Why Put Sex In Romance?
Sex in romance novels has always been a hot-button issue.
The arguments are fierce on both sides. Proponents use words like "prudish" and "old-fashioned" when talking about their Sweet and Inspirational Romance contemporaries. Opponents accuse steamy romance writers of putting out "mindless titillation" and "soft-core porn."
Can't we all just get along?
Recently I came across a very interesting comment on one of the Goodreads threads I follow. Since I'm not trying to call anyone out, I won't link to it directly. There's really no need, in any case, because it's something I've heard before.
Allow me to quote.
"Is a sex scene necessary to the story, or is the writer writing simply to titillate, merely "masturbating on paper" with the intent to arouse themselves as well as the reader? This is the very definition of pornography... Yes, most of us indulge in sex with a loved one, some indulge in sex with multiple partners, while other indulge in same sex relations. We all defecate, too, yet most of us don't write detailed descriptions of it."
Now, let me be the first to acknowledge: steamy sex scenes are not everyone's bottle of lube. There are a multitude of stories waiting to be told out there, and in a vast number of them, hot, kinky sex would be completely inappropriate. I understand that, and I accept that.
What I don't accept is the idea that every descriptive sex scene is merely "masturbating on paper." Some of the most poignant moments I've witnessed between characters have taken place in the bedroom. Sex opens people up, lays them bare, showcases their strengths and vulnerabilities in a way few other literary devices can match.
That's right. I just called sex a literary device.
And what's wrong with that? Many pieces we now regard as high literature started as the smut of their day. I'm not just referring to the obvious examples like Moll Flanders or Lady Chatterly's Lover. Have you ever read -really read- Romeo And Juliet? Naughty, naughty, Bill Shakespeare.
Sex shows us who we are, even as it drives us to push further, harder, faster. And while it need not be present in every romance all the time, to leave it out would be ignoring one of the most basic, elemental, and beautiful human experiences.
So I say, bring on the smut.
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