The Romance Novel – Women’s Porn? Take Two:

by Keira G on January 8, 2009 · 1 comment

in About, Erotica, News

romancenookI was reading Not Everything Erotic is Romantic over at All About Romance's Blog. It touched a bit on what I was thinking when I was writing The Romance Novel - Women's Porn? However Lynn said something I forgot to touch on in my original post, which I thought I would do now using an illustration from her musings. She said:

Lynn: ...it seems to be an extension of what I've seen some erotic romance publishers do in recent years. They throw books our way and say "You'll love it! It's a romance. We swear!" When readers respond with indifference to, say, books without a romance, publishers often wonder what's up with that. Why aren't we buying those books? After all, they have plenty of sex - and isn't the sex what romance readers are really looking for?

Wrong! The difference between a romance novel and porn is the focus on the emotions--the happily ever after. That's the good stuff. Right there is why women, or at least I, buy and buy into romance. The emotions make the sex worthwhile in a book. Sex between leads must serve a purpose. My comment in no way is meant to dismiss erotica. I find some erotica to be quite singularly excellent and others like Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty Trilogy to be complete crap. It's as Carolyn Jewel says from the post Defined: Emotion and Passion, pt 1:

Carolyn Jewel: There must be something at risk, something changed between them [the leads] afterward. If your characters aren’t risking anything emotionally through their intimacy, then it’s just boring.  Every bedroom scene has to change the relationship between the characters. This can include making things seem even worse, by the way. Intimacy does not always equal happy ever after, especially early on in a relationship. It’s not only about who’s touching who where. The best bedroom scenes never, ever lose focus on the emotion, even when one of the characters thinks there isn’t any.

In many cases the difference between an okay romance and a great romance is the sexual tension. Without it the writing is lacking. Intimacy is created with sex; it is where you're vulnerable, where you learn about your partner, and most importantly learn a bit about yourself. In an author interview with erotica writer, Jamaica Layne I asked her to define a weakness in romance and she illustrated a weakness from tame romance, which I agreed with wholeheartedly. She said:

Jamaica: —–I think a major weakness of most “sweet” romance novels is the fact they leave the sex out.  One reason I’m so drawn to writing erotica is because it leaves the sex in without asking the reader to fill in their own details.  Don’t get me wrong—-I still like a good non-erotic romance novel—-but there still needs to be at least some sex and/or sensuality in order for it to appeal to me.  Even Jane Austen understood the importance of sex in romance—–all of her heroines are quite sensual, even though her books make no direct mention of sex.

I could watch and read Pride and Prejudice forever. The conclusion to draw from this is that sex in romance must be tied in with emotion, attraction, and create a dynamic pull between the characters and the reader. We must feel the same drive the characters do. When sex is written and it serves no purpose to the reader or the characters, it's like trying to pull teeth, excruciating, or kissing a cold fish, plainly displeasing and alienating. Nothing can pull a reader out of a story quicker than a poorly written sex scene that's clumsy or unnecessary. Authors can include sex or not but never ever should they write a romance without these three elements; because the tension, attraction and emotional vulnerability are all essential to creating a romance that readers want to read and reread time and again.

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