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Poll: Do You Skim/Skip Sex Scenes

Do you skip/skim sex scenes in romance books?

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There is an issue that was prompted by a review of Charlotte Featherstone’s Sinful written by our newest addition to Dear Author, John.   (He already had the J name).

A couple of readers confessed that they are skimming or skipping the sex scenes.   hapaz says

I can't speak for every one, but I usually skip explicit sex scenes because I almost always find them  badly done.

By which I mean they don't resonate with my own experiences, they seem to be trying too hard to be "hot", the language doesn't match the activity, and frequently I suspect them to be physically impossible.

nutmeg agrees:

I'm with hapax on this one. I don't find sex scenes to be anything near what I have experienced(and yes, some seem physically impossible too), so I just end up laughing or rolling my eyes. I skim them, or read them if I'm in the mood for a laugh, but I rarely find them necessary to a plot line. I guess that's why I don't read a lot of erotica.

Ridley says she skips sex scenes if they are boring or don’t further the plot/character development:

I skim the sex sometimes as well. "Insert Tab A into Slot B" is boring, and so is sex that doesn't further the plot or character development. But I skim anything like that – shameless sequel baiting, fan moments with previous books' characters, bizarre "suspense" plots in straight contemporaries – so it's not a sex-specific thing, it's a writing thing for me.

Mina Kelly points out that once you start skimming sex scenes, it can be habitual:

When I can finish a 900 page book in under two hours because I'm skimming the sex scenes, that's too many sex scenes. I mean, I read the first six or seven, but the plot hadn't even kicked off- It took a while before I could read sex scenes in other books after that, since my now Pavlovian reaction was to skim automatically. Enough bad sex scenes, or an expectation of bad sex scenes, tends to put a person off.

I really enjoy a good erotic romance and a good sex scene, but I   have found myself skipping/skimming sex scenes often.   What about you? Do you skip/skim?   Why?   What would make you stop?   What are you looking for in a good sex scene? What are some good or bad examples?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

133 Comments

  1. Scorpio M.
    May 14, 2010 @ 10:17:42

    I only skim when I am not enjoying the overall book. I read every scene otherwise. I would only stop if the scene bordered on the ridiculous. I’m not keen on acrobatics or orgy settings.

    For my taste, Elizabeth Hoyt pens the best sex scenes. The Leopard Prince & To Seduce A Sinner have many evocative love scenes, that both stir the senses and progress the plot.

    For whatever it’s worth, the book that prompted this poll -Sinful- had very well written sex scenes and I never felt the need to skim (even though some scenes weren’t necessary.)

  2. TKF
    May 14, 2010 @ 10:19:39

    I wish there was an “it depends” on the poll. Cause it depends.

    Some author's sex scenes are integral to the book. Things happen in them. There's character building and insight and epiphanies. If you skip them, you miss important parts of the story. Some author's write kick-ass erotic romance where what's happening on the page jives with my tastes and I simply enjoy the read. But yeah, if an author consistently writes sex scenes which do neither of the above, I find myself skimming and skipping (and usually not buying them again).

  3. cs
    May 14, 2010 @ 10:21:54

    When I first got into e-books I never did, now I do. Mainly because it’s the same formula and it’s a bit boring. To “spice things up” the author resorts to butt slapping and dirty talking (which is so pornesque it makes me laugh) which just makes me roll my eyes. Even authors whom I am a big fan of I tend to skip their sex scenes too. Then again, I’m not one to read erotic stories anyway. I prefer story rather than sex, even if sex is the story. I just avoid those.

    I prefer two (most three) sex scenes in a novel length story. The sex scenes have to be integral to the story. I don’t get off on them, and they don’t fulfill any fantasies of mine. Sex scenes are such a chore to read for me, so I just skip them unless they do something for the story.

  4. Nadia Lee
    May 14, 2010 @ 10:27:12

    It really depends.

    If sex scenes are integral to the story & character arc, I don’t skip them. If sex scenes are there as fillers and/or to titillate, I skip b/c I don’t miss anything by doing that & my reading time is precious.

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  6. Elise Logan
    May 14, 2010 @ 10:30:46

    hmm. I’m not really a skimmer. I generally only skim in books I’ve read a jillion times so know intimately already. Sometimes I find myself rolling my eyes and shaking my head at sex scenes, and some of them are so mechanical and uninvolving that I want to skim, but I’m constitutionally unable to do so.

  7. linda schieffer
    May 14, 2010 @ 10:32:56

    I enjoy sex scenes if the sexual tension leading up to them has been done correctly. Having well-realized characters express their love physically is enormously satisfying. Also, good language without crude descriptions helps.

  8. evie byrne
    May 14, 2010 @ 10:45:27

    Another “it depends” vote. I think sex scenes are important–as important as any other scene in a book, and, imho, as indicative of an author’s writing skill as any other type of scene. It’s always struck me as strange that sex scenes seem to get set apart in their own special category (eg “I always skip those” or “I have a hard time writing those”), whereas I consider them action scenes. Under ideal circumstances, sex scenes should be indispensable to both plot and character development. You should not be able to skip them. (Judith Ivory’s sex scenes are coming to mind just now.)

    If I’m skipping the sex scenes, it means I’m probably skipping other boring scenes in the book, too. And if I’m skimming and skipping large chunks of the book, I’m probably not going to revisit that author.

  9. Marguerite Butler
    May 14, 2010 @ 10:54:25

    Sometimes I skim the sex scenes. I usually enjoy all the foreplay and acts leading up, but so often, once penetration is acheived, it’s just Tab A/Slot B until the happy moment. Meh.

    I also skim excessive description and informational treatise. I like to have the scene set, but I’m just not that interested in the topography of Kent. And just because someone researched lace-making doesn’t mean I want ten pages on the subject in the middle of my story.

  10. emily
    May 14, 2010 @ 10:57:01

    I skip a lot of sex scenes because so many of them seem the same. A bunch of phrases are way overused: shattering orgasms, furled buds, shafts, etc. In most cases, the sex scene doesn’t give much extra to the plot besides stating the fact that the lead characters are getting intimate. I’d much prefer a solid lead-in, with the details left to the imagination of the readers.

  11. Zola
    May 14, 2010 @ 11:05:25

    When I still read hetero romance novels I totally skimmed sex scenes. In fact, I blame Catherine Feehan for putting me off them entirely with her Carpathian novels. The nearly identical male characters throughout the series, the whole “i see in color, now plant yourself on my mighty rod and lets get jiggy with it” and overall lackluster stories, made me burn out fast. If it wasn’t for Moning, I would have quit the genre entirely.

    Now, I find myself skipping/skimming only when the sex feels gratuitous to me (big reason why I don’t like porn) instead of a natural development of the plot and the characters.

    Sex is good, sex is fun, but people also have lives beyond what they get up to buck naked in the bedroom/boardroom/closet/kitchen. Which is one of my biggest gripes with erotic romances: skimping on the whole love relationship as it involves the characters’ lives in favor of copious sex scenes that “prove” these two people, or more, are right for each other. I find in my readings that a lot of sex is becoming short hand for demonstrating that the people involved love each other and must belong together.

    Maybe it’s just my experience, maybe I’m not your typical female, but in my experience, you can have great sex with someone and not be in love with them.

  12. willaful
    May 14, 2010 @ 11:25:24

    I picked “rarely” because there wasn’t a “sometimes.” I love a well-written sex scene, but if the book as a whole is boring me, usually the sex scenes will bore me too. (Why am I still reading a boring book? Whole other question!)

  13. Polly
    May 14, 2010 @ 11:29:14

    When the sex scenes actually truly further the plot or character development, and it’s a book I’m otherwise enjoying, I rarely have an inclination to skip or skim. Mainly because it would feel like skipping a scene, not just a sex scene.

    Most authors today seem to be aware that the sex scenes should be integrated in the story and further the plot, but so often, they don’t actually do so. I just get bored by most sex scenes in books.

    Actually, I wish there were more books without so many explicit sex scenes because I think restraining the sex would force the authors to develop the character relationships more. Not that sex scenes can’t work, but I think they’re often used as a short-cut way to show a good relationship, when I’d rather see the good relationship and chemistry outside the bedroom. When I skip large chunks of a book, I end up feeling resentful. But I just don’t care about many of the sex scenes in romance novels–they’re either not integrated enough, or they’re just not that well written.

  14. Jill Sorenson
    May 14, 2010 @ 11:30:15

    Never! Sometimes I skim everything but the sex, which is a horrible thing to do. I feel bad about that. But seriously, if a book isn’t working for me, bad or boring sex isn’t the reason.

    Some memorable sex scenes:

    Passion. Painful/impossible-sounding sex scenes. But I liked the characters and the story.

    Caine’s Reckoning by Sarah McCarty. Long, drawn-out sex scenes, well done but just *too much* for this gal. It was the relationship dynamic that bothered me more, though.

    Paradise Rules by Beth Kery. Now this is how it should be done, IMO. The sex scenes were integral to the character development and romantic relationship. If you skipped them, you missed everything.

  15. RebeccaJ
    May 14, 2010 @ 11:30:54

    I’m also for an “it depends” category. I will usually read the first sex scene, then if I feel there are too many or if the book starts boring me, I’ll skip over the remaining sex scenes. I also skip over hugh chunks of introspection, ESPECIALLY if they’re going over something that happened in their past for the millionth time.

  16. Jess (The Cozy Reader)
    May 14, 2010 @ 11:39:59

    I was sooo looking for the option:

    No. I read them more than once. ;)

    Because, really, some of them are great or shocking and you have to go back and double check that s/he put what where!?

    I’ve learned quite a bit from some nice sex scenes.

  17. Susan/DC
    May 14, 2010 @ 11:40:57

    Willaful stole my comment, and I also echo many of the other posters in saying “it depends”. For example, Mary Balogh isn’t known for her sex scenes, but she is one of the best at using sex scenes to illuminate character, deepen the relationship, and further the plot. The H/H’s initial physical intimacy in “The Notorious Rake”, “The Temporary Wife”, and “A Summer to Remember” are essential, and if you skimmed them you’d miss something indispensable to the stories. OTOH, I’ve read books where: 1) I didn’t care about the characters; 2) the sex came too soon or too frequently; or 3) the scenes were overwritten and overwrought (purple prose does not equal passion) — I definitely skim those.

  18. KeriM
    May 14, 2010 @ 11:48:34

    I am another one that needed a ‘It Depends’ button. Lora Leigh’s Ops series, I put my skimmers on before I even open the book. Of course I end up skimming most of her books, but crack is whack, what else can I say. Julia Ross’s Wicked Lover to me had some of the most wonderfully done love scenes. There are others for me, but she is who comes off the top of my head.

  19. Liza Lester
    May 14, 2010 @ 11:51:50

    I like to give the author a chance. A few write delicious, consistently eye-popping and diverse encounters. Kathleen O’Reilly and Victoria Dahl come to mind. And Pam Rosenthal. But consistently dull sex scenes are much more common, even for authors I otherwise enjoy a lot. It’s like, ‘we interrupt this story for a sexy break’ and I can almost hear the ridiculous sexy music fading in. I’ve been cruising through Julia Quinn’s backlist, and her sex scenes arrive with predictable regularity. (Does every Quinn hero have to seal the deal with his virgin before the big wedding day? Cause he wants to be sure she can’t get away, and she just can’t resist his sexy allure, in spite of social conditioning, fear of pregnancy and total dishonor, and the usual heroine doubts that the hero actually loves her? I’m usually struggling to suppress eye-rolling disbelief at this point in a historical, so the scene is already losing me.)

  20. Elaine
    May 14, 2010 @ 11:52:53

    And here I thought I was the only one….

  21. MaryK
    May 14, 2010 @ 11:53:03

    Sometimes. It depends on my mood and how well they’re written. :)

    They need to be emotional and character driven off-shoots of the plot, not just mechanical descriptions plonked in at intervals. Some are so generic the characters could be anybody; the only way you know is by the character names.

    So, I’d say the characters need to stay in character to make a good sex scene. Joey Hill is really good at this.

  22. Joanne
    May 14, 2010 @ 11:56:22

    I picked “rarely” because there wasn't a “sometimes.”

    If the sex scene makes me think “Ouch!” or it’s going into overtime then yup, I skip some pages.

    I also tend to agree with someone here – I think it was Jane – who said she leaves Roarke and Eve by themselves. I thought that was funny when I read it but they are SUCH a couple that it sometimes feels a little too intrusive.

    And if there is no dialogue then I’m skipping pages. I don’t want to read a manual.

    I do read every word of the sex scenes in the G.A. Aiken dragon books. Fascinating what can be done with a spiked tail and I’m fairly sure it’s not going to ever be a reality for me, more’s the pity.

  23. Sherry Thomas
    May 14, 2010 @ 12:01:22

    When I teach my workshop on love scenes, I insist that writers do not put in a love scene unless it is a turning point in the relationship.

    (Of course, it is one of those break-after-you-master-it rules. But point is that a love scene should be an emotional vehicle. And if it is not emotionally intense and important to the story, then there had better be a damn good reason for it to be there.)

  24. Keira
    May 14, 2010 @ 12:14:51

    There are only 3 reasons I’d skipped a sex scene in a romance…

    1. Read the 1st sex scene in the book and didn’t enjoy it.
    2. I’m on the verge of quitting the book and a quick skim of the next sex scene just might keep me interested long enough to finish.
    3. I couldn’t make it that far into the book in the first place.

  25. Kalen Hughes
    May 14, 2010 @ 12:20:28

    @Polly:

    Actually, I wish there were more books without so many explicit sex scenes because I think restraining the sex would force the authors to develop the character relationships more.

    I write *hot* books. RT calls them “scorchers”. My new publisher bought me as an author of “erotic romance”. And in the greater scheme of things, the numbers seem to indicate that hot books sell. All of that aside, I do write with the goal of having all my sex scenes be necessary to the story. They're certainly necessary to my vision of the love story being told. Since I'm expected to deliver a *hot* book, I may however include love scenes that could have been “fade to black” in another type of book (i.e. you need to know that the scene happened, but you may not have needed to see it).

  26. nicole
    May 14, 2010 @ 12:21:49

    I do most of the time if they last longer than I think necessary. I don’t want to read 2-3 pages on just foreplay and emotions. Get to the good stuff!

  27. Cherrie Lynn
    May 14, 2010 @ 12:24:17

    Never. I’m much more likely to skip *to* the sex scenes.

  28. Pam Rosenthal/Molly Weatherfield
    May 14, 2010 @ 12:38:53

    honored to be mentioned.

    Thanks, Liza, ’cause I work really hard on those scenes. Both for the relationship progress qua Sherry, and just the time and space, matter and energy reality effect.

    It’s such an interesting problem to make it fresh and new. So many things to consider.

    I would never use a thesaurus for the big emotional words like “vortex” or “hurricane.” I think you can tell when an author does that, and anyway, those aren’t the important words for me.

    But sometimes, for example, I need a multisyllabic word for “put” or “push” or something like that, to imply the correct relationship to the perceived slowing down of time, say.

    Anyway, I find this fascinating. And am so glad when someone notices.

  29. Gwynnyd
    May 14, 2010 @ 12:40:29

    I said “most of the time” but it does depend. A lot of the sex scenes, and the reason I don’t normally read erotica, are just not my taste and so I find myself skimming them for the plot and/or character forwarding moments. I skip them entirely only if nothing except friction is happening. I am so disappointed in those because I want plot and character development that does not depend solely on a mutual taste for, oh, fisting. Like Joanne above, I don’t need or want my fiction to be a manual or a Cliff Notes version of the Hite Report.

    But, sometimes, an author will write a scene that resonates with me and then I eagerly read it all and search out more.

  30. diane
    May 14, 2010 @ 12:56:33

    I used to love the sex scenes, but now they’re all starting to sound alike. The plain fact is that I’ve grown weary of heros with throbbing manhoods and heroines who shatter when they lose their virginity. It’s like waking up from a one-night stand and thinking that there has to be more to it than this.

  31. Tracey
    May 14, 2010 @ 12:58:54

    Your poll needs a “sometimes” button, as well as an “it depends” one.

    The sex is key to the plot and/or characterization, then I’ll read it, because then it’s about these particular people in this particular situation.

    If, however, the characters just met two minutes ago and are going at it like rabid ferrets, swearing eternal love, passion and devotion, then I’m going to say, “Oh, come ON,” and skim to the end. Because I don’t want to read about random bodies colliding. I want to read about people.

  32. cawm
    May 14, 2010 @ 13:03:49

    There was a time when I read them all, but now I probably skim 90% of them. I get so bored by these endless scenes, and they take me completely out of the story. I’d much rather read a romance with great characters and strong emotions than page after page of descriptions of sex. I used to love mysteries until the violence took over from the plot, and I’m now drifting away from the romance genre because of the overemphasis on sex.

  33. Rissa
    May 14, 2010 @ 13:04:49

    Like Emily, mostly, I skim sex scenes. Sometimes/rarely I either a) skip them altogether b) read them word by word.

    I don’t know, maybe I’m reading the _wrong_ romances, but unless the sex scene doesn’t carry that “extra oomph” — further the plot & really deepen the characters involved, h/H — I skim. I mean, I already know what goes where and how. Reading about it the twentieth time, it gets kind of old & boring. Purple prose and overused “romance-specific” phrases do nothing to arose my interest [puns totally intended! *G*]; I suspect quite a lot of authors are uncomfortable writing explicit sex while being way too aware that “sex sells”.

    And I actually like (*a lot*) the anticipation part — the (slowly) building sensual/sexual/erotic tension — better than the actual consummation and climax. Too often, h/H actually doing the deed seems to be a kind of a dead end street for the author as far as that sensual/sexual/erotic push-pull goes.

  34. Elizabeth Jules Mason
    May 14, 2010 @ 13:07:22

    Skim or skip them?? Egads no! I look for them!
    If I am reading a romance, especially a steamy erotic romance I EXPECT the story to give me SOMETHING by page 100 – if not I will peek ahead to see if its coming soon!
    Guess I’m a perv, but its the truth.

    :)

    MsM

  35. Liza Lester
    May 14, 2010 @ 13:10:20

    Lest I sounded too harsh on the historicals, I want to add that I can totally suspend disbelief for an engaging sex scene in an historical setting. I’m engaged if the emotional pitch of the characters matches the action, they have developed a rapport of more than a few days, and the sex marks an interesting development in their relationship. Laura Kinsale wrote some incredibly overwrought, wonderful scenes. The sex comes early in Sherry Thomas’s Not Quite a Husband, but what seems at first implausible works in the context of the characters’ mutual history. Plus it’s really hot. I’ve re-read those scenes more than once.

  36. LVLM
    May 14, 2010 @ 13:12:16

    I only skip if the book is non-stop sex and I’ve have my fill already by the 3/4 of the way through. It gets boring then. I mean if a couple have been going at it every chapter or so, it’s like come on, maybe you can talk or something.

    I also skip if I’m not feeling any connection between the characters. That doesn’t mean they have to be in love or anything, but I do want to feel or know that they have the hots for each other. Or what’s the point?

    Once in a while, I will skip over a sex scene or part of one in which the characters are doing something that turns me off.

  37. kaigou
    May 14, 2010 @ 13:15:12

    Basically, I don’t need a “depends” — I just want a better scale. If the answer is a range where 1 = never and 5 = always, what’s here is:

    4: Most of the Time
    1: Not at All
    2: Rarely

    So first, you’re biasing our replies to avoid the “always” and the “half the time” options, and second it’s not even in a logical order, which in itself can create some confused replies — and it doesn’t help that the question itself is phrased as a negative (“do you NOT read”) and that’s then combined with a second negative in the reply (“not at all”). Double negatives are very very hard on people, and yes, that does include even times when the question is as short as this one.

    I would respectfully suggest you redo the poll, and this time, give it a range that’s also in logical order. It’d be best to phrase the question as positive (“do you read the sex scenes?”) but as long as the range is consistent (from 1 to 5 or 5 to 1), it’s probably okay to keep it mostly as-is:

    Do you skip sex scenes?
    – definitely yes
    – mostly yes
    – about half the time
    – mostly not
    – definitely not

    Note that part of the reason you may be getting “it depends” is because “skimming” and “skipping” are not the same thing. That causes additional confusion (on top of the negatives) for the respondent who skims but never skips, or vice versa. So pick one, or do two polls, one for skipping and one for skimming.

    (And yes, I do have polls on the brain, looks like.)

  38. Robin L. Rotham
    May 14, 2010 @ 13:22:24

    I also picked “rarely” because there wasn’t a “sometimes” button, and I also tend to skim over sex scenes that do nothing to further the story. When that happens, I generally find myself skimming the whole book.

  39. LoriK
    May 14, 2010 @ 13:24:32

    Another vote for sometimes/it depends. There’s a wide range of what people consider hot. I’ll skim if I’m generally liking the book and the author’s idea of sexy & mine just don’t align (word choice for example). I’ll also skim if the scene just isn’t well written, goes on way too long or there are too many. I like a good erotic romance as much as the next person (and far more than many), but there can be too much of a good thing.

  40. Sandy James
    May 14, 2010 @ 13:43:04

    To me, as a reader and as a writer, the sex has to fit the story. I don’t like gratuitous scenes, and I might be seen as a prude, but there are certain words for body parts I just don’t want to see in a romance. I write tasteful but sensual sex scenes that show a connection both in the characters’ hearts as well as their bodies. My books win awards. But it’s cost me dearly…

    If I would switch from mainstream romance to erotica, I’d sell a helluva lot more books through my publisher’s website. I don’t mean to disparage erotica readers, but I just don’t understand what is so appealing about seeing how many acts of sex can be rammed (if you’ll excuse the pun) into a story. Three cowboys, one enthusiastic woman, and you’ve got an erotica ebook bestseller. Simply doesn’t work for me…

    Call me old-fashioned, but I need a plot, great character development, and an emotional connection between my hero and heroine. Not that all erotica lacks such things, but they are definitely secondary to how many times the characters can give each other sexual release.

    So I guess I’ll keep writing and reading what I believe in and hope readers and reviewers love my books even if they’re not hyper-sexed.

  41. Dana
    May 14, 2010 @ 13:50:05

    For me it depends on how well the sex scenes are written. If it’s all flowery prose about the earth moving and birds singing, then I’m skimming it. Or if there are too many of them (and it’s not an erotic romance) then I’m skipping them. Or if the sex is there to replace actually building a relationship, then I become very annoyed and stop reading the author.

    But if the sex scenes are well written and have a place in the plot then I love them. IMO, a well done sex scene can help build the romance and the connection between the hero/heroine. And if the scenes are hot, that’s just an added bonus.

  42. Lynne Connolly
    May 14, 2010 @ 13:55:15

    I thought the sex scenes in “Sinful” were the best parts of the book, well written and engsging. I reviewed it for ERWA, and I found the history perhaps the weakest point.
    http://www.erotica-readers.com/ERA/SL/BR-Sinful.htm

    By the way, did you notice that the hero had “bullocks” swinging between his legs? My favorite typo of the year!

    I find that when a sex scene is generic, ie it could be anybody doing it, then I tend to skim. Never skip, because important things can happen in a sex scene, as well as the sex.But if the scene is specific to the hero and heroine I’m reading about, then I read every word.

    At one point, it seemed that a lot of readers were ‘justifying’ reading sex scenes by claiming to skip them, but erotic romances were flying out the window.

    I write erotic and I also write highly sensual (fewer sex scenes, without as much graphic language) and until this last year, I sold 3 erotics to one sensual, sometimes more. But I’ve seen a change in my sales, and while the erotics still sell well, the sensuals are catching up fast. I’d love to hear from other writers who do both, to see how their sales are doing.

  43. Jacqueline C.
    May 14, 2010 @ 13:56:03

    I love a well written sex scene, especially when it furthers the progression of the relationship. I have read my share of poorly done sex scenes, but (since I’ve read so many that I have enjoyed) I always read them. I have to at least give each a try and, if worst comes to worst, I’ll probably at least get a good laugh or WTF moment from reading it.

  44. Tracey
    May 14, 2010 @ 14:04:36

    It’s worth pointing out that the sex scenes are not always the idea of the author. Some publishers have, or have had, requirements about the frequency with which sex scenes must occur: a sex scene per X many words, a sex scene per chapter (I know one author who was told that she’d need to do this by two separate publishers), three sex scenes in a story of 8,000 words or so, etc.

    Black Lace Submissions Guidelines gives explicit descriptions of what they want and don’t want in terms of a sex-oriented plot:

    http://nt6744.vs.netbenefit.co.uk/guidelines.html

    So it’s not necessarily the author’s idea. Sometimes it’s the publisher’s. Publishing, after all, is a business. And sex sells.

  45. Sandy James
    May 14, 2010 @ 14:14:47

    @Tracey:
    If an author doesn’t want to write sex scenes to fit the “mold” of a publisher, she can always find another publisher. I’m blessed that mine is known for erotica, but in their desire to expand their market, they now publish mainstream romance as well. Not once was I asked to increase any of my books’ heat level, and I’m very, very grateful for that because I probably would have declined. I do know, however, that they make much less money off mainstream romance than erotica.

    As I said, I don’t want to be a prude. If you love to read/write erotica, go for it! I would never deny anyone the chance to read what they love, and I sure don’t want to step on any toes. I was just replying to Jane’s question about skimming sex scenes.

  46. Angie
    May 14, 2010 @ 14:26:32

    Like many other people, I skim over sex scenes which don’t serve the story other than adding “Yay sex!” Pointless sex — sex which doesn’t further the plot, show character, develop the relationship, something — bores me, and when I’m bored I skim.

    I’ll also say that when I do more skimming than reading, I feel a bit cheated on the cost of the book. Which isn’t to say that stories with a lot of pointless sex shouldn’t exist, because plenty of people love them and should be able to read what they want. But for me personally, if a book has a lot of pointless sex scenes then I’m paying money for something I don’t want and am not using. I wish there were some way of labelling these books (maybe creating a YaySex!! subgenre? [wry smile]) so the people who like them could find them easily and the people who don’t like them could avoid them and spend their money elsewhere.

    Angie

  47. Patti
    May 14, 2010 @ 14:31:10

    I have gotten to the point where I almost always skip the sex scenes. I care more about the emotional arc of the characters and story. Let’s face it. sexual attraction is a big part of falling in love, but I think a book can be very sexy without a lot of explicit sex scenes. People complained that one of Julie James novels didn’t have enough sex scenes and I was actually relieved! It seems so novel to not have a ton of them. And I think her last book was both funny and sexy.

  48. Ammarylis
    May 14, 2010 @ 14:38:42

    I for one enjoy sex scenes as long as there done right. Even if the sex doesn’t futher the plot, if its really hot I’ll read it for enjoyment. But more than a few of the author’s I’ve read lately have become repetitive in their sex scenes the more books they write. LKH is a great example. In the beginning of her Anita Blake & Meredith Gentry series, the sex was hot & enterntaining. Now, it’s almost like she copies-and-pastes sex scenes from previous novels into new ones and TADA! But then again, LKH has gotten repetitive about everything in all her latest novels imo, so maybe its a special case.

    Either way, I realize that alot of sex scenes seem impossible or like they are trying too much but that doesn’t bother me. I read to escape reality for a little while. I am more than willing to suspend belief for a good novel.

  49. Jinni
    May 14, 2010 @ 14:40:39

    I find myself skipping them more and more. I was reading Can’t Stand the Heat a few weeks ago and found myself not only skipping the sex scenes and the other scenes . . . quickly put that down and moved on. I also started skipping them in Blaze because they were ratcheting up to sexy before the emotional arc – which is also the problem in erotica. I like a good sex scene that’s integral to the emotional growth and comes after some build up (or it can be a bit earlier in with the friends to lovers trope).

  50. Polly
    May 14, 2010 @ 15:08:10

    @Kalen Hughes:

    Yeah, I debated whether or not I should elaborate. I have no problem with erotic romance or erotica. Explicit sex scenes are not the problem, per se. I enjoy many a “hot” romance. I’m sure it sells, and I definitely think I’m in the minority for actively wanting fewer sex scenes (especially because I’m not at all inclined towards inspirational romance).

    But my gold standard romances tend to have fewer sex scenes. I like seeing the hero and heroine interact without the sex. Great sex doesn’t mean great love, and I want to be convinced of the relationship. I mean, I want them to have great sex too, but great sex on its own doesn’t prove anything. And I do think that in a lot of romances, we’re supposed to read great sex as proof of great love. I definitely get what you’re saying, that you might provide a scene that others would fade to black, but if an author only gets 70,000 or 100,00 words (or whatever, I’m not a writer), all the sex scenes, if they’re ones that I end up skipping, make me think of all the banter scenes, or whatever, that I’m not getting. I guess, the key is that a book should be full of good scenes that enrich and move the plot along, and I think that sex scenes often get a free pass on whether or not they are good or necessary to the story. If a sex scene works, honestly, I don’t tend to think of it as a sex scene–it’s just a scene. But if I can skip it and not feel like I’ve lost something, there’s a problem.

  51. Maddie
    May 14, 2010 @ 15:17:27

    I voted not at all, but I have to add it there is a lot of sex scenes in a book, I will start to skip over them.

  52. Anonymous
    May 14, 2010 @ 15:22:08

    @Sandy James: I just went to take a look at your site to see about your books and you struck out on all counts for me.

    You label yourself as old fashioned and have pictures of race track horses with names like Going Postal which is a total WTF. When I finally found a link that actually went to some of your books (Amazons or some such… huh? What is old fashioned about that?!) I see you’re with Bookstand/Siren. I’ve bought so many craptastic books by that publisher someone I trust has to work really hard at convincing me to give them more of my money. So take all that plus the fact I still don’t have a clue what type of romances you write or what your books are about and you blew any chance you had of making a sale to me.

    Maybe the girl with the nine cowboys outsells your books because the people who are interested in those books can easily determine what they’re about and can find them.

    So to wrap it up: I don’t know what old fasioned romance is, I’m not into horses, I hate your publisher, I couldn’t find a booklist and I still don’t know what type of romances you write. You have pages and pages of awards (that I’ve never heard of so don’t mean anything to me) but I’m going to assume you have talent so fix your site and market yourself like the popular romance author you want to be instead of a race horse enthusiast. Oh yeah, erotic romance readers like mainstream romances too so when you call our taste into question that doesn’t help you sell books either. It just makes you sound old and bitter.

  53. Kalen Hughes
    May 14, 2010 @ 15:30:36

    @Polly: I think of my sex scenes as an extension of my banter scenes, LOL! There’s so much humor and joy in both activities, and one often leads to the other . . . it's all intertwined.

  54. kilroy
    May 14, 2010 @ 15:40:52

    It depends on the author. Some are more predictable than others so you know what's coming (snort). New authors, I'll read the whole book with no skimming to get a feel for the writing unless it's a stinker DNF. One book is usually a good indication of how the author will handle sex scenes in the other books. Except that some authors do change their steam factor. For instance Stephanie Laurens first books were more Traditional Regency with the fade to black, while her latest works are more graphic….and very predictable (snore). Therefore I'll skim, not skip just in case the author has changed up on me.

    I’ll read the first scene to see if it’s well written or if it adds to the story and character development. If it’s Cirque du Soleil, tab A, or cookie-cutter-predictably-boring, I’ll have to skim it.

    I can’t remember which author or book this was, but she just didn’t know basic anatomy. First sex scene she had the H/H standing up hugging face to face, her arms around his neck, blah, blah, but had the heroines ‘soft calf pressed against the heroes taught stomach’. Hmmmm. Tab A or Cirque doesn’t even work there. It was a bestselling author too.

  55. Sandy James
    May 14, 2010 @ 15:48:48

    @Anonymous:

    Wow. I’m not sure what I said that prompted such a personal attack. Let me address a few of the things you mentioned, knowing full well that nothing I say will cut through that kind of venom.

    I do write “old-fashioned” romance. I write stories that have tasteful love scenes and tend to be more epic with a large story arc. I am strongly influenced by the first generation of romance authors such as Woodiwiss and Garwood, hence I write the type of romance their readers might enjoy. I consider that “old-fashioned.”

    Racehorse owners don’t name horses; breeders do. Going Postal was one of our most successful horses, but he was “claimed” away from us. We loved him so much that when he was retired by another owner due to arthritic knees, my family bought him back and he lives a life of leisure instead of pulling a buggy for an Amish farm. The one horse we bred and named is “Heart’s Prince,” and he is still racing for us. Hardly a scandalous name. My website shows my horses because my Damaged Heroes series includes stories of horseracing. That was my niche when I began to write. I have expanded since then, including writing my urban fantasy series about women warriors, the series that helped me land the fabulous Maureen Walters of Curtis Brown as my agent. I have plans to update my website, but I do consider it a good reflection of who I am as a person and as a writer.

    I’m proud to be a BookStrand author. My publisher had enough faith in me to take a chance on an unknown author, and I have rewarded them by producing quality books. I have been an Aspen Gold Readers Choice Winner (beating Harlequin books!) and have finaled in the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. I was a double finalist in EPIC (the best ebooks published), in the Write Touch Readers Choice Contest, and in the CRW Award of Excellence. Perhaps you haven’t heard of any of those contests, but most writers have. Many, many well-known authors entered and finaled in every single one of them. My books and their success in national contests give BookStrand the right to say they sell “award-winning” romance.

    I’m sorry if I offended you when I said I didn’t like erotica. I simply don’t see what I might have said that invited such a personal attack. I truly wish you no ill will.

  56. may
    May 14, 2010 @ 15:55:43

    I skim long or repetitive sexual scenes. I just do NOT need to know every drop of sweat, every thrust… I get… BORED. Yeah, bored.

    I’m into romance for the relationship, the falling in love, the HEA. If an author can blend in the s-e-x too, great! But if it feels like a ‘I need “x” pages of sex in here’ and the story isn’t furthered then yeah, I’m skimming.

    If I skim the sex and I don’t get the connection of the heroine + hero, I feel like author didn’t do her job. They should have moments and deep thoughts outside the bed, ya know?

  57. Kate Pearce
    May 14, 2010 @ 16:10:20

    I always go into a book assuming that the sex will be integral to the plot, show character development and, quite frankly make me feel quite ‘warm’-because that’s how I write my sex scenes.
    But sometimes I do end up skimming :)
    Some writers tend to write sex the same way in each book and having a photographic type memory I can’t ignore it.
    If readers skim the sex scenes in my books, they’ll miss some of the most interesting aspects of my characters, because, there is being physically naked, and there is being emotionally naked-and those two things can cause such immense joy/conflict in a sex scene.

  58. Polly
    May 14, 2010 @ 16:15:13

    @Kalen Hughes:

    Those are definitely the best kind! Lol.

    Again, if it works, it works. It’s just for me, personally, I’ve found that a lot of books have sex scenes that don’t work for me, either because they’re repetitive or otherwise not well-written, or don’t move the story along. In general, if I end up thinking of it as a sex scene, it’s probably not working. If it’s just part of the story, it probably is.

  59. Marianne McA
    May 14, 2010 @ 16:15:56

    Mostly skip. I think the majority of them are extraneous.
    I would say – and not just because she’s commented – it was a doubt I had before reading Pam Rosenthal’s book ‘The Edge of Impropriety’ – because I’d read somewhere that she tended towards the more erotic sort of book. And generally books with lots of sex scenes aren’t my thing. And yet I really liked the sex scenes in that book because they were specific to those characters and they were an important part of the story. I didn’t skip at all.
    And that made me wonder whether I miss out on authors who write well about sex simply because I tend to suppose their books aren’t for me.

  60. Anonymous
    May 14, 2010 @ 16:31:06

    @Sandy James:

    I write tasteful but sensual sex scenes that show a connection both in the characters' hearts as well as their bodies. My books win awards. But it's cost me dearly…

    If I would switch from mainstream romance to erotica, I'd sell a helluva lot more books through my publisher's website.

    It wasn’t meant to be a personal attack just brutally honest opinion/criticism sparked by your excuses for not selling well. I imagine that erotic romances do sell better online than traditional romances just because online is often the only place readers can buy them.

    But my point was your marketing and site just flat out suck and I think that impacts your sales more than the sex scenes you write. I’m a reader who buys and recommends books that I like. I went to your site to see if you had anything I’d be interested in because of your comments here but I left your site without ever even finding what you have to offer. You missed out on a potential sale and word of mouth had I read and liked one of your books. The part that is a shame is it had absolutely nothing to do with your writing, tasteful love scenes or not.

    You have all those awards that don’t mean anything to readers along with those stupid flower-cup-star-cupid type reviews cluttering up your already hard to find books to the point I still don’t know what type of books you write. Add the horse nonsense into the mix and it’s just a nightmare.

    I honestly thought you should know that and I imagine no ones ever told you just because you seem like a nice lady(if slightly bitter that less talented authors are selling better than you). If you’re happy with your site and don’t get what I’m talking about that’s fine. An anonymous opinion from one person on the internet is easy to ignore.

  61. Jane
    May 14, 2010 @ 16:56:26

    @Anonymous I think we’ve had enough of calling people bitter and untalented. I know I have.

  62. Melissa Blue
    May 14, 2010 @ 16:59:53

    @ Sandy James Do. Not. Engage. My assvice for the day.

    As for do I skim or skimp, sometimes. As someone said up thread, I prefer sex scenes that are specific to character. Or hell one that shows a different, deeper side. Being naked can definitely make you feel more vulnerable and who is that character when their in that position? So in a sense I agree with Polly. Some authors drop the ball. If some authors can’t do it (he he) with two or three sex scenes, then erotic romances are bound to have a few books that suffer from same lack of depth or freshness. But that speaks less of the genre and more of the author.

    Yes, a sex scene is just another scene, but the purpose is to titillate while moving the plot and characterization. Just like a scene where the hero/heroine cries is supposed to move the reader (while moving the plot and characterization). If it fails then it feels like emo. I skip those scenes too. So all in all, if it fails to illicit the proper emotion I skim.

  63. Anonymous
    May 14, 2010 @ 17:03:22

    @Jane: Huh? I’m done but the only reason I posted in the first place is because I assumed she had talent in the first place because of the awards and reviews.

    “I’m going to assume you have talent”

    “less talented authors” Meaning she’s more talented…

  64. Aislinn Macnamara
    May 14, 2010 @ 17:11:58

    @Jill Sorenson:

    Sometimes I skim everything but the sex,

    Glad it’s not only me.

  65. Michelle
    May 14, 2010 @ 17:23:19

    @Sandy James-don’t feed trolls-it keeps them coming back for more

    Interesting topic, as an aside how many fast forward when listening to audiobooks. Just feels weird to listen to sex scenes-lol. I usually skim. I am now to the point where less is more. I guess I like the build up, better than a graphic description of body parts.

  66. Perry
    May 14, 2010 @ 17:38:37

    I read the good ones, but I saw it mentioned above, some of them are so bad I have to skip.

    I’m usually looking for technique (writing that is) while I read because I have problems writing the darn scenes. I don’t want to be one of the poorly written ones that people skip.

  67. Sandy James
    May 14, 2010 @ 17:38:59

    @Melissa Blue: Yeah, I should know better. And I did give my website a polish, so it wasn’t like I wasn’t paying attention to constructive criticism. Just hate personal attacks. :P

    Thanks to Jane and Michelle as well.

  68. Jane
    May 14, 2010 @ 17:48:57

    @Anonymous Here’s where I see the difference. You may see it differently. While an author might be posting with some hubris suggesting that her writing is so much better than others, I don’t see that as a direct personal attack. Saying someone is a bitter hack is a personal attack. I don’t have any problem with people pointing out the lack of good website design – that’s a professional criticism all the way. But stating and restating that someone is bitter seems awfully personally. Again, that’s how I see it.

    I think it’s totally fair to say that someone’s site is bad, that their writing is bad, etc. so long as it is about the work and not about the person.

  69. Nonny Morgan
    May 14, 2010 @ 18:06:21

    I also need an “It depends” button. As the expectation has shifted to “erotic” for almost any romance, I find a lot of sex scenes are just repetitive. There’s only so many ways you can describe sex, and when I read a bunch of paranormal romances and the sex scenes all sound the same… yeah, not much reason to read, for me. I feel like I’ve read it already.

    The exceptions are those that actually include story, plot, and character development in the sex scenes. Off the top of my head, Larissa Ione is great at this. I can’t skip her sex scenes, because if I do, I’ll end up skipping a bunch of the story, too.

  70. Sandy James
    May 14, 2010 @ 18:10:17

    @Jane:

    While an author might be posting with some hubris suggesting that her writing is so much better than others, I don't see that as a direct personal attack.

    Oh, hell. I hope that’s not how I came across. IN NO WAY do I think I’m better than any other author. ALL erotica authors sell better than mainstream romance at my publisher, and that’s just a fact, not a criticism of any of my sister BookStrand/Siren authors regardless of what they write. All I wanted to do was give my opinion on…

    Never mind. I surrender.

  71. Christina B
    May 14, 2010 @ 18:14:26

    I’ve found that my personal reading preferences usually translate into me skipping any sex scene except the first and the second (if there are more than two). The first I read because I like to see the initial emotional and physical connection, and I read the second to see if the author is going to add anything “new” to the characters and relationship during the sex. If not, then I’ll skip the rest. I guess I bore easily.

  72. John
    May 14, 2010 @ 19:12:48

    I can post, right? If I finish a book, I read it all. It’s just natural. But, if I continue to read romance, I may end up skimming some scenes like that if they aren’t important. I focus on characters and plot, so I like ever scene to have that on some level. Intimacy is important to a relationship, and I usually read authors that feature this idea more so than the ‘Let’s get down and dirty all the time’ mentality.

  73. Sandra Cormier
    May 14, 2010 @ 20:41:17

    Must… resist…

    Oh, to hell with it. Just don’t mention kiwi balls or canoe sex and you’re golden.

    Cheers,

    Chumplet

  74. whey
    May 14, 2010 @ 20:58:49

    Stories where there’s no conflict between the characters but lots of sex scenes usually equals -skim-skim-skip-yawn-skip-smallcelebrationforreachingtheend-delete.

  75. meoskop
    May 14, 2010 @ 21:08:08

    If I’m actually reading the sex scene (and it’s not because I’m reviewing the book) then I know it’s a rare book indeed. I’d say 90% of the sex I just skip past. I know hot sells, but not to me. There are authors I used to enjoy but as their page count filled up with more sex and less story I dropped them.

    But you know, I love Mary Balogh like nobody’s business. I don’t think the reader who wants to have the super steam in their story is going to be the same reader as i, although I am sure there are readers who like both. I’m just not interested in other people’s sex acts.

  76. Julia Rachel Barrett
    May 14, 2010 @ 21:30:29

    If I’m skimming or skipping the sex scenes, chances are I’m skimming or skipping the entire book. I think I read one romance suspense that had awful sex scenes but a good story. Can’t remember the title of the book, but I recall feeling surprised that the story held my interest despite the sex scenes.

  77. Booklover1335
    May 14, 2010 @ 21:39:06

    I’m shocked that so many are skipping or skimming the sex scenes. It seems that so much emotionally happens in them other than the physical…at least in the books I have read that I would loose so much insight into the characters, their motivations and their thoughts that it is unfathomable to me.

    I never would have thought this question up, not to mention that there were so many who did. The love scenes to me make it a romance rather than just women’s fiction!

    btw I read Sinful and thought that the sex scenes were integral to the plot and not overdone at all.

  78. Eve Paludan
    May 14, 2010 @ 22:16:36

    I rarely skip the love scenes. I consider them integral to the plot and characters.

    Please give me more love scenes like Sandra Hill’s Cajun Contemporary Series. I especially liked the hero, Remy, in Tall, Dark and Cajun.

    Wow, she writes splendid scenes.

    I’m not above laughing at poorly executed love scenes, but I read them anyway, just so I know (as an author) what doesn’t work, which is just as important as knowing what works.

  79. Bianca
    May 14, 2010 @ 22:20:17

    I never skim sex scenes. Call me a perv, I guess.

    If the book is bad, the sex scenes almost always veer into LOL/LMAO territory. I can always use a good laugh.

    If the book is boring, the sex scenes are usually the only slightly less boring part. Then I just read all the sex scenes, and skim the rest.

    If the book is good, then sex scenes usually provide key emotional insights into the characters and relationship; skipping that would mean missing quite a bit.

    So…no. Again, I feel all weird and pervy now that I know so many people skim the sex scenes. D:

  80. JessicaP
    May 14, 2010 @ 22:25:03

    I generally don’t skim/skip unless I’m growing tired of the book, or there’s a big slump in the middle of it. Or they jumped into bed when they should have been doing something else.

    What I am tired of is constant mental lusting on the part of both parties. Also, where the hero is instantly hard (and you already know he’s well endowed – what hero isn’t?). I’ve begun to think that scene should be accompanied by a “SPROINGNGNGNG!” sound of some kind.

  81. Gina
    May 14, 2010 @ 22:29:01

    If the scene is telling me what they’re doing to each other, I skip. If the scene is telling me what they’re feeling for each other, I’ll probably read.

  82. Mitzi H.
    May 14, 2010 @ 22:46:18

    Wow, I feel a bit weird saying this but I judge a great romance novel on how good the sex scenes are….and I don’t skip them.

    I must add that typical romance novels usually have me wishing for hotter sex scenes….and that wish has led me to read erotic novels, but they don’t satisfy my need for the more indepth romantic stories.

    So I guess that makes me an odd duck, because for me to find an really good (400+ page) hot romance novel is a treat and one that I’m always on the look out to find….And trust me when I say they are few are far between!!!!

  83. Angie
    May 14, 2010 @ 23:36:14

    @Booklover1335: Clearly you’re reading different books than a lot of us are. [wry smile]

    It seems that so much emotionally happens in them other than the physical…at least in the books I have read that I would loose so much insight into the characters, their motivations and their thoughts that it is unfathomable to me.

    That’s exactly the point, though — if there’s not a lot happening emotionally during sex, if there isn’t any additional insight to be gained, then the sex is only there to be “Yay sex!” and the only reason to read it is for the tittilation factor. Not that I have anything against tittilation, but I’ve been reading this stuff since I was twelve and there’s a powerful repetition factor at this point which makes most sex fairly yawnish rather than hot. If a sex scene doesn’t get me further engaged with the characters, doesn’t deepen their relationship or give me emotional insights into them as individuals or a couple, doesn’t advance the plot in some way, then… why am I reading this again? And usually I don’t.

    It reminds me of the grumbling a year or so ago about how many (het) erotic romance writers were throwing in the Obligatory Anal Scene just to get an extra notch on their heat level, because heat sells. Very often there was no consideration of whether these particular characters would be into anal, no particular reason for that kind of scene except that extra flame or pepper or whatever on the publisher or vendor’s site. It was pointless and boring and people complained about it.

    It’s the same thing here. If the only reason a sex scene exists is to be sex, then it’s dead weight in the story. Some people like sex just to be sex — heck, I did myself when I was in my teens and twenties — but some people don’t. If all the romances you read have vital, well-integrated sex scenes, then that’s great, seriously. But that’s not always the case.

    Angie

  84. Pam Rosenthal/Molly Weatherfield
    May 14, 2010 @ 23:55:22

    @Angie:

    It reminds me of… (het) erotic romance writers… throwing in the Obligatory Anal Scene…

    Oh, you’re making me blush, Angie. Because that’s EXACTLY what I did in the original draft of Almost a Gentleman because I felt it needed to be hotter at a certain place.

    My publisher didn’t want me to do it (well, this was only 2002).

    I got stubborn. “If Robin Schone can do it, so can I.”

    “Okay,” my editor said, “it’s up to you.”

    But it was my husband (ever and always one of my primo editors) who prevailed, convincing me that THIS couple would not be doing THIS act at THIS point in their relationship. And he was right.

    As for making it hotter? I did that too, finally. Other ways, I think.

    But I will always be grateful I didn’t go with my first, cheaper, strategy.

  85. Lenice
    May 15, 2010 @ 01:02:48

    I relish & enjoy the playfulness, sensuality and intimacy portrayed in good sex scenes. However i am very selective about the books and authors I read so I partly agree that it is about writing quality.

    I know it might not be so popular to bring out the F word…. Feminism (in all it’s interesting diversity!), but I couldn’t help thinking about it in reading these posts. Over the years my growing understanding of the different ways in which women might find a sense of ownership in how we imagine ourselves as sexual beings has actually been enriched via reading romance WITH the sex scenes. The sexuality of the female characters are explored and negotiated often in the context of challenging relational and societal conflicts. The latter can include elements of class, race, gender and sexuality. To mention a few who have done this well in my reading experiences would be Pam Rosenthal, Sherry Thomas, Charlaine Harris, Kresley Cole, Nalini Singh, Elizabeth Hoyt, J.R. Ward, Madeline Hunter, Mary Balogh and Mary Jo Putney. All of these authors have had books that offered me something to think about in terms of sexuality and have perhaps even made me curious about some of the things they describe (both in sex and intimacy). Playfulness, risk taking and assertiveness get acted out by some of their characters – although these things are fraught and often hard won. These themes are threaded through the whole narrative but I think that for me that is the point – sex is not an ignored aspect of the characters lived, embodied and multi-dimensional experiences.

    Which leads me to the other part of what I feel drives a skim or not response. Reading through the comments here and thinking about this question has been really interesting – partly because reading other responses has also highlighted for me even more food for thought about ways we might choose to use romance and/or erotica to express our differences- even as readers! So I’m glad that we have a diversity of writers within the romance genre available to us as readers, as well as a the option to choose whether to read sex scenes or not.
    Happy skimming, skipping or swimming in it – whatever your preferences ;-)

  86. Tracey
    May 15, 2010 @ 01:41:15

    @Lenice:

    Over the years my growing understanding of the different ways in which women might find a sense of ownership in how we imagine ourselves as sexual beings has actually been enriched via reading romance WITH the sex scenes. The sexuality of the female characters are explored and negotiated often in the context of challenging relational and societal conflicts. The latter can include elements of class, race, gender and sexuality.

    What are challenging relational conflicts? And can you give me some examples of societal conflicts in het or f/f romance involving elements of class, race, gender and sexuality? I don’t generally read romances involving women, and I’m not familiar with the writers you cited.

  87. JessicaP
    May 15, 2010 @ 01:53:22

    @Tracey. Do you mean to say that you don’t read romances other than m/m? Because if you are not familiar with the authors cited, you haven’t read some of the best names in romance, period.

  88. Tracey
    May 15, 2010 @ 02:14:49

    @JessicaP:

    Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. I tried some het romance when I was a teenager, didn’t like it, and never bothered with it again. I do like m/m, so that’s what I read.

    I’ve heard vaguely of Charlaine Harris. I won’t read anything by her because she writes about vampires, and I can’t stand vampires as partners in romance. To me it’s necrophilia. Obviously her stuff is very popular, and more power to her, but I’m not a fan of love with the undead.

    I never heard of Pam Rosenthal, Sherry Thomas, Kresley Cole, Nalini Singh, Elizabeth Hoyt, J.R. Ward, Madeline Hunter, Mary Balogh or Mary Jo Putney before today.

  89. lenice
    May 15, 2010 @ 02:29:27

    @Tracey: Hi there Tracey,
    this link and the reference list it provides helped me explore the concept of relational conflicts:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relational_psychoanalysis
    Hope it works for you too. As for recommendations of the variety you describe I’d say all those mentioned have novels that fit for me in this way either via metaphor or overt narrative. Plus they can also be fun at times :-) Perhaps you have some good m/m recommendations for me/ others?

  90. HeatherK
    May 15, 2010 @ 02:33:49

    I’m a sex scene skimmer, meaning I mostly skim for dialogue and/or something that jumps out at me. Why? 1) It takes me forever and a day (sometimes two) to read a book because I read super slow. 2) It depends on how into the characters I am, because I don’t always skim them. I do sometimes actually read those scenes. 3) If it’s a reread, definitely skimming for dialogue because I’ve been there, done that and I’m just back for a refresher on the story itself. 4) If there’s a particular element in the sex scenes that squicks me out a bit, I skim. But I never outright skip. Always skim for dialogue because you never know when an important tidbit might be dropped in there somewhere.

    I usually read the rest of the book word for word unless it’s one I’m just not liking, then I end up skimming the whole thing for dialogue just to know how it ended because I’m nosey like that. The only other scenes I’ve skipped/skimmed intentionally are the bad guy scenes in JR Ward books. By the time the latest rolled around, I was so sick of the bad guys, I just couldn’t make myself read those parts.

  91. Jane O
    May 15, 2010 @ 06:29:05

    I read love scenes, i.e. scenes that contribute to and develop the relationship between the hero and heroine.

    I skip sex scenes, i.e. generic or ludicrous scenes that are just padding out the word count.

    I also skip loooong sex scenes. Two or three pages, okay. Twenty pages? Really, now.

    On the whole, I prefer fade to black. I tend to find suggestion more erotic than finger placement.

  92. Tracey
    May 15, 2010 @ 06:45:36

    @Lenice:

    No, I’m sorry, I don’t understand the article very well; it’s written in psychiatric jargon, so I’m not sure if I’m translating it into English properly. I think it’s saying that relationships with others determine the kind of people we become, but I’m not sure.

    I don’t know what kind of m/m you would like, but here’s a list of m/m anthologies, print books and e-books, organized according to era. Some are rated, some are not.

    The List

  93. Pam Rosenthal/Molly Weatherfield
    May 15, 2010 @ 07:40:01

    @lenice:
    I am fascinated by what you say you get from sex scenes in romance, because it’s such an eloquent description of what I try to do when I write them (in conjunction with the non-sex scenes).

    And yeah, the relational psychoanalysis stuff is close to how I think of things too.

    And while I am not a m/m reader (or only a beginner), I’m also fascinated by its growing importance in our genre and am planning a paper for the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR) conference this summer called “The Queer Theory of Eve Sedgwick at the Edge of the Popular Romance Genre.”

    And so,

    @Tracey:
    Thank you so so much for The List. And for your comments. This is a wonderful discussion.

  94. dick
    May 15, 2010 @ 07:56:13

    Sometimes do, sometimes don’t. Depends on the writer. I nearly always scan over the more acrobatic ones; I don’t like to cringe.

  95. Mary Beth
    May 15, 2010 @ 09:06:31

    I vote for the “it depends” button as well. I love a well written sex scene…frankly, that can set my mood for time with my husband! Am I strange? I hope not, or companies like Ellora’s Cave, Samhain, Loose Id and authors who write “hot” erotica wouldn’t stay in business. However, it takes more than just the written act to appeal to me. I want to see a connection between the characters and some realistic foreplay. And, as several others have commented, if the author writes their scenes almost identically book to book or the scene is so unrealistic, I’m more likely to skim.
    I also have to confess, there are authors out there whose work is so gripping, I may go back to those sections and reread them (hurray for bookmarks in the Sony!)

    Interesting discussion from both readers and authors!

  96. LizC
    May 15, 2010 @ 09:21:01

    I skim some. I usually don’t skip completely. But I’ve read several books lately that have only had one sex scene so it hasn’t really been necessary to skim or skip.

    Sometimes I do find myself caught up in trying to figure out if what is being described is physically possible.

  97. TKF
    May 15, 2010 @ 10:05:06

    @Tracey:

    I don't know what kind of m/m you would like, but here's a list of m/m anthologies, print books and e-books, organized according to era. Some are rated, some are not.

    M/M gets reviewed here on DA pretty regularly. If anyone is genuinely curious about how/where to start, those reviews would be a good place to get a feeling for what’s out there.

  98. Lynne Connolly
    May 15, 2010 @ 10:31:57

    @Tracey: But not all vampires are dead, that is not all vampires in every tradition are dead. Charlaine Harris’s certainly are, though not all literary vampires follow that tradition.
    My vampires aren’t dead, they are living beings with a lifespan and beating hearts, they’re a slightly different version of human. After all, you get different types of cats, so why not different types of human?
    I’m not alone in this. I can think of a few writers who write vampires as aliens/another species/a genetic mistake, etc.

  99. Frannie
    May 15, 2010 @ 11:09:20

    I voted “Not at All” but it didn’t take as far as I can tell.

    I always read the sex scenes. Love them. Of course I always try to read the best authors who write thoughtful, beautiful sex scenes. In fact, when a review states the sex part is Warm or Subtle, that’s usually the kiss of death for that book. Not always, mind you. I do read novels without sex scenes all the time but IN ROMANCE books I do want the love making scenes. And I do mean “love making”. I miss the HOT factor in the “…In Death” books terribly. Ever since they went into hardbound the sex has been softened to near extinction and I miss reading that part of their relationship. It’s to garner a more widespread readership and they’re still selling very well but I’m sad Nora’s decided to cool their ardor. There aren’t as many love scenes in those books either.

  100. Jusy
    May 15, 2010 @ 11:50:18

    If I’m reading erotic romances, I don’t. Otherwise, I would if I notice the sex scene doesn’t further the plot. I want the story to continue and don’t need the interruption of sex *LOL*

  101. linnae
    May 15, 2010 @ 12:22:56

    The important element to me is whether the scene is romantic. If it’s just graphic sex without the emotion then I skim.

  102. Angelia Sparrow
    May 15, 2010 @ 13:33:12

    It depends on the book. If the whole thing has been “I’m bored, let’s have sex in this place for this chapter. Oh, hey, crisis. Whew, resolved in 2 pages, let’s have more sex!” then yeah, I’m going to start skimming as I hunt for plot.

    I read one where the solution for everything was sex. Struck by lightening? sex. Depressed? sex. Not fitting in? Group sex. Booooring.

    If there has been a nice long build and this scene is the payoff, then no, not skipping. If it has been much of a muchness, then onward to the plot.

  103. Jody W.
    May 15, 2010 @ 14:53:09

    If so many commenters here skim sex scenes or would like more romances with fewer sex scenes or fade to black scenes … why do you guys suppose sexirific books sell so much better? Or do they only sell markedly better in small press? That’s where I’m more familiar with actual sales figures so it’s my point of reference. *is curious*

    As for me, I rarely skim any scenes in a book. If I start skimming, it generally ends up a DNF. I don’t have enough free time to burn on something I’m not enjoying, and my TBR pile is immense. Though I will confess…I keep a few choice books like that on hand, particularly ones I wanted to like or at least analyze for whatever reason. They are useful as tranquilizers if I’m having a restless night :). Less of a tranq hangover the next day, too.

  104. Angie
    May 15, 2010 @ 15:10:18

    @Jody W.: I honestly think that’s part of the problem. “Everyone knows” that sex sells, and hot sells, and hot sex sells like crazy, so some writers stuff as much hot sex as they can cram into the story because everyone knows that’s what The Readers want. So you end up with a lot of books that are essentially twenty pounds of sex in a five pound plot, and some writers are better at that than others.

    Now mind you, there are people who love reading twenty pounds of sex in a five pound plot, and that’s cool. I have no problem with people wanting to read that kind of book, or writers writing that kind of book for them to read. I just wish I could tell which kind was which before I paid my money.

    Angie

  105. Lynn M
    May 15, 2010 @ 16:06:03

    I needed the “depends” or “sometimes” option as well. My biggest sex scene peeve is when the sex serves no bigger purpose than more. For example, the H and h have sex for the first time and the next scene is them waking up to start going at it again, as if to prove to the reader that these two are so into each other that they can’t keep their hands off each other. If the writer hasn’t already established that by the time the characters first hit the sheet, more isn’t going to make a difference.

    I usually read the first time, but from that point on, I’m a skimmer. Unless something different or unique or story changing happens, I’m bored by it. That’s one reason I don’t read erotica – for me, it’s sex for the sake of sex and not for story. Not that I’m a prude, just that it bores me for the most part.

  106. LizA
    May 15, 2010 @ 17:28:51

    I find a great many sex scenes quite silly. One writer used a lot of riding methaphors and they just made me laugh, not in a good way! Plus I find a lot of these sex scenes quite freudian, with their emphasis on orgasm through penetration.
    I guess I prefer to read about sexual tension more than about the actual act.

  107. Lisa Richards
    May 15, 2010 @ 20:34:56

    I usually read them. On occasion, I’ll skip them if they are in a series by an author as they are often repetitive, in that they use a lot of the sames words when describing the emotions and or actions.

  108. Michelle R
    May 15, 2010 @ 22:39:53

    It really depends. I find that different writers have different strengths. Some authors are great with the emotional scenes but, for whatever reason, their sex scenes don’t engage me. There are other writers who are able to write fun and sexy scenes, like Victoria Dahl.

    Several months ago when this topic was touched on, forget which board, someone rather snarkily implied that people were just claiming not to read the scenes due to prudishness. I’m one of the least prudish people around, and freely admit to loving erotica, but not all sex scenes are equally interesting to me and not all writers are equally adept at writing them.

  109. MikiS
    May 16, 2010 @ 00:25:42

    @Jody W.: Jody, I can give you my opinion on this – I think that there are lots of places to get sweeter or merely sensual romances. You don’t have to go online with publishers you know little about. Those who wanted the books with lots of sex – or different kinds of sex (menage, m/m, BDSM) – or whatever, went looking for it and found it at the epubs. The sweet(er) readers didn’t need to go find what they wanted, it’s everywhere. Just my opinion, though – I have no idea if it’s really the case.

  110. Evangeline
    May 16, 2010 @ 00:38:42

    I tend to skim if I don’t care about the characters. More often than not, constant lust-thoughts and twisting the plot around getting the h/h into bed leads to a lack of connection between me and the protagonists. There is a delicate balance in writing a romance; a writer must create a connection between the hero and heroine, but also between the hero, the heroine, and the reader. Sometimes, a writer is so skilled at crafting this connection that reading their sex scenes feel a bit too intimate, as though I am intruding upon the h/h.

    However, I’d like a bit more variety. Not in the positions, but in how the sex is written. One of the most delightful sex scenes I’ve read was in Patricia Gaffney’s “Forever and Ever,” where the first time for Sophie and Conner was basically a fade-to-black scene, but their other times, which were to advance the plot and their relationship, were written in detail. And what about playful sex? It’s rare to read a romance where the hero and heroine are giggling with one another, accidentally bumping foreheads, and all the other funny things that happen when you’re just happy to be together.

  111. hapax
    May 16, 2010 @ 09:03:54

    And what about playful sex?

    Holy crow, THIS. My biggest problem with sex scenes (and I love the distinction that someone made above between “sex scenes” and “scenes that have sex in them”) is how horribly *grim* most of them are. They’re like those characters in a disaster movie who all pile into the car and drive hell for leather to get away from the coming devastation, except in this case they’re aiming for the earthquake instead of away.

    It’s all well and good when one (or both) of the characters has deep sexual trauma and the scene is used to delve into their psychological anguish and healing. But it’s always an enormous turnoff when characters who are otherwise clever, shy, witty, indolent, dreamy, businesslike, or whatever personal idiosyncrasies they display, all suddenly turn into the same athletic, highly sensitive, orgasm-driven, purple passion puppies once they get their clothes off.

    I don’t want to pick on any author by name, but I can think of several whom I could switch the character names during the sex scenes in any of their books and nobody could tell.

  112. Jackie Barbosa
    May 16, 2010 @ 12:34:11

    I have to admit I’m sort of surprised by the number of people who read romance but say they don’t read the sex scenes. I hope no one thinks I’m calling their honesty into question when I say it reminds me of men who claim they only read Playboy for the articles, lol. And honestly, the fact that publishers (in NY, not just digital presses) seem to want more sex rather than less in the books they acquire, I’m having a hard time believing that the vast majority of romance readers pick up a book with the intention of skipping/skimming the sex scenes.

    I’m with the camp who sometimes skips TO the sex scenes, in part because I can generally tell by the tenor of those scenes whether I’ll like the writing overall. To me, a poorly written sex scene is a symptom of a poorly written book. So if the sex scenes aren’t well done, I’ll just skip the whole book!

  113. Moriah Jovan
    May 16, 2010 @ 12:38:11

    @Jackie Barbosa:

    And honestly, the fact that publishers (in NY, not just digital presses) seem to want more sex rather than less in the books they acquire,

    I’m tempted to think that once again, this is a situation where the acquiring editors/sales departments are out of touch with what the end user (i.e., the READER) really wants.

    We buy it because it’s there and we are insatiable. Marketing takes that as Data Gospel as to what we want when, in fact, the cause doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the effect.

    It doesn’t surprise me a bit.

  114. Angie
    May 16, 2010 @ 12:50:15

    @Jackie Barbosa: It’s nowhere near “the vast majority of romance readers” who skip the sex scenes. Right now in the poll, 34% skip sex scenes most of the time, which isn’t any kind of a majority, much less a “vast” one.

    I’ll also point out that the poll has no option for sometimes skipping sex scenes — only rarely or most of the time — so I imagine there are at least a few more people like me who skip sometimes, close to half the time in the aggregate, and chose the “most of the time” option because it’s a bit more true than “rarely.”

    And a sex scene can be very well written, from a craftsmanship standpoint, and still be pointless (and therefore boring to readers like me) if it doesn’t further the plot, show character or develop the relationship. It can be the most wonderfully well written sex scene in the world, and I’m still not terribly interested if it doesn’t pull its weight in the story. So my decision about whether to read or skim over — and that of a number of other people who’ve commented — has little or nothing to do with whether the scene is well written.

    Angie

  115. Jackie Barbosa
    May 16, 2010 @ 12:52:05

    @Moriah Jovan: Hehe, I KNEW someone was going to say that. The reason I think publishers aren’t wrong, however, is that the explosion of erotic romance in epublishing simply CANNOT be a consequence of readers buying it only because they’re insatiable and can’t get anything else. NY was a little late to the game, but they’ve started publishing hotter/steamier romances because they want a piece of the pie that the epublishers discovered. There’s clearly a demand for it; if there weren’t, Ellora’s Cave wouldn’t have become so huge and the bestseller lists on epublishers that offer everything from erotic to sweet romances wouldn’t be dominated by the erotic titles.

    I’ll admit that one of the reasons I took up writing again in the mid-2000s (after nearly 15 years where I didn’t write at all) was that I wasn’t finding mainstream romances that were hot enough to suit my tastes. (I wasn’t familiar with the digital publishers at the time.) Of course, there’s some irony in the fact that the first novel I wrote didn’t have an actual sex scene until about page 300, lol. But my point stands, and I don’t think I’m alone as a reader.

    Of course, this isn’t to say that the balance may not have swung too far in the direction of “sex sells.” That I could buy.

  116. Jackie Barbosa
    May 16, 2010 @ 12:55:40

    @Angie: You’re right, it’s not the vast majority right now. It was when I looked yesterday. When I looked then, it was about 60% saying they skipped most of the time. I should’ve checked again before I posted my comment!

    That said, if even 34% are skipping/skimming the scenes most of the time, it would imply that there’s much more room in the market for sweet or subtle romances than publishers are currently providing.

  117. Angie
    May 16, 2010 @ 13:03:27

    @Jackie Barbosa: it would imply that there's much more room in the market for sweet or subtle romances than publishers are currently providing

    That I’ll believe. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were a bit of a backlash against the “OMG Must Add Hot Sexxorz!!!” trend.

    At the same time, though, if you read through the comments you’ll see that at least some of us who skip sex scenes at times don’t do it because we don’t like sex scenes. Personally, I love sex scenes, but only if they’re well-integrated into the story. Sex that’s duct-taped on just to have more sex, kinks that are stuffed in just to add to the heat rating, none of which actually supports the plot or the story or the characters, is inherently boring to me, so I skip them. Sex which is vital to the plot, which shows the reader something important about one or more characters, which illustrates clear changes in the characters’ developing relationship, is awesome. One of my favorite romances, Laney Cairo’s Bad Case of Loving You has a lot of sex, and some of it’s fairly kinky, but every bit of it is necessary and supports the story.

    If you could strip out a sex scene and the book would still work fine, then that sex scene is pointless. Or rather, it’s only there to be sex, which is boring. If all I wanted was to read a bunch of sex scenes, there are more posted for free around the internet than I could ever read in my lifetime. I pay money for books hoping to get a fully integrated story, with a plot, characters, and relationship which all work, with whatever sex scenes are included.

    Please don’t decide that everyone who skips sex scenes would prefer “sweet” romances. That’s not true at all.

    Angie

  118. Jackie Barbosa
    May 16, 2010 @ 13:41:13

    @Angie: If you could strip out a sex scene and the book would still work fine, then that sex scene is pointless. Or rather, it's only there to be sex, which is boring. If all I wanted was to read a bunch of sex scenes, there are more posted for free around the internet than I could ever read in my lifetime. I pay money for books hoping to get a fully integrated story, with a plot, characters, and relationship which all work, with whatever sex scenes are included.

    Well, here’s the thing–although I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, I honestly think most authors BELIEVE that every one of the sex scenes they put into a story is there because it needs to be. Perhaps they don’t succeed–I’m certainly not going to claim that every scene of any type, sex or otherwise, I’ve ever written succeeds on all these points–but I’m a little perturbed by the notion that writers regularly toss in sex scenes that they themselves KNOW are gratuitous just to up the heat factor. I certainly don’t do that. I intend for EVERY scene in a book/story to contribute to the development of the characters, the plot, and the romance. This isn’t to claim I do a bang-up job of that, and I’m sure there are readers who think every sex scene I’ve ever written was unnecessary and boring, but interpretation doesn’t equal intention.

    Please don't decide that everyone who skips sex scenes would prefer “sweet” romances. That's not true at all.

    I didn’t decide that at all. What I do think is that if a third of readers aren’t finding the sex scenes contribute to the romance/story/characterizations and can skip over them without “missing” anything, it’s likely that there’s room in the market for a LOT more romances that don’t include them at all. If you are finding the overall story satisfying but the sex/love scenes boring in a sizable proportion of cases, it seems to me that they’d buy the book whether the scenes were there or not. KWIM?

  119. Lynn
    May 16, 2010 @ 13:47:47

    I'm in the ‘rarely skip/skim' camp. But it really depends on the author. If I'm a few books into a series and the sex starts getting repetitive, predictable, and boring, then I'll skim, not skip. Skimming for the ‘just in case'. Don't want to miss out on anything. Hopefully the sexual interactions will pertain to the character development, but they typically don't.

    One author I use to read was penning 20 page marathon shag scenes. I just got bored and did skip some pages there. But the dialogue and plot of the rest of the book was good enough for me to finish.

  120. Angie
    May 16, 2010 @ 13:59:41

    @Jackie Barbosa: As I said somewhere above, there are people who love twenty pounds of sex in a five pound plot. I’ve read a number of books where multiple chapters in a row were nothing but sex, just… to be sex, with narry a plot point to be found. And some of these books have been wildly popular with people who love Moar Sexxorz!! It’s out there, and there’s a market for it. I don’t object to these books existing for other people, although I do wish I could identify them before I’ve spent money on them myself.

    If you are finding the overall story satisfying but the sex/love scenes boring in a sizable proportion of cases, it seems to me that they'd buy the book whether the scenes were there or not.

    True so far as it goes. (And I know there are always at least a few people who prefer sweet romances no matter what, and grouch about there not being enough of them; there should be more so those folks can read what they like.) I think it misses the point, though, that when I skip a sex scene, about half the time I’m not so much wishing it didn’t exist as wishing it were relevant and supported the story. I don’t just want less sex; I want more well-integrated sex. Yes, I’d rather read a book with little or no sex, where the one or two sex scenes support the story, than read a book with a lot of hot but pointless sex. But that doesn’t mean that, given my druthers, I’d prefer a book with little or no sex. What I’d really prefer are more books like Bad Case, where there’s a lot of sex which is all fully integrated and necessary to the story.

    It’s like I’m saying I’d rather have properly-cooked chicken than over-cooked steak, although my favorite is a nicely rare steak. Your solution is for the restaurant to offer more chicken. I’d rather they learn to cook steak properly. [wry smile]

    Angie

  121. Sandy James
    May 16, 2010 @ 14:26:12

    @Jackie Barbosa:

    …but I'm a little perturbed by the notion that writers regularly toss in sex scenes that they themselves KNOW are gratuitous just to up the heat factor. I certainly don't do that. I intend for EVERY scene in a book/story to contribute to the development of the characters, the plot, and the romance.

    Careful. You’ll be accused of “posting with some hubris.” ;) I agree entirely, and I imagine you’re a success because you do give each and every scene your best.

    Also @anonymous, per your constructive criticism, I did some major work on my website. While I still have my beloved horses, I did streamline things quite a bit. If you’re brave enough to email me, I’d be glad to give you a free ebook for taking the time to try to help me.

  122. hapax
    May 16, 2010 @ 14:59:53

    he reason I think publishers aren't wrong, however, is that the explosion of erotic romance in epublishing simply CANNOT be a consequence of readers buying it only because they're insatiable and can't get anything else.

    Well, speaking as the one accused of “prudery”, I in fact purchase a fair amount of erotic romance ebooks because they are often the only ones offering some of the characters and stories I want — m/m, powerplay, seriously damaged or criminal characters, historicals that don’t revolve around the aristocracy, romances that integrate well-conceived sff into the storyline, etc.

    And I am quite sure that most authors do feel that they are including well-written sex scenes that are essential to plot and character development. Maybe they are, and because of that they do not register as “sex scenes” to me, but “plot and/or character scenes”, and I don’t skip them. But when they don’t seem any more necessary to me than detailed description of how to rig a warship are to a Patrick O’Brien story, they just don’t interest me.

    (Note: I chose the O’Brien example deliberately, because I love those books, as does my spouse. However, he loves them FOR all the nautical details and I love them IN SPITE of them. How would a publisher “score” that, if trying to determine if “readers” want more rigging in their historical adventures?)

  123. Polly
    May 16, 2010 @ 18:15:37

    @hapax:

    “Rigging” is now my new favorite euphemism. Do I want more rigging or less, detailed descriptions of rigging or should I just fill it in with my imagination? I’m going to crack myself up all evening with this one.

    I find it really interesting that lots of readers have said that they (myself included) find themselves skimming sex scenes because they find lots of them not particularly illuminating or necessary to the story, while lots of authors have said that of course they make sure the sex is necessary and well-integrated. I’m not sure where the ball is being dropped, but it does seem that somewhere along the way, something is being lost.

    Someone suggested that there should be more “sweet” romance for those who don’t want all the sex. But that’s not really the issue. I don’t personally want “sweet” romance–in fact, it’s an aversion to “sweet” romance that keeps me occasionally reading hot romance and skimping on the hot. I like the romance, or the characters, to have an edge. I just don’t think that more sexxoring is proof of edge. I guess, to me, wham bam, lots of amazing sex starts to feel like any other short-cut indicator of character or relationship strength (right there with determined chins, and the eternal boner of true love). Frankly, the sex means more if I care about them outside the bedroom too, regardless if it’s trad romance or erotic romance, or whatever. And if they never or rarely seem to leave the bedroom, it’s harder for me to care about them as characters or as a couple. Even worse, if they’re always in the bedroom, and what’s happening there is the same, over and over, then I’m bored and indifferent (the sex doesn’t have to be different–I don’t need or want a different sex act each chapter–but I’d hope their feelings and reactions to each other will change).

    Anyway, that’s few more cents from me.

  124. Liza Lester
    May 16, 2010 @ 19:24:56

    @hapax: I suspect that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to write intensely original sex when you produce novels as prolifically as most romance writers do. After 30 or so scenes, patterns are bound to develop. If I like the rigging, I’ll still be back for more! It’s true that taste factors heavily in the skim/immerse equation. I’m not skimming the sex because I think it’s yucky, I’m skimming because I’m bored. With sufficient emotional build-up, I’m on deck for the scene, even if the mechanics aren’t my style.

    Although “rarely” better describes my skimming frequency, I chose “most of the time” because it reflected the direction in which my thoughts were trending. That may be more useful anyway, in a poll that records impressions of behavior rather than actual behavior. I like Jane’s provocative polls that force slightly uncomfortable choices–they generate lively discussions.

  125. Zosia
    May 16, 2010 @ 23:58:33

    I generally don’t skip them. The authors I read who write more explicit sex scenes are the authors who make these scenes matter to the story. Sex scenes can and should tell us something about the characters and be crucial to the relationship and further the story in some way.

    There are many writers who put in sex just for the sake of it (Laurell K Hamilton is on the top of that list!), and if I come across writing like that I tend to skip the author’s books.

  126. silvia
    May 17, 2010 @ 03:25:22

    Yep, put me in the bucket of “I usually skim them because it’s bad”. Even in romance novels that I otherwise think are well written, often the sex is really over the top and the prose is just… too “flowery”. Or it’s downright unsexy to me.

  127. Kimber An
    May 17, 2010 @ 05:48:09

    I skip sex scenes most of the time because I’m not fully absorbed by BOTH the hero and heroine AND their relationship.

    The sex scene is ‘just sex’ which is boring in real life and in fiction. It’s like doing it the same way every single time with no foreplay.

    The author’s gotta make me love both characters and believe the couple are truly in love and CAPABLE of making the Happily Ever After happen.

  128. Mina Kelly
    May 17, 2010 @ 08:51:21

    woo, I am quoted :)

    I don’t read the author I mentioned above any more. It’d be rare for me to skim sex scenes in erotica (which I read regularly, though possibly not as much as I used), but I have much less patience with a purportedly non-erotic book. I’ll read the first few, and if they’re not driving the plot I’ll skim the rest.

    I agree with other posters it’s very easy to get burnt out on them, especially if they’re all very intense and samey. I love it when you see the “bad sex” challegnes going around – not to write sex badly, but to write about bad sex. There’s just something quite charming about bruised knees and bumped heads and realising you’ve got more limbs than you know what to do with. I wouldn’t want to read a whole book of it, but it’s nice when a couple’s first time isn’t earth-shatteringly perfect.

  129. Anon
    May 17, 2010 @ 09:07:56

    As an erotic romance author, I found this post very enlightening. Though some opinions vary, most seem to agree that if the sex scene is bad and there isn’t a reason for having it they skip.

    Personally, I read an excerpt the other day for a book that contained words like “sugary sap” and “root” in the first chapter. I didn’t just skip the sex scenes, I skipped buying the book.

  130. Pam Rosenthal/Molly Weatherfield
    May 17, 2010 @ 09:49:52

    I’m with @anon (the last anon, just above me) on this one. I find this discussion fantastically interesting, and as an erotic writer, will try to learn from it, and use some of its points in the workshops I’ll be giving this fall.

    It also looks like it might last as long as Law and Order.

  131. MaryK
    May 18, 2010 @ 16:09:03

    @Jackie Barbosa:

    the explosion of erotic romance in epublishing simply CANNOT be a consequence of readers buying it only because they're insatiable and can't get anything else. NY was a little late to the game, but they've started publishing hotter/steamier romances because they want a piece of the pie that the epublishers discovered. There's clearly a demand for it; if there weren't, Ellora's Cave wouldn't have become so huge

    I’m one of those readers who originally went to epublishing looking for hotter romances. I bought from EC when they still mailed out ebooks on disks. Since they went “all hot, all the time, no matter how well written, and we don’t really need that romance do we”, I rarely buy from them anymore. And I wouldn’t touch Aphrodisia with a ten foot pole. (One of the authors I read when I first got into ebooks was picked up by Aphrodisia and now writes books that are nothing but excuses for nasty sex.)

    Apparently, there are readers buying the hotter at all costs books, but I’m not one of them. Nowadays, I content myself with the hotted up NY romances and the occasional epub’d one that’s gotten good reviews.

  132. Nords.
    May 21, 2010 @ 07:08:05

    I’m normally lurk, but this just completely tripped my trigger, as I have gotten to be one of the ones that skip most of the time now, and I’m kind of pissed off about that. I want to read the sex scenes. I want to titillated and thrilled by them, but so many of them are just not hot. I don’t have a preference in terms of frequency in the books per se, but the quality is sadly lacking.

    Also, a big thing for me (and maybe I’m Aline in this..but) I love love reading the sex scene from the hero’s perspective. I love getting into his head, and seeing the passion, and sadly that doesn’t happen nearly often enough in my opinion. It’s all well and good that the heroine is going crazy, and mad with passion, and then to read how horribly controlled, and even downright cold the hero is during the whole process, it’s hard for to even believe that he even has an erection at all. It’s just so purely dissatisfying to me. If this guys supposed to be madly in love with or well on the way to falling, it seems fair to me that what he’s doing with the heroine should have some differentiating loss of control, or pure involvement with what he’s doing, and not just another put Tab A into Tab B, like he could be doing a blow up doll for all the reaction he has.

    Degrees of passion really. If I’m going to believe in the romance, I need the inensity to be apparent for both parties. So I skim now, ’cause if the sex is crap, it just completely turns me off on the book.

  133. dana
    Aug 03, 2013 @ 04:17:07

    I don’t skip the sex scenes yeah some are really bad and don’t further the plot however there are good ones too but I look at them this way either I have done it wanted to do it or have to laugh at the scene because there isn’t anyway a human could move like its being described in any event if I going to read a book I want to read the whole book not just the parts I like if I did that than there are several books out there that I never would have had the pleasure to read. I will say this though make sure before you start a book that it is in the genre you like then you won’t have to worry so much about sex scenes if you don’t want them Love Inspired is a place to get really pg book if you don’t want the sex or are introducing younger readers to romance

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