Anatomy of the Name Game

If you find yourself grabbing the thesaurus every time you describe a racy rendezvous consider that it’s not about how many different ways you say it, as much as how it reads within the context of the scene. If it feels contrived, you can bet it’s going to show up that way on the page—and that’s not a turn-on. Here are some tips on how to avoid the thesaurus trap and what to keep in mind when inventing new synonyms: 

Show love to the not-so-naughty parts

With so much focus on the nether region, it’s easy to forget that the human body is a hotbed of erotic spots. Don’t forget about those oft-overlooked areas that aren’t quite as obvious, but still just as stimulating—the back of the neck or ears, behind the knees, inside the thigh, toes, etc. It’s surprising how sensual these rarely mentioned parts suddenly become, just from their sheer rarity in love scenes. They also tend to prolong the foreplay, resulting in some very hot-and-bothered readers! 

Avoid terms you’d hear in a music video

Sex scenes between two strapping, handsome men are easy (and delightful) to read. And writing them? Not quite as simple. When it comes to ManLove, penning an erotic encounter presents quite a challenge. Since we’re dealing with two of the same man parts, there are only so many ways to describe or refer to the, ahem, member.

KISS called it a “love gun.” ZZ Top called it a “tube snake.” And while these names are clever, they’re also comical, which is not exactly what readers expect or desire from love scenes. They take us out of the arousing rush of a steamy love scene, since the language doesn’t seem to fit within the context of the seductive bedroom action. So while it’s tempting to invent a new term every time, keep in mind that it’s much better to use a word readers have heard before than to use a new synonym that compromises the sensuality.

Leave the medical terminology in the waiting room

There’s nothing arousing about visiting the doctor. In fact, since most people associate feelings of fear and anxiety with going, it makes sense that an author should run (fast!) in the opposite direction of any language that seems reminiscent. A good rule of thumb is: Can you imagine your doctor using (insert word) in a routine checkup? Unless he’s McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy (in which case it doesn’t matter what he says), you probably don’t want to imagine your lifelong family physician seductively whispering in your ear what naughty things he intends to do to your womb. And neither will readers.

Think outside the flesh

Just as so much of taste relies on smell, so, too, does a tantalizing erotic scene rely not just on the body parts involved, but also the emotion that is driving them. Focusing on the sentiment and sensory experience relieves the need to hunt for more synonyms, and it draws readers further into the bond between characters, since knowing what they’re thinking tells us how they feel about their partners. For practice, try writing a scene to show the carnal action through dialogue, inner monologue, and sensory description. This will bring a scene to life, but will also give readers a bit of room for the imagination to fill in with their own wild fantasies.

Authors and readers, what’s that one term you never get tired of seeing in ManLove?

By Lauren Taylor, Staff Contributor


photo credit: Daniela Vladimirova via photopin cc
photo credit: Tinker*Tailor loves Lalka via photopin cc


  1. Very useful, thank you :)

    • Site Administrator /

      You’re welcome, Marcy! We’ll have more tips like this coming soon.