Thursday, August 1, 2013

Queen Lion

by Amanda Earl

If there's one thing that burns my ass, it's euphemisms about sex in fiction. Spare me the velvet chambers, the peaches, the slippery poles and all that dainty milquetoast jazz. Don't turn body parts into flora or fauna or machines. A cunt is not a flower or a piece of fruit; a cock is not a snake or a jackhammer. Just get to the point. Make it plain: cunt, cock, asshole, tits, fucking. Yes, I like the vulgarity of sex. It's one of the things about it that turns me on.

To be able to write whatever I want in whatever way I want and have people actually read my work is empowering for me. Not to say that I won't adjust my language depending on a character's personality and the tone of the work or play with language in an inventive way if the work calls for it. I will do whatever is necessary to serve the work. Does that mean using euphemisms? Sure, but so far, mostly in parody.

I worry about a society that speaks in code, that places manners ahead of information, uses euphemisms and double speak to mask homophobia, racism, misogyny and sex negativity, tries to depersonalize the bloody tortures and meaningless deaths of war with doublespeak to make war more palatable to society. Propaganda is alive and well in the 21st Century. One of the reasons I'm a writer at all is to get closer to the meaning of words and their nuances, to make people question the implications of the words we hear, read, write and speak.

I consider all of these issues in my diction; however, what I want most as a writer is to tell a compelling story with characters readers will love or loathe. I want my stories to leave readers breathless, to make them laugh, to bring them to tears, to get their neurons firing, to cause them to grab vibes, body parts and lovers for a fucking frenzy. I don't think I can do any of that with euphemistic language that pussy-foots around.

And while we're on the subject of feline analogies, I loathe the word pussy for cunt. It sounds childish to me, diminutive. My cunt is no baby cat, it's a lioness.


ps-the words my MS WORD spellchecker marks in red are precum, polyamorous,  doms and submissives. [WORD is fine with the adjective submissive, but persnickety about the use of what it considers to be an adjective as a noun.]  I don't bother to update my WORD dictionary; I like to be reminded that polite society has issues with such words, such ideas. Those red marks are little fuck you flags spread out all over the screen.

12 comments:

  1. Amanda, couldn't you be a bit more specific about where you stand on this issue? ;^)

    Quite an impassioned post. Thank you!

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  2. Hi Amanda- What you say about euphemisms and doublespeak fits right in with a certain political party's comment after the last US election: "There's nothing wrong with our message; we just have to change how we say it." What that told me was that we didn't believe their last manipulative lies.

    I agree about most of what you said about the power of the filth, but in New Jersey, 'pussy' is pretty filthy. As a teenager, I can't count the times a bunch of us guys went out looking for a "carload of pussy". But we also looked for carloads of cunt too. :>)

    I don't mind the red underlines, for the reasons you mention, but when my spell checker keeps changing 'cunt' to 'count', it really pisses me off.

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    1. thanks, Daddy X. in New Jersey a lot of words are probably filthy ;)

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  3. Doublespeak, encoding, and circumlocution are indeed frightening societal mechanisms. But in literature, I do see a distinction between euphemism and metaphor—between terminology calculated to obfuscate and nonliteral language chosen for its artistically evocative potential. Not that every erotica writer has to like or use metaphorical sexual language, of course; I'm just saying that personally, I wouldn't automatically assign it a euphemistic intent or effect.

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    1. i agree, Jeremy, not all metaphorical sexual language has a euphemistic intent by writers or editors but a lot of it does. see Lisabet's recent post about being told to change her use of "prick" because an editor told her that readers didn't like it. also we have to ask ourselves why we find certain words distasteful.i think in a lot of cases it's due to societal programming. there are writers who use the euphemisms because they find words like tits & cunt vulgar. that's a case of societal programming. if they are not using them because the terms don't go with the tone or character of their work, that's a case of writer's craft.

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    2. Exactly. If someone says "cunt" is vulgar and "womanhood" is preferable, I think we have a good case to make that this may be the result of societal programming of a sexphobic nature. But when it comes to a publisher of explicit erotica saying, "We like 'cock' as opposed to 'prick,'" I think it's harder to attribute it to sexphobic programming rather than aesthetics or microassociations (e.g., "cock" sounds studly, "prick" sounds jerky—to some). At that level—i.e., when we're talking about a set of vocabulary options that are all somewhat taboo in mainstream discourse—I think it's likely there are other things going on than a euphemistic impulse.

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    3. i actually think if a publisher/editor--& publishers/editors are all human beings, the last time i checked--has a preference for certain words, it is because of their concern for their readers tastes, which have been socially programmed. if it's just a matter of stylistic preference, i doubt they would insist on a change to an author. i think we could have a great discussion of where stylistic preference comes from. are Germanic words less favoured than Latin words by North Americans? i'd have to go back to my phonetics & phonology textbooks from the dark ages to find out ;)

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  4. I'm anti-euphemisms and pro-metaphors myself, but the metaphors need to seem to originate in the characters' minds, not just the writer's. If thinking of the orgasm as an ocean wave or deep earthquake is an enjoyable fantasy for the participant, that's okay, if rather cliched. If the writer wants to use a more original image, the character had better be shown as someone capable of originality.

    I do think that the pejorative use of terms like cunt and dick and prick (but not, oddly enough, cock) turn some readers and writers against them. All the more reason for us to assert our rightful ownership of them.

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    1. Sacchi, I love your insight about the metaphor plausibly originating in a character's mind. Moreover, I'm realizing what a shrewd and interesting insight that is specifically about erotic passages, where a lack of correspondence between a third-person narrator's portrayal of something and how the characters might experience it—workable in other contexts, I think—would likely be at odds with the direct sexual connection the reader needs to have with the protagonists.

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  5. Euphemisms, metaphors, slang, cliche', purple p, and certainly--- filthy-- all tools looking for the right jobsite.

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