Let me begin by saying I like a good bodice ripper or smutty novella. The keyword there is good… which in this genre means:
- Not written as though the author was an over-sexed two year old.
When most people think of a bodice ripper, the first things that come to mind are Fabio, and Mills and Boon. That’s fine. It’s not great literature, but it’s not trying to be.
To anyone who reads a great many books (regardless of genre) the fact that I think anything which has been published should be edited – even if only once as is often the case with bodice rippers – will not come as a surprise.
However, I have just finished another ARC (Advanced Review Copy) in which the editor – assuming the manuscript ever saw one – should probably be fired. Which brings me to the second bullet point above. No self-respecting editor should ever allow a manuscript that appears to have been written by an over-sexed two year old go to press!
To clarify what I mean: the English language is always changing and evolving, but there are some words that, well only appear in this genre, and they aren’t words. See it’s cute when toddlers modify words so they can physically say them, but the more they listen to adults use their words properly, the more they learn how to say them properly.
So when writers of bodice rippers and smut use “words” like:
- cunny, cuny.
- meat stick, meat pop
I find it very difficult to take them seriously at all, never mind within the confines of the genre. Granted, the last two bullet points are actually words, but they are not words that should ever be used in reference to genitalia. Frankly, I’m not even a huge fan of the word ‘pussy’ in reference to female genitals; but I seem to be more than a little out voted on this one.
The people who are writing (and god-forbid publishing) bodice rippers and smut using the above “words”, are apparently adults. Predominantly adult women. And the next generation are learning from what is available now, I’m seeing more and more of this coming through the manuscripts that I read which are written by teenagers, who don’t know better, yet. However, there are more than a few teenagers whose manuscripts are already so much better than this – so what does that say about these so called bodice rippers?
Is this trend of using ‘not-words’ to describe genitalia a case of not growing up, or is it a case of puritanical sexual repression resulting in shame-filled acting out? Or rather, in this case writing out.
See, we know that when they use ‘not-words’ like “cunny” that they mean ‘cunt’, and are either unwilling to stand by this ‘dirty’ word. But at least it is a word. Yes, I even understand that ‘dirty’ words like: shit, fuck, and cunt; can make a piece less attractive to publishers – regardless of the context. If that is the case, and you feel yourself drawn to a ‘not-word’, or replacing the vowel with an asterisk, please, please, please, just invest in (or google) a thesaurus!
Please don’t use ‘not-words’ to describe genitalia, or sex. To do so, is disrespecting your audience. In five minutes of googling I have discovered: “The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words. To this may be added around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries.”
It is quick and dirty research (not university calibre at all), but if you can’t find real words in a language of nearly 200,000 words, maybe you shouldn’t be a writer.