In my previous post, I described a debate raging over on the History Hoydens blog about use of historical terms / archaic references in sex scenes. There is much debate about what is purple and what is acceptable, what jars and what steams but one thing is a constant: descriptions by women of their own body parts are difficult. Beyond difficult, it's fair to say they are politically loaded, rare and challenging.
Commenting on the blog, Maryan makes two points:
- The relationship should determine the quantity of description in the sex scene; in a well written narrative it should move the plot and characters along.
- Women haven't developed a language to describe "it" ('good girls don't).
Eloisa James says "although eroticism is culturally, geographically and historically specific, we writers of historical romance sexualize history without regard for the specific epoch in which we set a novel.... we write sex from the point of view of our own contemporary attitudes and mores."
We can see this in the 1980s bodice-rippers, when in order to get it on a hero had to overpower the heroine practically against her will. Whilst traces of this linger in romances today, it's pretty much verboten. A quick squizz at the reviews on Smart Bitches Trashy Books will tell you that readers now aren't fond of the 'he made me do it and I just loved it storylines'. Romance heroines now are more likely to be doing the ripping; they're also more likely to remember to use protection.
More than any other genre of book, I believe that romances reflect contemporary values and perceptions. Perhaps one day we will see a lexicon developing within romantic fiction by women about their own vaginas and sexual organs and then, maybe we'll know that women finally feel ownership over their own bodies and sexuality.
On a less serious note, here's a back catalogue of terms used through the centuries to describe women's 'bits'. The ick factor is fairly high; though some have a certain hilarious charm (masterpiece and modicum quite tickled my fancy)!
|Ketch / Jack Ketch||C.18-20|