Monday, October 22, 2007

Orgasmic metaphors


by Olivia Knight

The female orgasm, apparently, is a mysterious thing. How something that involves screaming at the top of one’s lungs, thrashing, bucking, spasming and waking all the neighbours in a one-mile radius with howls of “Oh god yes harder” can remain a mystery for long, I don’t know. People who say they’re going to talk about women’s orgasms often spend most of their time talking about flowers, candlelight, emotional unity, conversation and cuddling. (These things are nice – in the same way setting the table for dinner is nice, instead of eating straight out the pot at the stove – but don’t really address orgasms anymore than table décor addresses food.)

For hundreds of years, women’s orgasms weren’t recognised – by the establishment, one assumes. Surely plenty of healthy women out there knew they were on to a good thing. Women’s reputation for being “fickle” in the Renaissance probably wasn’t due to their tendency to seek flowers, candlelight, emotional unity, conversation and cuddling elsewhere. In the 1800s, women’s sexual excitement was diagnosed as “hysterical tension”. The medical treatment was what any of us would prescribe – a good fiddle – but that was far too dirty for women to do and would rot their brains. A midwife, or the doctor himself, would kindly oblige.

In the mid-1900s scientists were still insisting that women couldn’t come. (Fair enough. Think of the empirical basis for all science: the experiment. Now visualise a few scientists and what their results would be. It all begins to make sense.) If you’re curious about the history, you probably couldn’t do worse than read O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm by Jonathan Margolis. The same cheerful blindness to reality that brought you “hysterical tension” in the 1800s, brings you this in 2004: “It is axiomatic that women fall in love first and discover lust later, while men fall in lust and only subsequently learn to love.” Yeah, right. And we’re only trading sex for cuddles, and all that mind-blowing toe-curling multiple-orgasmic screaming means nothing to us, and playing with yourself really does make you go blind.

For us Lusties, though, orgasms are our stock-in-trade. Sex without that glorious culminating moment is a broken pencil. Just like the porn films, we always include the cum-shot… except it’s the woman’s cum-shot, and vive la différence. Without the actual shooting cum, however, describing it isn’t so neat. Oh, our male heroes can “spurt their seed”, “send a hot jet”, “pump their juices”, et cetera, usually with a groan / bellow / roar, but the heroine’s experiences are more various. (Not mysterious, mind. Various doesn’t mean mysterious. Fruit is various, yet remains obstinately straightforward.) On the physical level, yes, toes do curl, sweat beads, bodies clench into a spasm like rigor mortis, but it’s not de rigeur – and none of those guarantee The Moment. (Or Minute. Or Several-Minutes. Or Moment - Followed - By - Minute - Followed - By - Several - More - Moments - Followed - By - Long - Noisy - Timeless - Minutes... it’s great being a woman.)

A spurting cock is, objectively, an orgasm. A screaming flailing howling woman might have cramp, or be coming, or be faking it. (I tried faking an orgasm, once. It was so exciting I came.) Without the literal imagery to plant the flag at the peak, we slide into the metaphorical… If you’re in bed with a Lustie and ask her “what was it like?”, be prepared to pour a drink, light a cigar, and settle down for a few paragraphs.

It’s like light

His orgasm streamed through his shaft like a ray of pure light. He felt like he was giving birth to a rainbow. For a few moments, he felt ecstatic, drifting in a sea of colours. Then reality abruptly intruded. ~ Madelynne Ellis, Dark Designs

The brilliant light crashed over her, running through her veins, turning her into a burning sun, and still he kept stabbing into her. ~ Olivia Knight, Innana’s Temple

My orgasm came like a burst of light. It was white, it was golden – and it was not gentle. ~ Janine Ashbless, Sun Seeking

I fretted my clit until I came in great gulping breaths. All my nerve endings fizzed from top to toe. My calf muscles tensed with a sort of numbed electricity, face tingling as my orgasm shook. ~ Kristina Lloyd, Split

Kristina brings it nicely down to earth. Fretting your clit may not rot your brain, but metaphors can and before you know it you’re drowning in the deep seas of purple prose. I trod a fine line in The Ten Visions, with the excuse that it was all, at some level, literally happening. All the stops are out when Sarah and Adrian exchange their magical powers, fire and earth respectively…

It’s like the elements

Her mind filled with earthquakes, violent chasms swallowing trees, boulders thundering down storm-filled rivers, tree roots slowly tearing up the foundations of ancient buildings. Her whole body was arched, flung out beneath him. She dreamt again how the earth had crushed her once, trying to blot out the determined bright spot that she now knew had been her. This time, the same massive pressure was flowing into her and filling her. It was becoming her own strength. As she bucked her hips against her beloved, she felt her own fire and destruction licking through his veins. His head was flung back, his arms rippling with power as he supported his scorching plunges into her. Their orgasm flowed upwards through them, a volcanic fire erupting through their mouths as his lava flooded into her welcoming cave. ~ Olivia Knight, The Ten Visions

Erm, yes. I might not write that in cold blood, but cold-bloodedness has never been my flaw. Every time she comes, Sarah has visions – hence the title – mostly of a hut, but I believe that’s not common experience. Another madly metaphorical moment was, again, meant quite literally…

It’s like stars

They floated above the fires, meeting each other’s slams in perfect time, until – all their limbs stretched out, their muscles straining – like an eight-pointed star they pulsated together, beyond sound, feeling the bliss tearing at them. At the height which is usually agony, or frustration, or too soon subsiding into loss, they floated outside of themselves. They stood outside the world, hand in hand in the stars, looking into each other’s eyes and knowing that they, too, were made of stars. Around them, they heard strange deep chimes and gentle tinkling drifts, like harps, strings, and chimes, but far more than any of those. ~ Olivia Knight, The Ten Visions

And he released me, lifting me to my climax and I was tumbling fast and hard, coming over and over as everything around me dissolved. The walls went, the house too, and I was beyond the moors, lost in time and space, synapses firing, galaxies scattering, ego and sanity obliterated. ~ Kristina Lloyd, Split

The surprise of her teeth, sharp against his neck, stole his breath. His climax swelled, and burst like a nova. `Oh, yes!´ His legs buckled, even his as cock still pulsed. He collapsed onto his knees, cock shiny with ejaculate. ~ Madelynne Ellis, Broken Angel

Seeing stars – explosions – a bright light looming – in the end, they all point towards the oldest of metaphors, la petite mort:

It’s like death

It’s too much to bear. I black out. Crying his name… ~ Portia Da Costa, Public Domain

Funnily enough, it's not much like warm apple pie.

So… what’s it like for you? Which metaphors make you say “Yes – oh yes, yes, yes!” and which are as good as a cold shower? Which ones do you think of / see / feel but never read? And what favourite final scenes can you give us?


Imp said...

(I tried faking an orgasm, once. It was so exciting I came.)

Coffee is not meant to irrigate the nostrils, damn it!

I've used every one of the metaphors above at one time or another. Currently, though, I'm taking a more clinical/analytical approach: writing a chapter in which a woman equates her various types of orgasms (and the journey to reach them) to an elevator ride.

Janine Ashbless said...

I might not write that in cold blood, but cold-bloodedness has never been my flaw

I'm a ferocious user of metaphors too. It's only when you start repeating yourself that you know you're really overdoing it.

Beautiful post Olivia - literally. I want all those photos as screensavers.

Megan Kerr said...

If insane rampant burgeoning metaphor is good enough for Angela Carter, it's good enough for me... Although admittedly taking that paragraph out of context did it no favours!

Kristina Lloyd said...

Sumptuous post, and the pics are stunning.

Alessia, I love your orgasm as elevator metaphor. Actually, I first read it as escalator which is also working for me. But that idea of relating climax to architecture and movement within a building is really interesting. Damn, I wish I'd thought of it!

I love metaphor. Smut is about excess, and enormous star-bursting metaphors are great. I think I generally try to express huge metaphor via relatively pared down writing to stop myself getting too purple and cliched. And sometimes I like to offset it with a sprinkling of the physical and the chemical.

And sometimes I just write 'she came hard'.

Portia Da Costa said...

What a splendid post! :)

I don't ever consciously try to use metaphors in my writing, but it ends up stuffed with the tricky little blighters all the same.

Every year, I make a point of getting someone to explain to me exactly what a metaphor is... I think I must be some kind of idiot savant writer because I can do it, but I don't have any idea how it happens.

Bit like an orgasm, really... ;)

Unknown said...

Bravo! Fabulous post.

I too LOVE the metaphors. Especially when they are overdone and end up funny. I don't use any of these myself, but I love to read them in other people's work.

While brainstorming with some friends, the best thing to do is have them describe an orgasm. Then watch the hilarity ensue. This is especially effective if your friends are not writers. They will come up with some gems, I swear to you.


Jeremy Edwards said...

Thanks for the multiple orgasms, Olivia!

I just took a quick look at my own oeuvre in this regard, and I definitely see a few recurring themes (themes also used by a zillion other authors, no doubt). I have orgasms described in terms of liquid-to-vapor transitions—for a man ("like a warm can of beer"), a woman ("she boiled with pleasure"), or both ("shriek our ecstasies like the enamel tea-kettle"). My characters' orgasms sometimes take the form of oceans ("I want to see her nipples float on our sea of ecstasy and her lips mouth 'I love you' from within the surf"; "ten thousand points of ticklish bliss resonating within her, dissolving around me in an ocean of laughter and pleasure"); but, then again, the ocean can be, not orgasm, but postorgasmic void: "He knows that once he has burst the bubble of his libido, he must face the existential sea again." Or maybe orgasm is a sort of void: "into his own place of pleasure, of sensation so smooth and wide as to have no edges and no texture"; or, for her, "she passes into that private world so supersaturated with sensation as to nearly negate sensation itself." Another orgasmic theme of mine (examples withheld for—ha—brevity) seems to be spatial displacement/disorientation.

Alison Tyler said...

Alessia stole my comment. I swear, I laughed out loud at this:

I tried faking an orgasm, once. It was so exciting I came.

Olivia, your post is luscious, and the photos—wow! Maybe from now on, we should just insert a little picture when one of our vixens comes.

I don't think I ever describe orgasms that intently. The closest I could find (randomly searching 'climax' on my hard drive) was this:

I came so hard, that for a moment I didn’t even know where I was.


P.S. Oh, I cannot find this tee-shirt now, but lmno tees used to have one that said: "A simile is like a metaphor. But different."

Anonymous said...

I finished the last werewolf book today and sent the ms off - so I may be acting a little ker-razy.

First of all, am I the only person how prefers reading/writing/watching male orgasms? I'm sure I have more male orgasms in my stuff. And in The Silver Werewolves I have a hero who turns into a wolf when he comes - so I have a metaphor built in.

But I have other characters. Here's a typical come shot by me:

He ached and screamed. He felt his orgasm rising fast, too late to hold back. He jerked Lilith's head up and back – off his dick - as he came in rhythmic thrusts, his semen smattering over her face. Lilith's eyes were closed. She moaned a little as the droplets hit her. Blake's hips jerked again and again and then finally stopped.

I'm kind of literal.

To celebrate finishing The Silver Cage (bk 3) I did put a little snip of Alfie over on my blog. He comes, but it's before he's a werewolf, and there isn't a metaphor in site.

I'm off to find some female orgasms in my stuff now and see if I write them less literal

Megan Kerr said...

Some literality can come as a relief, Tilly! (I actually flipped through quite a few of your stories, looking for metaphors, and considered adding a section on the advantage of just saying it how it is sometimes, but the post was getting too long...) When I do go for literal, I tend to go for pathetic fallacy at the same time, firm in my belief that there's no such thing as "overwritten" if I'm writing it!

Megan Kerr said...

Tilly exposed!

from End of Days
He thrust a little harder then, making her moan in turn as he found spots inside her that made her see stars.
  ‘That’s like… explosions,’ Iris moaned, not caring whether or not she made real sense.

Hah! Very like a whale indeed! (Admittedly one's a simile, but the first one's a metaphor, even if it is a figure of speech too.)

Janine Ashbless said...

I like writing male orgasms a lot. More than female ones I'm afraid, because they are so deliciously visual. Still doesn't stop me using metaphors though:

with that the cauldron seething within him boiled over, the contents spouting and frothing like scalded cream over his fingers, his thigh, his belly

"Coming hard" and its ilk is good - works for me anyway - but I just have the nagging feeling I can't get away with being so bare and gritty every time. Hence the purple prose. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I should cut back to the unadorned Come.

(But never, ever, "Cum"!)

Anonymous said...


How do you know she isn't outside on a starry night looking up at the sky!

And the explosions bit is a deliberate, you know, self referential thingy.

Now stop exposing me. It's cold.

Megan Kerr said...

It did say he made her see stars. I suppose it is possible that the man has such a truncheon that he's actually causing her the sort of injury that does make one, quite literally, see stars. I was concussed once, and it was very much like a sharp bright explosion that I immediately forgot all about until I realised my head was bleeding and put two-and-two together. Along with the two-by-four that had caused the problem. But - err - I don't know if even a very - um - substantial young man could concuss her from that position...

Or possibly he just inspired her to change position and then she realised they were up there, twinkling merrily away, all along. The stars, that is.

Anonymous said...

She was blind. He's an eye doctor performing an experimental procedure.

Anonymous said...

And my men are always substantial - you know that.

Madeline Moore said...

One of my favourites from my own stuff is, 'Her orgasm tore through her like ripped silk.'

Great post Olivia, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm not chatty today, but that's real world stuff, not writing stuff. (today's the day we pay the bills, pay the bills...) so I'll simply say, I like it.

Portia Da Costa said...

Alison, I did a search for that tee shirt and found this one...

Vincent Copsey said...

Like Tilly I tend to write more male orgasms than female ones, which is probably why the two I provided for the post are from the male pov. Then again, maybe it's not a surprise considering I prefer writing about men.

Oh, and I thought you might like me to share some of Mr Madelynne's orgasm metaphors (cheeky monkey that he is.)

"He roared out his ecstasy like a combine harvester."


"His orgasm short-circuited through him like an electric heater tossed into a bathtub."


"He came with the searing ecstasy of a faulty pressure cooker."

Megan Kerr said...

You've got to get him to stop sticking his finger in the plug-socket during sex. It might give an almighty thrill but it's just not safe (she yelled from the whirling epicentre of her hurricane - and yeah yeah yeah no need to point out the epicentre is still, no-one likes a smart-arse, especially not other smart-arses...)

Jeremy Edwards said...

I think you're scientifically sound, Olivia—I read your hurricane's epicentre as being a miniature hurricane in and of itself, the epicentre of which is an even smaller and more intimate hurricane, ad infinitum (or at least until you're exhausted). Fractal sex, anyone?

Anonymous said...

But do you *literally* not like a 'smart arse'?

I think one of those could be fun.

Olivia Knight said...

I think that's a Bhuddist koan, Jeremy... like marmite.

A smart arse? Like, perhaps covered in pinstripes which when unzipped will reveal a neat pair of Calvin Klein's? I don't know - what's formal wear for buttocks?

Alison Tyler said...

What's formal wear for buttocks?

Does this count?


P.S. Love the t-shirt, Wendy!

Jeremy Edwards said...

Fractal buttocks, anyone?

Deanna said...

Loved the post but suffering from cold symptoms and a fuzzy head and can't think of any of the metaphors I've used for orgasms at this present moment in time.
Sorry I'm being so boring.

Unknown said...

Great post Olivia!

Damn..I can't think how I describe orgasm. I'll have to go and look at my books...

one thing I do try to do is make sure that the description of said orgasm relates to said character having it-ie a cowboy might think about um stampeding horses or something whereas a Regency Rake might be thinking in more luscious artistic terms.

ooh found one!
this is my Regency heroine who hasn't ever had an orgasm before and has a very scientific intellectual turn of mind.

"I don’t know exactly what happened. At one moment I felt like a parcel that has been tied up too tight, the next it was as if I’d exploded like a firework.”

very literal and very her.

and here's the hero:
"She climaxed unexpectedly against his fingers, her teeth biting into his lip until he tasted his own blood."
very simple but very visual which I think men tend to be.

Unknown said...

Thanks Alison! I laughed my ass off when I clicked your link. Now everyone at work thinks I'm bonkers (not that they didn't before.) And yes, I think that would be buttocks formal wear.


Alison Tyler said...

Hey, Dakota!

I'm having too much fun clicking around on this site, I swear!


Dayle A. Dermatis said...

I think I tend to spend more time describing the foreplay than the orgasm. It's all about the build-up, baby! But I know I've used a few metaphors--rolling ocean waves are popular.

As for orgasms throughout history, in the Middle Ages it was believed that a woman couldn't get pregnant unless she had an orgasm. So they were indeed encouraged!

Ally said...

This was a great post, just reading it was like having an orgasm, ok close enough.

Hmm fractal sex eh Jeremy.
I should type in Orgasm in to a fractal generator and see what cums up.

I seem to use plenty of metaphors in my writing, especially in my poetry. I am so descriptive. But going over some of my smutty poetry I was reminded of some of the delightful, funny ways I've described orgasms.

Some examples from some of my poetry...
(Gawd I need to publish this stuff.)

*As he spewed forth his fountain of pearly-swirly.*

*He drives-into-the-wild-blue-yonder full speed of head,
racing with his mind on fire like the hot tarmac.
Gearing up for the finish line, seeing it cuming,
and quickening the pace-of-the-race from fucking-her-face.
He blows his transmission and jerks spasmodically,
across the finish line winning with-a-heartbeat.
She slurps his slurpy-slurpy and says,
“oh the grapes of wrath is a wonderful vintage.”*

*rolls her over for a fuck facetoface,
and they stare into each others fuck me eyes full of lust.
Watching the desperate grimace of pleasure,
crossing their faces, that looks more like pain than joy,
they stare at each others surprise of the prize, panting with fury.*

*His peak was peaking as he listened to her screams,
of creamy dreamz not yet realized.
Gushing forth with a jerk as he jerked her,
bouncing about on the edge of the bed.
His head now swimming, drowning in the olympiad pool,
of woman and man juice.
Hearts pounding like hammers on the anvil,
surely death will take him he thought.*

*His dick hard, as his flint was napped by a master,
to be sure not to cut and slice her insides,
and he hammered again-again into her mandrel,
grinding away her granite,
making her squeal like a drill in hard stone.
They cum with the force of a rock-muncher,
eating away at a rockcandy-mountain.*

*This lust and desire you have to be all you can,
just for me, makes me quiver in your waters.
Let forth your shower of pearldrop rain,
and I won't stop until I lap at your waters edge.*

*Thrusting with the power of a Spartans spear she screams,
and creams her juices of tidal wave ferocity.
He lurches and cries out his battle cry of lust as he bust,
they collapse into a heap of mangled flesh, spent.*

OK I have 60 or more left, so I'll have to save those for another time.

Man I love cumming. Not coming.

Alison Tyler said...

Hi Ally,

I like Cumming, too.


Ally said...

OMG Alison,

That was such an awesome commercial. I love Alan Cumming and fantasizing about him cumming, oh and thinking about watching him kissing another man makes me wish I was cumming.

I wonder though what Cumming smells like? I am big on pheremones eh!


Alison Tyler said...

CUMMING is different on everyone, for like every great fragrance, it changes on your skin over time. The longer you wear it and the more you sweat, Cumming gets deeper and sexier.

Base notes of leather, peat fire, highland mud, burnt rubber and white truffle ground the scent with rugged sensuality, while the core notes of cigar, heather, Douglas fir and rubber contribute to its sharpness. The fragrance is completed with spicy top notes of bergamot, black pepper, Scotch pine and whiskey.

Megan Kerr said...

Not sure about the 'burnt rubber', 'rubber' and 'whiskey', but for the rest - mmm. I'll be nipping down to Culpeper's later for a bottle of essence of Highland Mud. (Or maybe I should swing by Scotland and distill a pot of it myself? If I'm lucky, there might even be a burly scotsman in it - that always adds to the fragrance...)

Janine Ashbless said...

Burly Scotsman!

Anonymous said...

Late to the party (and what a party! Madelynne, you've got to get that hubby of yours published!) but a great discussion!

My orgasm metaphors often focus on the striving, the reaching, the climbing the mountain and finally tumbling off the edge of the precipice. Orgasms are not always easy.

I do plead guilty to the occasional explosion or eruption. Not stars, though!

t'Sade said...

Now, I must write an orgasm like apple pie. How to make it work..

But, great post. I will admit, I've used all of them, including the death theme, in my writing. Everyone has to be different and everyone has to view how it works slightly differently.

Megan Kerr said...

The sweet succulence warmth of it overwhelmed her, filling her with deep and spicy heat - as the juicy flesh seared her, she cried out. For hours afterwards, they lay in a stupor, the room filled with a lazy sickly-sweet smell like softening apples.

(They didn't actually have sex, just apple pie. And she burnt her mouth on a bit.)

Jeremy Edwards said...

They didn't actually have sex, just apple pie.

In the eyes of at least one album cover artist, there's a certain overlap. [NSFW]

t'Sade said...

Oliva: Didn't mean for that to be a challenge :P, but I'm always willing to put my fingers where my mouth was... wait, that didn't... yeah, I'm comfortable saying that.

So, Apple Pie:

Gwen was having a terrible day. Her plans had her speaking in front of a large group of management, wowing them with her incredible knowledge of TCP/IP security and the proposal that would save them thousands. And prevent their networks from being broken into for the last year. But, life had a way of whacking you upside the head. In her case, it was from a nasty cold that left her hacking and gasping for breath. Instead of standing in front of her bosses and having them throw promotions, men, and computers at her, she was buried under fifteen blankets, sweating into the sheets and trying to decide if she could get any colder.

The door to the bedroom opened up and she looked through blurry eyes at her husband, Ronald, coming in with something that looked like food. She fought down the wave of nausea as he sat down next to her.

“You look terrible.”


The rest is at my site, it got a bit long but still a flash fiction (for me). Not sure if the mistresses here want me posting something like that.

Janine Ashbless said...

Yummy apple pie.

Anonymous said...

As he kept licking and fucking me with his tongue than sucking at my clit it was like I was lost in ecstacy and went fast to sleep!

Anonymous said...

Love the post, Olivia. I've always felt toe-curling to be a wonderful index of sexual pleasure. But then, it's because feet are sexy anyway.

Still one of the most beautiful human actions is the slow motion of athletes, particularly javelin-throwers, where you see movement starting at the big tow, rippling through the body, pivoting through the hips, up through the torso, along the arms and ending with a final push by the fingers.

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