Ew. Sex is Icky

The other day I was reading a friend’s blog and- I hope you’ll forgive the vagueness and lack of linkage- she was referencing some article she had read about how sad it was that grown-ups were reading Harry Potter.  Obviously, this is not an article I’m going to rush off and read.  But she read it, and it got her dander up, and rightly so. 

You see, my friend enjoys fantasy, and a lot of her favorite books take place in fantastical worlds like Oz- places some people believe are only fit for children.  Which just goes to show that for some people, that Ally Sheedy line from The Breakfast Club really nails it: “When you grow up, your heart dies.”

Some of us who don’t have these sadly shriveled hearts enjoy reading engaging and often well-written and yeah, classic works of fiction that happen to be shelved in the young reader section. 

Now, whether you love or hate Harry Potter, I really don’t care.  It’s not the point of this post.  I, myself, have not been able to read through the third book.  While I enjoy Hogwarts while I’m hangin’ there, I have a very difficult time reading books that are not “what I read”.  Without a relationship to drive my interest in the story, it’s too easy for me to put the book down and go to something else.  Deal. 

The point was that in defense of her choice of reading, my friend said that part of reason for enjoying books marketed to young readers was that she didn’t have to read sex.

Yeah, I know.  She and I don’t do a whole lot of book-swaps. 

But it’s been on my mind for a few days.  I keep coming back to it.

And then, in a post titled RESPECT, Shiloh Walker was talking about how people look down their noses at those of us who read and write romance.  It’s a very well-written post, not whiny or ranty as these things tend to be, and if the subject interests you, check that out.  One of the things she said was “Romance isn’t about sex.” 

Which is completely true, and those of us who read and write it know that.

I’m not sure those who don’t know that are ever going to clue their way in.  It seems like those who look down their noses at romance have two main points: it’s badly written pulp trash, and it’s chick porn.

Thank goodness that romance is the only genre with a history that includes some badly written pulp trash and that that’s never happened in other genres like mystery, science fiction, and adventure.

But what’s getting me is this thing about reading sex.  Because it’s not just my friend by a long shot.  Even on one of the online romance reading communities to which I belong, members will post to the effect that Such and So was a good read because it didn’t have too much sex in it.  Like, ew, sex, icky.  (Of course, the next post will be: OMG, you have to read XYZ because it is just HOT, so there’s a range of tastes, obviously.)  And then there was the time when I came across a community in which writers with blogs had written a bit about themselves and wouldn’t you like to visit them, and I was stunned by the number of writers, especially older high school and college-aged writers, who seemed to so disdain writing about sex that they needed to mention that in their little ad.

I just can’t figure it out.  Why the ick about the sex?  And aren’t most of these same people who are so grossed out by those of us who want to read and write love and sex breaking out the popcorn for movies and television with adult themes, adult situations and nudity, often without the benefit of the demands of an actual relationship that the romance genre puts on such liasons?

I’m just askin’.


Filed under author blog, blogs, ideas, love, romance, sex, writing

3 responses to “Ew. Sex is Icky

  1. gypsykitten

    I’m having a similar problem reading the Harry Potter books. I thought I’d do better, but I’m stalled in the second book. I read all sorts of romance and mystery, but I need a relationship in there. Without that, I’m easily distracted.

    As far as people who look down their nose on romance: hate it. Hate the misconceptions about romance novels and romance writers, though they had gotten a bit better in the past few years.

    As far as people who love romance, but hate the sex, what less sex in the books, etc.: to each their own, read what you want, but don’t act like a “hotter” or more sex-filled romance novel is something dirty. It’d be as if I looked at “sweet” romance novel (i.e., little or no sex) and said, “Oh, another prude romance. How gross and repressed.”

  2. As I have quite a few friends who write in various different genres, I suddenly realise that just about every genre, other than the advanced literary novel (and even that in some quarters, unless it was written at least 60 years ago), is looked down on by somebody. I’m a cross-genre writer, producing everything from literary prose through poetry to the major stream of my work which I’m always embarrassed to admit is fantasy fiction. I look down on myself for writing it, and yet I love it! Once again, I think people just enjoy the snobbery of saying they prefer Kafka or some completely unknown 19th century writer just because it makes them sound more intellectual.

    On the subject of sex, I started off avoiding writing about sex. Not because I thought “Oh ick” but because my approach to writing is about watching characters and I thought they might not like me intruding on them. I used to imagine them getting it on with me in the corner watching and taking notes. When I let go of that, I found it just unravelled naturally, so it’s ended up being in the later Amnar books. That does leave me a bit paranoid about my parents reading it, but other than that, it adds to the powerful sense of building emotion and tension. And oddly, within the bounds of my own work, there is often sex where no real emotional relationship exists. Shocking.

  3. Joely-
    Thanks for your comment. I think you’re right about the snobbery issue. I’m sort of surprised that, given the rest of your comment, you’re embarrassed to admit writing a lot of fantasy. A lot of us aren’t embarrassed to admit we enjoy reading it- more power to you.

    I didn’t mean to imply that I thought there was anything wrong with writing about sexual interactions where no relationship exists. And by the following statement, I also don’t mean to imply that that equals porn. It doesn’t. But one of the accusations frequently leveled at romance is that it’s chick porn, and so I made the comment on relationships with regard to the fact that people often seem to look down at the romance genre as something dirty and call it porn, when really the rules of the genre (and yeah, rules are sometimes broken) call for a higher standard of…morality, for lack of a better word, when it comes to relationships and sex than for many other fictional genres.

    I also think you’re right about somebody looking down their nose at pretty much all genres. I know that romance writers tend to complain about it with some frequency, and that’s where I spend a lot of my time– likely I (and others)forget that we’re not alone in being snubbed.

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