It’s no secret that most romance novels have fully described sex scenes. From the relatively tame (kissing, light petting) to the wildly exotic (ménage, BDSM), romance is redefining what the whole world is reading right now. FIFTY SHADES OF GREY catapulted romance into the same global stratosphere that Harry Potter occupies for YA.
Why? Because it’s explicitly, unabashedly sexy.
Bitches, we’ve arrived.
And I say it’s high time. In this age of #MeToo and #TimesUp, women are saying no to sexual harassment, but not to sex. Romance is a celebration of sex. It’s not the rote mechanical rutting of men’s fiction (ever read a sex scene in a western? No, thanks.) The way women describe sex is completely different. More evolved. Hotter.
And the reason sex in romance novels works so beautifully is because it’s a natural consequence of emotion.
No sex, not even in the raunchiest erotic romance, is impersonal. It’s all personal. That’s the key element that most male writers miss, the ingredient that makes sex in romance so delicious. These aren’t two bodies colliding; they’re two people who are expressing their feelings for each other in an intensely physical way. There is a difference, but it’s a difference that people who don’t read romance often ignore.
What’s sad is that in real life, the desire of men is rarely personal. It’s (mostly) an “any hole with do” proposition. Women hate that.
But in romance, impersonal is never the case. These men are special not just because they look great with their shirts off. They’re special because their desire for the heroine is for her alone. It’s because of who she is, not just what she looks like. It’s because she drinks her coffee black, wears knee socks with little cupcakes on them, bites her nails, reads Cosmo.
He loves the way her hair curls on her neck when it’s damp. He loves her goofy laugh, the tone-deaf singing in the shower. He loves her. This is exactly why the sex is so hot—not the positions, the place or the pulsating organs.
There’s another reason why romance scratches so many itches, and it has to do with the ultimate female fantasy.
Do you know what that is?
Despite claims to the contrary, the ultimate female fantasy isn’t rape. Rape is gross and non-consensual and the opposite of sexy.
It’s the idea of being ravished.
Ravished goes back to what I said about the sex being personal. Ravished means the hero will do anything in order to be with the heroine. He has to touch her, taste her, inhabit her—or risk losing what’s left of his mind. Whatever gets in his way, he will destroy. She is the one who will fulfill him. She is the woman he wants.
Now that’s sexy.
This is why sex in romance is never pornographic, no matter how graphic it gets. This is why women love to read romance, even when high-definition porn images are one click away. When you read, the work of imagining what’s going on isn’t done for you. Instead, you’re the director. The video projector is whirring away inside your own head.
Romance is love writ large. It’s in emotional 3-D.
Even if the heroine is tied to a bed and spanked until she’s pink, she and she alone is the recipient of all of the hero’s hot attention. Besides, BDSM isn’t about pain; it’s about trust. The heroine has to trust her lover to push her close to the edge, but not over. FIFTY SHADES, anyone?
In the best sense possible, trusting the outcome is exactly what romance books do. You can depend on romance novels to shake things up for the hero and the heroine. In the end, you always get your O and your happily ever after.
Romance isn’t just an escape. In the hands of the wise, romance also shows us how to be.
Read it proudly, ladies.
Award-winning author Stacey Keith doesn’t own a television, but reads compulsively—and would, in fact, go stark raving mad without books, most of which are crammed into every corner of the house. She lives with her jazz musician boyfriend in Civita Castellana, a medieval village in Italy that sits atop a cliff, and she spends her days writing in a nearby abandoned 12th century church. But the two things she is most proud of are her ability to cook pasta alla matriciana without burning down the kitchen and swearing volubly in Italian with all the appropriate hand gestures.