Delighted to welcome Kristina Lloyd with a guest post on the language used by erotica writers with reference to her latest novel, Undone. Over to you, Kristina!
Every now and then, a writer will receive a review of their work which is scare more than an upchuck of subjectivity. You know the sort I mean: “Amazon were late delivering this book so I had to go to the Post Office to collect it because I wasn’t at home and I stubbed my big toe on the step on the way to the counter. My poor toe was throbbing all evening and I couldn’t concentrate on the book. ONE STAR! I WOULD GIVE IT NO STARS IF I COULD! OH MY TOE!”
Sex and desire are deeply personal experiences. Erotica writers are prone to receiving customer reviews which judge a book by how horny it made the reader. A more reasoned reviewer – and thankfully, there are plenty of these – may observe that a particular story didn’t butter their muffin but, nonetheless, they could appreciate the merits of a well-written book. Others, however, will slate a book because it failed to turn them on. These latter readers seem to feel cheated, as if they’ve purchased a defective marital aid, rather than a book which wasn’t to their particular sexual taste.
Similarly, the language an author uses to describe sex and bodies can, if it fails to chime with a reader’s preference, cause offence, revulsion or hilarity. A recent reviewer complained about my use of the word ‘boner’ in my latest book, Undone. I’ve always regarded boner as a fairly standard, innocuous term to describe the tumescent, throbbing wand of his bulbous-tipped manhood, but clearly this reader disagreed. I was briefly concerned I might have started to lazily overuse the word but I checked, and boner appears four times in a 88,500 word manuscript. I figure this reviewer simply stubbed her toe on the word and needed to yell about it.
I have a number of words I love to use and others I won’t go near. When I first started writing for Black Lace, over fifteen years ago, the imprint had fairly prescriptive guidelines cautioning against using the words ‘fuck’ and ‘cunt’. Women’s erotica was new on the scene, and Black Lace were clearly playing it safe. I’ve always loved the word cunt so had to get extra creative to write a novel free of contentious vocabulary. This is why my first book is set in the Victorian era. Thankfully, we now live in easier times, and my current editor has never batted an eyelid at my choice of words.
In Undone, my lead character, Lana Greenwood, is English while Sol Miller, the guy she falls for, is American. I chose my words accordingly. When it comes to sex vocab, Lana opts for ‘cunt’ while Sol’s default is ‘pussy’. I’m unsure of the accuracy of my assessment, but my sense is this difference reflects usage on either side of the pond.
The terminology for underwear is another area where transatlantic variation can cause us to get our, erm, briefs in a twist. To my British ear, ‘panties’ sounds infantile, overly cute and coquettish and, if I’m honest, a teensy bit silly. I’m reliably informed that, to an American ear, ‘knickers’ sounds frumpy and is reminiscent of nineteenth century knickerbockers. But equally, I know many Americans who think knickers are just great, and I know the UK has plenty of panty-lovers.
For the record, I checked occurrences of various words I used in Undone and the stats are:
Cock: 76 (Undone centres on Lana’s cocktail bar so the first figure returned from my search was, appropriately enough, hugely inflated!)
Vagina: 1 ( and not in a sexual context)
In short, we all have our idiosyncracies and are shaped by our culture. If you’re a big fan of penis, Undone is probably not your thing. However, if you’re keen on cock and cocktails, then at the very least, you’ll likely not be offended!
Kristina Lloyd writes erotic fiction about sexually submissive women who like it on the dark, dirty and dangerous side. Her novels are published by Black Lace and her short stories have appeared in dozens of anthologies, including several ‘best of’ collection, in both the UK and US. She lives in Brighton, England.
When Lana Greenwood attends a glamorous house party she finds herself tempted into a ménage à trois. But the morning after brings more than just regrets over fulfilling a fantasy one night stand. One of the men she’s spent the night with is discovered dead in the swimming pool. Accident, suicide or murder, no one is sure and Lana doesn’t know where to turn. Can she trust Sol, the other man, an ex-New Yorker with a dirty smile and a deep desire to continue their kinky game?