(When no one listens, when no one listens at all) Sorry had an 80’s Flashback there…
I’ve been reading a mix of erotica, erotic romance and sensual titles lately and it becomes interesting to see word usage and how each individual author uses language to frame the feel of the book, of the characters and story.
I tend to appreciate plain, blunt language. Florid, purple prose, to my mind, is the opposite of sensual and sexy. Cock is really a great word, much better than rod or staff or other euphamisms. Penis will do, prick in some cases, Jaci Burton can work the word dick where few authors can (and that sounds so dirty! Sorry Jaci, that’s NOT what I mean).
Generally though, the most problems come in describing a woman’s vagina. There’s a pussy versus cunt issue at work – I’ve had those discussions many a time, LOL! I used to never use “cunt” I felt it was a gender slur, too hard (and it is a hard word and yes, a gender slur too). But I do use it, I like it in the right place because some scenes are hard and the sex has an edge and cunt seems the better choice. Generally I use pussy. I think pussy is a lovely word. Sleek, playful, fun. But in my sensual romances I usually use sex or core. I don’t think they’re apt substitutes actually and I far prefer pussy to “sex” but knowing your audience and the market is a huge factor in what you write when.
But this is where the florid tends to run wild – her treasure box, a cove, there are things hidden and nestled, lots of “nether”, we’ve got buttons, sheaths, perfumed gardens of love, many directional descriptions – “down there” or “that place between her thighs” that sort of thing. I’d rather hear vagina than perfumed garden of love. (and I have to add, the perfumed garden of love reference came from a book with copious amounts of buttsecks and three and foursomes)
I think words are the most important part of a love/sex scene. They set a tone. The scene can be hard edged, dark, serious or light and beautiful. Hesitant, glorious. Whatever. The choice of descriptors is incredibly instrumental in setting the scene and letting readers feel what your characters do (emotionally, people)
Whatever an author chooses, I think consistency is the key. I read a book recently that was from a “sensual romance” line. So hot, well described sex, but not as graphic as more straight erotic romance (although that line blurs more and more every day I think). But the author mixed her descriptors a lot. Not sensual to erotic, which makes sense (Alison Kent does this quite well, Angela Knight, Anya Bast, etc) but more florid and then sensual. So we had scenes with the word cock but interspersed there were purple phrases like nether lips and her clit was sometimes a clit but other times a button. It led to feeling slightly confused as I read as the switching in what should have been a very hard edged scene jarred away with the use of words that didn’t fit.
And when words don’t fit, the scene doesn’t flow.