Let’s Talk…Sex and Books

One of the nice activities that came from sheltering at home with my husband has been our daily walk and talk sessions. Across from our house, we have a gravel road that is approximately 2.5 miles there and back. It takes us about 45 minutes to make the round trip and during that time we converse about subjects both big and small. Today, we discussed the various shades of BDSM in porn and books.

That may shock you, but back when I first starting writing romance using dual point of views, it was important to me that the male perspective to sound…well, male and not just what women think men should feel, think, or sound like. So we had a very frank series of discussions on sex and the development of relationships as seen through the male and female experience. Those sometimes awkward but candid conversations helped both my writing and our relationship.

What prompted today’s topic had everything to do with the changes I’ve been noticing in the publishing world- specifically the erotica genre. Romance and erotica books are getting edgier, the sex scenes longer. And there is now a clear line of distinction between erotica and romance that used to be considerably more blurred in the past. Romance is about the emotional development of the relationship and can have sex scenes or no sex scenes as the story/plot unfolds, and Erotica is all about the sexual experience first and the story/plot second -if at all. Each has its place in the publishing world but please don’t confuse the two of them.

But back to the talk…

It’s kind of amazing what pops up on a daily Facebook feed when you’re a writer. In early March, I was inundated with ads for gay romance books. M/M, M/M Harem, and the occasional Lesbian Dominatrix books. There were a few gay terms I didn’t already know which my husband was all too willing to explain. I think he thought I’d be shocked. I wasn’t.

But lately, I’ve been seeing quite a few sponsored FB ads for erotica books that fall into the M/F Alpha shifter, M/F Vamp-slave, and Dom-Mafia category. A good many of the excerpts were clearly BDSM in flavor. Okay, to each their own.

So let’s talk BDSM. A good many romance books rely on the dark and overly dominating hero character. That’s the Dom part of the equation. He sees her and for whatever reason he must have her for himself.

Then there’s the sub, the female who ultimately submits to the Dom’s desires. She can be a spunky, kick-ass, and a smart-ass heroine but still, in the end, she surrenders to the passion that only he can ignite in her. That’s your basic Dom/sub dynamic. He dominates and she submits. This can be a 24/7 lifestyle or just in the bedroom dynamic.

Photo by Artem Labunsky on Unsplash

The B stands for bondage. This is often found in romance books, primarily in the historic and paranormal sub-genres. The hero restrains his captive (heroine) for a short period of time. This can take many forms. It can be as mild as regulating her to a room, cell, or castle grounds. Or it can be putting her in chains, cage, or ropes until she’s willing to cooperate. Still, this is pretty standard stuff and rarely is done to the heroine to hurt her. The dynamic, of course, can also be reversed…where the male is the submissive and the female lead is the Dom. But that’s another book entirely.

That leaves M. I don’t like M, never have. M stands for Sadism/Masochism. In the excerpts I’ve recently read, the Dom degrade and hurts the sub for pleasure. Oh, I am so not cool with this floating around in books! The excerpt in question (the one that prompted the walking discussion today) was mainly the verbal degrading of a heroine, though the male in power also slapped her. This is straight-up abuse and is not sexy at all to me. Running for your life, only to be caught, slapped around, and be threatened with rape or death is not good erotica.

I realize that this unhealthy abuse disguised as love paradigm is nothing new to the world. It’s just as a romance author, I hate to see it gaining any traction with readers. And I suspect it is, if only for its shock value.

While we walked and talked…

I realized that my steamy romance books are fairly vanilla in the big scheme of things. Yes, my dark heroes are domineering but they also have hearts of gold. Each of them would do anything to please their women. My heroines are all strong in their own way. Somehow they quickly learn how to manage their muscle-bound, testosterone-filled suitors. In a world filled with books trying to shock you, my sex scenes tend to focus on the emotional give-and-take and less on the mechanics of the act itself. I have always measured myself by the Christine Feehan/Sherrilyn Kenyon standard. If my love scenes didn’t go on for as many pages as theirs did…and yet I still blushed, then I had hit the mark.

I used to be embarrassed to tell people that I write those scenes. When speaking to a new reader, I’d always warned them that those scenes existed. Some readers expect them. Others just skip over them. I know flipping past them is a huge mistake; simply too much of the connection between the characters is lost. It would be like skipping ever other line in a poem. The heart of the meaning is missed.

I tried to explain this to my husband, who is proud of my books but has never read any of them himself. In typical male fashion, he shrugged and gave me one of those non-agreement grunts of his.

I understand. Why read the book when you have the real thing walking beside you.