Monday, March 9, 2015

How Much Sex is Too Much Sex in a Romance Novel?

Adam and Eve
"I like restraint, if it doesn't go too far." Mae West

Apparently, the sky is the limit on this topic! Like stove top burners, from low to medium low, all the way up to high, romance novels have different heat levels for varying degrees of tastes. From clean and pure inspirationals to erotica so steamy it singes the eyebrows, there's a temperature level that's just right for everyone.

I love lots of romance and passion between a committed couple (that stops before "the act"). And the best lovemaking scenes (in my opinion) are between a married couple. These can be hot and steamy, but lead to a closed bedroom door. Then imagination can take over from there.

In discussing this issue with a writer, I mentioned the types of books I'd like to write. For some lines, she told me to check the guidelines carefully. "You can't mention the word "breast" in a sexual way, and affection even between married couples can't be that explicit.

That's not fun I thought. "I can respect those guidelines," I said, "but if I were reading one of those books, I'd think the husband was having an affair, since he didn't look at his wife lustfully and only showed her sisterly affection."

"Check the guidelines," the writer said, "and before you jump to conclusions, read a few."

I decided to take a look the Song of Songs first, which focuses on the spontaneous and exclusive love between a man and a woman. From chapter 7 versus 6-10 I read the following:

Lover (Man)
How beautiful you are and how pleasing. O love, with your delights! Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit. I said, "I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit." May your breasts be like the clusters of the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine.

Beloved (Woman)
May the wine go straight to my lover, flowing gently over lips and teeth. I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me.

That sounds pretty sensual! According to the Oxford Companion to the Bible, some scholars suggest that the Song was a collection of songs assembled as a repertoire for wedding celebrations. And it appears to me that the Beloved here is certainly having more fun than that poor wife with the unseen breasts who's only shown sisterly affection by her husband!

What are your thoughts?

Have a great week, and thanks for stopping by!


William Kendall said...

It depends on the audience, I would think. For an Inspirational book that could be sold at a Christian book store, you have to be very careful. Erotica readers would expect something very different.

Jennette Marie Powell said...

Readers of category lines have very specific expectations. While I have read and enjoyed inspirational romance, I personally don't get the prohibition against sensuality, particularly within marriage; I guess that's just another expectation of the majority of that subgenre's readers. But for romance in general? As long as the emotion and HEA are there, anything goes!

Mark R Hunter said...

As a reader I can go either way. As a writer, I've done both ways, but I'm not that terribly comfortable writing sex scenes. "Storm Chaser" has a little sensuality in it, while its sequel, "The Notorious Ian Grant", has hardly any. On the other hand, I have an unpublished romance manuscript that has a full sex scene in it. Mostly I go by whether it fits the characters and the situation.

Norma said...

There must not be such a thing as too much. If there were, 50 Shades of Grey would not be the hit it is.

Still trying to figure that one out....