa Cutler
51. KatieC
I'm joining this post very late in the game, but for my two cents...I HATE the term "cunt", bc of the derogatory ways it's been used. Plus I just dont like the sound of it. Sounds too much like blunt. For some, that word has been "pussy". I was raised with brothers and pussy is the term they ALWAYS used and it was never used in a derogatory way except when they called a man "pussy". When referring to women, they always used it as a "super hot" term so it's always been in my mind as being super hot. The same with "fuck". I actually love that term with certain types of sex. The tender gentle kind of sex, fuck doesn't work, but for those moments when I want to be ravaged, fuck is the perfect word.. My personal favorite word for my lady parts is peaches although after reading the above comments, I love sweet spot which for some reason made me think of secret spot. I also like "My Beauty" and My essence. Medical terms make me feel like I'm in the hospital or doctor's office so they are immediate mood killers for me.
Melissa Cutler
52. jason cohen
I just found this and as a novice writer, I agree with a lot that's being said. Even though I am a guy, I abhor to use words like cock, cunt, pussy. To me seeing that in writing is more trashy/smut then sexy. Since I also have issues with names, the ones I've used for both the penis and vagina are; manhood/womanhood, member, her 'v', core, and occasionally nether lips
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