I’m the Romance Moderator for the Goodreads Group, Modern Good Reads and I recently posed the question: “How Important is Sex in a Romance Novel?” It was not a real surprise to see there were more comments on that than anything else I’d asked. Whether you’re a writer or a reader and whatever the genre, there’s a good chance sex will be in the book. Quite simply, it sells!
The responses were all over the board. A lot of the readers posted that they like to see sex in a romance novel if it fit the characters. In other words, if they were shy types, it probably wouldn’t be appropriate to put in the graphic details, but it would be fitting if they were outright sexual. There was also some discussion that if it was a young adult novel, romance would be all right, but there probably should not be outright sex.
Another reader mentioned that there was kind of an unwritten contract between the writer and the reader. It was up to the writer to indicate just how steamy the novel was going to be and then the decision whether or not the reader felt it would be of interest to them was theirs, all based on the book’s blurb or the beginning of the book. It caused me to think about e-books and how important it is for the reader to be able to sample the book. This allows them to make the decision whether or not to buy the book. E-books don’t have back covers where blurbs are usually put.
There was a concensus that if sex was thrown in just to titillate, or as one reader so aptly put it, “a freebie,” it not only wasn’t appropriate, it was uninteresting. Other felt that sex was a huge part of romance and they wouldn’t enjoy reading a book that didn’t have great sex scenes.
One contributor made the comment that “crude and unattractive language will move the book into the less than romantic zone.” Quite a few indicated that they felt sex and romance were two different things. The plot also became an important part of the discussion. If sex fit within the plot’s romantic theme, it seemed to be all right. Once again, how descriptive the sex scenes should be were dictated by the characters. Softer terms for softer characters; cruder terms for cruder characters. Another contributor felt that life without sex wouldn’t be so great, so his characters should have steamy moments. Many expressed comments as to how difficult it is to write a really good sex scene. Readers don’t like to read sex scenes if they’re poorly written.
I posed the question: “Do you think the age of the characters dictates how much sex is included in a romance? For instance – is sex between 60 year olds as interesting as sex between 30 year olds?” One contributor said sex below the age of 18 and over the age of 50 was not something he’d want to read about it. Then he qualified it in a later post to include supernatural people who may live hundreds of years. I then made a statement “So I’m getting the feeling that reading about sex in the assisted living home is out!” Here’s one man’s comments on that, “…if you had a particularly obnoxious old man, and he was having fun with a nurse in the assisted living home… But those are definitely closed bedroom door scenes. Don’t want the details, no thanks.”
In closing, a reader wrote,”I think a character’s intentions, motivations, vulnerabilities, passion, etc…the overall state and exposure brought to the scene makes it powerful and seduction stems from a person’s mind, not in their genitilia.” I would add one thing to that. How pertinent is to the plot?
And as always, every reader is different and brings to the book their life experiences, which makes for a wonderful smorgasbord – something for everyone!