No, I'm not kidding when I say we need more sex in romantic eroticas, romanticas, erotic romances, or whatever we call those books published by pretty much nearly every online publisher nowadays. Since I've been reading more and more of these books recently, I notice one distressing thing: there's not enough sex.
By this, I am talking about all those ebooks with naughty covers and epublisher blurbs that promise me threesomes, foursomes, doggy sex with werewolves, and more but when I read them, I get very disappointingly mundane love scenes. I think we need to redefine what "erotic" means in the erotic romance or romantic erotica label for these books.
Is "erotic" simply a word to mean "more explicit"? How explicit is more explicit?
A while ago, there were a furor when Robin Schone wrote a scene with anal sex and there were the usual pearl-clutching that later died out when everyone decided to write such books as well. So for a long time "erotic romance" simply means "same old love scenes, just add anal sex". And now, I can see the trend happening - only now, it's the same old love scenes, just add BDSM after the usual vamp/furry/ghost obligatory ingredients.
There is just no imagination in so many of these ebooks. I regret I can't say that I live a varied and colorful life when it comes to sex, but that doesn't mean if I didn't experience threesomes before, I wouldn't know at once that the author isn't really into a love scene in her story.
What makes a sex scene work? Well, there's no way getting around the fact that the market is geared towards women, even if more men are reading them, so the whole "women like to read about emotions more than graphic slot A/slot B mechanics" principle applies. However, I don't find many ebooks that succeed in describing the erotic sensations of the sex act. Many of them are so perfunctory and half the time I'm convinced the author has no idea what goes in actual BDSM play when she writes such a scene because these BDSM love scenes follow the same old pattern from ebook to ebook, kinda like a bunch of virginal schoolgirls adopting another virgin schoolgirl's description of sex play to be incorporated into their own fanfictions. Same with threesomes. I laugh when an author describes a threesome simply as two men waiting for turns to get at the heroine.
Come on, authors! Go watch a dirty movie if you need inspiration for threesome mechanics. Common sense will tell you that a woman has three body orifices feasible for sex. Nine if you ask the Japanese but everyone knows they live on a different planet from the rest of us so their opinions on sex don't count. Two men, three body orifices. And all you can come up with are the two men patiently waiting to go one after the other? I've read an anthology, supposedly an erotic one, where the theme is food, and not one of the seven or eight authors involved thought of incorporating food into their characters' sensual foreplay. It's just, oh, the heroine is a chef, so here's the shag scene, in full missionary position glory. Or if the author is particularly imaginative, doggy style shag. Or maybe fellatio.
Where's the imagination? Romantic erotica is supposed to push the envelope, no? Instead, all I get nowadays are unimaginative nearly-vanilla BDSM scenes that even someone who doesn't do BDSM in real life like me find dull, unexciting, and often even fake. I'd love to come across stories where the authors describe feelings experienced by the characters as well as what the characters are doing during sex. And it's not just "explosive climax" - I'm talking about descriptions of taste, touch, everything. After all, sex involves all five senses - we touch, we see, we hear, we taste, and we smell. Okay, maybe I'd rather not read about the smell part. But I'd love to know what the characters are feeling. That's what makes a good sex scene for me - not just the explicit act, but the explicit feelings.
I am not the kind of reader to go "Eeeuw!" so easily - I won't read romantic eroticas if I am - so I welcome more descriptions of the sex act. I've love to know what the heroine is feeling when, say, she has the hero's penis in her mouth. Does she like it? What is she doing? How is she using her tongue? Does she like what she tastes? How does the penis feel in her mouth? The weight, the texture, the contour? Are the hero's groans music to her ears?
How about erotic verbal exchange? Does the hero talk dirty to the heroine? Does she like it? Is she turned on? Does she feel wild while he's doing her doggy-style and he grabs her hair and pulls her head back so that he can kiss her roughly from behind?
How about the sound? Is the bed creaking? Does the headboard bang against the wall?
How about the heat of the room? The sweat on their skin? The sounds their bodies are making?
I want descriptions. I want sensations. Thoughts. Emotions. I've come across sex scenes where the actual act is alluded to but the heroine's emotions and thoughts during the act are so explicitly detailed that I find such a scene too erotic for words. I've found such scenes in eroticas, but so far, very rarely in romantic eroticas. The problem I have with too many romanticas is that the love scenes are clearly written as if they are meant for conventional romance novels, only with handcuffs and anal sex and maybe the hero's best friend thrown in in such an awkwardly fake "I read this in another romantic erotica story so I'm just following what I read there!" manner that I find these stories as erotic as a dead fish.
I also have a problem with the proliferation of joke stories passed off as romantic eroticas. It is one thing to write in a tongue-in-cheek manner, but when I come across so many bad superhero/barbarian stories with sex scenes featuring bizarre gravity-defying mechanics and cartoonishly huge body parts, I wonder whether these authors want to even write romantic eroticas. They give me this impression that they are uncomfortable with writing sex scenes so they insert all kinds of cartoonish elements to the sex scenes, complete with raging penises that pour a deluge of seed that makes the heroine scream in ecstasy because she looooooves getting impregnated. It's a mood killer. I am paying for a romantic erotica, not a badly written hentai script.
The problem here is clearly the lack of quality control. Many authors who for some reasons cannot write effective sex scenes are coming out with at least one such ebook a month and I shudder to imagine how long it took them to write those 23-paged "erotic stories" that they push out at a terrifying 12-24 books a year rate. The epublishers, clearly facing the heat of the competition, will want to stay in business so of course they won't be too concerned about quality as long as someone is willing to buy them. I don't know. Currently the ebook industry seems to be at the verge of an implosion. I'm hearing stories of ebooks selling only two copies a month making it to that epublisher's bestseller list of that month. So there are more ebooks and epublishers than there are consumers, so I suspect, like the previous ebook bloom and bust in the early 2001-2002, that there will be a bust soon and only a few epublishers will be left standing at the end of the day while those who are in just for the money or those who clearly are ill-prepared to run a publishing company will be whittled out eventually.
I'm not wishing ill on any eauthor or epublisher, but as a reader, I wish there is an easier way to find some decent read without having to wade through a pile of badly-written cash-in tripe. Let me go off-topic a bit here but I also wish more e-authors will stop having this attitude that every book of theirs must sell and must be brilliant. As much as I'd like to support the ebook industry, I'd be honest here: if I'm an editor at a publishing house, I'd scream in horror if I come across some of the ebooks I've the misfortune to encounter on my incoming tray. Some stories, especially those 15-25 paged ones, are so underdeveloped and even pointless because the story makes no impact on the reader to the point that they should either be expanded into a longer story or just be kept in the author's drawer. But egads, I'm come across some e-authors who brag that they sold 20 short stories in 3 months to some people and are contracted to submit some who knows how many more short stories in a few months time to other publishers. Common sense should've warned these e-authors that any work churned out at such a rate cannot be good since they are not in the McDonald's industry. But these e-authors are so convinced that everything they put out turns to gold and the fact that they sold three copies of one book in one year is some kind of validation of their talent. But like I said, I suspect that eventually the bubble will have to burst. Such unsustainable growth of the ebook industry cannot last. Perhaps I shouldn't begrudge some people for making hay while the sun shines, but ugh, I have to read their books sometimes...
Okay, back to the topic at hand.
And perhaps I am in the minority here, but I prefer my erotica and romance to be separated so I am not too enthusiastic about the proliferation of M+/F scenes in romantic eroticas. I'm sure some couples who swing have happy long marriages, but personally, I read romance for the idea that love is something exclusive - the holy grail to be attained after overcoming obstacles, if you will. So the idea of a hero and a heroine finding love only to throw an orgy at the last chapter and invite everybody along to play cheapens the idea of a love hard won. Yes, I know, it's possible to love someone and still be in an open relationship. But many of these M+/F scenes in such ebooks are pointless and serve only to titillate someone. Oh, our heroine is in some cult that advocates compulsory gangbangs every Sunday! I blame this on Laurell K Hamilton, I really do. Just because her gangbang books sell, everyone thinks that romance novels must have gangbangs too because we readers - who are the only ones buying Ms Hamilton's books nowadays, come to think of it - love to read about our heroines becoming as wide and as busy as an expressway during peak hours.
I just don't like picking up a romantic story to find M+/F scenes. I like M+/F scenes (and F+/M and F+/M+ scenes too) but in eroticas where it's all fun and play without messy emotions getting in the way. I find it hard to reconcile the fact that the hero and the heroine just had a happy hour with the neighborhood just three pages before they decide that they love each other and they will be monogomous forever from that point. Please don't do this to me. Please don't pretend that two people who clearly enjoy spreading the love around will automatically stop doing that, especially when they clearly have no problems with being the buffet that everybody partakes in on Friday evenings. As for MMF couplings, they can work with me but again, it has to be very well-writing and convincing because it's an unconventional arrangement for someone like me who doesn't encounter polygamy/polyamory on a daily basis.
Yes, MMF can work but I find it hard to believe that the MMF thing will work happily ever after (which is what romance is all about) unless the F is an expert in juggling both Ms so that the Ms will never feel that one is favored over the other and get all jealous and sulky. So yeah, sue me and call me old-fashioned but I like my stories to be about two people in love, be it an MF, FF, or MM coupling. Three's company. More than three is something I'd prefer to see sold as erotica. At least in erotica, the authors won't try so hard to pretend that the main characters are going to live like a conventional happily married couple and therefore I will be enjoy all the naughtiness going on better.
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