2

A mini-guide for writing Victorian erotica

Ashbee

This post is about the language of sex.

“I loved cunt, but also she who had it; I like the woman I fucked and not simply the cunt I fucked, and therein is a great difference.” Excerpt From: Anonymous. “My Secret Life, Volumes I. to III. / 1888 Edition.

Erotica is a growing field of literature, especially in eBooks. Erotica is also a growing branch of historical fiction. My Secret Life by Walter is a great place to go for tips on how to make your nineteenth-century characters talk dirty to each other, until I am able to give you a copy of the Dictionary of Victorian Insults & Niceties of course!

My Secret Life is the memoir of a nineteenth-century gentleman’s sex life. It was first published over the course of about seven years, beginning in 1888. It’s long and repetitive, but offers a frank discussion of hidden aspects of nineteenth-century life.

Although the work is attributed to Herbert Spencer Ashbee, he doesn’t look like the kind of guy who would talk about ‘fucking a cunt,’ but ‘cunt’ and ‘fuck’ were commonly used in Victorian pornographic literature. The words, ‘cunt’ and ‘fuck’ predate Victorian literature by hundreds of years. That means it wasn’t just Victorians, who used those words, their grandparents used those words!

NaughtyWords

Other old words for female genitals include: ‘chose,’ ‘privy chose’ (the vulva), ‘honour,’ ‘muff,’ ‘pussy,’ ‘cunny,’ ‘bearing place,’ ‘lap,’ twat,’ and my personal favourite ‘crinkum-crankum.’ ‘Shell’ and words related to shells could also be related to female genitalia, like ‘conch’ and ‘cunnus.’

Male genitalia could be referred to as: ‘jock,’ ‘arrow,’ ‘loom,’ ‘member’ or ‘virile member,’ ‘virility,’ ‘needle’ (though if you used that now, it would sound like you were diminishing its size), ‘cock,’ ‘other thing,’ manhood,’ propagator,’’handle,’ ‘shaft,’ and ‘Roger.’ There are more specifically Victorian words for penises though, like ‘organ,’ ‘intromittent apparatus,’ ‘root,’ ‘middle leg,’ ‘pisser,’ and words that sound like names, including: ‘Dick,’ ‘Mickey,’ ’Johnson,’ ‘Peter,’ and ‘John Thomas.’ I’m sorry to anyone actually named ‘John Thomas.’

‘John Thomas canoodled her honour’ is a very Victorian sounding sentenced, but it doesn’t sound very sexy, like: ‘His middle leg was now in her lap.’

There are fewer words that are anachronistic to Victorian erotica. ‘Pecker,’ ‘willy,’ ‘dong,’ ‘wang,’ and ‘schlong’ have no place in nineteenth-century bawdy talk, whereas ‘cock’ is perfectly acceptable. If you are talking about lady parts, don’t say ‘snatch,’ or ‘beaver,’ but ‘cunt’ is fine, as Ashbee demonstrates (I think it was Ashbee, who wrote or compiled My Secret Life).

Support the project through my GoFundMe page, or visit my shop.

Advertisements
1

A Few Words on the Art of Canoodling

A reader recently asked whether the Dictionary of Victorian Insults & Niceties would include a chapter or section on seduction. I haven’t composed one yet, but it is an interesting idea that would be especially useful to writers of Victorian erotica.

In order to avoid saying the word ‘penis,’ Victorians definitely preferred euphemisms that would be useful in Victorian writing. Instead of penis, one might say: ‘male organ,’ but that doesn’t sound very sexy, and conjures images of an awkward how-to talk, rather than the whispering of sweet nothings. The clinical clinical sounding, ‘intermittent apparatus,’ might be uttered by a sexually inexperienced scientist of any gender.

photo.PNG-2

By the end of the century, ‘pisser’ was a popular word. The phrase ‘pull your pisser” had the double meaning of playfully teasing a gentleman, or deceiving him, as in ‘pulling his leg.’ At this time, the ‘middle leg’ was also another word for penis.

Victorians used the words ‘dick’ and ‘root,’ as people still do in many English-speaking countries, but they had some funnier terms, like ‘peter,’ ‘Johnson,’ and ‘John Thomas.’ Interestingly, ‘John Thomas’ was also a generic name for a livery servant. This term is usually traced back to Lady Chatterly’s Lover (1928), but the Oxford English Dictionary has traced it back to 1879, which means that, if you are ever looking for Victorian porn star names, ‘Peter Johnson,’ and ‘John Thomson’ are practical options.

In a post I wrote last year on Victorian Dirty Words, I found a lot of synonyms for lady bits. However, upon further investigation, words like, ‘crinkum-crankum,’ ‘honeypot,’ and ‘muff’ are all older than the nineteenth century, though they were still in use. My instinct is to chalk this up to Victorian attitudes toward women’s sexuality. Victorian women’s sexuality wasn’t talked about unless it was being condemned, which is why Victorians came up with slut-shaming words like, ‘charver,’ ‘dolly-mop,’ ‘fly girl,’ and ‘cock-teaser’ for promiscuous women.

Still, the art of canoodling (a Victorian word for seduction) rarely ever means shouting synonyms for genitals at each other.

The last part of the Dictionary is devoted to ‘niceties,’ which includes words that can be used for sweet talking. It includes pet names for your sweethearts, and lovely adjectives to make them your own. ‘Dinah,’ another word for a female sweet heart, might be ‘dossy,’ or ‘ducky,’ if you like the way she dresses. And anyone’s ‘mash’ (crush) would be ‘jim-dandy’ (an excellent person or thing).

One of the things that I’ve learned about the origin and usage of words over time is that good writers seem to have consistently conjured up wonderful new words, as well as interesting uses for existing terms. I’m still not sure whether I will include a section or chapter on the art of seduction, but I have no doubt that writers of Victorian erotica will be able to put the Dictionary of Victorian Insults & Niceties to good use!