Monday, February 19, 2007

Pet Peeve # 783: Euphemisms

Welcome to Monday, and the new blog posting schedule. In personal news I finished the third draft of the paranormal romance today. An end to revisions are in sight and the revision process is getting less and less scary as I learn to trust it. So Yay! :)

On to today's blog topic:

Writing romance and reading it, I come across a lot of horrifying sexual euphemisms. I'm thrilled to find that a lot of current romance novels are getting less embarrassed about sex and are more willing to write about it honestly. But there are still those that make me cringe.

I've spent a lot of time trying to determine why people insist on writing sex with euphemisms. If you have a hard time saying "cock" or "pussy" or don't want your novel to be that graphic, fine. Say: "He thrust into her." or "He slid into her." There. Simple and not squicky. Cause when I read sex unless it's a case of a joke between lovers, I really shouldn't be laughing through it. The euphemisms kill it for me.

If sex is written out, why is it being written out? I understand that romance is not erotica. Erotica is meant to physically turn the reader on. And I write a little of that too. Still, if you choose to write sex, rather than just alluding to it, isn't arousal a natural response? Doesn't it reflect a culture that is still deeply ashamed of sex no matter how much they "act out" when arousal is separated from it? It's okay for it to happen as long as you don't like it too much? Let's keep that puritanical guilt rolling merrily along.

When a writer writes a sad scene, the highest reader response is crying. When a writer writes something funny, the highest reader response is laughter. When a scene is intense or scary, a bit of pulse racing is in order. So why then should so many writers shy away from writing sex that creates arousal, when they aren't afraid for the reader to feel everything else?

If you don't want to write the sex, fine. Let it happen off screen. And maybe the sex scene is meant to be romantic or convey something more emotional. Maybe it isn't meant to arouse. Fine again. But euphemisms still make no sense.

To me, flowery euphemisms for sexual acts are a way to shy away from the material. It says to the public: "I'm not really that comfortable writing this." So don't. Please for the love of God don't write it and kill it with euphemistic phrasing.

Perhaps also it's a case of various publishers/lines wanting different things, but I don't think I would ever write for a line that required me to write sex with silly names and phrases for anatomy. Because to me it's not a sign of sexual maturity, nor it is a sign of emotional honesty. When I write, that's the most honest thing you'll ever get from me.

I'm not going to hide from it to write about a throbbing pulsing member of love.


spyscribbler said...

LOLOL ... you posted this on the very day I wrote my most explicit sex scene yet. Writing about sex is SO hard, because people have definite squick zones. It's so hard to walk that line of what will turn people on, and what little word will send people away.

I really wanted to write f*ck in my scene SO much, but decided against it. It would've been perfect! Even "made love" is starting to sound euphemistic. My editor liked the story, but it'll be interesting to see how the readers respond.

Zoe Winters said...

hehe, hi Spy. If you want to say Fuck, say Fuck. (and you don't have to edit yourself in my blog lol. As long as you aren't cussing another poster out. We're all grown adults here, and writers. If we can't write the F word, then...well, there are issues. hehe.)

The fact is, with sex as with everything else, there are so many different turn ons and turn offs. There is no way that you can write something to please everyone. And however you write it, there is an audience for it. Look at the success of both very sweet tame romances, and dirty hardcore erotica.

It's only my personal opinion, but I think you should write honestly, be willing to be naked on the page and say what you have to say and your readers will find you.

Also, I think people respond almost viscerally to genuine honesty and so even if you say something that squicks some people, most will stick with you if they know you are writing honestly. i.e. you are neither hiding from the material nor being gratuitous for it's own sake. :)

Michelle said...

Sex scenes can be the worst things in a book. Ugh! I hate those dreadful euphemisms. Orbs of pleasure and the like. Cringe, cringe. I find writing sex scenes the hardest thing I do as a writer.

Zoe Winters said...

bwahahahaha michelle @ "orbs of pleasure" That sounds like the name of a sex toy.

Cynthia Eden said...

Congrats on finishing that third draft, Zoe! :-) The end seems near!

I agree about the use of euphemisms in the sex scenes--I think the scens shoudl be as realistic as possible. I mean, when real folks are having sex they aren't thinking in great, flowery images. So, realism works for me, (realism designed to avoid as much of the squick factor as possible).

Zoe Winters said...

Thanks Cynthia! Yes, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel lol. :)

hehe yeah, I save the "squick factor" for erotica. ;)

Michelle said...

LOLOL, Zoe. I read that one out loud to my husband, so he could share the joke with me, and now it's an in-joke between us. I think the whole phrase was: He weighed her orbs of pleasure in his hands. Needless to say, after having a good laugh at that, I put the book down (think I donated it to the library, actually :) )

Zoe Winters said...

hehehe Michelle. I once read a novel that was a romance, it wasn't kink or erotica, and yet at the same time there was heavy subtext and so it played on a kink of mine. I was all on board with it until the word "manroot" was used. Then it kind of killed a lot of the eroticism that had been there. Which was really sad. Because otherwise it was a well written book.

Michelle said...

We're on the same page. Manroot must top my list of hated penis euphemisms. Over at History Hoydens (you can find the link at MM) a while back they put up a list of words men used for their penises in the 18th century. If you want a really, really good laugh, go there. It was probably about a month back so you'll have to search the archives.

Zoe Winters said...

Ah Michelle so you are familiar with manroot? (that wasn't double entendre lol)

Or was it? hmmmm. This convo is making me be naughty Zoe. heh.

Edie said...

Sharon Long did a hilarious blog quite a while back on Writeminded, mentioning ALL the different euphemisms for penis, including fruits and vegetables. It might take some digging, but it's worth looking up.

Zoe Winters said...

edie, can you link me to her blog?