Now, that said, do I love the sex scenes? Hell, yes, I do! Done right, those scenes are absolutely smoking and full of emotion–yes, I said EMOTION. Sex scenes in a romance novel aren’t like reading the assembly instructions for furniture, for chrissakes! (Making sure there was an ample amount of lubrication, he lined up Bolt A with Hole B and inserted it completely until the Nuts at the other end were flush against the opening…)
The characters not only go through a myriad of physical sensations, but emotional ones as well: insecurity, fear, confidence, madness, frustration, elation, revelations, and so many more. And I’ve never read a sex scene that hasn’t altered—either for good or bad—the relationship in some way.
Let’s face it; a couple’s sexual relationship is a HUGE factor in their lives. You can be the Cleavers outside of the bedroom, but if you’re not compatible in the bedroom, you’ll soon turn into the Clintons. And, unless you’ve taken a vow of lifelong abstinence, EVERYONE has sex. So why pretend like it doesn’t happen? Why gloss over what happens between a couple sexually? There are certainly plenty of romances that are of a lighter variety and keep the heated moments “behind closed doors” so to speak. But I hate not knowing what happens in those moments. Was it hot and heavy? Slow and easy? Two minutes or two hours? Did one of them hold back or was it no holds barred?
I once read an interview with one of my all-time favorite authors, Gena Showalter. She told of an early experience she had at one of her book signings, where a woman walked up to the counter and commented with a look of disdain on her face that Gena’s books were those “trashy novels.” Gena’s great response was…
“What’s so trashy about love and monogamy?”
Indeed! Why are the books categorized as ROMANCE considered by a large majority of the public to be “trashy”? For that matter, why is pornographic material considered to be so taboo? Go into an adult book store (which, for the record, I’m not sure why the word “book” is in there, because I don’t believe I’ve ever actually seen any books in those stores) and the wide variety of items is insane. You can get something as innocently cheeky as penis- or boob-shaped pasta to things you didn’t even have the imagination to conjure up as possibilities in the bedroom. But does that mean that any of it is wrong and shameful? No. It means that there’s a variety of things out there no matter what might float your boat. As long as it’s involving consenting adults there shouldn’t be anything considered wrong with it.
The same goes for what we write or read in our romance novels. Whether the sex is missionary and sweet or upside-down and nasty, it’s a vital part of a relationship.
Look, I understand that “seeing” the sex in a romance book isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. As one of my good writing friends from New Zealand, Serenity Woods, says, “horses for courses,” which is the Kiwi saying for “to each their own.” Not everyone is comfortable with reading the smexy scenes, and for those people, there are thankfully tons of romances that are of the much sweeter, “closed door” variety.
But, to me, taking the sex out of a romance novel would be like taking half of the clues out of a mystery novel. Sure, at the end the mystery is solved, but you have no idea of how it all came together.
I’ll leave you with this one last thought. I recently finished acting as a CP for my dear friend, Ruthie Knox, for her latest book we affectionately refer to as Vegas Book. In it, the characters are best friends and madly in love with each other, but neither thinks the other feels anything more than friendship. In a crazy scenario they end up married for the term of one month and they quickly give in to a friends-with-benefits relationship. The sex they share is hot and needy and uninhibited, but always very physical as a way of preventing a slow love-making that would cause them to risk their hearts.
In the end, when the heroine has made up her mind that she needs to leave the man she secretly loves, she instigates a love-making like I’ve never read before. The turmoil, emotion, passion, and heartache combined with their physical actions of how they touch one another, hold their gazes, kiss, everything…it was the most poetically beautiful scene—not sex scene, but scene in general—I’ve ever read. The heroine’s heartache became mine as she expressed her love for him as well told him goodbye, all without words, as they made love for the first time.
If Ruthie had chosen to not show that scene, I wouldn’t have understood what drove the characters’ next actions. Or, at the very least, I definitely wouldn’t have related to them as deeply as I did. And if we can’t get our readers to relate to our characters on a bone-deep level and get them to root for the happy ending, then we’ve failed our readers and our characters.
And that, my friends, is why…
I will always prefer my romance books nice-n-steamy.