If a romance focuses on two people (or more) falling in love, does that mean all romances must have sex?
Of course not. For one thing, not everyone in the world wants to have sex, even if they become romantically attached or even married. And for others, their religious beliefs or personal preference means they don’t want to read about sex. All of those preferences are fine – as long as you don’t shame someone else for not sharing yours.
I am very sex-positive, and what that means for me is that I want there to be no judgment or derision levied at anyone regardless of their sexual choices, in fiction and in life.
But sex can be a divisive issue in the genre community, so I want to examine its place in the romance canon. There are books where the characters don’t have sex at all, books where sex is intrinsic to character and plot development, and books of every sort in between.
Romance titles with no sex at all (even implied) are typically published as inspirational or Christian romance. I’ll be honest and say that I have only read a few books in this category, so my experience is not broad. In the books I’ve read, the characters’ religious beliefs determine their level of intimacy, and even if married, they will often not be physically intimate on the page (including kissing).
In other books, there’s sex, but it isn’t on the page. Or if it is on the page, it isn’t explicit and the author focuses on the emotions of the characters during the experience rather than the physical realities. These are typically called “sweet” romances. There’s a movement lately to call them “clean” romances, but I’ve got to be honest and say that label makes me cringe. “Sweet” makes no value judgments about sex. “Clean” does – it implies that sex is dirty. And as I said above, I’m sex-positive. That means I don’t care if you want to read Christian romance or outright porn. But don’t judge me or anyone else for what we choose to read or write.
What I write is steamy or spicy romance, where there’s explicit sex on the page. But even in steamy romances, there are variations in how much or how little sex happens. What makes a book spicy is that when sex happens, we talk about it. There are no curtains drawn or doors closed. Again – no judgment on any genre that pans to the windows or avoids the conversation. Do what feels comfortable for you. I just happen to like writing and reading about sex.
At the far end of the spectrum from “no sex” is erotic romance, where graphic sex is intrinsic to the story, and can’t be removed without damaging the character development and plot.
In part two of this blog, I will explore the difference between steamy romance and erotic romance more carefully, because it’s easy to get confused (even for people who write in these genres).
But here’s my final word on sex and romance – do what feels right for you. If you like to read about sex, find books with lots of sex in them. Kinky sex, vanilla sex, multiple partner sex? It doesn’t matter. Go for it. If you don’t like to read about sex, then there are romance books for you, too. Intimacy grows in many ways, not all of them physical.
Bottom line – there’s a romance book out there with a heat level right for you.
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BLOG TOUR UPDATE:
Today’s guest blog is an author interview at Jessica Knauss’s website. Click here to read it!