It really depends on your genre and your audience. The basic fact is that there is no one set of words that will suit all audiences.
Ultimately you need to strike a balance between keeping it sexy and edgy but not crude or off-putting. It is very easy for sexual terms to lead to cringe or even comedy.
Words used for sexual organs vary greatly by geography. Non-US readers cringe at terms like “pussy”, it’s very American (and with the infamous Trump line, honestly I’d rule it out altogether for a few years), and “panties” actually makes UK readers think of paedophiles/”panty-sniffers”. It’s that off-putting for us. And US fannies are very different from UK fannies. Avoid fanny. Always avoid fanny. Besides which it’s still a popular female name in France – think of the poor French Fannies out there!
|ass, butt||arse, bottom, bum||arse, bum||rear, derrière|
“Dick” and “cock” and “prick” can all sound very harsh and crude unless you’re writing full-on erotica. It can break the emotional intimacy of a scene if suddenly a big hard cock springs up. “Penis” is way too medical and frankly not a very nice word anyway – say it out loud – you’ll see what I mean. Wenis The Penis. Weeny Meany Peeny. SHUDDER. “Maleness” unfortunately has become a bit of a cliché – not as bad as “silken loins” (wtf they are supposed to be!) – you can still use it in certain contexts but tread carefully. Similarly avoid “womanhood” if you can, unless maybe you’re writing a historic virginity loss scene.
The way I have got around it is by avoiding the need to use body part words as far as possible, using descriptors and adjectives rather than the objects themselves, and using a few key terms that seem to be most universally acceptable. Eg:
- for her: core, wetness, folds, inside, intimate place, most sensitive area
- for him: “him” (=”she touched him” – ie his penis), hardness, length
For the thorny issue of underwear, I’ll use “fabric” or “silk” or “triangle” to avoid the cringe of panties/knicker/undies. Again you can avoid it – “he stripped off the last of her clothing until she was naked before him”. You can sometimes just use the word “underwear” or “lingerie” depending on context. “Straps” are quite sexy – I would always have him “slip the straps off” rather than “undo her bra”. I would also “unbuckle a belt” rather than “unzip a fly”.
|Hardcore||Medical||Outdated||Words I use|
|Fine for Erotica, but a bit too much for Romance||Too scientific, instant mood-killers||Flowery and too cliché||Subtler terms|
|dick, cock, prick||penis, erection, glans||rod, manhood, shaft, phallus, organ||length, hardness, him, maleness|
|cunt, pussy||vagina, vulva, labia||silken loins, quim, womanhood||core, wetness, inside, folds, entrance|
|cum, spunk, juices||semen, ejaculate||jism, seed||wetness, fluid|