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If we skip sex scenes, do romances need sex?
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Charlotte McClain



Joined: 04 Oct 2008
Posts: 396
Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE

PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 9:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Elaine S wrote:

I tend to avoid certain categories of romantic fiction, e.g. imprints like Desire, Blaze, etc because I prefer good sex to resolve sexual tension built through a blossoming emotional relationship.


I tend to avoid those too. On a few occasions I have enjoyed them, but for the most part I end up yelling, "But you JUST MET!" I like to see the relationship develop to the point where sex is a natural step. When I write, I want sex to be a vital component to the plot. Usually, it makes things worse for the characters. Twisted Evil However, that doesn't mean I like to write sex scenes.

Joseph Campbell said something like, there are three classes of things people talk about. The first class is the stuff is common, politics, the weather, family, etc. The second class is stuff we struggle to talk about, the meaning of love, life and everything. The third class is stuff there is no words for. That's the class of emotion that a good sex scene reaches for and that's why most of them end up riddled with cliches. The writer is trying to say something that there are no words for. It's what drove Van Gogh mad.
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Anne Marble



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 9:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some of my favorite romances are those where the characters don't have sex for a long time, and when they do, it's explosive. On the other hand, when they finally do it, I want something there. Smile I don't want it to be an afterthought. "He lay on top of her. ... He rolled over and smoked a cigarette." What?!

When the characters have sex, it should be more than "insert tab a into slot b" (or slot c in some stories Razz ). Those are nothing better than the "slam bam thank you ma'am" scenes of old bodice rippers, only longer and usually more innovative. It's disappointing when a sex scene is boring, but I don't want to forget that it's great when writers get it right. When the sex scenes involve more than just sex but also the characters, plot, etc. Good love/sex scenes should be about more than just sex. A longer sex scene can be a better one, but it depends on the author. It's not the size that matters, it's what you do with it. Laughing

I recently listened to a recording of an RWA Workshop by Virginia Kantra, and she talked about sex and its effect on the characters. For her recent paranormal series, her characters had sex earlier on -- and she loved it because that added more conflict from the start. On the other hand, if I remember correctly, she also said that just a kiss could be the equivalent of a sex scene, depending on how it affects the characters. It's also telling that the title of her talk was Developing the Romance in Your Romance Novel -- so she was talking about the romance, not just about sex.
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Audrey



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: Alberta, Canada

PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 2:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm becoming a bit of a skimmer too. I think that love scenes sometimes try to be too passionate and it never rings true to me that 30 seconds in and she's about ready to explode. Also I think the ones that seem more personal and real to me include details that aren't just he touched her there, and she touched him there, but personal details like the feelings and thoughts going through their heads or maybe how dear they think the curl laying on her neck is or whatever. Okay that sounds cheesy but I want to know why this particular couple is in love and having sex, not just read a scene that's interchangeable with a million others.
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AbiB



Joined: 30 Sep 2008
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Location: Trinidad, WI

PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anne Marble wrote:
she also said that just a kiss could be the equivalent of a sex scene, depending on how it affects the characters.


I agree with this and think it falls under the 'sexual tension' as opposed to 'sex' tab. This is why so many romantic comedies and historical dramas work for me - they're incredibly romantic and sexy through looks, slight touches, kisses and of course, amazing dialogue. The lack of sex scenes doesn't bother me for these films.

I have never sat down to decide exactly what about a book makes me read more or all of the sex scenes as opposed to one where I would skip them altogether. I often hear about 'plot moving forward, characterisation happening' when ppl discuss which sex scenes they read but I must say, though I love to read the character's banter during sex (and not necessarily sexual banter), I can't remember many romances where you learn something new or different about the characters during a sex scene.

It may be a funny or touching or tactilely explosive scene and I would enjoy it for those reasons, but to say after orgasm, after lovey-dovey talk or whatever, I know something more of the hero or heroine, they have come to some sort of higher understanding (beyond, oh I realise I love you, you feel so good, this feels right, i don't know where I end and you begin etc etc) - no, I rarely read of this.

And for a long time now, I have thought that Nora Roberts should stop writing sex scenes between Eve and Roarke. A while back I wrote this and was very much in the minority (ah well!):



Quote:
Why Eve and Roarke should no longer have sexÖin front of my eyes."

Ok. Iíve read most of Nora Robertís In Death instalments. Not all of them because sheís written more of those books than Iíve lived years of life. So, Iím a little behind. But anyhoot, this weekend I read the first in the series and I thought to myself - hmm, I actually read the entire sex scene between Eve & Roarke. Normally I skip past those scenes but this rounds, I was invested in their Ďfirst timeí; the emotional dynamics of it.

Iím not as much invested in their 99th+ time. The reason is two-fold.

First: Nora Roberts writes sex lite and because this lady must be the Irish version of Kali with six arms, by virtue of the number of books she brings out, and the high percentage of them that I read, for me, she writes a lot of sex lite. After awhile, itís all ísamenessí.

Second (and primary reason): I feel as if I *know* Eve and Roarke. And so, Iím thinking they should have their privacy. Is this weird? I simply no longer want to read about them having sex. I know itís good. That part of their relationship is at its zenith. But like I *so* do not want to watch my best friend and her man get it on, I no longer want to read/watch Eve and Roarke.

I want to read more about other aspects to their married life, for example, how Eve continues to deal with being so deeply loved by Roarke. Or, for another example, I want to see Roarke *really* need Eveís help for a change instead of the other way around.

Thereís so many places to go with the In Death series that I think I could read about them till theyíre old and decrepit. But Nora can close the bedroom door. It wonít make any difference to me. Well, ok, never say never. Maybe one day Roarke will want a child and Eve wonít and though he *understands* the why of it, he thinks his love over the years should have been enough to counteract her past and she should get on board the procreation train and Eve canít believe the man she thought loved her for her, would be so blind to her desires (or lack of desires) at such a stage in their relationship etc etc etc and then they have intense emotionally and physically explorative sex. Wowee, I will read it!!!!
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 9:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

AbiB wrote:
I have never sat down to decide exactly what about a book makes me read more or all of the sex scenes as opposed to one where I would skip them altogether. I often hear about 'plot moving forward, characterisation happening' when ppl discuss which sex scenes they read but I must say, though I love to read the character's banter during sex (and not necessarily sexual banter), I can't remember many romances where you learn something new or different about the characters during a sex scene.


That's a good point! Isn't it true about life as well, that you discover something new about someone you've known your entire life after you first sleep together?
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 11:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reading through this thread I am trying to think of authors who do sex/love scenes beautifully, sexy and more importantly...interesting. Personally, I think Paullina Simons did well with Tatiana and Alexander in their 3 books together. That couple knows how to spice up their sex life. In their scenes...even the earlier scenes when they are younger, the attraction and caring and the complete lust is always present. Just what a love scene should be.
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 11:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The virginal heroine's comment, in romance fiction, that sex is indescribable, is, in my thinking about the only thing romance fiction gets completely right about sex. Perhaps that's why so many readers find so many sex scenes inadequate--because all authors can do, really, is to describe the route to the moment of truth.
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Lynda X



Joined: 05 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We are so saturated with sex on TV, in movies, in books, in fashion, in our conversations, etc. that we've become bored. Too often, sex scenes, reduced to the mechanics, lack imagination, tension, and emotional impact. What makes sex great in a romance (and in life) is its connection between people. Even erotica to be good needs a great love story; maybe that's the difference between erotica (AKA, porn) written for men who are more visually stimulated and women who fall in love with their ears. Porn movies for women needs a plot and characters; men's don't--or so I've read.

In sex scenes of books I love, often I can remember only a line or detail, not the whole scene because the love scenes were perfectly integrated with the characters and the plot. In "Morning Glory," the final consummation, delayed for months and months, takes place under less than an idyllic situation. The reader in "Windflower" has waited for hundreds of pages and then, the first time (not told in any detail, IIRC) is not that good for the heroine, but the hero is so tender and loving that, oddly enough, it adds to the joy of the novel. But these consummations are not sex scenes so much as love scenes. I want to read LOVE scenes in a romance.

Generally, I don't like novels where the couple meet and go to bed before they even know each other, but Lisa Marie Rice's heroes and heroines usually come together very quickly, and it works because of her depth of characterization. We read both the man and the woman's thoughts, so we can see why they are so powerfully attracted, plus the danger to the heroine ratchets up the speed and tension. In contrast, Stephenie Myer's vampire series has great sexual tension, but it's not until the FOURTH BOOK that the h&h finally go to bed together! This YA book is not at all graphic, but the consummation is lovely.

I suspect that the sex scenes we all gloss over are written by authors who were bored when they wrote them. It's interesting to me that usually a good new author writes great sex scenes; it's the pros who write the boring ones. I usually stop reading authors after they've written a lot: I get bored, and I think they do too.


Last edited by Lynda X on Thu Nov 06, 2008 12:34 pm; edited 1 time in total
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JaneO



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
Posts: 798

PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 12:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good point, dick. I generally find that suggestion is far more erotic than finger placement. I tend to skim, especially very long scenes. (This makes Stephanie Laurens' books quite short :-).) Sometimes sex scenes are significant in the book ó I think, for example, of Jo Goodman's The Price of Desire or Julia Quinn's To Sir Phillip With Love ó in terms of both the plot and the character development. Too often, however, they just seem tossed in. When the protagonists have fallen madly in lust by page 5 and in bed by page 10, I close the book and pick up another.
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Mingqi



Joined: 21 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 7:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i used to read the novels with the love/sex scenes- but now I end up skimming a lot of them too- unless i'm in the mood to read about them.

Like JaneO mentioned, a lot of the time it seems like the sex is just tossed in. I haven't encountered many that actually moved the story forward. Most of the time the scenes just interrupt the pace of the story so i skim/skip to get to the bantering. I sort of prefer the love/sex scenes in the last few chapters of the novel now-since by that time, the hero/heroine are coming together and things are slowing down. Though, I am fond of making-out scenes that leave the characters wanting more (but they're holding back) so I do read those. Maybe I'm just the type of person who is more fond of the chase than the actual consummation. :D

the love/sex scenes can get pretty boring since I can almost predict when the sex scene will be- oh look! hero/heroine encounters abandoned cottage/field/shed or they're all alone in the library or his/her bedroom- of course they should make the best use of it-cut the talking short and consummate their lust for each other. Maybe if they have sex at more unexpected moments and places, I would read them more thoroughly.
And a lot of sex scenes poke at some of my pet peeves: 1 the characters have sex within days after meeting each other and 2. the commenting on how INNOCENT the heroine is because you could totally tell by the way he is moving, breathing, whimpering. I'm like....right, seriously? :roll:

i don't think romances need sex but sometimes sex would be nice- you have all that sexual tension to lead to sex. It's just that 10-15 page long sex scenes are dull-especially if it happens 3-4 times throughout the book.
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Lynn M



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I tend to read the "first time" sex scenes in their entirety. Usually this is the payoff for some - hopefully - very well done sexual tension, and it's after the couple finally consummates their relationship that things change for them. I like knowing how that first time went.

But after the couple has moved past that and engage in more sex more often, I find myself skimming. At this point, it seems like any detail that is spelled out in the book is almost gratuitous. Like a publisher told the writer to put X number of sex scenes in or something and we are simply filling pages to meet a quota. Too, it seems the subsequent episodes are never as interesting as the first one. They don't change the story all that much, either.

In fact, some of my favorite writers seem to understand this. While they go to great lengths to depict the first consummation scene, the sex scenes that follow aren't necessarily depicted movement by movement. We get the gist of what's going on, and that's all we need.
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Natalie



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 07, 2008 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't read "kisses only" books (aside from some classics like Mary Stewart) but I definitely don't read just for sex and too much detail turn me off (I'd read romantica if I wanted it). However, I do appreciate a hot love scene especially if it's culmination of sexual tension buildup (buildup without resolution really annoys me). I also like when sex is plays a part in characterization and love scenes changes when with the changes in the couple's relationship (To Have and to Hold is a good example of that).
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Schola



Joined: 10 Jun 2007
Posts: 1867

PostPosted: Sat Nov 08, 2008 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lynn M wrote:
I tend to read the "first time" sex scenes in their entirety. Usually this is the payoff for some - hopefully - very well done sexual tension, and it's after the couple finally consummates their relationship that things change for them. I like knowing how that first time went.


I agree that the first time is the most important, too, especially, as Dick has mentioned, when the heroine is also a virgin. (Well, there are virgin heroes, too, but for some reason their first times aren't half as moving.)

Lynn M wrote:
In fact, some of my favorite writers seem to understand this. While they go to great lengths to depict the first consummation scene, the sex scenes that follow aren't necessarily depicted movement by movement. We get the gist of what's going on, and that's all we need.

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Kass



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 09, 2008 12:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Um...I don't skip sex scenes, so I'd say yes, they need them even if you skip those scenes, because I don't. Smile
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Chris6854
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 09, 2008 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After reading all of the previous posts in this thread I'm starting to think I must just be a "sleazy" kinda gal! LOL

I WANT sex in my romances. I prefer books with AAR's "Hot" or "Burning" ratings. However, I only want to read books with a B+ or higher grade. These are the books in which the characters and their story take the forefront. If I'm not sucked in by the story and the characters I just skim the entire book, sex scenes included.

OTH, some of my favorite romances would only be considered warm....but these books feature such EXCEPTIONAL writing that I don't miss the sex. However, as many of us have lamented, amazing books like that don't come along every day. I read at least two or three books a week, but the majority of the books I've read lately are good, not GREAT.

I guess I'm in the minority, but when choosing between two books with an "A" grade, I'll take the "Hot" one over the "Warm" one every time. I never realized that I was such a pervert compared to other romance readers!
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