Poor Vanilla Sex. How Did It Come to This?

Poor Vanilla Sex. How Did It Come to This?

For whatever reason, some words in the English language wind up becoming the subject of serial abuse. The word “dark” for example, forever stuck with a bevy of negative connotations, despite being an entirely necessary condition for Calico to get any sort of sleep at all.

Other examples of this form of ‘verbal abuse’ comes in the form of attaching prefixes to real, existing words and attempting to introduce some bit of new nonsense into the world by sheer willpower and repeated usage of made-up gibberish. (The oft-uttered, but nonexistent “irregardless” comes to mind.)

None of this should matter to Calico, who’s certainly not above making up new words herself, no stranger to grammatical flubs and, quite frankly, more than a bit of a hack.

Still, it’s the Internet Age, when even artless hacks get to obsess, complain, gripe and several other synonyms they’re feeling too lazy to type out right now. And so, in keeping with her solemn duty to find at least a couple things about which to complain every week, Calico presents to you her latest post: “Poor Vanilla. How Did It Come to This?”

– Calico Rudasill, Sssh.com Porn Movies For Women and Couples

Why She Likes Vanilla Sex


A recent “BedPost” article offers readers “Tips to Get Over Vanilla Sex.”

You might think I’m about to mock those tips, even if I agree with them, simply because mocking is one of the only things at which I consistently demonstrate at least a minimal degree of competence. It would be easy for me to go down the mockery route, too, because the tips offered – try different positions, bring sex toys into the mix, try a little food-play, etc. – are so well-worn that I find myself wondering what sort of person who’s seeking sex tips hasn’t heard all those before, unless this is literally their first foray out into the world of online sex tips.

But today, the stick in my craw (hey – there’s another sex tip: try putting a stick in your craw!) isn’t the sex tips. If you’re a reader familiar with my list of pet peeves (which is, admittedly, a rather long list of which it’s hard to keep track), then you know my problem is the use of “vanilla” as a metaphor for plain, bland and/or unsatisfying – because vanilla is none of these things.

What Does the Historical Record Show?

Rather than simply complain about the way people metaphorically abuse vanilla, which I’ve probably done a dozen times already in my time as a blogger, this time I decided to dive down a rabbit hole that I can’t believe I haven’t delved into before: The question of how, when and why people came to use “vanilla” as a adjective meaning plain, featureless and lacking in flavor.

As with so many things with their roots more than 25 years in the past, the when part of the answer changes as the ‘investigation’ sprawls and more/different sources are found – something I discovered by scrolling through this fascinating thread on StackExchange.

The etymology sleuths contributing to that thread found examples of “vanilla” being used in a political context (a “plain vanilla foreign policy for Republicans”) in the 1940s, an example from an 1887 Fort Worth Daily Gazette article with the “implication of simplicity and purity made explicit” and – perhaps unsurprisingly – in a blurb about “sauces for ice cream” from the 1920s.

Why Does This Vanilla Persist?

None of the above addresses the why question, of course – which is the one that bugs me the most. And yes, it’s a silly thing to obsess about, but when have I ever suggested I’m not silly, petty and hung-up on dumb stuff? Accuse me of any of those things and I’ll respond “Guilty, as charged” – unless you’re my husband, in which case I’m more likely to respond: “That’s quite enough out of you, buddy.”

In my defense, I’m not the only person bothered by this verbal mistreatment of vanilla – nor am I the only one who understands it wasn’t always this way. As Amanda Fortini pointed out way back in 2005 for Slate, “for centuries vanilla was considered exotic, luxurious, and rare.”

“In the 16th century, Hernando Cortes brought vanilla beans from Mexico to Europe, and they became one of the Spanish empire’s most profitable commodities,” Fortini noted. “Vanilla soon caught on among the European elite; Queen Elizabeth, an inveterate sugar addict, indulged daily in vanilla-infused pastries prepared by her chef.”

(Side Note: For a moment there, I thought Fortini was suggesting Queen Elizabeth had no spine, but then realized that would make Elizabeth an invertebrate sugar addict, which is a whole different problem for a queen than having a sweet tooth.)

Either Way… Viva Vanilla!

Fortini’s goes on to offer some theories of its own about how vanilla came to be synonymous with bland, but as you’ll see, the StackExchange discussion offers examples of such usage that predate the causes offered by Fortini – so it seems the habit, at least in some quarters, goes back further than we appreciated back in 2005.

I may never have my curiosity on this question satisfied – but that doesn’t mean I can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t push back on the continuing verbal/metaphorical abuse of vanilla, whether the context be sex, food, or anything else.

In closing her 2005 piece, Fortini put it quite nicely:

“Because vanilla rarely owns the spotlight, we’ve come to think of it as the wallflower of flavors, retiring and easily overlooked. Of course, like many wallflowers, vanilla has a lot going for it. It’s at once simple but sophisticated, familiar yet mysterious—and not at all bland.”

Amen, Amanda. Amen.


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