By Alexa Day
It’s been almost a year since I joined this merry bunch, and I think we’ve come to know a little about each other. So you know that I’m not a prude. I probably don’t have to keep insisting that I’m not a prude, right? You know about my stance on robot sex (yes, please) and airport sex (yes, please) and all the rest. You’re smart, discerning folks; you get that I’m not a prude.
I’m all in favor of the dirty talk, for instance. I like writing the sort of heroine who doesn’t mind a little of the coarse language, the kind of woman who’s okay with all the various words used to describe all the various parts and acts that come into play in erotic fiction. My typical heroine is not easily shocked, unless it’s by the depth of her emotions for the hero.
Having said that, I find that my genre’s comfort level with coarse language has given rise to a disturbing trend. I think characters are starting to get a little too comfortable with profanity, dirty talk, and general vulgarity.
I know that sounds a little prissy. Bear with me here.
Let us briefly consider the humble f-bomb: f*ck.
As is the case with so many words, there is absolutely a time and place for the word “f*ck.” If you’ve watched something you value fall through space toward the floor, the ground, or the swirling waters of a newly flushed toilet, you know what I’m saying. But as much as we need the word “f*ck” for those purposes, there are just as certainly places we don’t need it or don’t need quite so much of it.
I don’t think we need so much “f*ck” in bed, but then, I don’t think we need so much dialogue in bed. One of my friends called me on this during an impromptu reading over drinks in her living room. “We just don’t do all this talking,” she said. “I mean, do people do all this talking?”
I also think men are less likely to use “f*ck” when they’re with a woman they’re starting to care about. Men are such strange creatures. The more they care about a woman, the more they’re inclined to clean up their mouths, unless they’re in the throes of it. In other words, it makes more sense to me that a man would find himself chanting, “f*ck f*ck f*ck,” on the way to climax than whispering, “F*ck, I love you,” during the postcoital cuddle. A certain reverence attaches to a declaration of love, particularly in a romance. Doesn’t “f*ck” dilute that?
And I have to wonder about those fictional men who open up with the explicit dialogue right after meeting the heroine. I mean, I get that we’re living in a world of frank speech, and I did just say that my heroines have no problem with that. But I think a girl has to be particularly DTF before she’s open to hearing about a man’s cock and his plans for it right after being introduced. The dance of seduction has more than one step, after all. What we might lose in ballsy initiative, we’d gain in anticipation. Subtlety doesn’t kill confidence. Subtlety amplifies confidence.
I don’t want to come down too hard on one side or the other. So much of this is just a matter of taste. I just think people in real life use the word “f*ck” in real conversation a hell of a lot less than it seems to appear in erotic dialogue. Maybe part of it is an author’s eagerness to make sure her men don’t sound like women. Maybe it’s an effort to sound edgy — every “f*ck” means this isn’t your mom’s romance novel. But I think there’s a point where f*ck-heavy dialogue starts to sound like that teenager at camp who’s trying too hard.
I would know. I was that teenager.
So what do you think? Am I, despite my protestations, a prude? Let me know in the comments.
And follow Lady Smut, for f*ck’s sake.