‘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.
I 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.
Here is a post that contains some of James Joyce’s letters to his wife. Cunt 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.
And 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 ♥