When it Comes to Sex, What We Need is a New Adjective

When it Comes to Sex, What We Need is a New Adjective.

While she tries to remain calm and not to get too caught up in her pet peeves, Calico isn’t made of stone. Certain things just bring out the nitpicker in her — things like people misusing the phrase “begs the question”, or saying “I could care less” when what they mean is that they couldn’t care less, or uttering that always cringeworthy non-word, “irregardless.”

Today, Calico is up on a soapbox (wait, should that be two words?) about one of those uncontrollable pet peeves of hers, a bit of verbal and rhetorical injustice that is constantly done to one of of her favorite substances.

How did this beloved-by-Calico stuff become so widely maligned? How can people possibly justify using it as a synonym for dull, bland and featureless? Do they really not know how rich and complex a substance it is? Why do potatoes get a pass on being bland? Most importantly, what substance are we talking about here?

Get the scoop — or possibly two scoops, since this stuff makes for a terrific ice cream flavor — in Calico’s latest post: “What We Need is a New Adjective.”

– Calico Rudasill, Sssh.com Adjective defying porn movies!  Click here.

sex adjective vanilla

Read on…

As you know if you’ve read much of my past work, I’m a woman with a long list of pet peeves – most of them irrational, silly, nitpicky, or just plain dumb. But today, I’m going to rant a bit about a pet peeve of mine that I believe to be perfectly valid, at least somewhat consequential and entirely justified.

I’m speaking the way people use the word “vanilla”  as an adjective to mean plain, ordinary and/or conventional. It’s a deeply entrenched practice – so deeply entrenched, I’m pretty sure I’ve done it myself, even though I know very well that there’s nothing ‘vanilla’ about vanilla.

In a Fair World, “Vanilla Sex” Would Mean Pleasant, Rich, Great Sex

First, let me briefly explain what got me started on this rant, which is a recent letter to Slate’s “How to Do It” columnists.

“Has the definition of ‘vanilla sex’ expanded over time or has it remained constant?” the letter writer, one “Dubitando Ad Veritatem Parvenimus”, asks. “Are there things that were not ‘vanilla’ in the early ’90s (when I started having sex) that are deemed ‘vanilla’ now?”

Given that everybody uses vanilla to mean “bland,” I take no issue with the letter writer, or with Stoya and Rich’s responses, which are very well-informed, interesting and well worth reading. 

My issue is strictly with the fact that vanilla – lovely, exotic, wonderful, tasty vanilla – has been adopted as a synonym for bland in the first place.

Fact: Bland Crap Generally Doesn’t Sell for $180 a Pound

If you think vanilla is a good synonym for bland or flavorless, consider this: Vanilla is actually a very complex flavor, one that is comprised by somewhere between “250 and 500 distinct organic compounds,” as this post from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes – adding that “Whoever uses the term vanilla as a euphemism for ordinary is seriously misinformed.”

Second, if vanilla is so bland, how the hell did it become so popular? And why are vendors able to sell some varieties of vanilla for over $180 a pound?

Speaking of Slate, an older post on the site observes that for centuries, “vanilla” decidedly did NOT connote blandness. 

“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,” notes Amanda Fortini. “Vanilla soon caught on among the European elite; Queen Elizabeth, an inveterate sugar addict, indulged daily in vanilla-infused pastries prepared by her chef.”

Unlike Dull Sex, Vanilla Isn’t Everywhere

Another thing to understand about vanilla is that you can’t just grow the stuff anywhere you’d like. I don’t doubt using modern technology and techniques, growing hothouse vanilla may be a possibility, if you want to grow it the old-fashioned way, you need to choose a spot that’s within 10-20 degrees of the equator. Most of it is grown in Madagascar, Tahiti and Mexico – and while that last destination might not strike you as “exotic,” Tahiti and Madagascar seem like they easily qualify for that description.

In short, vanilla is a complex flavor, an expensive product and something that doesn’t grow on… hmm. Well, OK, I guess it does grow on trees, obviously, but those trees can’t be grown just anywhere, that’s my point.

How About “Oat Sex” or “Tofu Sex” or Perhaps “Plain Potato”?

To bring this back around to where I started – the question of which sex acts are defined as “vanilla” – I think that conversation should be had, but only after we’ve come up with a term to replace poor, disrespected, maligned and misunderstood vanilla.

To be fair, many of the options for replacement terms that immediately come to mind don’t really work, either. I mean, potatoes are bland, but the phrase “potato sex” suggests tubers being inserted in places where tubers arguably shouldn’t be inserted. “Milk sex”? That might make people think of lactation videos, something which probably falls outside what most people would currently describe as “vanilla” sexual behavior.

OK, so I don’t have a great replacement for vanilla at the ready – but that doesn’t mean we should just continue to rhetorically mistreat vanilla out of laziness. How about in the interim, until we can agree upon a good replacement, we just call stuff “bland” when we mean that it’s bland?

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