Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hermaphroditic Heroes

by Raelene Gorlinsky

I am stunned by the number of romance heroes who possess both male and female "parts". They've got two pairs of nipples, one for each gender. Two sets of lips. And four arms and a multitude of fingers.

How else would you interpret descriptions of our hero that refer to his male nipples--this must be to differentiate them from his female ones, right? His manly arms hold the heroine while his masculine fingers stroke her body and his male lips seduce her. So what are his female arms, etc, doing? Just hanging there? Or maybe waiting for another guy to join the fun so they can have a turn too?

If you are talking about a male character, believe me, we know his body parts are male. Cut out the unnecessary words. (Well, okay, if he's an alien or a weird paranormal creature, then you might have to be more specific.)

This isn't to say that you should never use such descriptors. Sometimes it is appropriate or accurate to differentiate, to draw a contrast between a feminine and masculine characteristic. A "masculine chin" describes a square, strong chin--and could be used in reference to either a man's or woman's face. Not all men are broad shouldered, so we all understand that "masculine breadth of shoulder" means wide shoulders. "Male scent" can be an allusion to the scent of sex, of pheromones, or even just to differentiate a "clean masculine scent" from the smell of cologne.

But please, never, ever write "his male penis". Not unless he's also got a female one.

Have you seen a description like this that left you laughing or groaning?


Rena Marks said...

"Womanhood" definitely differentiates from "Manhood." And I take great pleasure in sharing with the person who uses these old fashioned words what we REALLY call them today.

But I have to admit, when I hear someone say "His jutting manhood..." I erupt into a fit of giggles like a teenager.

Ann Bruce said...


I'd take "jutting manhood"--albeit reluctantly--over "love staff" or "jade stalk" any day. (No, I didn't make up those two examples.)

Ann Bruce said...

Oh, one more from the same book: "stalk of heaven."


Anonymous said...

LOL, Ann - "stalk" is one that always makes me lurch right out of the story. Two reasons: First, I immediately think of celery, stringy, smelly celery...not good when I'm working my way into a scene that would involve a "jutting manhood". Second, "stalk" is just such a good movement word that I can't help but wonder if his juttingness has stormed off in a snit.

Julia Barrett said...

Okay, this post made me LOL! Hilarious! I so love all the euphemisms writers try to get away with for the male sex organs and for a man's various parts in general. Someday hold a contest to see who can write the funniest erotic romance parody! It would be such a blast to read the scenes everyone could come up with. I like the description of the male organ from the book Shogun - piece of meat. Where would we be without the piece of meat?

Rena Marks said...

Ann -

Jade stalk.

Would it be green? Ick.

Angelia Sparrow said...

Jade stem has a long and honorable history dating to the Japanese pillow books. I've used it myself in just that context. Used properly, it doesn't bother me. Used at random by someone whose culture is much more suited to "cock," I snicker.

Manhood, again, depends on the context. In a Victorian novel, terrific. In a contemporary, the person calling it that had better be VERY shy and sheltered. (and do not get me started on "elfhood")

My problem words:
bloated mushroom (yes, actually saw that in a scene: pressed the cap of his bloated mushroom to my starfish...ACK!)
throbbing (I associate this with hammered thumbs and stubbed toes)
love muscle

Ann Bruce said...

Rena - Jade is also known as the "stone of heaven." Thus, a jade stalk is supposed to take you to heaven and back.

All this talk of euphemisms has inspired my next Thursday Thirteen.

(Now back to nursing my broken finger.)