The internet is undoubtedly an amazing thing. It has revolutionised our methods of communication, including how we access erotic fiction. Where previously, magazines and books might have offered the only option, today the web provides us with an almost infinite supply of material and subject matter.
When I started publishing my stories on Amazon, I was amazed by the breath of readership they attracted. The U.S., Canada, Australia and Great Britain represented the bulk of my sales. But there was also interest from India, Japan, Indonesia and various European countries such as France, Spain and the Netherlands. It was proof of how important it was to craft my words in such a way to enable my stories to appeal to the widest possible audience.
Recently, with the launch of my website www.fenellaashworth.com, the picture has become even more interesting; even more diverse. In addition to the readers of which I was already aware, interest has also originated from a range of countries including Israel, Singapore, China, Turkey, Morocco, Denmark, Hong Kong and South Africa.
For authors, this environment can provide a challenge regarding the terminology used. When writing for a national audience, colloquialisms tend to slip in and are, perhaps, forgivable. For an international audience, some of whom English may not be their first (or even second) language, mentioning a word or phrase which is not widely used runs the risk of losing your readers’ interest before you have begun.
Having said that, I think it is important not to alter your style too much. I personally enjoy reading stories which have a sense of place and location, and the way characters communicate is all part of painting that picture. So although I am never afraid of making my characters individuals and basing them in geographically recognisable locations, when writing sex scenes, I do scrutinise my choice of words more carefully.
For the male member, the number of potential options is mindboggling – there are literally hundreds of terms apparently. And I looked that fact up on the internet, so it must be true! They range from acceptable medical-type terms (penis) to the downright ridiculous (wing dang doodle – I mean, seriously?!). When I write, my standard go-to word is cock which I consider translates well across cultures. I’m really not convinced that writing about a hard, throbbing love stick would do anything other than make me cringe and ensure my readers simply burst out with laughter.
When describing a woman’s genitalia, there seem to be considerably fewer options, many of which I find derogatory. A prime example being cu*t – you see, I can’t even bring myself to type it! Vagina always seems a little too medical for a story designed to give erotic pleasure, so I personally rely on the term pussy. There is one term I avoid at all costs though, which is fanny. Although this is a perfectly acceptable word in the U.K., I understand that in America, it can be used to refer to the part of the anatomy also known as the ass. You see, it’s a literary minefield!
And seeing as I’ve mentioned it, “ass” is one of the only two words I use in my stories, which causes me a slight feeling of discomfort. In my little corner of England, ass isn’t a particularly common word to use – arse, bum, bottom, even butt would all outrank it. However, with my readers at the forefront of my mind, “ass” it is.
The second word I utilise, purely with a global audience in mind is “panties”. If I was writing a story purely for my own enjoyment, panties wouldn’t feature (no pun intended). I would be much more comfortable referring to knickers, or even pants. However, given that I write my stories for your enjoyment, as well as my own, I’m more than happy to compromise 🙂
Fenella Ashworth is a British author of contemporary erotic fiction. All of her stories are available from Amazon and free for those with Kindle Unlimited access. Her best known novels are ‘To Love, Honour and Oh Pay’ and the Daniel Lawson series.
Fenella also releases stories on BooksieSilk, Booksie, Lush Stories and Literotica, and is often visible in the Literotica ‘Erotic Couplings’ Hall of Fame (Top Rated).
Please sign up to her newsletter for the latest news, and access to freebies, including a copy of the recently published ‘Bad girls go to Heaven’.
One thought on “Considerations when writing erotic fiction for a global audience”
Hi Fenella, that’s really interesting. I’m Danish, and I experience the same thing: not very many “good” words to refer to female genitalia. We also have vagina in Danish, but that’s purely a medical term. “Kusse” or “fisse” would roughly correspond to “cunt”, and I would typically not use them. “Kusse” is maybe not quite so bad, but still. So, after reading your post, I realized: I don’t actually have a word in Danish (that’s acceptable and natural for me to use) to refer to my own pussy! Isn’t that weird? I mean, it’s part of my body.
I think it says something about the way female sexuality has been viewed though history. And there’s no doubt: language, and the words we are thus given at or disposal, influence the way we think. So it really does matter what words we use, also about erotic parts.
Anyway, it got me thinking! And thanks for your great stories – Best, Mia