Monday, July 26, 2010

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

"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?

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Newt Livesay said...

Well put Maria. Some of my works have some pretty graphic "details" in them, but overall when it comes to writing or even reading about sex, I like the down side of the work. I would rather read a story where my mind can wonder, play, or experiment in it thoughts so to say. The gratuitous sex, just for sex sake, is a turn off in my opinion.

The old Zen masters had a way to make one think when reading their explanations of foreplay and love making.

I play with their ideas some time with such observances as this. “She took the wand of light into one hand, and with the other hand she touched the sacred spot at it's base. I held one of the mysteries of the universe in my right hand, as she guided the wand along the ecstatic path to enlightenment. Our breath became one as she began riding the wave.”

I apologize if I offended anyone with this.
My best.

Deliberated said...

I think there is a place for sex in every single book (except children's, obviously) simply because sex is part of life. I breathe, eat, walk talk and have sex. Therefore when I write, I will write about each of those things. That said, each novelist will have to tailor the sex scenes to the specific characters and story lines. Sex for the sake of sex might be part of the personality of a given character. Repeating it scene after scene however might not be to the tates of the reader. As a writer, it is a fine line. Chapter 1 of my novel includes sexual innuendo between a husband and wife, and a rape scene. Trying to work these into the same context took some forethought, but hopefully I did it tastefully. (To see for yourself visit:


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