Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk, F*ck the F*ck


I'm not a prude. I promise.

I’m not a prude. I promise.

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.

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10 Comments

  • Madeline Iva
    August 24, 2014 at 7:30 am

    Man, if anything, I thought the trend was going in the other direction. I’ve heard so many readers say how upset they are by rude language –but not by all kinds of sexual behavior–that I’ve felt positively repressed here on the pages of lady smut to keep my language in order.

    I love to swear like a sailor, myself. Just for the pure joy of it.

    Meanwhile, I think that dirty language serves as an aphrodisiac for some readers. It’s a distinct turn on because it *is* subversive for where they come from. The hero saying explicit things in the heroine’s ear with joy and relish is their equivalent of his taking off her thong with his teeth.

    For others I think it’s a class thing. They associate bad language with the foul gutters, the lower depths. Violence is being done to their ears. I’m sensitive to that — I can understand what they’re saying.

    • Alexa Day
      August 24, 2014 at 6:00 pm

      I personally think the dirty talk is hot — I love knowing what the nice young man across the table is capable of — but I definitely think there’s a tipping point, beyond which it’s a little jarring.

      I think having to keep my secret life in order has tamed my tongue. I don’t swear as much as I used to. It saddens me a little. But in my heart of hearts, I find comfort in knowing that butter doesn’t just melt in my mouth, it sizzles. 🙂

      Mmm. Butter.

  • Barbara Mikula
    August 24, 2014 at 8:03 am

    I agree. There is certainly a place for strong language, but it has to drive the story or convey strong emotions. Sometimes no other word will do. My heroines, heroes and I have been known to drop more than our fair share of Fbombs! But, F*ckeyty F*ck F*ck F*ck just for the heck of it is showing a lack of creativity. – Skye Michaels

    • Alexa Day
      August 24, 2014 at 6:02 pm

      Skye, I was so close to using that exact phrase “f*ckety f*ck f*ck f*ck.” I’m not even kidding! And I totally agree — the excess, to me, just says that someone’s running out of ideas.

  • Liz Everly
    August 24, 2014 at 8:13 am

    I have some very strong feelings about the “F” word, which I wrote about here: https://ladysmut.com/2014/05/06/shut-up-and-f-k-me/
    But I’d like to say that I really do think it’s become a very lazy word among writers and the general population. That said, there are time only that word will do, I agree. Great post, Alexa.

    • Alexa Day
      August 24, 2014 at 6:05 pm

      Your post is spot on! I love this: “Yet, a stretching oneself to find a new vocabulary is something we should all aspire to, maybe most especially those of us interested in quality erotic romance.”

      F*ckin’ A.

  • Elizabeth Shore
    August 24, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    Like Madeline, I, too, am of the “swear like a sailor” ilk. “Dang” just doesn’t cut it when a good f-bomb will do. But I’m also cool with the guy’s use of it as well. If he wants to f*ck me hard against the wall and tells me so, I’m good with that. Still, it can be a lazy writer’s way out of thinking creatively when crafting a sexy scene. I agree with Liz – aspiring to find new vocabulary makes us all better writers.

  • Kel
    August 25, 2014 at 11:49 am

    I have mixed feelings about this… While I think expletives have their time and place, I like my dirty talking to be the verbal equivalent of a man undressing me with his eyes in public, then stroking a finger along a pulse point or the soft skin between my fingers while talking to someone else, then catching my eyes and telling me all the delightfully naked things he’s going to do to me later while dancing with someone else, then whispering something low and completely innocent in my ear just close enough to move the faint curls of hair across temple or nape of neck with his breath…

    you get the idea. Dirty talk can be exactly the sort of things that can’t be said in front of your parents, and yet still innocent enough to be written down and left where one’s children can find them, as long as it’s done correctly. Words like soft, warm, want, sweet, dark, hungry, subtle, warm, perfect… if he (or she!) is good, a lover can make the offer of sugar for one’s tea part of the dance.

    Anticipation. it’s in the set of shoulders, the burn in eyes, the touch of hands. If you’re writing angry sex, say or scream something. If you’re writing loving sex, murmur it. If you’re writing intense screaming sex, nobody should be coherent enough for actual words… orgasm doesn’t let you. Break some walls, rip some clothes, bite through something, sure… but have a conversation? Someone isn’t actually into it.

  • Darla G. Denton, Writer
    August 27, 2014 at 9:03 am

    I agree. F*ck has it’s place in real life and in writing. It losses its intensity when over used in a book. Use it sparingly so that the reader really feels it’s impact.

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