About that C-word …

‘Tis the season for C-words—cranberries, cookies, candy cane … but I won’t be talking about these C-words.

This post contains THE C-word. Consider yourself warned. It’s not my intention to offend, but if you are someone who is sensitive to words, then you may choose not to read further. I’ve written about the importance of words before, so you know I’m passionate about the topic.

unlocking the mysteryI started thinking about this post following a recent free promotion I did for my novella, Unlocking the Mystery. It’s the only story included in my erotic anthologies that contains no sex, but it does contain adult language. As with all my writing, I don’t insinuate “bad” words into a story for the sake of it. I make a choice to use specific words because they reflect a mood or a feeling. Certain words are just more powerful than others.

The story was inspired in part by letters Irish novelist James Joyce wrote to his wife Nora Barnacle. Titillating, romantic, poetic, and often rude as hell, Nora initiated the correspondence in November of 1909. At the time, Joyce was in Dublin and she was in Italy raising their children. Nora hoped that by feeding her husband’s fantasies in writing, she would keep him away from the courtesans.

I’ve received several reviews for Unlocking the Mystery. They are good reviews, so this post is not to discredit any of them. I’ve also entered into some interesting e-mail exchange with readers of the story. The reviews and the e-mails have something in common. They all mention a particular word I used: Cunt, and to a lesser extent cock.

“… using the crude words the author chose were unnecessary and jarring.”

“… change the descriptive word used in this story for the woman’s lady part, as it turns away many readers for some reason from what I ‘ve gathered.”

“I liked the story very much, but did you really need to use the C-word?”

“… That word is so demeaning to women. It shocked me that you used it.”

And so on …

I am not easily offended. Honest feedback is what authors want and need in order to become better at what we do. Reviews help us know when we are connecting with readers, and more importantly, when we are not.

As such, I’m writing this post as a form of explanation. I respect the opinions of those I excerpted above. I’m sure they represent a segment of the population who feels the same way. The thing is, if I were to appease every reader who disliked my choice of words, I would not be writing my own stories, I’d be writing someone else’s. My own conviction is what dictates that certain words “fit” a story. That’s the reason I choose them and why I must stand by them.

Unlocking the Mystery is a romance between two grown-ups, separated by an ocean. They cannot use their senses to experience each other. They can only convey their desire by writing letters.

Letter writing—it’s a dying art, so why write one, post it, and wait two weeks or longer to receive a response? The anticipation must make the desire unbearable, and that’s the point. My story is about a generation that was a lot more patient than we are today.

Yes, Caroline and Shane were romantic, but it does not mean they could not be lewd, crude, and raw in their desire for one another.

My use of the word cunt is present in two passages in the story. In both instances, they were included in the letters Shane wrote to Caroline.

(1) … Your last letter had me excited for days. I read it over and over again, seeing you doing all the things you wrote of. It was wonderfully disjointed and made me feel the desperation of you fingering your cunt right before you wrote it. To play with yourself like that for hours in a deep sea of blankets, my god, but you are a vixen! …

(2) … I dream of your breasts, your cunt, your arse, your lips, your hands. I dream of you, my beautiful, sweet Caroline and count the seconds until I receive your next letter…

The raw nature of the letters was meant to express a man’s sexual frustration at being separated from his love. Though mere words could never communicate his feelings properly, they were all he had.

In my opinion, the word cunt fit. After all, sex is not always a polite “please and thank you” session. Sometimes, it is raw passion driven by libido, and in the absence of connecting to Caroline physically, Shane’s animalistic lust fueled his letters.

james joyce

James Joyce

Here is a post that contains some of James Joyce’s letters to his wifeCunt is used sixteen times, along with other “taboo” words. You soon realize how his lust fueled his letters as well.

Etymology of CUNT

Most sources I have read show the word cunt as derived from the Germanic “kunte” and dates back to the 1200s. The word’s etymology is complicated, and I am not a scholar on the topic. It does appear, however, that in the Middle Ages, English speakers were less squeamish about obscene language. With a lack of privacy, there was probably less shame about sex and body parts. The C-word was socially acceptable for a time until it became taboo. When and why the switch occurred is a source of debate. Dates are bandied about based on when texts were censored if the word cunt was used. If you wish to read more on the topic, refer to a comprehensive article on Matthew Hunt’s blog.

The word’s acceptability can also be regional. Barbados-born pop star Rihanna included it freely in her tweets until she was criticized for it. She defended her action by saying the word is not offensive to Bajans, and she used it as a term of endearment.

The queer subculture has been using cunt for years to describe something beautiful, delicate, and soft.

In the UK, the word does not apply only to women. It is a gender-neutral slur that is often directed at men as well.

My point is: the word cunt and words derived from it will offend if you hear it as the most vile swear word that can be directed at a woman, if it speaks to you of misogyny, sexual harassment, and abuse.

And here is where another C-word comes into play: Context.

It’s my firm belief that the volition behind the words we say or write is every bit as important, if not more important than the actual words used.

Language is a living and breathing discipline, and words that make up a language evolve. What was taboo at one time may transition from unacceptable to acceptable. In 1966, comedian Lenny Bruce was arrested for saying nine words: ass, balls, cocksucker, cunt, fuck, motherfucker, piss, shit, tits.  Today, most of these words are commonplace in spoken and written media.

Whether we like the C-word or not, it is not going away. Earlier this year, The Oxford Dictionary added four new words—cunty, cuntish, cunted, and cunting. You may never use them, but they exist.

Like the words sick, wicked, and bad, whose informal meanings have been changed from negative to positive, so too might the case be for cunt one day.

You just never know.

FiW.act-three_4And on this positive note, I offer one last FREE novella this month, available Dec. 22-24. ACT THREE is the most over-the-top erotic story I’ve written to date. It’s raw fantasy inspired by adult play, mixed with reality. At times, the lines blur. For some readers, this story will push the boundaries for what they find comfortable in erotic writing. I hope you’ll pick it up.

One final C-word—Christmas. Have a Merry one, and no matter what you celebrate, I wish you warmth, health, and happiness this holiday season.

Have a wonderful week,

~ eden 

 

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39 Comments

Filed under Craft of Writing, Promo of ebooks, freebies, Revelations & Humor

39 responses to “About that C-word …

  1. Hi Eden, it’s such an evocative word and like fuck, cunt can be used in many ways, either to titillate (oh, I used tit, moving on) or demean. It’s all in the context. Readers can be funny creatures, they want realism, truth, grittiness and when you write a naughty word they get all Enid Blyton on you. Yet we use the word cunnilingus, now where do they stand on that? Or the word country, man you’re saying THAT word every time. I remember listening to a Kenny Everett show, Kremmin of the star Corp. One character said, ‘You should come to my club, I’m a country member.’ – ‘Don’t worry, I’ll remember.’ I know one thing Eden, you just can’t please everybody.
    A Merry Christmas to you and I hope you sell many more books in the New year, cunts not withstanding.
    Cheers
    Laurie.

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    • Laurie! Hehe, you’re so right of course. It’s all in the context.

      I think readers are demanding people, and they should be. For me, it’s good to know why some words work, and why others don’t, but though I am open to criticism, it doesn’t mean I will always agree. Literature, particularly of the erotic nature is rife with taboo words. Many are overused, some are ridiculous, and others are just plain laughable.

      “Cunnilingus” was added to the Oxford Dictionary this year too. That surprised me, as I had always considered it the ‘proper’ term anyway.

      Your comment reminds me of all the euphemisms and “polite” ways we have of saying cunt. It may have also been Kenny Everett who said this old joke:

      What is the difference between a magician and a showgirl?
      One has a cunning stunt …

      In actuality, I really do not aim to please everyone with my writing. I’d be delusional to think I could. Sometimes an open discourse about ‘words’ is a good way to bridge the gaps.

      Merry Christmas to you too, Laurie. I hope you and your beautiful family have a lovely holiday season. Best of creative success to you in 2015,

      eden xox

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      • Yes, readers should be demanding but at the same time not be too precious. I’ve read some erotic literature where they talk a good fuck but never quite live up to it physically. I guess you have to put some dialogue in instead of grunting. 🙂 Cunnilingus has always been the correct term, wonder why it took so long? It probably was one of Kenny Everett’s jokes, what a funny bugger.
        I think as writers we all try to please, knowing full well we can’t. yeah, we’re delusional. I actually had my first novel return on Amazon for my latest book. I’d like to know why out of curiosity.
        Look Eden, have a great Christmas and make the most of it. Remember, Santa only comes once a year and that’s down the chimney. Poor bugger.
        Cheers
        Laurie.

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        • You make me laugh Laurie! As for returns, some people ‘game’ the system. A writer friend of mine who is prolific in the YA genre has had ALL her books returned at least once, almost as if someone is reading and then returning it to avoid having to pay for it. It used to be a 30-day return policy (ridiculous long time for a book, you either know you like it or not quite quickly) and now it’s changed to 7 days. Still, during that time, a fast reader can read it and then return and get their money back — like borrowing for free.

          Anyway … that’s one possibility for you.

          Have a great Christmas — enjoy!
          eden

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          • I’ve been making women laugh for years Eden, as soon as I drop my pants, now moving quickly along. I’d like to think that person did read it then return do the return. They may pass on a good word or two. 🙂 They’d have to be bloody tight with their money though.
            Yep, enjoying Christmas, talk in the new year.
            Laurie.

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  2. Just got it. Can’t wait to read anything ‘over the top’ lol. Merry X-mas ❤

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    • Aww, thanks Christoph. I think you may have read it if you read FALL INTO WINTER. It was included in the anthology, but THANK YOU so much for picking it up. Like you, I’m a fan of ‘over the top’ too.

      Merry Christmas to you too, handsome, xox
      eden

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  3. You know. Cunt is one of those words for me, maybe because I spent so much time in England when I was younger, that I tend to not use even though I(and my characters) tend to curse like a sailor.

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  4. Well Eden, I think cunt is a wonderful word. It is loving and endearingly playful nickname, a beautiful word for pillow talk and a great word to use when someone is being beyond an asshole. I know you use the word cock in your writing. Do people complain about that? I think some people make much ado about nothing. In closing I refer to myself as a cunt on many occasions because I can be one in many of the ways one can use the word and frankly I enjoy it on all levels. Hugs, Ardee-ann

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    • Oh my god, Ardee-ann! You’re terrific!.

      I’ve immersed myself in the word of late, and something I remember in one of the many articles I read is that women NEVER call themselves cunts. Well… the writer obviously never met you!

      I also consider that words can be fun and playful. Cunt is one of those words, even though it can also be a grenade, one that will cut someone down in seconds. It has a lot of power to offend, but it’s not a word I use very often in that context.

      Yes, I use cock, and people complain about that too, but less so. “Cock” is really commonplace and I quite like it. “Dick” sounds childlike, “penis” is clinical, and “prick” has negative connotations (not unlike cunt).

      I respect every individual’s opinion on what they consider taboo. I consider it a reflection of their own experiences, so it cannot be wrong. It can only be discussed, so we come to a better understanding. Thus, the reason for my post.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, lovely lady. You gave me a big laugh this morning and I truly appreciate it 🙂

      eden
      xox

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  5. It really depends on context. In this case, it works.

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  6. Words play in our heads – we use them or we don’t – and the context might or might not mean the same to all…all kinds of factors figure in. Your analysis suits me just fine! xox

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  7. Great post! I’m a firm beleiver in “keeping it real”, so I tend to use plenty of cursing if it fits the story. I’ve been lucky by only having a couple of complaints, but I refuse to tweak something just because. Considering the F-word is my favorite word in the English language, I’m not big on backing down. lol

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  8. I didn’t bat an eye at cunt when I read Unlocking the Mystery, but maybe I’m biased because of what I write.

    I don’t personally use the word because most of my exposure to it has been in the negative, derogatory way, but that certainly isn’t the case in your book and in other instances that I’ve come across.

    It sad that some people need to take one singe word out of context. Your characters are two adults that love each other and are separated by an ocean. If I were separated from my husband, I’m sure at some point our letters to each other would get steamy.

    Excellent post!
    xoxo

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  9. Oops! I meant to say It’s sad that some people need to take one single word out of context. 🙂

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    • I understood what you meant, Casey 😉 Thanks for your insight too. I suppose that ‘cunt’ is one of those words that will remain contentious for some time. Our own experiences inform how we react to it, and I don’t think there is a right or wrong, just different.

      Thanks hon, for your comment and support,
      eden
      xox

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  10. There are no ‘bad words’ but, personally, I despise the word cunt, too many negative associations that have nothing to do with sex. So, for me, the word may not play the way the author intends. Still, they chose it for a reason, and that is enough for me to tolerate it!s

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  11. You are, as ever, my hero. When I was in college, some friends staged Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues.” The essay Reclaiming Cunt was so startlingly enlightening… I still remember the woman who performed it. It stripped the word of context and explored it as a sensual experience — which I loved.

    And it really is all about context. Am I psyched when my husband is in a foul mood and slings cunt around as a derogatory term? No. But when raw, explicit desire insists upon it? When it is the right word for the character and their context? Yes, and yes again.

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    • Cameron!

      I’ve never seen “The Vagina Monologues” but read about it extensively of late. The whole concept of reclaiming words is interesting and I know ‘cunt’ has experienced that many times over the years. Even Germaine Greer tried it back in the seventies. I think one of the best things we can do when certain words elicit negative reaction is to discuss it. Only by doing so can we come to an understanding. Clearly, censorship does not work, and pretending the word does not exist is simply delusional.

      Thanks so much for the comment, and I wish you and your family the VERY best for the holiday season. Best for the coming year, and look forward to spending some of it with you, if only virtually. 😉

      eden
      xox

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  12. No one asked me, but I have no problem with any words. They’re words. We’re all throwing them around, at least I hope so, as writers, as of course not everyone will like what we do with the words in our “tool box.” I guess I see this analogy: A painter with a huge array of colors to choose from. Mixes them and creates new ones too. Some viewers of his art don’t like that he uses a certain color. Walk on.

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    • Ha, Sheri, your opinion is ALWAYS welcome here.

      Your analogy is spot-on. As people, I think we like to critique/judge/review others. I welcome it, certainly for my writing. Does it mean I take everything a reader says as bible? No. As authors, we need to follow our own path, and that goes for the words we choose, the genre we write in, and everything else in between. Ultimately, we need to decide the measurement of our own success — I’m fine with reviews that are less than 4/5 stars. Readers are entitled to their opinions. Constructive feedback is something I value. Like advice from my mother, sometimes I listen … sometimes I don’t. 😉

      Have a wonderful holiday season and best for 2015.

      eden

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for the welcome, Eden. I’m re-launching myself as we speak so I just saw your reply in my “WordPress.com” admin area (which I rarely visit). Sorry about that. Yeah, reviews and even “advice” from “seasoned” and successful authors, social media “experts,” etc. — all taken with less than a grain by me now. I learned that in two years. I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes. Ignore all of ’em, I say. That is my thing now. I’m not just saying it to sound cool or whatever, either. I mean it. Trying to “fit in” killed me. I was dead. Now, to the dismay of some, I live. Heh. Thanks again for the warmth and acceptance I feel from you in general.

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        • PS. As luck or the fates would have it, I recently had occasion to use the C-word about someone online. I’d say that, in my decades of living all over the place, encountering all manner of persons in all kinds of situations, I’ve never actually felt like using it. It didn’t even occur to me to use it. And then, there it was. The perfect use and timing. So I did. Bam. Gotta say, it felt pretty damned good. I feel it was “appropriate” and that NO other word in my arsenal would have fully captured my feelings about the asshat. See? Asshat doesn’t cover it. So, the C-word. Deployed! There’s a first time for everything if you live long enough.

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  13. Um, I love this line…After all, sex is not always a polite “please and thank you” session.

    Totally agree! It’s funny how people can get so offended by that word. Cunt has been around for a long time and I know that it is used more freely in other countries, not the way that we know it here in the US.

    I think it works perfectly in the context. It’s not like you’re saying it in every sentence. 🙂

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    • Thanks so much for the comment Britt.
      I’m not really one for cursing in real life or in fiction. Because certain words are so powerful, they need to be used sparingly to provide impact.

      Completely agree about the cultural differences with certain words. Not all English words are equal around the world, and of course, that includes words like ‘cunt’.

      Big hugs!
      eden

      Liked by 1 person

  14. You were right to use it!

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  15. I’ve only met two women who did not have the ‘usual’ reaction to the c-word. One was of Latino descent and used the word in very erotic ways.

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  16. Pingback: An Infographic by @Grammarly shows good writing matters … not just for authors |

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