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Raising the Sexual Acts Stakes (Part review, part rant)

CoverThere I was, sitting at my computer, reading a review copy of Pepper Espinoza‘s gay male triad novella from Samhain, Falling in Controlled Circumstances. I’m feeling pretty nifty that I’m reading a review copy-’like, OMG, people are actually giving me free books in the hopes that I’d write something nice about it. And I’ve got that warm, flippy, rolling feeling in my stomach because the romance is THAT good, the characters that well-written, their story that heart-warming. I’ve got the beginnings of a multiple review post started in my head: I was going to suggest that the answer to the question that’s been bopping around Romancelandia in the last few weeks about “Where have all the good contemporaries gone?” was that they’ve all migrated to gay male romance e-books. After all, you’ve got Madelaine Urban and Abigail Roux’s Caught Running and Love Ahead, and Jules Jones’ Lord and Master series, and you’ve got this book, all fabulous, gentle, emotional, just plain GOOD romances. They’re not trying to be clever-’they’re just trying to tell a love story. They’re not trying to make a statement-’they’re just trying (and succeeding, of course) to show two (or three) people falling in love. No external conflict. No serial killers or spies or murders or blackmail or faeries or demons or undiscovered worlds with alien sexual cultures. Just two (or three) people, who all happen to be men, falling in love, learning a little about themselves, overcoming internal obstacles, and ending up happier together than they would have been apart. No worlds are saved, except if we all lived like this, perhaps the world would be saved. Fabulous.

Anyway, I was feeling all warm and fuzzy and pleased with myself and my cleverness and the writing ability of these fabulous authors, when I was completely blindsided and derailed (to completely mix my metaphors and split my infinitives) by this:

“Have you ever been fucked by two cocks at the same time?” Jim asked without lifting his head.

“You don’t mean sucking one of those cocks, right?”

“Right.”

Gregory [sic] throat tightened. He had occasionally thought about how it would feel to be double penetrated, but he never thought to ask, and he never believed either Phillip or Jim would suggest it. The thought of feeling both men at the same time, in the same way, made his knees feel watery.

“No, I’ve never done that.”

“Do you want to?”

Gregory hesitated and looked over his shoulder. Phillip didn’t even blink. “He does.” (85-86)

Wha? Okay, let’s try that again-no, it really said what I thought it said. No. Really.

My mind just stopped. Like, totally stopped while I tried to contemplate that.

The thing is, I know a little something about anal sex. The anus is actually a very versatile orifice and, given enough time, can be stretched considerably. So, technically, yes, double anal penetration is possible (and after doing some research-’the Internet’s for porn (funny video), after all-’I saw the pictures to prove it!). If done right, I imagine it can feel incredible, just as anal fisting apparently does. But fisting-’and DAP, I imagine-’is also hellava difficult: it takes a LOT of lube, a LOT of patience, a LOT of time, and a LOT of relaxation. So a casual, “Hey, lovers, how about some incredibly difficult, potentially dangerous double anal penetration tonight?” answered with a “Sure! Sounds like fun!” and a quick and easy performance of said act (“whoops, that slipped in right easy!”) really just stopped me in my tracks and completely yanked me out of the story.

When I mourned my descent from happy suspension of disbelief with SB Sarah, she reminded me, “on one hand the clinical details might be a turn off, but on the other hand, showing the actual care involved in completing such an act might demonstrate a lot about the characters, their motivations, and their caring toward the individual getting the action.” And I’m sure that might have been what Espinoza was trying to go for. DAP would be the ultimate act of sharing for the two sexual tops in the story, after all, and showing the care and patience that would need to go into doing it WOULD tell the reader about the characters and their relationship. But that’s not what happened. The story made DAP seem just as easy as all the other more “normal” things the men had already done as a threesome, so there was no special care, no indication that it was potentially dangerous, no indication that it might not work. The story brought in DAP completely unnecessarily, just because it’s something new and different (“Ooh, look! Shiny!”), rather than because it was necessary to the emotional arc of the story.

Let’s get this straight: I am the last person in the world to begrudge anyone any form of expression of their own sexuality. As long as it’s between consenting human adults, I really really don’t care what anyone might want to do. I’ve done, seen, or heard of some pretty strange sexual practices. I’m very close friends with some people who do some really whacked out things. But if it makes them happy and if everyone is practicing their version of “Safe, Sane, and Consensual” (sanity is relative, after all), go right ahead. It might not float my boat, it might not be something I even understand (and I have a long list), but I have no right to tell anyone that they’re wrong, that my sexuality is “better” or more “normal” than theirs (normal? HA!).

But that doesn’t mean I want to read about it purely for the shock value of escalating what I’m going to call the Sexual Acts Stakes at the expense of the believability of the romance. (Wendy calls it “oneupmanship” in Katiebabs’ post about this recently.) This story did not need the belabored symbolism of DAP as super-commitment between the men for the romance to be believable; it was completely unnecessary to the climax (harhar) of this story. This was a gentle, relaxing, emotionally heartwarming story about three men finding a way to make a triad relationship work. It had no suspense except the best type of emotional suspense. While it was obvious they were going to make it-’in fact, this scene was their make-up sex at the end of the book-’I still totally felt the warm fuzzies of a good, solid romance. The sex was hot, but not intense-’nothing to indicate that DING!DING!DING! here comes the sexually ground-breaking scene of something strange and peculiar that very few people ever do! If the story had been all about edgy, strange sex I would have been more prepared and could have accepted it as a necessary part of the narrative and the character arcs, as something other than gratuitous Sexual Act Stakes raising. But this story was pure romance: a very well-written, well-told, well-constructed, successful (according to my gushy insides) romance. That is, the sex wasn’t the point, wasn’t the focus of the narrative. It was a bonus-’a very nice bonus, mind, but purely a bonus-’to the emotional core of the story. And yet, Espinoza felt the need to raise the Sexual Acts Stakes and have a completely implausible double anal penetration scene, pretty much ruining the entire rest of the book for me. As SB Sarah says in her inimitable way, “So when an author ups the ante by going up an ante in a whole new and utterly unrealistic manner (two dicks, one hole? no problem!), it causes me as a reader to question the reality of the rest of the story. I actually start to feel bad for the character that they got sent on a mission to Uranus when they were perfectly happy on earth.”

Why can’t romance just be about romance? That’s where the magic is, after all. That’s why we keep reading, for the magic of that connection between characters. If the focus of the book is sexual exploration as well as (and sometimes, unfortunately, instead of) the emotional relationship, then the denouement of the story should rightly be more and different and unusual sexual exploration-’boldly going, and all that. But if the focus of the book is the relationship(s), then surely the denouement can be about emotional connection during “normal” sex (or whatever passes for normal in a triad). Raising the Sexual Acts Stakes, in my opinion, detracts from that emotional connection between the characters and between the characters and the reader in ways detrimental to enjoyment of the book. If Espinoza was trying to make the book better or more exciting or more interesting, she failed, because she forgot that she was, fundamentally, writing a romance.

~Joan/SarahF

Sarah F. is a literary critic, a college professor, and an avid reader of romance -- and is thrilled that these are no longer mutually exclusive. Her academic specialization is Romantic-era British women novelists, especially Jane Austen, but she is contributing to the exciting re-visioning of academic criticism of popular romance fiction. Sarah is a contributor to the academic blog about romance, Teach Me Tonight, the winner of the 2008-2009 RWA Academic Research Grant, and the founder and President of the International Association of the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR). Sarah mainly reviews BDSM romance and gay male romance and hopes to be able to beat her TBR pile into submission when she has time to think. Sarah teaches at Fayetteville State University, NC.

55 Comments

  1. Jessica
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 15:14:05

    I wonder if the root problem here is not primarily the implausible sex, but the out of character behavior, which happens to be sexual in this case. For instance, if the character had suddenly broken into song, that would have been the same problem (I think?), from a literary criticism point of view.

    You suggest this type of “out of character sexual behavior” is especially common in romance. Is it perhaps because of the pressure on authors to produce more and more explicit work? In erotica/romantica, maybe it shows up as a the need to play “one upsmanship”, to push the sexual envelope, but in Regencies, it shows up as the virgin never-been-kissed heroine having multiple orgasms and giving a porno worthy BJ to the hero her first time up.

    In my drive to abstraction and categorization, I may be missing the point, however, so feel free to correct me!

  2. Anonymousie
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 15:33:49

    I feel exactly the same way. Especially after hearing agents and editors, including my own wonderful agent, say “push the envelope” about a million times. In the thriller realm, it’s DARK, DARK, DARK. In the romance realm it’s EROTIC, EROTIC, EROTIC. As a reader, it makes me crazy. As a writer, it frustrates me. I realize this is symptomatic of society at large–bigger, better, faster, more–but it doesn’t make me happy.

  3. Teddypig
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 15:38:33

    I wish writers could approach this stuff more carefully.
    I notice they will go all out trying to describe more and more elaborate gymnastics. And failing to make it believable or have it there to enhance the dang romance we were reading before being so rudely interrupted.

    Now any of these same gymnastics can be done using the female equivalent parts with ALL the same issues so I still come away from reading these scenes wondering why they would think they would be so easy to do that anyone can do them and do them well in five minutes or less.

    But I think what I hear you saying is the scenes do not enhance the romance at all. On that note we agree there is adding spice and then there is dumping the whole jar of pepper into the soup.

    So why not have characters that maybe bite more or smell more or lick more or maybe they like using a cock ring or something so that the unique characteristics about them in bed can be noted and then just get back to enhancing the romance and not describing the sexual equivalent of an Japanese Gameshow?

  4. RfP
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 15:51:30

    LOL, Teddypig. Sex scenes as The Iron Chef:

    Each writer has a 30-minute scene in which to develop a theme selected by the judges. And tonight’s theme is…

    The Anus!

    Will it be an avant-garde tower of sex toys? A soupcon of Santorum? A complicated arrangements of anal preparations served three ways with toast?

  5. MD
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 16:32:21

    Thank you. Thus the reason I avoid 90 percent of the romance/erotica/porn/sex/sex/sex available at the epubs and veer happily toward the milder, sweeter romance novels that are becoming more difficult to find, at least online. And it’s not just the m/m (although that’s mind-numbingly geared to detailed sex scenes every two pages) but the f/f and m/f, too. It’s just too much. When did we lose track of the idea that less is more? It’s like all the characters are capable of is constant sex. They seldom have a life outside the bedroom, all their conversation is thick with innuendo or explicit sex talk, there are more detailed descriptions of their “attributes” than anything else in the story, and invariably they are madly in love at the completion of the first sex act.

    BLECH.

    And yet these stories seem, for the most part, very popular, so I guess the majority finds it…er…satisfying. Maybe this is the majority’s idea of a love story now. In the midst of all that sex, though, the romance seems dwarfed, forgotten. My eyes skim sex scenes in search of the more interesting relationship stuff. It’s like too much halloween candy. The incessant overexposure in these novels leaves me nauseated, headachy, and with no wish to ever read another sex scene in a novel as long as I live. And that’s a shame, because some of these novels sound like they’d be really good, otherwise.

  6. Erastes
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 16:33:24

    One saw a lot of this in fanfic, a fandom would start with fluffy, vanilla type couples and then suddenly you’d find nipple rings were the new black, then everyone’s manacled to the wall-then you can’t read a story without someone being a Dom-and so on until it escalated out of my comfort zone completely.

  7. Anon Writer
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 17:13:34

    Raising the Sexual Acts Stakes, in my opinion, detracts from that emotional connection between the characters and between the characters and the reader in ways detrimental to enjoyment of the book.

    That’s the money shot. This book, especially with your highlighting of that passage, will go straight to #1 on the mbam bestseller list, won’t pass Go, and the writer will get a lot more than $200.

    Readers reward the Raising of the Sexual Acts Stakes with their dollars.

  8. K. Z. Snow
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 17:17:21

    Regretfully, I agree with most of you. I don’t know how many times I (and other writers) have bemoaned the fact that publishers — yes, PUBLISHERS, at least in ebookland — insist on continually upping the heat level. They do it because, they claim, it’s what readers want. And that does seem to be the case.

    Since the publishers who pay best are often the most insistent, avoiding this issue isn’t simply a matter of shopping for a new publisher. In short, if we tone it down and go elsewhere, we’re going to make less money.

    The wild-and-frequent-sex demand is, believe me, annoying as hell for authors who value character development, psychological nuance, emotional resonance, and just plain getting on with the storyline. HALT – BOINK – PROCEED – HALT – BOINK – PROCEED can make for some limping prose (uh, no pun intended) and can become particularly distracting the more “out there” the sexual interaction is. I happen to adore writing intimate scenes, but I hate feeling forced to cram ‘em in and make ‘em increasingly lurid.

    What authors can and perhaps should do more of is, like TeddyP said, enrich these scenes subtly, through engagement of the senses and emotions. I’d like to think readers would find that approach more compelling than five cocks in a sock with a tentacled alien rock.

    Ultimately, it is up to readers to decide.

  9. Jules Jones
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 17:24:39

    MD, if you’re skipping the sex scenes in search of the relationship stuff, in some books you’ll be skipping the very relationship stuff you claim to want. Yes, there are plenty of books with sex scenes that exist purely to keep up the word count of sex scenes; but there are also plenty of books where the sex is there to show you something about the characters and the growth of their relationship.

    If explicit sex scenes make you uneasy regardless of their use for plot and character development, then by all means avoid the books with explicit scenes, but please don’t suggest that sex scenes and romance are by definition mutually incompatible.

  10. azteclady
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 17:27:08

    Seems to me–and feel free to disabuse me of my idiotic notions if I’m wrong–that a lot of readers may *fantasize* about the more extreme/rare/unusual sexual activities, particularly those involving man on man (or men on man), yet have very little to no actual knowledge of the activity involved. So, for those readers, the magical way something unlikely just happens because, hey, the luuuuurrrrve! it eases the way! is perfectly acceptable. Plus, they get their thrills to boot.

    A bit like the magical hoha fixig the hero’s emotional issues and the wonder wang giving the heroine multiple orgasms on the first trip.

  11. Lori
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 18:01:38

    Hell, double anal penetration just makes me think that the poor fella on the bottom will be in the hospital sooner than later getting his anal fissure stitched up.

    So do non-erotic ebooks sell?

  12. rebyj
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 18:16:43

    This reminds me of a conversation with my honey a few years ago. I’d read a m/m historical and we were talking about it. I asked him if they’d had a threesome how it would be done. He said , one oral one anal? I said I dunno I’m asking you. He scratched his head, thought for a minute and said ” I reckon it’d be something like leap frog, or twister.” I pictured 3 naked aroused dudes playing leap frog and figured there are some things best not known.

    But as for this book, from the review, I’d say although it didn’t provide details of care and potential danger, it’s a romance not “double penetration for dummies”. And if there is confusion about the sex scene one would hope that most people would google the how to’s before whipping 2 wieners and one butthole out to play with.

    ( Is this one of the posts my grandkids will stumble upon 30 years from now when I’m dead and they’re researching grandma?” LOL

  13. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 18:41:11

    I’m just sitting here scratching my head and wondering …why?

    Which is quickly followed by… ouch.

    Then… no, thanks.

    Might work for some-I’m probably not one of them.

  14. GrowlyCub
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 18:46:18

    This development of hot romance –> romantica –> erotic romance –> erotica –> kinky, way out there sexual stuff reminds me a lot of what happened when ERA was founded as a ‘supplement’ to RRA-l.

    At first is was a group of women who liked their sex scenes a little hotter and folks like Nina Bruhns and Emma Holly posted some of their early writing, which was later published (Warrior’s Woman and Menage respectively), then folks who had not originally been on RRA-l started joining and the stories started to veer from romance with hot sex to hot sex with romance optional. Then the BDSM (or self-proclaimed which is by no means the same) crowd started showing up and romance was pretty much gone and kinkier and kinkier became the norm.

    I left before they became the ERWA (or is it EWRA?) because the moderator was on board with the over the top stuff and I just didn’t care for the kinky folks telling poor old vanilla me how boring I was and how I wouldn’t recognize good writing if it bit me in the ass…

    I’m not sure what point I’m trying to make, but I was struck by this comparison when I read Sarah’s article and the comments.

  15. Sami
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 18:50:10

    “in fact, this scene was their make-up sex at the end of the book”

    Upping the ante does seem to happen, I've noticed, toward or at the end of a book, which is probably why it so often seems gratuitous. I once read an erotic novella that was quite good with some hot but not necessarily wild action, then right at the end when all the conflict was resolved and the protags professed their love, suddenly the sex toys came out and we had a double penetration anal sex scene, the lot. It was as though the author was trying to say ‘now that they love each other the sex is going to get really kinky!'. It left me wondering what this couple would be doing in ten years when the sex got stale. Where else could they go? Ultimately I want to believe that the couple, or triad or whatever, are going to make it through a long lasting relationship together and the tendency of many erotic romances to finish on a particularly graphic sex scene leaves me thinking the relationship is more about sex than love, and won't make it through kids, boredom etc., all those things that happen in life that take the focus off sex and leave us to deal with who we are without it (or with much less of it than our average ero/romance hero/heroine gets!).

    At the height of the ‘in love' phase, the sex should be pretty great with or without battery operated devices and twisty bendy positions a yoga instructor would envy, and personally I’d like to see more emotion at the end of a book than experimentation. If authors are going to bring in some super different sexual acts, maybe it would be better received somewhere in the middle of the book when it's part of the overall character arc, than at the end?

  16. Cat Grant
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 18:56:06

    “No, I've never done that.”

    “Do you want to?”

    Gregory hesitated and looked over his shoulder. Phillip didn't even blink. “He does.” (85-86)

    I’ve got a bit of a problem with the issue of apparent dubious consent in this scene. One of the tops (Jim) asks the bottom (Gregory) if he wants to be double-penetrated, yet it’s the other top (Phillip) who answers. What does it say about this relationship that Gregory’s not being allowed to answer for himself?

  17. MD
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 19:04:02

    MD, if you're skipping the sex scenes in search of the relationship stuff, in some books you'll be skipping the very relationship stuff you claim to want. Yes, there are plenty of books with sex scenes that exist purely to keep up the word count of sex scenes; but there are also plenty of books where the sex is there to show you something about the characters and the growth of their relationship.

    If explicit sex scenes make you uneasy regardless of their use for plot and character development, then by all means avoid the books with explicit scenes, but please don't suggest that sex scenes and romance are by definition mutually incompatible.

    Oh I don’t think they’re mutually incompatible at all. The best books use sex scenes to develop character and deepen the sense of intimacy.

    Unfortunately, in most of what I’ve come across from epubs, the writer is not using the sex scene for either of those purposes. The primary purpose is titillation and the scenes are generally so much alike that the sex feels repetitive and–to be frank–boring. And ninety-nine percent of the covers emphasize the sex, not the romance.

    I can see the appeal to readers, of course, and I’ve read erotica like this and found it titillating in an entertaining way. But I seldom feel emotionally invested in these sort of novels and I don’t consider them romances or even books I’d care to read more than once.

    A good romance sweeps me up, defines its characters, immerses me in its background, makes the intimacy meaningful and relevant. A good romance has life, power, depth. It makes me lose track of time the same way a good movie does.
    I’ve come across just a few (so far) epublished books that accomplish that. Too many of them read as though they were written in two months, taken through not more than two drafts of editing, and then published by a less than discerning editor whose basic requirement was “more sex!”.
    A lot of them are not written well enough to be entertaining in a trashy beach read kind of way. And they have more sex than trashy beach reads–something I hardly thought was possible. =D

    I’m not looking for or asking for dense literature here. But the focus of so many of these books seems so single-minded. I realize we’re merely mammals, but c’mon, people. If you have to up the ante with fancier and fancier physical descriptions of sex to keep things interesting, maybe you need to take a closer look at where your characters’ emotions are–and if you’ve been paying enough attention to them.
    The most vanilla sex in the world is incredible if I know your characters and believe they are hopelessly, helplessly falling for each other.
    For a lot of these novels, I remain unconvinced.

  18. Miki
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 20:08:13

    I love when an author can ramp up the sexual tension in a book so strongly that the couple’s first kiss can send that electrical jolt up my spine.

    I first tried erotic romance in 2004, and it was certainly much tamer then than now! The first menage story I picked up was erotic simply at the idea of the topic. Not so after the tenth one.

    About the same time I was getting more and more uncomfortable with the sexual activity being described in the book (with the raising – or lowering – of the sexual bar), I started to miss books that built up the tension before starting the acrobatics. And went back to the more mainstream publishers to find that.

    I think part of the problem is, we tend to get bored with or numb to what because “usual” to us. I don’t think it’s only the publishers who want to push the boundaries. Otherwise, it wouldn’t work to bring in the money for them. I think a “plain vanilla” erotic romance has become “ho-hum” for some readers, they want to go to the next level, then the next, then the next.

    The other thing could be that mainstream publishers are also putting out books with more and more sex in them, so readers satisfied with a sensual or strongly sensual romance can get it in the drug store, or grocery store, or Wal-Mart now. The epubs have always benefited from meeting the needs of readers who aren’t getting what they want from mainstream publishers, so they have to lean toward the wilder stuff just to avoid the competition from the mainstream.

  19. Jody W.
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 20:19:01

    I remember in the good ole days (cue cranky voice) when raising the sexual stakes meant (sometimes) going ALL THE WAY in that final love scene. Whoa, mama, that was hot!

    Lori asked above if non-erotic ebooks sell. I think not as much as erotic ebooks, but they can sell.

  20. Southern Fried Chicas » And They All (Three) Lived Happily Ever After
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 00:14:47

    [...] the majority of ménage books tend to put the focus on the sex,  and particularly on the more boundary pushing elements of them. [...]

  21. Evangeline
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 00:59:00

    I think part of the problem is, we tend to get bored with or numb to what because “usual” to us. I don't think it's only the publishers who want to push the boundaries. Otherwise, it wouldn't work to bring in the money for them. I think a “plain vanilla” erotic romance has become “ho-hum” for some readers, they want to go to the next level, then the next, then the next.

    This statement gives me cause for alarm. When is enough enough after we’ve been desensitized to “vanilla” sex in our romances? Is it dangerous that readers crave more and more envelope-pushing sex because that old itch isn’t being scratched by Sex Act X anymore? Personally, if sex is growing more and more explicit and erotic romances–romance, period, in fact–possess higher and higher sexual content (at the behest of eager readers), doesn’t that push romance into “porn” territory? Doesn’t that give credence to the presumption that romance readers read romance for the sex? It isn’t about being a “prude” (Dude, I hate that word being thrown at people), but about becoming aware of what one is experiencing while choosing one’s next book.

    The overwhelming success of erotic romance in the e-book sector brings an illicit factor to the genre, and points to the notion that readers enjoy erotic stories on the privacy of their own computer/e-reader–and I’m going to be blunt here–much in the manner of pornography. I have no problem with erotica, with erotic romance, with sex in romance, yadda yadda yadda. I am concerned with the hush-hush between readers and writers over what exactly has happened to the genre when the emphasis has been overwhelmingly on sex. It simply isn’t healthy.

  22. Karen Scott
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 02:03:21

    So, what’s the difference between this book and porn?

    I fear that this envelope-pushing movement will ultimately result in the the lines between porn and erotic romance becoming even more blurred.

  23. limecello
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 02:07:14

    I don’t even read stories that have the potential to be that “far out” – in my opinion, and I have long been lamenting the shock for the sake of shock value. Generally I couch it in the terms of “pushing the limits” or something. Like, story story story, relationship, relationship, sex… RANDOM FETISH ACT – totally out of place, does nothing for the story [and in fact, in my humble little opinion] detracts from it]. I don’t get it. I don’t know why authors think this is a great thing, or why readers seem to just go along with it. Glad you wrote this post :) lolz and I hope my rambling 2:06 AM comment makes sense.

  24. GrowlyCub
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 02:24:15

    Karen,

    it’s pretty clear from

    And I've got that warm, flippy, rolling feeling in my stomach because the romance is THAT good, the characters that well-written, their story that heart-warming.

    and

    ou've got this book, all fabulous, gentle, emotional, just plain GOOD romances. They're not trying to be clever-’they're just trying to tell a love story. They're not trying to make a statement-’they're just trying (and succeeding, of course) to show two (or three) people falling in love. No external conflict. No serial killers or spies or murders or blackmail or faeries or demons or undiscovered worlds with alien sexual cultures. Just two (or three) people, who all happen to be men, falling in love, learning a little about themselves, overcoming internal obstacles, and ending up happier together than they would have been apart. No worlds are saved, except if we all lived like this, perhaps the world would be saved. Fabulous.

    that it was just the DAP that turned this from a fabulous read into something less than perfect.

    I’d argue that one misplaced sex scene (even one that obviously was handled badly and ruined the experience for Sarah) does not porn make.

  25. Mrs Giggles
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 05:18:20

    Is it dangerous that readers crave more and more envelope-pushing sex because that old itch isn't being scratched by Sex Act X anymore? Personally, if sex is growing more and more explicit and erotic romances-romance, period, in fact-possess higher and higher sexual content (at the behest of eager readers), doesn't that push romance into “porn” territory?

    Am I reading you correctly, Evangeline, when you say that having more explicit sex scenes in a “cause for alarm”? As far as I know, there is no written rule saying that a more unconventional (for the want of a better word) kind of sex means that the romance is “tainted” somehow by porn.

    Doesn't that give credence to the presumption that romance readers read romance for the sex?

    Are you saying that romance readers don’t read romances for the sex? Honestly now, if this is the case, there won’t be any need for sex scenes in a romance novel now. We can dress up things nicely by saying that sex scenes are a natural expression of desire, romance, and other beautiful airy-fairy emotions, but sex scenes are there to titillate.

    It isn't about being a “prude” (Dude, I hate that word being thrown at people), but about becoming aware of what one is experiencing while choosing one's next book.

    This sounds unnecessarily complicated. Why not just stay away from any story labeled “Red Hots!”, “Ellora’s Cave presents”, “Aphrodisia”, “erotic romance”, then? It’s not as if this insidious evil porn threat is creeping up to the point that you’ll find characters of a Mary Balogh book having kinky sex. The packaging of an erotic romance, or a romance with kinkier sensuality level, is usually very obvious. You usually know when you are going to get an erotic romance.

    The overwhelming success of erotic romance in the e-book sector brings an illicit factor to the genre, and points to the notion that readers enjoy erotic stories on the privacy of their own computer/e-reader-and I'm going to be blunt here-much in the manner of pornography.

    And that is a problem… why?

    I have no problem with erotica, with erotic romance, with sex in romance, yadda yadda yadda.

    Yes you do.

    I am concerned with the hush-hush between readers and writers over what exactly has happened to the genre when the emphasis has been overwhelmingly on sex. It simply isn't healthy.

    Nobody has died reading the double penetration scene in Pepper Espinoza’s story. RWA hasn’t been overrun by nudist hedonists. Despite the fuss over Ellora’s Cave naughty RT party, no national health warning has been issued.

    I’d give you that the emphasis on sex may affect plot and characterization significantly, but I don’t see any cause for overreaction and alarmist posts such as yours. Honestly! It’s just one double penetration scene! It’s a laughably artificial and unrealistic one at that. There is no cause to start raising moral flags or seeing boogeyman behind every romance novel just because there is a neatly labeled subgenre called “erotic romance”.

    Romance as a genre has withstood two decades of mockery. A few randy couples having anal sex and double penetration won’t cause the genre to collapse, be rest assured.

  26. RfP
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 05:23:15

    I think part of the problem is, we tend to get bored with or numb to what because “usual” to us. … I think a “plain vanilla” erotic romance has become “ho-hum” for some readers

    That sounds like a symptom of boring writing, not of boring sex acts. Great writing can make a circumspect or vanilla sex scene hot, or weave a challenging scene inextricably into the story.

    That’s not a two-way statement; I’m NOT saying that if a romance is erotic, that must be a gimmick to compensate for dull writing. What I’m trying to say is, the perceived sexual escalation in the genre is probably not simply a case of readers turning into porn addicts in need of an ever-larger hit. Almost every romance I read could be the “usual”: boy meets girl, sparks, problems, true love; making it fresh is a central problem. Is it really different to evoke that feeling with hair-raising suspense versus hair-raising sex?

    Then too, I think some erotic romance has an activist or experimental aspect. I get the feeling some authors are trying out writing a heroine who’s a rake, or a character who’s hot but not nice, or same-sex love, or a scene that pushes a reader’s comfort level. Insofar as the hottification is about testing boundaries, I doubt that it’ll take over the genre completely. I imagine only a small part of the genre is ever that rebellious.

  27. Ann Somerville
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 06:24:47

    Lori asked above if non-erotic ebooks sell. I think not as much as erotic ebooks, but they can sell.

    Not every book that has sex in it, is erotica, I should point out too. My novels often (though not always) have one or two pretty ordinary sex scenes in them, and apart from a bit of teasing about when the ‘real’ sex (i.e. penetration) will happen, my readers are fine with that.

    People should know what they’re buying. Erotic romance should be as strong on characterisation and plot and the relationship as the sex. If it’s porn, it should be well-written enough to actually get you off. Erotica should also be hot, but with at least some pretence that the people involved aren’t just dolls. There’s nothing morally or artistically wrong with any of these genres, but it does piss me off that so many ‘erotica’ authors write such dull and frankly unbelievable sex, and we’re supposed to go ‘oooh that’s so hot’ because they’ve managed to use all parts of the chicken instead of just the feather. If you’re in the business of making people happy in the pants, learn to do it right.

    For the record, I see nothing wrong with Pepper Espinoza’s scene as quoted. Sounds like a perfectly good negotiation for trying out kink. Unless I read the rest of it, I can’t judge how well it works. But double cocks don’t in themselves seem like an unreasonable ramping up of a trio’s sex life.

  28. Elf
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 10:08:17

    Okay, first point – y’all crack me up. Yes, rebyj – the grandkids will find this one day, but they’ll probably laugh *with* you.
    Second, this reminds me of a _Welcome to Temptation_ quote/scene (J. Crusie) “we haven’t known each other long enough to be bored with the sex yet!” (sorry, not a direct quote)
    Finally – my perspective on the escalation: I read fast/voraciously. According to my reading diary, I’ve read ~500 books this year (that figure is not as scary when you factor in the novellas I read). Frankly, I’d started to exhaust my erotica e-book possibilities. It seemed like every other book was BDSM this, sexual slave that, and that’s just not my bag, baby. Then I found M/M, where (as Joan said mid-review) contemporary romances are enjoyable again. I think it’s the lack of conventional sexual politics that I’ve enjoyed, along with no TSTL heroines, no magic hoo-ha’s.
    So even though I’m a voracious reader, I haven’t yet been ‘desensitized to sex.’ As was suggested before, I was just getting bored with mediocre books. So romantica is not necessarily a gateway to porn, not the ‘marijuana of literature.’
    Have a great day!
    -elf

  29. Jessica
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 11:38:10

    Karen Scott: “So, what's the difference between this book and porn?”

    My own view is that porn’s sole purpose is to titillate. Porn by definition has no other value: artistic, literary, social. The standard of success for porn is whether it achieves the aim of titillating, and that’s it.

    Something is not pornography merely by having the purpose of titillating. If it has other purposes, like literary ones, it is not porn.

    Anyone who writes sexually explicit scenes, whether in erotica or Regencies, should be upfront about what ONE of the purposes of these scenes is. And readers should, too.

    But at the same time some erotica authors deny they are producing porn (which I generally agree with), they seem to deny they are writing scenes with the explicit purpose of getting the reader off in some way, and that confuses me.

  30. Jane
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 12:36:58

    I think sometimes bad writing makes erotic romance read like porn. In others words, the intentions of the author is to write a highly sexualized romance with plot and character development but fails to do very well at the character development and/or plot and thus the book reads more like porn.

    But I do think that all publishers, NY and epublishers alike, are blurring the lines between romance, erotic romance, and porn which is ultimately bad for romance if you argue that romance does not equal porn because there are so many examples to which you can point and argue that this book is very pornish, porny, or whatever the word is.

  31. KE
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 12:48:19

    I will tell you, I write erotic romance, and I’ve had some of my books rejected because I didn’t either have enough sex or didn’t get to the sex fast enough. I like to write stories with a lot of sexual tension and character building, but am finding it hard to connect with epublishers who reward a good story AND good sex. The better paying epubs want more and more sex. And this is how to make money.

    I was delighted to see recently that Liquid Silver revamped their sub requirements and now have a ‘level’ which allows for more building of sexual tension.

    It can be very difficult to write an erotic book with sex in the first or even second chapter and make it work realistically…I think it takes away from the awesomeness of two characters finally getting in the sack, if we haven’t gotten to know them well enough first.

    It sucks that when you do try to write something ‘better’ you get rejected…told that you are a fabulous writer and should sub to us again, but this book didn’t quite do it.

    I think readers are getting burned out on all sex and very little story. In order to ‘hook’ them you need both. I really believe that.

  32. kirsten saell
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 12:53:12

    But at the same time some erotica authors deny they are producing porn (which I generally agree with), they seem to deny they are writing scenes with the explicit purpose of getting the reader off in some way, and that confuses me.

    Me too. If you’re writing a sexually explicit expression of love and attraction between two (or more) people, somebody ought to be getting turned on. I’ve written sex for hire, hot loving sex, angry sex, tender sex, fun sex, grief sex and (as Ciar Cullen put it) “heinous villain sex”. It’s only when reading the last item on the list that I would not expect a reader to become a bit warm. Sexual arousal (I would hope!) is no less the physical manifestation of an emotion than tears or laughter or butterflies in the stomach. (That doesn’t mean I expect my readers to be wanking to my scenes, no matter how many times I might affectionately call my books “one-handed reading”. It just means that if they aren’t getting a bit squirmy, I’m doing something wrong.)

    I think the best definition of porn I’ve come across was (I paraphrase): Porn is what you lose all interest in the moment you’ve had an orgasm.

    As far as DAP, um, I’ve seen it (in porn, haha), and it always seems like it would be more bother than it’s worth. Questions of anal elasticity aside, I can only imagine the charlie horses involved. But when you have three people in an erotic romance, two of them with penises, a DP scene of some kind seems to be obligatory. Of course, I have a natural disinclination to do what I feel obligated to do, and that’s why I don’t think there will be any DP scene in my m/m/f WIP. It’s my way of putting my foot down, LOL.

    *sorry for all the parentheses–I’m just having that kind of day…

    **sorry if this double posts–dang comment eating monster is at large…

    ***argh, third time’s the charm?

  33. Evangeline
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 13:52:29

    Yes you do.

    :eyeroll:

    It figures that part of my statement would be refuted. As always. I guess I don’t write romance either, huh? I’m opposed to the entire genre because *gasp* it has sex!!!

    I'd give you that the emphasis on sex may affect plot and characterization significantly, but I don't see any cause for overreaction and alarmist posts such as yours. Honestly! It's just one double penetration scene! It's a laughably artificial and unrealistic one at that. There is no cause to start raising moral flags or seeing boogeyman behind every romance novel just because there is a neatly labeled subgenre called “erotic romance”.

    Romance as a genre has withstood two decades of mockery. A few randy couples having anal sex and double penetration won't cause the genre to collapse, be rest assured.

    Once again…the point is lost in the midst of someone accusing any person who posits an opposing opinion to be a “moralist” or a “prude.”

    The point is exactly what a few other people have said: the lines are being blurred between erotic romance and erotica and porn, yet it’s rarely admitted, (this is my further response:) because generally WE do not admit WE read romance for the sex. As such, WE do not want to be aware that pushing more and more boundaries is unhealthy because WE are not aware. That’s all I ask: own up to it and be aware, and just as everyone says to practice safe sex, practice safe reading. Otherwise, it is just porn for the reader, and it can become an addiction.

  34. Teddypig
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 13:55:30

    Unless someone has ever even seen an Inspy Gay Romance.
    Then when talking about Gay Romance we have to agree that most of it does by definition include erotic love scenes.
    In my mind at least current Gay Romance = Erotic Romance.

    So how can any of this discussion be framed in terms of “against” Erotic Romance?

    As far as the whole porn discussion goes. I think the world needs more porn. What does that have to do with anything called a Romance?

  35. GrowlyCub
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 14:08:38

    because generally WE do not admit WE read romance for the sex.

    Is that a royal ‘we’?

    I read romance for the relationship story. I have done so for over 25 years and I have 100s of books on my shelves that are not inspy and do not have any or very little explicit sex.

    I think you ought to be really, really careful in ascribing motivations to people whom you do not know. You may read for the sex, I don’t.

    If it’s there and it’s integral and fits the story, great, it may make me hot, but I don’t read the book to get hot, I read it to see how the characters deal with their story.

    I guess that may be hard for you to understand if all you read romance for is for the titillation.

  36. MCHalliday
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 14:11:40

    In recent years, the stakes have been hugely raised for erotica and some erotic romances.

    I’ve been reading erotica for eons and my love for the ‘same old’ endures. That said, I do understand pushing the envelope, otherwise the first erotic books would never have been written.

    Also, the progression of explicit work might be due in part, to the emerging generation. There has always been a need to cross boundaries when coming-of-age, testing the restrictions and beliefs of the current society. When a populace is quite tightly laced, there will be extremes to counter those sexual attitudes. It seems this began in America in the sixties and still continues.

    You usually know when you are going to get an erotic romance.

    The key word is “usually”, as there are extreme variations of erotic romance and misleading policies of some retailers. A romance book with some sex will be categorized as erotic instead of romance at Fictionwise. The result is readers wanting a scorching hot tale will be disappointed and seekers of romance likely won’t find it. Jane sums it up rather well:

    But I do think that all publishers, NY and epublishers alike, are blurring the lines between romance, erotic romance, and porn which is ultimately bad for romance…

  37. RfP
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 15:42:58

    pushing more and more boundaries is unhealthy because WE are not aware. That's all I ask: own up to it and be aware, and just as everyone says to practice safe sex, practice safe reading. Otherwise, it is just porn for the reader, and it can become an addiction.

    I have a few disagreements with this line of argument.

    (a) It sounds like you equate “porn” with both “extreme” and “dangerous”.

    (b) It sounds like you equate “erotic” with “porn”. Have you watched or read porn? It’s mostly very dull. Having a storyline (beyond “Hotel guest, pool boy, unh unh unh”), let alone any emotional involvement, would be quite an innovation. The idea of reading erotic romance as porn addiction is predicated on the similarity of the two forms. For the most part, hey’re not that close.

    (c) Although romance and porn may not be written to fulfill each other’s purposes, a reader can read either one as the other. When I was 14 and loved to re-read one scene with a (very tame) kiss, was I using that romance as porn? Perhaps. That doesn’t denigrate the romance. Or me, the consumer of porn.

    (d) The language of “unhealthy”, “safe”, “be aware”, “porn”, and “addiction” implies that reading something beyond our comfort level will somehow change our fundamental natures in frightening ways. Do you subscribe to the idea that romance as a whole is an addictive, unhealthful genre that builds up unrealistic expectations and takes over women’s lives? Or, my paraphrase, romance makes you a sick fuck?

    (e) You say blurring the lines between porn and romance is bad for romance. How so? Because porn is bad and we must defend romance from the charge that it’s porn? Some thrillers and some fantasy novels have pornographic elements. Are those elements bad for those genres? Yes, if those elements represent an unreflected genre perspective or convention, or if they detract from the quality of the characterization and plotting. Same goes for romance. Sexual content is not in itself bad for romance. It becomes bad for romance when it’s part of a pattern of bad writing, or unreflectedly purveying caricatures and stereotypes and regrettable attitudes toward men and women.

  38. Barbara B.
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 16:00:45

    Evangeline said-
    “The point is exactly what a few other people have said: the lines are being blurred between erotic romance and erotica and porn, yet it's rarely admitted, (this is my further response:) because generally WE do not admit WE read romance for the sex. As such, WE do not want to be aware that pushing more and more boundaries is unhealthy because WE are not aware. That's all I ask: own up to it and be aware, and just as everyone says to practice safe sex, practice safe reading. Otherwise, it is just porn for the reader, and it can become an addiction.”

    Quite the alarmist! Reminds me of the earnest yet hilarious warnings about the demon weed in those Reefer Madness type movies.

  39. Evie Byrne
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 16:09:19

    I think the push for more and more kink is ultimately reader driven, and its source is curiosity. Erotic romance provides a comfortable place for women to explore the more exotic aspects of sex. Until recently you had to turn to porn or erotica if you wanted to go beyond vanilla, but now the Cabinet of Wonders is wide open and readers are rifling through it as fast as they can. Anal! Ménage! DP! DAP!

    I’m reminded of customers in an ice cream shop sampling flavors. There’s lots of tiny spoons piling up around here of late. And it’s all good. But I predict that escalating kink is not going to be a long term trend. Readers who are currently buying for novelty’s sake will become jaded and begin to demand quality stories and some degree of realism in their kink. And some will decide that vanilla really is their favorite flavor, after all.

  40. Anon Erotic Romance Author
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 18:18:47

    TeddyPig said:
    As far as the whole porn discussion goes. I think the world needs more porn. What does that have to do with anything called a Romance?

    You make me want to move to North Carolina and troll the streets with a hot guy by my side just to flush you out. I’d love to shake your hand!

  41. Lucinda Betts
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 18:23:47

    If a reader is picking up a gay male triad book from Samhain, he or she might expect the sex to push the envelope. I think most readers who picked up a gay male trio book might be looking for something more than a straightforward romance.

    Now if a gay male triad showed up in a Debbie Macomber book… And if they successfully executed DAP…

  42. Mrs Giggles
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 21:33:35

    Once again…the point is lost in the midst of someone accusing any person who posits an opposing opinion to be a “moralist” or a “prude.”
    The point is exactly what a few other people have said: the lines are being blurred between erotic romance and erotica and porn, yet it's rarely admitted, (this is my further response:) because generally WE do not admit WE read romance for the sex. As such, WE do not want to be aware that pushing more and more boundaries is unhealthy because WE are not aware. That's all I ask: own up to it and be aware, and just as everyone says to practice safe sex, practice safe reading. Otherwise, it is just porn for the reader, and it can become an addiction.

    This isn’t you being a “prude”, it’s you telling us lowly mortals that porn is an addictive hazard that will give us some kind of literary equivalent of STD. Which is something I’ve never heard of, really, unless a healthy slice of the male population with access to Playboy, Penthouse, and the like have been wiped out while my back was turned.

    If you don’t like erotic romance, fine, just stay away from them. The book mentioned here has a “Red Hot!” tag, which tells you that the sex scenes are going to be pushing the limit. That is my point, which you deliberately ignored in your response to my post – you can easily avoid those OMG tainted porn books if you choose. There is still a big amount of variety in the genre, covering all spectrums from inspirational to erotic. No need to stand on the pulpit and scream that too much sex is creeping into the genre and destroying our fragile psyche.

  43. Ann Bruce
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 22:06:03

    generally WE do not admit WE read romance for the sex

    You might. I don’t. In fact, I’ve skipped all the sex scenes in the last twenty books I’ve read…with the exception of Harlequin Presents titles. (*shrug* I think I’m going through a phase right now.)

    WE do not want to be aware that pushing more and more boundaries is unhealthy

    Wow! Is the medical community aware of this disease? Should I get help for including explicit sex scenes in my stories?

  44. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 05, 2008 @ 22:22:42

    Otherwise, it is just porn for the reader, and it can become an addiction.

    Okay, it’s taken me a little while to articulate my thoughts here.

    Porn can definitely become an addiction-for somebody who has an addictive personality, and for somebody who most likely has underlying issues any way.

    Pushing boundaries for somebody with that makeup can pose a danger, but a person with that makeup is going to have issues period, until the underlying cause is resolved.

    But for the typical reader, reading books with varying levels of kink isn’t going to become an issue of that magnitude. Either the reader likes it, wants to explore more, or they don’t.

    Unless the reader is spending massive (and I do mean massive, obscene, scary) amounts of money trying to ‘feed their need’, unless they are focusing on getting more and more of the extreme sex and ignoring other things in their lives-namely marriages, kids, jobs…food… it’s not going to be an issue.

    And somehow I don’t think erotic romance is going to cater to a great deal of people who are just seeking some kind of sex fix. People needing a fix want it quick, and they want it now. They want instant gratification and they don’t necessarily want to read a romance, erotic or otherwise, to get what they need. Reading requires a certain amount of concentration and most people needing a fix of any kind aren’t exactly big on concentration. So I’d imagine if they need that sort of fix, they’ll go straight to hard core porn.

    My opinion only, yadda, yadda, yadda…yours may vary.

  45. Elf
    Nov 06, 2008 @ 12:51:40

    RfP, TeddyP, and Shiloh: ditto, and encore! lol
    Like I said, I read alot. I’m not an addict; I just don’t watch television – books are like my TV and video games, eh?
    Likewise, the WE doesn’t include me either, sorry to say. Most of the books I read have an erotic edge, but I view sex as a part of life, and certainly a part of modern relationships. The books and authors I read and enjoy treat the erotic portions as an extension of the plot. The books that don’t have good plotting, characterization, and exist just to hook sex scenes together get closed pretty fast in my world.
    If you don’t like something, it doesn’t mean that people who do like it are being harmed by it, or that it’s unhealthy.
    I’m sorry if it feels like “piling on” but you also have to take a look at the topic – folks that don’t have at least some interest in erotic romance probably wouldn’t have made it past the first paragraph of this review. Likewise, this site (which I love) tends to be pretty liberal (and no, that’s not a pejorative imo) in its views.

  46. AnonRS Author
    Nov 06, 2008 @ 14:22:10

    Holy moly! Such a sex act (DAP) never occurred to me in my wildest imagination. Says a lot for my apparently not-so-wild imagination, doesn’t it? No, I haven’t lived under a rock–at least, I don’t think I have.

    I’ve tried and tried to write erotic romance because I want to make the big bucks, too. And I find while I can write more and more explicit m/f sex, I can’t write a good, much less great, story that’s all about a character’s sexual journey.

    I’ve got to have my murders or stalkings or kidnappings or the writing just isn’t fun. As much work as writing is, it has to be fun, too. My more explicit romantic suspenses have done well, but not great. My one mystery/suspense with romantic elements only (ie. no love scenes) has done poorly in sales at an e-publisher known for its “red hots”. Of course, that’s my favorite of all the books I’ve had published.

  47. Heather>>The Galaxy Express>>Wanted: A Few Good Villains
    Nov 06, 2008 @ 20:46:03

    [...]With the glut of Scorching Wicked Hot heat levels in romance books these days, what is something other than sex that can draw readers to SFR like flies to honey?[...]

  48. Joan/SarahF
    Nov 07, 2008 @ 21:11:16

    Wow, it’s been quite a week. I’m so sorry I didn’t get this discussion before what is now probably way too late, but the election ate my brain and I’ve only just recovered.

    Can I first say: North Carolina is BLUE!!! Woohoo!

    Now, on to comments.

    MD @5: I’d have to say that I actually disagree with most of what you say on a broader scale. I love me some hott! sexx0ring in my romances, as long as it progresses the plot and/or character development. I’m not averse, for example, to reading a DAP scene….as long as it’s difficulty and momentousness is part of the lead-up to and discussion of the scene. So, basically, what Jules said @9.

    CatGrant @16: FWIW, it wasn’t like that at all. No questionable consent, no force.

    Miki @18: The book that I’ve read that managed to make a single kiss more erotic than almost anything I’ve ever read is Matthew Haldeman-Time’s Off the Record. Absolutely incredible. Virgin hero and rakish hero, although set in contemporary LA. Sooo good. And yet definitely still erotic romance.

    Evangeline and Karen: First, I’m sorry, but I don’t have a problem with porn. No problem whatsoever. Got my own favorite porn sites, got my own favorite stroke fiction. Well done porn is just as much part of my life as well done romance. On the other hand, in defense of this book, it was pretty much pure romance up until this scene. Yes, hot sex, but all appropriate to the characters and their emotional development. And I guess that’s the difference for me. Even books that are ALL sex (Laurell K. Hamilton, anyone?) are fine by me if they’re about character development (which is why I stuck so long with LKH–because I thought character development was front and center for longer than other people did). In fact, even the best stroke fiction has some sort of development, even if it’s mostly “porn.” Um, so, I guess, what GrowlyCub said @24.

    RfP @26: “hottification” LOLOL!!!

    Jessica @29: “Porn by definition has no other value: artistic, literary, social.” Wow, you need to see some of the visually beautiful porn I watch. :D That’s why it’s GOOD porn. And b/c it’s thoughtful about the sexuality and the sex it shows.

    I guess I didn’t write this to say we need less sex in our romance. Not at all. I’m just advocating for sex that makes sense, that is commensurate with the overall atmosphere of the story, and that is dealt with realistically.

  49. GrowlyCub
    Nov 07, 2008 @ 22:02:08

    So, what’s the overall grade you would give this book, Sarah? Or better said, did that scene really ruin the whole book, or were you able to overlook it after a while?

  50. Joan/SarahF
    Nov 07, 2008 @ 22:15:21

    Um, I guess a B- with a serious dose of WTF. I told Jane she needed to change the grades so that I could have a WTF grade, but she didn’t go for it. :D I really did enjoy it as a romance.

  51. CJ
    Nov 08, 2008 @ 02:38:34

    Hi. Wow. I’ve never posted here before, but this was too good to pass up. Hot, steamy, (dirty?) sex. I’m all for it. I like it. But if it’s going to be called romance, it had better have love and character developement in it. I don’t care how hot, steamy or explicit it is, as long as the romance is there. If it’s porn, well, just get to the good stuff. I like porn. Always have, always will. It’s funny, and hot, and often ridiculous. But there is a difference, and I want to know it upfront.

    And when it comes to concerns about hotter pornesque stories causing addiction? It’s not the fault of the writer, the editor or the publishing house. That’s like saying Captain Morgan is responsible for alcoholism. It just happens with certain people, and it’s certainly no reason for writers to throttle back their stories.

  52. Sarah
    Nov 08, 2008 @ 22:40:37

    Well, I’m convinced. Now I want to read it!

  53. Joan/SarahF
    Nov 08, 2008 @ 22:47:47

    Sarah, it’s totally worth reading! Even with a little bit of WTFery are the end. :) And CJ, it absolutely has love and character development and happy endings.

  54. CJ
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 02:14:27

    Well, in that case, I am all over it (I have a secret love of triad books). Oh, and Joan/SarahF- WTFery? Best phrase I’ve heard in months. :)

  55. Jessica
    Nov 09, 2008 @ 07:37:07

    Jessica @29: “Porn by definition has no other value: artistic, literary, social.” Wow, you need to see some of the visually beautiful porn I watch. :D That's why it's GOOD porn. And b/c it's thoughtful about the sexuality and the sex it shows.

    If it has aesthetic merit, it’s not porn. It’s erotica. ;)

    If folks want to say that beautifully presented material with plot and characters and narrative (literary merit) is porn, then we need to admit that the terms “erotica” and “porn” are synonyms. I am guessing that a lot of erotica writers and filmmakers would have problems with that, but maybe not.

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