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Intimacy in books? How much is too much?

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I've been a bit open about my distaste in sex in books. I suppose it's due to not finding it much different than porn, especially when it's particularly graphic.

But I've been skimming through blogs posts over the weekend about the very subject, and am slowly changing my tune. However I still feel weird about it being described in great detail. I guess my question is how much is too much?

In almost all my reads current and past, girls have been virgins. The men they go for, extremely experienced. And there's always small or huge signs of slut shaming , especially in YA. And seeing other people's views, and I may sound a bit like I'm on a feminist agenda here, female sexuality appears almost secondary to a mans.

Young women deserve to see their own outlets where they are put first or are control of their sexuality. Virgins or not. It's almost as if women are written to have no experience to somehow seem more worthy to their love interests.

I've been quite ignorant in my thoughts in sex in books. I'll admit I'll still probably steer clear of books with great detail, but not just men enjoy and have sex. It almost seems as if books dictate how a woman should see herself if she hasn't waited until marriage, or that she shouldn't somehow take pride in her own sexuality.

Would love to hear thoughts.


message 2: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Rockefeller (laurelarockefeller) | 53 comments Guinevere wrote: "I've been a bit open about my distaste in sex in books. I suppose it's due to not finding it much different than porn, especially when it's particularly graphic.

But I've been skimming through blo..."


I've noticed the same trend which only gained steam (literally and figuratively) after that wreck of "50 shades of grey" gained so much commercial success.

I have the same distaste in books I read (maybe this is why I'm reading non-fiction lately?). So as I've written, I've been very careful to edit my books to ensure that the sex present (there's marriage and childbirth in both my books -- you know what had to happen in between) is as non graphic as possible. Is it there? Yes, most especially in the first two or three chapters of book two (Ghosts of the Past) -- but always using metaphors instead of detailed descriptions.

The sex in my books is never for the sake of sex. In those earlier chapters of Ghosts, I'm demonstrating that this Lord Knight Elendir is a flawed hero -- vulnerable to manipulation by two different women who use their sexuality to prevent Elendir from solving a murder.

I do this for realism. He's just come of age, barely an adult (in Earth human terms, about 19 years old). How many 19 year old men do you know who never think with their organs and can resist a determined seduction by a woman only too willing to use him (in this case, to divert his attention away from solving a politically-charge murder)?

This established, I do everything I can to avoid direct language so you know what happens without watching every second (or xiao-shir to Beinarians). Even in the rape scenes (historical fact: rape is a powerful tool for controlling and humiliating women), I take great care to avoid too much detail -- though I grant one such scene where a hero interrupts the rape to stop it -- ultimately by firing his crossbow when the rapist refuses to stop -- is a little more explicit.

We do have a moral responsibility to change the tone and the language in sex scenes. We need to stop throwing it in for the sake of sales and start being more responsible.

As for the remark about slut shaming -- I think this is genre/sub-genre dependent. My books are set in another galaxy (actually on the other side of M31 Andromeda galaxy) in a medieval culture where I've done a laudable amount of world building. There's no slut shaming and cannot be given it's such a completely different society. The "sluts" if you want to call them that are not sluts, but women who understand how to play sexual politics in feudal society to their advantage.

These women are not spreading their legs for the sake of it, but to attain political gain. Anne Boleyn's maternal grandfather, the Duke of Norfolk, and her father, Thomas Boleyn, put her in Henry VIII's path for exactly the same reason, not expecting Anne to use her intellect and education for her own purposes -- and not theirs.

So whether or not there is slut shaming does depend on context. I do agree that a lot of YA set in more or less contemporary settings engage in that way too much!


The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears (thefountainpendiva) | 115 comments Oh yeah! *waves fist high in the air*

As a proud feminist, this has been a bugbear of mine for ages. I'm especially noticing this trend of infantilizing or slut shaming heroines in the New Adult genre, another reason for me to stay away from it.

There seems, at least in my mind, a weird sort of sexism in romance in which women authors play into the very double standards they claim to abhor in real life.

Now, I have issues with erotic romance/erotica, chiefly that a sizeable portion of it reads like a dry instruction book from Ikea--Tab A fits into Slots B, C, or D *grin*. I have even more issues when authors delve into alternate sexualities such as BDSM. And do NOT get me started on female authors of M/M romance who commit FAIL by writing stereotyped female characters as men. I like the spicy stuff, but that's not all I want to read. Sometimes less is more. Not to mention, I already know how sex works physically. I want an author to give me emotions, sounds, sensations between the characters. I want the buildup, the foreplay (even with clothes). And in both cases, I want the heroine unashamedly in charge of what she wants. Even if she's a virgin, in contemporary life, there's really no possible way that she could be unaware of sexuality. Moreover, why not virginal heroes (OMG, one of my happy button categories)? Not every guy is sleeping with everything that moves, and the virginity aspect doesn't have to be tied to religion. It could just be nerves or simply a matter of not finding the right woman.


The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears (thefountainpendiva) | 115 comments One of my favourite regency romances is Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell. The heroine is indeed, a well-known and much sought after courtesan. Well, Ms. Campbell got an earful and then some from readers who just couldn't deal with a "fallen woman" gaining a happy ending. Now never mind the typical "rake" is totally swoonworthy and acceptable; courtesans did exist in history and some used their brains as well as bodies to hold the reins of power--the French courts of the late sixteenth and seventeeth centuries were notorious for that.


message 5: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Rockefeller (laurelarockefeller) | 53 comments TheFountainPenDiva wrote: "One of my favourite regency romances is Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell. The heroine is indeed, a well-known and much sought after courtesan. Well, Ms. Campbell got an earful and then some ..."

One of my favorite heroines in scifi is Inara Serra in Firefly -- a courtesan!


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

I think that exploring sexuality for both young women and women of age while being tasteful gives an outlet for women to embrace that it's okay to be sexual.

Lots of things are so geared towards a mans sexuality, it's fully embraced for a man to talk about sex, to explore his sexuality(this is of course mostly heterosexual cis men) and to not be ashamed of it.

I'd like to see this more explored in YA books especially with young women and homosexual men.


message 7: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Rockefeller (laurelarockefeller) | 53 comments Libertad wrote: "I think that exploring sexuality for both young women and women of age while being tasteful gives an outlet for women to embrace that it's okay to be sexual.

Lots of things are so geared towards a..."


Tasteful I think is key. Too many of what is out there resorts to lewdness. Sex is not lewd; it's natural. What makes some sex lewd is when we ignore the inalienable dignity and equality of both males and females and use sex to diminuate or humiliate one side or another. Pop culture does this way too much of late, describing women of all ages as indiscriminate animals who will have sex with just anyone.

I am not that way and I am sure the overwhelming majority of the ladies here (regardless of age or religion) is not either.


What is truly transforming is when we move from casual sex to respectful and tender lovemaking between partners pursuing a relationship. This of course does not have to be within the confines of a formal marriage, but it does involve companionship and a genuine sharing of each other's lives. It involves connection beyond the literal physical connection of intercourse.

In a disconnected world, we really do need to see more books where love and companionship are the foundation upon which any sexual relationship is rooted.


The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears (thefountainpendiva) | 115 comments Hmm. One person's "tasteful" is another person's "lewd", so for me I try to stay away from subjective terms when it comes to sexuality. For instance, where does one draw the line between sensual and erotic? I think it depends on the individual. Some books I personally find sensual have been considered erotic by my fellow readers.

Anyhoo...

Since Laurel made passing mention of that horrible Fifty Shades of Grey, allow me for a moment to vent as to why this novel, and its subsequent billionaire porn copycats are a huge part of the problem with sex in romance. First, the heroine. It's quite ironic to me that the women writing these clueless and nubile "heroines" are middle-aged and older, so why are they pandering to the cult of ageism with these types of characters? But really, if they're writing these contemporary young women, why are they falling back on outdated notions of sexuality? Most young women know what their bodies do or have had some sort of physical interaction with the opposite sex or, as I've discovered over the past few years, with the same sex. And yet, contemporary romances seem hell bent on maintaining a patriarchal status quo. That "good girls" deserve true love, while "sluts" get their comeuppance. Second, there has been a very disturbing trend towards "heroes" who just barely skirt the line between overbearing and abusive, and in my mind, Christian Grey and his cabal of billionaire porn "heroes" are more abusive than heroic. They use their money, mental games and physical strength to bully the heroine into doing things she wouldn't be comfortable doing normally--and it's all "for her own good" of course. And because "he loves her so damn much" that he just has to have her. Outside of the unequal power dynamic of course. And what excuses this kind of reprehensible behaviour? Oh, he was abused, mistreated, etc. which makes it "understandable" *pardon me while I hurl*.

Seriously, I am almost to the point where I am done with the entire romance genre. Again. I'd hoped that the new generation of writers, most of whom are my age and children of the feminist movement, would toss the old, hidebound tropes out the window. I was hoping for more sexually liberated heroines, those who knew the difference between a casual boy toy and the real deal, and had no guilt about either. I was hoping for sexy, powerful men paired with sexy, powerful women. I was hoping to see more women with less than perfect Hollywood bodies (and guys too). More humor. And who knows, it may yet happen.


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