Okay, so I like a good sex scene in a book as much as the next girl, the chance to live out a little fantasy vicariously through the characters on the page who are a lot braver about trying out new stuff than I am in real life. But is that really what sex in romance is all about?
First of all, a couple of definitions.
Porn is all about sex for its own sake. It is mostly graphic sex, often exploitive or degrading. Erotic literature focuses on stories of sexual encounters between various sorts of people.
Romance isn’t interested in porn. It isn’t just interested in sex for its own sake.
Romance is interested in the romantic relationship of the couple in the story. Any sex in the book is there to show the conflicts and the growth of the developing relationship.
It’s all about the couple.
In a romance, the sex isn’t hot because the author shows the characters having acrobatic sex on a trampoline. The sex is hot because I am totally emotionally invested in these two people getting together. It can be any level of sex, as long as the pull of attraction between the two people is believable, as well as the obstacles they must overcome to be together.
Sex is just one of the things couples tend to do together. It can also be a mine-field that a couple has to navigate carefully lest they blow their new-found chance at happiness to smithereens. It can bring them closer, it can create conflict, it can bring up all kinds of issues and questions neither of them really wants to deal with right now. It can entertain the reader, but more importantly, it can deepen the complexity of the story and the reader’s ability to identify even more deeply with the characters.
I was shocked recently to realize (well, okay, someone pointed out to me) one of my favorite authors, Lynn Kurland- who writes amazing medieval and time travel romances, has no sex on the page in her books. I really never noticed, and that’s because the way she shows the attraction between her characters, the push and pull of desire and the fear of what loving each other may cost them, is so powerful that I feel immersed in that emotional journey right along with them to the satisfying end.
I will confess that I enjoy seeing the sexual part of the relationship play out on the page in Romance novels. I think because it’s part of my own experience with romantic love as an adult- it’s part of the deal, and a pretty important one at that. I want to see the characters get to enjoy all the good parts, especially since they have to go through a lot of the sucky parts-(if the writer is doing his/her job well.