Hello and welcome to Cocktalk.
Today’s Cocktalk topic:
Euphemisms for “penis.”
I decided to write about this topic at around the same time I decided to write a sonnet to the penis.
Maybe I should back up.
I wrote a novel a while back, which contains sex scenes. Plural. Because delicately portraying the vulnerability of humans during the act of lovemaking makes the characters relatable.
But mostly because sex sells.
When you write a sex scene, you’re faced with a couple of interesting dilemmas. One is trying not to giggle like a twelve-year-old boy as you write the sex scene. Because that comes through in the end product, believe me. This problem can be resolved with copious amounts of red wine, and by describing things as simply and directly as possible. I say, don’t try to get fancy with it, and if you don’t trust me, trust someone who actually makes a living writing sex scenes. (Note to self: Figure out way to make a living writing sex scenes.)
I actually think it’s a pretty funny writing exercise to write up intentionally bad sex scenes. It’s a great lesson because it makes you laugh, and your laughter cues you to what NOT to do when describing sex. If you read it and laugh, cut it or rewrite it. Seriously. Because if it makes you laugh, it’s going to make someone else apoplectic. Or it’ll make them cringe, which is even worse.
Although I have to admit something here. One of the literary prizes I desperately want to win is the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award. I have this secret desire to show up in London in person to accept the award. I imagine them announcing me as the winner. I’d walk up to the stage to accept, my sky-high pumps clicking sharply through the crowded, silent, disapproving hall. When I reached the podium, I’d adjust my slightly-too-short pencil skirt, and smooth the frill on the front of my blouse. Then I’d unbutton the top button, pull my hair out of its ponytail, take off my glasses and say, “I’m going to read out loud the sex scene in question. By the time I’m finished, if most of the men in this room DO NOT have a raging boner, then I’ll graciously accept your award and be on my way. If, however, most of the men in this room DO have a raging boner, I fully expect you to reconsider bestowing upon me this honor.”
Which leads to the second problem. What to call stuff in sex scenes. You know. Stuff. Actions. Methods. Logistics. Lady parts. Man junk. Stuff. Jeese. See? Even in the privacy of my own blog it’s awkward.
For me, the biggest problem is what to call the penis. Because you can’t call it a penis. I mean, come on. “She wanted nothing more than to feel his hard penis…” Are you laughing? You remember the rule about laughing and editing, right?
You could call it a dick, but that presents problems, too, because “dick” also has comic overtones - not to mention tons of negative connotations outside of the sexual ones - dickwad, dickhole, dickweed, etc.
I was so perplexed over what to call the trouser mouse, I actually did research on how other authors approached what to call the penis, how men felt about their own penises, and penis portrayals in art and literature throughout history. I found that I was not alone in my dilemma.
In doing that research, I also came across this, which has less to do with what to call the penis and more to do with how much fun you can have researching a novel. Plus, it caused me to get sidetracked by the euphemism “manroot” for a while (for obvious reasons), but also because I couldn’t believe that authors actually used the phrase “manroot” in their fiction. Really? “He thrust his manroot into her...”
The phrase "manroot" should be reserved for vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes. (Note to self: sweet potato = possible euphemism for the penis.) Although there are some who think that produce like cucumbers and bananas are so sexually suggestive that women should be prohibited from handling them in order to avoid sexually impure thoughts. I kid you not. (Thank you for the article, Sequoia Raindancer!) Those same people would have fits about the mushrooms growing around here, I can tell you. Mushrooms, by the way, are thought to be an aphrodisiac. I can't imagine why.
One of the things I found most surprising in researching this issue is that there is a scarcity of literature that presents the penis in a loving or tender way - it seems as if the penis is forever stabbing or jabbing or thrusting at something, and it’s often compared to ugly, unsettling things. In poetry, for instance, there’s piles of prose devoted to lady parts of all shapes and sizes, all lovingly described and catalogued alongside all manner of beautiful objects. But I couldn’t find similar poems devoted to the penis.
This seemed like an outrageous injustice - one I decided must be resolved.
Which brings me to my sonnet on the penis. Writing a sonnet SUCKS, by the way. You can take all of that iambic pentameter crap and smoke it, for all I care. My point is, it's a rigid structure - which makes it perfect for a poem devoted to the penis - but working within that structure was maddening for me. What I'm saying is, I hope you enjoy this sonnet because let me tell you... Never again.
The Humble Cock.
A spear or dagger bent on destruction
Is how we mislabel the humble cock.
Not as a weapon of mass seduction,
But as a violent tool of awe and shock.
The function of clubs or bullets or swords
Is halting the heart and stopping the breath.
A rocket brings mayhem to huddling hordes;
Heat-seeking missiles deliver up death.
But the cock embodies all that’s alive
All that throbs, all that rises, all that beats.
It helps us to live; not merely survive
As it brings us our bliss wrapped up in sheets.
To compare the cock to arrow or knife
Weds something to death that's bristling with life.
So as you can see, I went with "cock." Process of elimination, mostly, but also because the word "cock" is simple and has a classic quality to it.
The way I figure it, if it's good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for me.