It’s been a while since I did a body part blog, but two things happened recently that made me think it’s time again. One of my paranormal books got a review complaining that I kept mentioning body parts. I was a bit confused because though I do have sex scenes in my books, for a paranormal romance they’re kind of tame. I shrugged it off and went on to do something else…and that’s when it hit me. The reader wasn’t talking about the sexual heat in my book. She was talking about the language. I call a penis a penis and a vagina a vagina, and the reader wanted euphemisms.
This made me laugh, yet at the same time it made me feel a little sad that this could offend anyone. Dr. Oz and other experts use the terms on their daytime TV shows, and unless the episode is just about sex, there’s not even a warning to keep children away. It’s not considered offensive, and shouldn’t be.
My second nudge happened because I was putting up an unedited excerpt for my upcoming book on my blog. In the excerpt, the main character catches her nearly naked husband with a completely naked woman. Though this scene isn’t steamy, I was concerned that I might have to post an 18-years-or-older content warning. All because I use real body part names to describe real body parts. (I dare anyone to think in euphemisms at a time like that!)
When my son was about 4 or 5, a small boy came to my house to tell me that my son used ‘the F word.’ I managed not to laugh – at least, not until the boy left. Later I told my son that it was just a word but some people were offended by it, so he shouldn’t use it. I can’t say that I never used it in front of my son, but my husband and I don’t make a habit of it. It’s the same thing with my books. Characters in my latest book haven’t used it a lot, but my hero in Dead People was a former rockstar and he said it often. As far as I know, no reviewer dinged me for it. It fit his character.
I recently read a book that mentioned the hero’s ‘loin’ and ‘groin.’ It was a contemporary romance, and as I read it, I thought that might be something I could use in my books. But the thing is, I write in deep 3rd person point of view, which means I’m in my characters’ minds. My characters don’t think the word ‘groin’ unless they have a sprain in theirs. They don’t think ‘loin’ unless they’re in the pork section at the grocery store.
I do see men in books thinking about their ‘cock,’ but I’ve gotta say that I don’t think most men I know use it. (Yes, I’ve asked, though not a large survey.) It could be a regional thing. I do use ‘erection’ in my books when it’s appropriate. I’ve had my characters give their penis a nickname, but that’s about it.
What about you? In fiction or real life, what words do you prefer?