"There are some words a lady does not use." That's what my mom always told me. Another line I heard a lot while growing up was, "You are too intelligent to use such language." My mother, God rest her soul, would be appalled by the language I use today, but I think she would've gotten over it.
In the fall of 2009 I wrote Divine Grace. It took 236,000 words to tell Grace's story. After several rounds of edits, we'd managed to knock that number down to around 200,000.
Of that grand total, I used "pussy" 211 times and "cock" 311 times. It was a mènage, so the cock to pussy ratio is actually a little lopsided if you ask me. In the final manuscript, I used "cunt" 30 times. Why the big difference you ask?
In the originally submitted manuscript, "cunt" appeared exactly zero times. That was a conscious decision on my part. I grew up in a home where that word was used frequently as an insult by a close family member. It made me shudder and I studiously avoided people who used it.
My heroine originally had a big problem with the word and so her men never used it. In every other way the story earned the hottest rating Siren gives to a book. With the encouragement of their talented editors, I stripped every trace of purple prose from that manuscript and went for the gold, so to speak. If I was writing a story for women readers accustomed to seeing it in print, why would I shrink from using the word "cunt"?
I pondered the word "cunt" for a while afterward and obviously grew very comfortable using it in my writing. Why had I held out? The reason was obvious. Training by my mother to never use it and conditioning by the male relative in my life to believe that it was fit only to be used as an insult.
If you've ever watched "Braveheart," you will undoubtedly recall the scene in which William Wallace's Irish friend Stephen reports to him, in a nutshell, that the Irish will be helping them in the battle they are facing. Referring to Ireland, Stephen proudly says, "It's MY island!"
Well, I've taken that word back. "Cunt" is no longer a bad word in my world. It actually makes me quite a lot of money. In fact, "It's MY word!"
In Divine Grace, the heroine, a domestic violence victim, had originally asked the men to not use the word because her abusive boyfriend had used it as an insult toward her. Her heroes agreed and over the course of the writing and publication of the book, I could see that both for her and for me the word had evolved into something beautiful, to be celebrated and cherished. It was freeing to re-write that aspect of the story.
Many authors read their manuscripts aloud to catch errors and problems in their stories. I have found that to be a helpful tool. The word "cunt" flows from my fingertips with ease but thanks to my departed mother's training, "cunt" never gets spoken above a whisper. I blame my mother for that. Some training just goes too deep.
Heather Rainier writes erotic romance for Siren Publishing. The sixth book in the Divine Creek Ranch Collection is now available on Amazon as well as at Siren. Summer's Indiscretion, the seventh book in the series is currently in the works and scheduled for release on September 30th.