SEX WORDS: how to talk about talking during sex

What’s on _your_ checklist?

It’s one of the simplest questions in the Sidewalk Smut interview: how do you want me to refer to your genitals? If they’ve made it clear their gender, I’ll offer them a simple choice: dick or cock, pussy or cunt.

Many customers giggle when I ask this question, or look taken aback, but when pressed, most of them do have preferences, which I note carefully. After all, they are the ones who will be hopefully re-reading their piece of smut for years to come, and I don’t want them flinching when they read it.

Last week I asked FB: “HAPPY HUMP DAY! A sex word or phrase, slang or otherwise, that rubs you the wrong way. GO.” The thread spiraled out into scores and scores of comments and subcomments, with people’s strong feelings on these sex words.

Some of the words offered up were obvious losers, like “ham wallet” for the vulva or calling women “fish.” But many people had strong feelings about “pussy” or “panties” or “hole,” and other things that I would be fine hearing from my lover; one anonymous contributor to the thread said they had called off sex when someone used the word “cunny.”

Thanks to my years of various erotic(a) work, I’ve long known that verbal preferences go beyond “cunt” vs “pussy.” One recent smut customer requested that I not use any endearments—sweetheart, darling, etc.—even though the relationship was of long and intense standing, because that just wasn’t the nature of the relationship. A question I ask during the smut interview is if people like to talk while they’re having sex (so I don’t try to insert spoken bits into the story that would be jarringly out of character for the people being depicted). Sometimes one’s verbal preference is to go non-verbal. This too is a valid choice.

I know this and many other things about language preferences—and turn-offs!—from phone sex and Sidewalk Smut, yet somehow I hadn’t really translated it to real-world experience: “Sex words,” that is, the language and words we use to talk about sex and our bodies and our partners and their bodies are important, but most of us, even the ones who should know better, don’t really talk about our sex words when we’re getting ready for sexy times.

For example, on at least one occasion I had to stop mid-screw because my partner thought they could get cute and call me “Cammie.” (Don’t. That privilege is granted seldom, and at my own choosing.) I know now that is a permanent verbal hard limit, but I can’t recall telling anyone after that not to use it. Or… I don’t like to be shushed, except in ways that are tied to a very specific power dynamic, so if someone doesn’t like a lot of talking during sex, we best cover that before anything starts up.

My point is, without talking about our sex words, both the ones we love and the ones that make our skin crawl, we run that risk of tripping over dirty talk landmines, causing sex to be canceled and people to flinch and resentments to build up and WHY DO THEY SAY THAT THING YUCK YUCK YUCK?!

With all this in mind, here are my recommended talking points about talking that you can include in pre-sex/play discussion:

  • Do you like to talk during sex? Do you like your partner to talk? What about making noise?
  • Do you have any favorite pet names, or a genre of them, that you would like your partner to use?
  • Are there any words that are off the table? Names for body parts that squick you out, things like “slut,” “whore,” “bitch” … these words make appearances in erotica and porn, but not everyone’s into them!
  • Any words that would normally be considered off the table, but that you specifically like? See the gendered insults “slut” and “whore” (above), and also any strong slur based on race, sexual orientation, gender, etc.
  • Conversely, are any sex words that you know are on the table for many/most people, but that send you right up the wall? These are the ones that will be most likely to trip you up, things like the “pussy” vs. “cunt” usage or not liking the word “fuck”

If this seems like a lot to cover, don’t worry, it’s really not! Treat it like a word game, or a show-and-tell, and it ends up being fun in a very educational way.

Finally, no one knows or can predict everything about their own responses, and your partner may say something mid-fuck that makes you pause. Tell them as soon as you can, either right then or during your post-coital cool-down/debrief session. Same goes for positive feedback as well: if they are using a word or phrase that you really like, tell them you love it, and ask them to say it again.


This is one of the things I love to do: transferring my skills from sex(y) work to just plain sex, so that everyone gets the kinda nookie they want. If you think this is a net positive for the world, and you have a bit of paper to spare each month, consider becoming a patron of mine on Patreon!

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