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Rants / Debates (Serious) > Is It Right To Term Sex Romance

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message 1: by Sandy (new)

Sandy Hyatt-James (sandyhyatt-james) As a writer of romance myself, this question has been vexing me for some time.
I don't have any problem with a sex scene in a romantic novel. In fact, both of my books have them, because sex is part of life.
However, I do have a problem when what I term as "verbal porn" is classed as romance. To me there's nothing erotic about reading, "He could see the shape of her c--- through her tight shorts, when she....bla bla bla.
It's all over for me when I read stuff like that. Can't people be aroused by writing that leads readers to use their imaginations any more?
I'd be interested in what fellow Goodreaders think.


message 2: by RandomAnthony (new)

RandomAnthony | 14536 comments Hm. I think there's a difference between porn and romance, of course, but as I'm not too familiar with either genre I don't feel qualified to respond much. But if romance potentially leads to sex, presumably, not mentioning sex at all in romance novels would seem weird. How you address sex is up to you experts:)


message 3: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca White (rebecca_white) | 1028 comments My opinion is that romance is in how the characters feel about each other. Is it a friendly little screw, or is it making love? Of course, with real people, it can be everything between and be ever changing.

But it's interesting you say this because one of the things that makes me roll my eyes about romances is that it's so full of (often painfully strained) euphemisms. It's too vague to be even remotely arousing. I figured that was the point!


message 4: by Sandy (new)

Sandy Hyatt-James (sandyhyatt-james) Hi, Rebecca

While agreeing that euphemisms are irritating, (sometimes called Purple Prose) I would class this phenomenon as the exact opposite of what I'm getting at.
The fictional Romance genre today is so often blatantly sexual - using words that most people wouldn't consider crass in ordinary conversation. My point is that the use of such denigrates the sexual act and the fictional characters involved, even with a strong back-story.
Let's take a "for instance", when Rhett Butler carries Scarlett up the stairs in Gone With the Wind, that is all we, we the readers, or viewers who saw the film got. To my mind that scene was excruciatingly romantic. Had Margaret Mitchell taken us into the bedroom and showed us what happened, using words such as he licked her c--- and then f---ed her up against the wall. She then got down and sucking his c---, would it not have been as arousing as a plate of cold porridge? This sort of language is what many, so called Romantic stories, contain today.
Or maybe I'm just too old fashioned?


message 5: by Mona (new)

Mona Garg (k1721m) | 350 comments No, Sandy, you're not too old fashioned. Some things should be left to the reader's or watcher's imagination.


message 6: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca White (rebecca_white) | 1028 comments Well, it's mostly just a matter of taste, isn't it? It probably wouldn't have worked to give too much detail in the GWTW scene, but that's not the kind of book it was. Still, it's kind of funny, because I never saw that as romantic - I always saw that as another aspect of their twisted relationship, his "taking her" drunkenly and aggressively. Whatever happened up there, it doesn't seem to have involved a lot of tenderness. He's still cold the next day, but she, of course,loved it... Not healthy in my book.

But I do like sex scenes done well. A good writer can do it, but it's rarely going to JUST be about the sex. For me, it has to be completely honest - there will be psychological and emotional aspects as well. What are we doing? Why do we like this? What are we gaining and what are we risking? I'm one of those people who is completely fascinated by how sex influences us, and I love a novel which explores that. And in those cases, I find the detail the only honest way to deal with it.


message 7: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca White (rebecca_white) | 1028 comments Yes, how to make it intimate, that's a big question. Erotica, like what was written by Anais Nin or Anne Rice in her pre-horror days gets boring pretty quickly because that's all it is - sex. So I think I would disagree that the rest of the plot necessarily becomes irrelevant. It clearly steps up the game - there has to be a lot of weight in order to balance it, perhaps.

But cliche is a problem, because basically there are only so many things a couple can do, and in a romance, which is, I think it's safe to say, a fairly conservative genre, it's going to stay pretty vanilla. And then there's the fantasy element - romances are about fantasy relationships and it's hard to make sex transcendent if you get too earthy.


Stacia (the 2010 club) (stacia_r) The romance genre could stand to have a bit of an overhaul in general. I find it almost impossible to read contemporary romances anymore because the stories seem very cookie cutter and bland without the sex in them. However, if the only thing appealing about the book is the sex, then why not just go straight for the romantica/erotica?

My poor mom pretty much only reads inspirational romances now because she doesn't want all the sex, but can't seem to find books without it other than those that are inspirational, which I find sad. It shouldn't be any harder to find clean romances than it is to find ones loaded with sex. I can't stand inspirationals myself because they're even more boring than the contemporaries. It's not the spiritual message that bothers me at all - it's the bland storyline. The only books of my mom's that I can read are her Amish ones and that's more because the culture fascinates me.

People might find me silly for reading so much paranormal or urban fantasy, but I find the storylines to be a bit more exciting and a little less stale than the contemporary versions. Even historicals don't do it for me as much anymore unless the story is brilliant. The last historical romance that I read was one of Gabaldon's Outlander series, but her books are just as much historical as they are romance. She takes you back into a part of the world we just don't get to see anymore (all 1,000 pages of it...).


message 9: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca White (rebecca_white) | 1028 comments Idefinitely agree that a lot of what's out there presented as sex is really just a sort of posturing.

My grandfather really liked westerns, and he mostly quit reading them because they started having sex,so that's kind of liking only the inspirational romances.

I wonder what romance publishers tell their writers about how much sex they want? They definitely want you to stay within a formula, so I wonder what the formula for that is? I'm sure somebody can tell me!


Stacia (the 2010 club) (stacia_r) Oh and as an addition to my post :

I don't have a problem with sex in the books. It just bothers me that books seem to have an all or nothing mentality, when there are different levels of what people want in their reading material. Because of this, there should be more variety in what's out there to choose from.

It wouldn't hurt either for romance books to have some sort of tag line/rating indicating the book is mild, medium or wild...


message 11: by Mona (new)

Mona Garg (k1721m) | 350 comments Stacia (5,000 edits) wrote: "The romance genre could stand to have a bit of an overhaul in general. I find it almost impossible to read contemporary romances anymore because the stories seem very cookie cutter and bland witho..."

Stacia, the Amish culture fascinates me too. I enjoy reading books and watching movies/TV shows depicting that lifestyle. I enjoyed the movie, Saving Sarah Cain. Also, I am looking forward to watching The Devil's Playgound,a documentary about the Amish tradition of Rumspringa. Finally, I have a book from the library,Sworn to Silence that is set in Amish country that I'm looking forward to. I believe

Beverly Lewis writes books in that genre. I need to check those out too.

Sorry for derailing the thread.

Back on track: I like your idea about a romance book rating system.


message 12: by Lobstergirl, el principe (new)

Lobstergirl | 24154 comments Mod
I've gotten to the point where I regret that a lot of books do contain sex scenes, because they're just not pleasurable. They're cringy. Like Bun said, it is very hard to write a good sex scene. How many different ways can it be written?

I don't read the romance genre, but I did out of curiosity flip through one of those novels that continues Pride and Prejudice - after the wedding. The two virgins explore each other's bodies, gasping, gawking at newly discovered expanses of pristine white flesh, etc. This went on for pages and pages - it was grotesque. If you're a fan of Jane Austen, how can you tolerate this shit? The romance in Austen's P&P was tied up in sidelong glances and angry retorts. It's the refusal, the stymied expectations, the pent up lust with no outlet, not the submission, that provides pleasure for the reader.


message 13: by Sandy (last edited Aug 17, 2010 12:53AM) (new)

Sandy Hyatt-James (sandyhyatt-james) Absolutely, Lobstergirl, its the tension that's far more interesting to the reader rather than the blow by blow account of the sexual act. Mr Darcy's character is one of the templates used by many romance authors when creating their hero. I don't think this would be the case if Jane Austin were to have used base language when describing his lust for Elizabeth.
Having said that, I don't think there's anything wrong in today's romantic novels containing some sex, but only if it's written in a non-offensive way. The trouble is, it isn't easy to write any love scene without making a pig's ear of it. Many authors do just that by either over-embellishing or simpering through the whole thing.


message 14: by Stacia (the 2010 club) (last edited Aug 17, 2010 01:32AM) (new)

Stacia (the 2010 club) (stacia_r) What's funny is that so many romance authors write terms the average person doesn't even care for.

There is a thread on the Amazon forums about what romance readers hate when it comes to terminology in romance novels.
http://www.amazon.com/tag/romance/for...
It's quite an amusing read. Some of the terms that people found in books were unreal.


message 15: by Sandy (new)

Sandy Hyatt-James (sandyhyatt-james) Thanks for the link, Stacia. I've haven't laughed so much in a long time!


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