Why are there no good slang terms for vagina?
One of the fun things about being an erotic romance writer is that you get to write smoldering, pyroclastic sex scenes (if you don’t enjoy writing sex scenes, you probably shouldn’t be writing erotic romance, but that’s a post for another day). And if you lean towards the hotter end of the scale, as I do, you tend to get very descriptive during your smoldering, pyroclastic sex scenes, which means you find yourself using popular slang terms for body parts such as penis, vagina, clitoris, and anus. This is because very few people gets turned on by, “He thrust his penis into her vagina, stimulating her clitoris while she returned the favor by fingering his anus.” (If you do get turned on by this, you might want to check out medical fetish erotica, just a suggestion.)
Luckily, there are a plethora of good slang terms for penis. “Cock” is one of my favorites — it’s hard, punchy, and practically onomatopoeic in its descriptiveness of the male reproductive organ, particularly in an erect state. “Dick” and “prick” are also excellent slang terms for much the same reason. “Balls” are very descriptive of the male gonads, and “sack” an appropriate slang term for the scrotum. All well and good.
But then we turn our questioning gaze to the female reproductive anatomy, and find that acceptable (as in “don’t make you wince”) slang terms for that body part are, well, rather thin on the ground. And in case you think I’m just being picky, it’s not just me who feels this way. Tiffany Reisz, creator of dominatrix extraordinaire Nora Sutherlin and the white-hot Original Sinners series, rarely refers to a character’s vagina in any of her works. When I asked her why, she said the commonly used slang terms for vagina tend to make her cringe.
And she has a most salient point. Let’s look at some of the classic slang terms for the hoo-hoo, shall we? There’s the old standard “pussy,” which frankly sounds ootsy-cue and painfully twee (do we call a penis a bow-wow? I think not). “Cunt” is a perfectly good Anglo-Saxon term, but to me it sounds way too harsh for something that’s supposed to be soft and warm. “Slit” — actually not all that accurate, as the vagina takes on a barrel shape during sexual arousal, plus there’s also the unpleasant connotations of slitting something open. More recent entrants to the fray include “punany/punani,” which is sometimes attributed to Caribbean patois and may derive from pudenda, a Latin synonym for genitalia from pudēre, meaning “to cause shame”, or from “poontang,” which is believed to derive from the French putain, meaning ‘whore.” Great. More power to the Punany Poets for trying to take back this word, but it’s always going to come off as dodgy to me.
As for meaningless circumlocutions such as “sex,” “core,” and “center” — no. Just no. At lunch today, my friend Theresa opined that “core” sounded like something explosive that needed to be defused. I immediately came up with an image of Jack Bauer sitting in the OBGYN chair, staring intently between a panicking woman’s thighs as he hefts a pair of wire cutters, muttering “Trust me, I’m a professional.” Which might do something for you if, like Theresa, you are a fan of Keifer Sutherland, but for me it just makes me want to slam my thighs shut and wrap stout chain and a padlock around them for safekeeping.
Oddly enough, I don’t have a problem with “clit.” It’s short and sweet, much like the organ it describes, and works well as a slang term. Now we just have to come up with a decent term for what lies beneath this wonderful nubbin of happiness.
So far, the only vaginal slang term I personally like is “quim” (thank you, Joss Whedon, for bringing it back into modern consciousness). Quim has that nice onomatopoeic ring — it sounds warm, soft and enveloping. Granted, Loki used it as a female-specific insult in The Avengers, but if Whedon had been slightly less stylish the word “cunt” could have been substituted and maintained the same context (at least for American audiences — apparently cunt is not a female-specific insult in England. The more you know…). Unfortunately, “quim” hasn’t been used as common slang since the Victorian era, which explains why the phrase “what is a mewling quim” shows up as a popular search on Google.
But what the hell, it’s the best of a bad lot, so I’m going to start using it in my own work. Maybe if enough erotic romance writers like the term, it’ll regain its old popularity. And if not, at least I’ll sound hella period when I finally start that MMF Victorian paranormal.