Penises! The Best and Worst Bywords for Erotic Writing

I’ve faced, as I am sure you all have, frustration and near-angst over how to refer to genitalia. There are so many words to choose from but so few that feel appropriate most of the time. You would think with so much choice that we wouldn’t struggle with this. This post is about male genitals, but I do intend to do a similar post on female genitals in future too.

Bishop, bone, chap, chub, cock, dick, johnson, john thomas, knob, member, one-eyed snake, package, pecker, piece, prick, rocket, rod, sausage, shaft, trouser snake, willy.

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These are just a few of the terms we use to describe the male penis – they are probably the most common but I’m sure you can think of a lot more besides. We have a never ending list of words for the appendage that dangles between a man’s legs. The problem is, few of them are appropriate all of the time and in erotic writing, few of them ever feel appropriate. Use the wrong one and you can break the flow for the reader or what might otherwise have been a well-written piece of prose is killed, in an instant, by the single use of a poor choice of word.

I’ve played it safe so far. If you’ve read any of my attempts at erotic literature here, I’ve tended to avoid using direct references to the penis. Though I occasionally use the word “cock”, that is a very safe (lazy?) option. What I am more likely to do is to refer to a penis as if it was the person. By this I mean using terms like “I feel myself enter you” or “I pull out”, making no distinction between the male person and the appendage attached to his (in my case, my) body.

I simply do not like most words that refer to the penis – not because I am prudish (because I’m not), it’s just that I’ve never found one with which I am entirely happy most of the time. Here is a selection though of my favourites and least favourites.

Member

Is there any word more perfunctory, any word less sexy than “member”? I dare you to come up with one worse than this. Those that are tend to be at least amusing. “Member” is none of those things and I don’t find it particularly useful, either. It comes across as pretentious and maybe a little archaic but it doesn’t really sit well; it’s simply too bland.

Cock

I like cock. *ahem* I like the word cock. But I also appreciate how others find it unimaginative and lazy. However, it is effective. “I want your cock inside me, now!” is never going to kill a man’s erection. It is short, just one syllable and rolls of the tongue easily and quickly. It is also diverse with many non-sexual meanings.

Rod

Another “hate”. The word rod conjures up the image of a metal bar. I can’t imagine ever putting one of the those inside a woman and if a woman ever referred to my penis by that word, it would probably be the end of our night of passion quicker than a naked picture of Anne Widdecombe ever could.

Manhood

It feels a little archaic, but I kind of like it when used in the right context. Using it to describe the act of sex tends to slow down the narrative but during the slow build up it feels right. Saying “he pressed his manhood up against the curve of her backside” sounds better than “thrusting his manhood deep inside in a long stroke”.

Pork Sword / Anything Related to Sausages

The analogy is obvious and works but I would never use it. It makes me think of raw meat and raw meat near a woman’s bits could lead to infection. I am over-thinking it, I know, but all it takes is one negative image and the word is killed forever in my mind.

Shaft

I’ve used this a couple of times but I think sparingly is best. I tend to think of it not as the whole penis, but the main body of the penis, excluding the glans. From one perspective, it is not the penis but the vagina that should be called the “shaft”. Why? What is a shaft? it’s a tunnel or a pipe through which something passes – like air or an elevator.

Phallus

They use this in history books so it sounds more clinical and cold to me than it should or more than it might to others. I like the word though; I would probably use it in certain contexts like the build up to sex rather than the act.

What are some of your favourites and least favourites?

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13 thoughts on “Penises! The Best and Worst Bywords for Erotic Writing

  1. Cock is a perfectly good word – not lazy at all and shaft. I use that very occasionally in my work. The word has to feel natural to the poet and it should sound natural to a character in a story. So, Billy Dean might refer to his “weenie” and it would sound fine but in the sense-around world of erotic poetry, pet words are jarring. IMHO, they prevent a reader from slipping into the mood that I, as the poet, want to create. Not to mention, 95% of the euphemisms for penis make me giggle or blush!

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  2. Thanks for putting this post up. I’ve been struggling with this issue lately, and now I see it is not just me. I’ve taken your same route in referring to it obliquely. “We twined together” , “I slide inside her” etc. As far as the vocabulary itself, I stick with cock most of the time. Occasionally, I’ll refer to shaft as part of the penis (as you mentioned also). Everything else I’ve stayed away from. They just don’t feel right in the prose.

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  3. I use cock most of the time as well. I was hesitant at first but it seems to me like the most common word. Of course, I use a few metaphors but sprinkled sparsely. One word I never use is prick. That seems to me vulgar, like cunt. When I am using dialog and women talk about it I use the word dick because I think a lot of women call it that. But I reserve that word for a woman’s voice.

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