“I’m for free love, and I’m in free fall / This could be love, or nothing at all”

I wrote this short ‘splosion-on-a-page about the appeal of polyamorous romances and group sex for Romancing the Blog a while back, and I find it immensely flattering that they will occasionally re-post it as part of their “Best Of” series. The responses to this article seem to fall into one of several different categories:


2. It all depends on the author.

3. Not for me, but vive la difference!

4. Cheating is not romantic, and I don’t want to read about infidelity in my romances.

5. It’s neither romantic nor sexy because it’s immoral/pornographic.

6. It’s neither romantic nor sexy because it’s too unrealistic/the dynamics make my head hurt.

Responses number 4 and 5 I find somewhat…well, puzzling is not the right word, but it’s the closest I can come up with right now. (Hey, I misspelled “challenge” just a few days ago, and just last night said “national” when I meant “natural,” so cut me some slack right now, OK? Brain faculties still not operating at 100%. Or even 75%.) Response number 4 is just plain misses the point, in my opinion—infidelity by definition involves lying and breaking one’s promise to be faithful, whereas consensual group sex and polyamory involves the informed consent of all parties. Two entirely different things, though I can see how many people still wouldn’t view group love as either sexy or romantic.

Answer number 5 bothers me quite a bit in a myriad of different ways, and it’s related to a rant I’d written months ago about the definition of romance. It has to do with the way people identify something they don’t like and attach a myriad of other judgments to this distaste. Instead of saying “This grosses me out,” the conclusion they reach is, “This grosses me out, therefore it’s wrong and doesn’t belong in romance novels.”

In short, it bothers me when people seem to automatically judge something they find kind of squicky as immoral.

Now, obviously there’s some overlap in terms of squick and immorality. Pedophilia and bestiality are probably the two clearest examples of sex acts that are both squick + immoral. But that’s because when it comes to sexual immorality, my gold standard is “Was informed consent provided?” If all parties are adults and able to provide informed consent, I don’t think of it as immoral, even if the practices push hard against my squick barrier. Anal fisting, for example, makes me go “BLEEUUUURRRGH,” and I’d be able to point out some of the more obvious health risks involved when engaged in such sexual practices, but I don’t think it’s immoral, and hey, if it turns somebody’s crank, then bully for them; may their bucket of Astroglide never run dry and may the colorectal prolapse be averted.

However, it’s a very human impulse to view sexual practices that deviate from the norm (whatever the fuck that norm may happen to be) as immoral and wrong. Centuries, hell, millennia of effort have been poured into delineating what’s acceptable and not acceptable sexual practice in cultures all over the world. Sex is a scary force, it seems, and regulating it has been of tantamount interest for a very long time, despite its ultimate futility—let’s face it, you can tell people teh buttsecks is wrong to engage in all you like, but once the doors are closed, there’s no telling how that ass be tapped, and you can bet on the fact that if something feels good, people will always find a way to sneak around proscriptions. The persistence behind sexual mores puzzles me somewhat, I admit, and once I feel more clear-headed, I may be able to provide more opinions (read: inchoate ramblings, but you regular readers pretty much know that already, right?) on this. It all ties into issues of control, of course, but there seem to be other undercurrents at work as well. Any social scientists want to pipe up about this?

Another point of interest was brought up by Miss Black, who wrote in the comments:

Personally, I have nothing against sexual fantasies. They are great. But they need to be in a genre of their own. Not the romance genre. It’s confusing to readers.

Romance novels are about the emotional needs, the idea of commitment, despite obstacles. It’s about love. Sexual fantasies are part of it, but not the whole.

Now, personally, I enjoy reading about emotional and physical intimacy in great detail. Thus far, romance novels have focused largely on the emotional intimacy, but with the advent of erotic romances, physical intimacy and the part sex plays in a romantic relationship have taken on a much larger role.

I can understand that some people don’t necessarily enjoy reading sex scenes, and I can also understand that some people have vastly different tolerance levels when it comes to the degree of explicitness they enjoy. What I don’t necessarily get is the (to me) artificial separation of sex from love. To me, sex is a necessary (though not a sufficient) condition for romantic love to flourish. (On the flip side, romantic love isn’t necessary for sexual attraction to prosper. That, however, doesn’t change anything about my premise that sex is an integral component of romantic love.) Attempting to separate the sexual component from love fantasies doesn’t necessarily remove it; it merely drives it underground so that it becomes implicit instead of explicit.

I also don’t buy that romance readers will be confused by the presence of sexual fantasies in romance novels. What is there to be confused about? How easily confused ARE we, anyway? I know that I’m (usually) able to distinguish love affairs from affairs that involve only sex, both in fiction and in real life.

I didn’t want to take over the RTB comments with these musings of mine, hence this short (for me!) ramble on this space. What are your thoughts? I’m going to invite Miss Black over here and hope to hear more of her perspective.


Random Musings

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Kate R says:

    damn, I [heart] you so much, it’s not even funny.

    Though as the general at http://patriotboy.blogspot.com/ would say, it’s a pure, heterosexual sort of love.

  2. 2
    Candy says:

    Kate, darlin’, if I were into girls at all, you can bet that my love for you would be the filthiest kind imaginable.

    And that goes for all you bitches. ‘Cause I’m a whore that way.

  3. 3
    Arethusa says:

    Oh, is “confusion” that certain feeling I’m feeling after I finish an Emma Holly or Shiloh Walker? I seeeeeeeeee.

    All of the erotica/romantica/erotic romance/call-it-whatever-you-damn-well-like I enjoy is the sort that is emotionally satisfying. Look, I don’t go around telling all those women who read thost ghastly “Who’s my Babby Daddy?”/“Kidnapped by Sheikh Abdullah”/“Maori King’s Mistress” novels that those books should be razed from Romance and shelved in the bin, right? That would just be silly. The same should apply to the “but it’s P.O.R.N.” assertions.

  4. 4
    Stef says:

    When I read, I’m in one of 2 modes: Casual Observer, or I’m The Heroine.

    I would never, in a gazillion years, participate in group sex.  It would bug me on levels I don’t even know about.  Not to mention, getting nekkid in front of more than one person would freak me out – not from modesty, mind.  Just from total self-consciousness.  My boobs sag, my butt sags, I’m not tan enough, I forgot to get a bikini wax…etc. 

    I would also angst over sexual prowess.  Am I doing it right?  Is he doing it right?  Is she doing it right?  Who the hell is supposed to do what, and when?  Am I going to look foolish?  Am I going to revert to childhood and be the last one picked for kickball?  I can see myself, naked by the wall, watching and waiting and hating every minute of it.  Thanks, I’ll stick to one guy whose sole focus is me.  Me, Me – it’s all about Me!  In sex, anyway.

    Therefore, if I read a group sex scene in a book, I’m not there.  I’m a casual observer.  This is regardless of how much I can relate to the heroine.  That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the read – it’s just a different kind of enjoyment.

    Most romances I read, if it’s a good read, I Am The Heroine.  If she’s sad, I’m sad.  If she’s happy, I’m happy.  If she’s turned on, I’m turned on.  Up to a point.  If she’s doing something I wouldn’t personally do – ever – I can’t relate, and so I’m not connected to her.

    I think this is one reason the adultery thing really gets to some people.  Even if they have the fantasy, they feel guilty about it – so if the character, the protagonist, indulges in playing patty fingers with one who is not their significant other, they can’t relate because they don’t want to feel guilty.

    I also think, based on this country’s growth from a Baby Nation into what we have now, we’re still bound by the mores of our forefathers, by the influence of religion.  Guilt is a Big Thing in the American conscience and that holds true whether you live in the heart of the Bible Belt, or up in YankeeLand. “God says we should not have sex with anyone other than our spouse.”  I saw a program the other night about teens wearing promise rings – they promise to save themselves for marriage.  I think it was something like 83% don’t make it – and I’m bettin’ the farm that all 83% of those kids have guilty consciences about it.  I’m not saying that’s right, or wrong – that’s just the facts, ma’am.

    And that’s all I have to say about that.

    (Huh.  Yeah, right.)

  5. 5
    Laura V says:

    I think I was arguing for 6. I get upset by romances featuring love triangles because I worry that someone is going to be rejected. Obviously this isn’t quite what you’re discussing here, and I know there are some people who have long-term sexual relationships which involve more than 2 people, but, like you said, ‘the dynamics make my head hurt’. And if my head’s hurting, and I’m busy wondering if it’ll really work out, then I’m not going to be getting romantic vibes from the book. Similarly, even if a person doesn’t think a thing that’s squicky is immoral, the fact that they think it’s squicky will probably make them think it’s not romantic. Maybe depends on the definition of ‘romantic’, but generally a feeling of ‘yuck’ is not compatible with feeling romantic.

    Whether it’s sexy or not depends on each reader’s personal fantasies/preferences, and clearly quite a few people who posted in reply to that blog don’t have fantasies about group sex, and don’t find the idea sexy.

    Candy, is bestiality more immoral than killing and eating animals? Just curious. I’m vegetarian, and I don’t like cruelty to animals, but I’m not entirely clear on why some people think it’s very, very wrong to use an animal for sex, but very, very, good to force feed it (e.g. for paté), keep it in the dark (e.g. for veal), force it to live in tiny, cramped conditions, feed it hormones and antibiotics and then kill it. I’m not trying to be controversial here, just making the point that there are quite a few things that people do to animals that are non-consensual, so why is bestiality a ‘fate worse than death’ for the animal?  Or is it that bestiality is immoral for the human, and therefore bad for their soul/conscience, but eating the animal and then using an inanimate sex toy would be OK?

  6. 6

    Confusion?  ‘scuse me, am I 12 years old?  I am not “confused” by romantic situations that are not my personal norm.  Hell, sometimes I find them interesting and entertaining, and I always wonder if the writer can pull if off and make me care about the characters, like Emma Holly does, or like Anne “Rampling” Rice did in her edgy novel Belinda.

    I am tired, tired, tired of people wanting to protect me from what they consider evil things in the world, whether it’s red meat, good scotch purchased in a liquor store on Sunday (not allowed in our town) or group sex.  I could go for any of those under the right circumstances, but right now I’d rather have the red meat and a nice single malt than group sex.

  7. 7
    Candy says:

    Candy, is bestiality more immoral than killing and eating animals?

    Good question—and my stand on meat-eating is somewhat conflicted and not necessarily consistent. For what it’s worth, I think the current commercial feedlot farming and slaughterhouse practices are immoral, which is why I buy free-range/organic meat when I can, preferably from small family farmers at the farmer’s markets. In one instance (a lamb farmer) I’ve actually visited the farm numerous times and visited the lambs. On the other hand, I DON’T think eating meat is immoral, mostly because agonizing over the morality of killing animals for food leads to agonizing over the morality of the food chain and biology—which can lead to some truly odd and scientifically untenable positions.

    That said, I don’t always act as consistently as I’d like on my moral convictions, because I’ll still ocassionally eat commercially-raised meat, especially when eating at restaurants.

    Above and beyond everything else, the morality governing food intake is quite different from morality governing sexuality in a lot of ways, I think. If nothing else, I’m pretty sure fucking your food and, conversely, cooking your lovers is Bad Manners. Hey, look at what it got Armin Meiwes.

  8. 8
    Candy says:

    Or is it that bestiality is immoral for the human, and therefore bad for their soul/conscience, but eating the animal and then using an inanimate sex toy would be OK?

    Whoops, sorry to double-post like this, but I completely missed this little tidbit on the first go-through. I, for one, have never particularly liked that particular argument, which resembles a little too closely the arguments some abolitionists were using to outlaw slavery—i.e. it wasn’t necessarily bad for the slaves, who were mere brutes who probably benefited from being around actual civilization, but it exercised a pernicious influence on the slave-owners. All the way around: BULLSHIT. My concern is for the victims in these sorts of situations, and not necessarily for the victimizers.

    And as for the implication that a sex toy is equivalent to an animal: come, now, you’re not seriously imbuing a plastic dong with the same ability to feel and suffer as an animal or a child, are you? Informed consent is tantamount in my world, but asking permission from a glass dildo before using it for assorted filthy purposes would be taking things to rather silly extremes.

    Or, wait, am I seriously mis-reading your sentence? I just realized I’m interpreting it in a rather absurdist sense.

    At any rate, I had your position in mind when I wrote point number 6. So yes, I understand your argument. I can even respect it. Notice how I didn’t bag on you in the comments at RTB, or over here, even.

    And by the way, I’m not bothered by the fact that a lot of people don’t find group sex in romances appealing; I AM somewhat bothered by the reasons why, and especially by reactions that claim they don’t belong in romance at all, at all.

  9. 9
    Wendy says:

    I’m all about #3.  Love to read about it, even love the idea of it – could never do it in real life.  Not. For. Me.

    This discussion, in one form or another, always rears up every few months and every few months I begin to suspect I’m The World’s Skankiest Librarian.  Seriously.  Does nothing press my squirk buttons?  Well, yeah – some things do, but I have yet to read any of those scenarios in erotica/romantica written for a primarily female audience.  I’m not sure whether my mother would be proud or horrified.  Dad, definitely horrified.

    I’d love to see more international discussions on this topic, although I suspect it would never be a big “issue.”  As a general rule I think Americans are so uptight it’s amazing we don’t crap diamonds :ohh:

    Damn those pesky Puritans anyway.

  10. 10
    Selah March says:

    Give the romance-reading public—and by that I mean women, of course—a little more credit, if you please. If we can live with the paradox of “Maddona/whore” we’re fed from infancy, we can likely find our way through the romance section at Barnes & Noble without big scary signs that scream “Here There Be DILDOES.”

    As for calling erotica/erotic romance “porn”…methinks someone needs to read/view a little real pornography before throwing that label around so freely. I’ve read it, I’ve viewed it, I know the difference. Every time someone labels erotica/erotic romance pornography, it only shows me they haven’t done their homework. And that makes it so much easier to dismiss their opinions out of hand.

    That said, group sex doesn’t pull my trigger, whether on the page or in real life. However, I’m perfectly willing to allow it to co-exist with the genre alongside the stuff I do read and write, and I’ll fight to the death anyone who tries to stifle the voices of those who write it simply because it squicks SOME people.

    Unless, of course, the good folks at Harl/Sil are willing to pull all the hot-blooded Mediterranean/Sheik Alpha-male romances from the Presents line that I find so un-romantically xenophobic and offensive. That might almost be worth it.

  11. 11

    Selah, you’re brilliant.  Don’t ever change.

    Re: the porn vs. erotica issue. I think it’s basically an uptight person’s issue, so I don’t generally involve myself.  The argument is all about drawing lines and saying “this is acceptable” and this is “BAD FOR JESUS.”

    I hate uptight people with a HATRED that knows no bounds.  A lot of this ANTI-EROTICA BECAUSE IT’S PORNOGRAPHY shit comes from INSIDE the romance world – so the question is this – why are so many sexually uptight people drawn to reading and writing in a genre that’s ESSENTIALLY ABOUT SEX!!


  12. 12
    Selah March says:

    However, I’m perfectly willing to allow it to co-exist with the genre alongside the stuff I do read and write…

    That should read “within” the genre.

    And thank you, Reese. Just remember, “three holes, no waiting” makes the Baby Jesus cry, and we’ll all get along fine.

    P.S. Loved you in WALK THE LINE, loathed the dress you wore to the SAG Awards. Kisses to Ryan!  ;-)

  13. 13
    sk says:

    I think the real objection that many romance readers have to polyamory is that it breaks one of the central fantasies of the Romance genre – One Twue Wuv. 

    How can you have One Twue Wuv if you’re getting it on with two or more people – and possibly their friends, neighbors, and/or deliverypersons (whoops, sorry, that was porn – see, we do know it when we see it.)?

    Romance is a genre where authors routinely tie their plots in knots to make the H/H’s previous spouses and lovers dull, boring, deceptive, evil, mercenary, psychotic, homosexual, or even – I’m looking at you, Robin Schone – pedophilic in order to show that they were Not The One.

    If a first husband or ex-wife can’t get a fair break in Romanceland, what chance has the exotic Ms Polly Andry got at finding her Dutch doorway to paradise?

    However, not so long ago, Romanceland was all about virgins – even the widows were virgins!  These days most of the widows have simply had unsatisfying sex with men who were Not the One.

    Like the noble glacier creeping out of the fjords, change does come to Romanceland – albeit slowly.  So maybe there’s hope for Ms Polly, after all.

    P.S.  For some reason I just really wanted to type “fjords”.

    P.P.S.  I’m not a fan of Polly because 1) In a book, it makes my head hurt – too many names and appendages to keep track of.  2) In real-life, polyamorists squick me out – there’s nothing creepier than a tag-team pick-up.

  14. 14
    Jetso says:

    In theory (and I’m willing to admit that this often remains in theory) polygamy isn’t about lots of people having sticky, messy group sex (though that is very hot.)

    Secular polyamoury is in theory the practic of recognising the fact that one person’s romantic and emotional and sexual needs cannot be met by one person, that for someone to be the sum of all the things that one’s attracted to they would have to possess a split personality. (Say heroine is attracted to both Mr dark-serious-intense and Mr sunny-happy-go-luck.) It accepts as a premise that there is no “One Twue Wuv”, as sk puts it, and therefore it is okay for people to have multiple partners to fulfill one’s needs. And as sk points out, the concept of One Twue Wuv is fundamental to the Romance genre.

    It also accepts that sex can exist without love, but recognises that the two are interwined. This again goes against Romance tradition of love=instalust and thereby when true love is found, all lust for other partners is gone.

    Matisse says it better than me, she has a brilliant discussion about sexual love on her blog (http://mistressmatisse.blogspot.com/2005/01/another-email-question-i-read-your.html)

    All sorts of interesting shapes result from polyamoury, but most common is a primary partner and a number secondaries (with the secondaries having their primary partners and their secondaries.) It does make your head hurt, but it’d be interesting to read. The classic trio-relationship is surprisingly less common. From what I gather polyamoury seems to be remarkably pragmatic about human relations, for the whole thing to work requires communication of crazy amounts,(“Darling, you know you footman, would you mind horribly if I started shagging him?”) cheating quite a different beast (“What? You were shagging my chambermaid behind my back?! You should have asked!”)

    Writing a romance involving polyamoury would be rather trying on any author, really. A primary couple, the secondaries. It would mean more than two likable, well developed characters. It would mean no Big Misunderstandings plotlines, lots of talking about feelings and working through jealousy and so forth. Would be very interesting, decidedly romantic.

    Granted, the whole theory of polyamoury is probably quite different from the practice, and the shiny view of happiness, communication and consent doesn’t always work out. But real life monogamy relationships aren’t really what Romance writes them to be.

  15. 15
    Jetso says:

    Incidentally, group sex is probably different from polyamoury. Not that they’re often considered sepearately. There are two different premises here:

    a) Sex and love can be separate.

    b) There is no one true love.

    Whilst polyamoury is all about the latter (ie: I don’t have to choose between the two, I can have both. Possibly one more than the other, but I can have both), group sex and swinging is all about the former (ie: I can shag you and you and you and you and still have my one true love.)

    Granted, there is overlap. But point is, two quite different beasts and probably come up depending on the situation. Just pointing that out. Am noting some confusion. For most and many it’s possibly all flung over there with stuff-I-will-never-read, but wanted to throw in the conversation lead.

    Personally, I’d to see it be done and done well. Possibly done some more.

  16. 16
    Laura V says:

    “I’m pretty sure fucking your food and, conversely, cooking your lovers is Bad Manners.”

    But what about bananas, cucumbers, carrots and chocolate? That’s food. And then there’s silk, or black leather. Those are animal products. I’m not sure the line is quite so easy to draw.

    “And as for the implication that a sex toy is equivalent to an animal: come, now, you’re not seriously imbuing a plastic dong with the same ability to feel and suffer as an animal or a child, are you?”

    No, of course not. I was just tring to look at the morality from two viewpoints. One is the harm/suffering inflicted on the animal (and I’m not sure that an animal suffers more if being used as a sex toy than it does as a result of many farming and slaughter practices – and the level of cruelty/suffering depends on the type of animal, the kind of sex, the farming practices etc). The second point of view is the ‘harm to the human’ aspect. And then it could be argued that non-consensual sex stunts one’s ability to have consensual sex. That’s one argument against masturbation. I don’t happen to agree with it, but presumably it would also be an argument against dildoes etc. Incidentally, why do some people find the concept of dildoes and vibrators less ‘squicky’ than blowup dolls?

    But I’d agree that equating Great Sex with True Love is very misleading. And I’m not convinced there is only One True Love out there for each person.

    I also think that romance novels between 2 people who don’t have a convincing relationship (i.e. if all they do is have great sex) is not really romance. For me, romance is about the loving, emotional, sexual relationship. If an author can write a book which focuses on a loving sexual relationship involving more than 2 characters, then I wouldn’t rule that out as romance.

  17. 17
    SB Sarah says:

    “I get upset by romances featuring love triangles because I worry that someone is going to be rejected.”

    Laura V’s discussion on the morality of eating animals vs. having sex with them, aside, this is one of my big hesitations when I encounter group sex, though I do like reading erotica and I do like many of the erotic/romantica novels I’ve read. I am not sure if it is more of a challenge to my own traditional-romance-ist expectations that the end result of the happy ending be two people (I’m not hung up about the gender of the two people, though) but I do worry that in the end one party will be lesser than the other two, more of an isosceles triangle than an equilateral triangle of Lurrrrrrveâ„¢.

    As for the morality of eating meat: I crave it like nobodys business right now, and want nothing more than meat meat meat all the time what on earth is WRONG with me, but I struggle with myself when I do. Eating lamb, for example, if I don’t know its provenance, feels like bad karma. My stomach and my morality are at war: perhaps I should just have sex with my food instead?

  18. 18
    Alessia says:

    What Selah said—all of it. *nods*

    *snort* on the “One Twue Wuv” remarks. (Coffee burns the nasal passsages, y’know?)

    I feel kinda sorry for those who believe love is finite—and the physical expression of it MUST be confined to one individual—but that’s just me (and I’m known to be rather easy).

  19. 19
    Lynn M says:

    I tell people I’m a vegetarian in my heart but, unfortunately, a carnivore in my stomach. I draw the line at eating veal and lamb – won’t even allow it to be cooked in the house – but love a well-cooked steak. Every time I drive by a cattle truck I cry, but next thing I know, I’m ordering a well-done burger with ketchup and relish. One thing I can vow is that I absolutely draw the line at sex with animals, either ones you plan to eat or family pets. There is nothing acceptable in that.

    Sorry, totally off topic. I’m with Selah in viewing the whole thing as a continuum, and I would never presume to be the one to say where that continuum should end. I know where my own personal boundaries are – I’m not a big fan of group sex – but who the heck would I be to set that boundary for another person?

    I don’t like group sex in my romance novels not because of any morality issues but more because of my own personal fantasies. In my imaginary world, falling in love means that the hero and heroine meet the one person that completes him or her and his or her desire for all others diminishes substantially. The idea of sex with anyone else holds no appeal.

    And note that I said that this is my fantasy of what things are like. It bears no resemblance to reality, thus I understand that others may have entirely different ideas of what falling in love means. And that’s cool. Glad to know there is reading material out there that demonstrates their view of the world, too.

  20. 20
    Candy says:

    Jetso: THANK YOU. That was an excellent round-up of most types of real-life polyamory and other types of open relationships. People often confuse swinging with polyamory, but the two are not necessarily the same—poly people develop genuine love relationships with multiple people, whereas swinging focuses primarily on sex. And thank you also for pointing out that most poly relationships usually stem from a primary couple, and that cheating IS possible within the framework of polyamory and open relationships (not one, but TWO of my friends had that happen to them).

    Laura: But what about bananas, cucumbers, carrots and chocolate? That’s food. And then there’s silk, or black leather.

    I was talking about sentient, ambulatory beings. So, no, the line is fairly easy to draw—for me, anyway. Not that fucking vegetables or other food products has held any appeal for me.

    [insert completely inappropriate Terri Schiavo joke]

    One is the harm/suffering inflicted on the animal (and I’m not sure that an animal suffers more if being used as a sex toy than it does as a result of many farming and slaughter practices – and the level of cruelty/suffering depends on the type of animal, the kind of sex, the farming practices etc).

    I agree with you here—there are a lot of variables to consider. My original point about how the you can’t necessarily apply sexual morality on food and vice versa still stands, though. Two different needs, two different acts, and not everything that concerns me when I’m fucking something applies when I’m about to kill or eat something.

    Again, unless I’m Armin Meiwes. And you never know. I mean, I SAY I’m a Chinese Malaysian chick living in Portland, but who’s to say….

  21. 21
    SandyW says:

    That whole soul mate/one true love thing just makes my ass tired. Shocking as it may seem, I have been In Love more than once in my life. There was the long term relationship that didn’t quite work, but he’s still a perfectly nice guy. (Yeah, the sex was good too.)  :cheese:  Then there’s the Keeper. Twenty-four years and counting. If it hadn’t been for the Serious Boyfriend, I don’t know that I would have had the relationship skills to make it work with the Keeper.

    Let’s put it another way. I have two kids. I love them both. I even love my daughter-in-law. Now, does the fact that I love my daughter-in-law change the way I feel about my daughter? Of course not. One of these days, I’ll have grandchildren and I’ll love them too, without loving my children any less. Amazing, isn’t it?

    I don’t mind a little group sex here and there in a romance. But I like the relationship to narrow down to two people. Sometimes three, if they’re well-written. I like the three-way fantasy, while acknowledging that in the real world, two men in a relationship with one woman would fight like tomcats. I doubt two women and one man would be much more harmonious. But I do like the fantasy.

  22. 22
    Theresa S. says:

    “I’m pretty sure fucking your food and, conversely, cooking your lovers is Bad Manners.”

    This reminds me of one of the sickest of all religious sex rules, ever. In a certain sect of fundamentalist Islam, it is written that a man may have sex with a chicken.

    What the man may NOT do, however, is eat the chicken after fucking it. Nor may he feed it to anyone in his household, nor to anyone in the adjacent households. The neighbors two doors down, though? Yep. He can fire up the grill and feed his chicken-with-special-marinade-injections to them.

    In other words, never eat the chicken in Iran.

    Personally, I love reading MFM sex scenes. Almost as much as I love reading this blog.

  23. 23
  24. 24
    Candy says:

    Reason number 3,295,906 I love this blog: Before starting it, never before was I inspired to Google “Islam chicken fuck eat.”

    p.s. My Captcha is “come46.” Oh my.

  25. 25
    Candy says:

    OK, according to Google, the chickenfucking etiquette tidbit came from Ayatollah Khomeini, as related by Azar Nafisi, who wrote Reading Lolita in Tehran. This page here references it near the bottom—if you do a search for “chicken,” you’ll be able to find it easily.

  26. 26
    Tonda says:

    Look, I don’t go around telling all those women who read thost ghastly “Who’s my Babby Daddy?”/“Kidnapped by Sheikh Abdullah”/“Maori King’s Mistress” novels that those books should be razed from Romance and shelved in the bin, right? That would just be silly. The same should apply to the “but it’s P.O.R.N.” assertions.

    Sing it sister! I sat with a whole table of “inspirational” writers at the last RWA conference for one lunch and once we had the “what do you write” discussion you could feel the frost coming off those ladies (and I’m only writing mainstream historicals, imagine if I was an Aphrodisia writer!).

    Similarly, even if a person doesn’t think a thing that’s squicky is immoral, the fact that they think it’s squicky will probably make them think it’s not romantic. Maybe depends on the definition of ‘romantic’, but generally a feeling of ‘yuck’ is not compatible with feeling romantic.

    This one gets me occasionally. There was a book out a year or two ago that sold like hot cakes, got great reviews on Amazon, etc. I bought it. The hero is WAY older than the seventeen year-old heroine, and he realizes suddenly now that she’s “all gown up” that he’s been hanging around for years (since she was 12!) cause he’s always been attracted to her. *SHUDDER* It set off all my squicky buttons. I loathed the book. It was just way too Hello Pedophilia for me.

  27. 27
    Theresa S. says:

    Prolly should have mentioned before, I didn’t post that as a knock on Islam. But really, how often does a conversation naturally lead to discussion of who can eat a fucked chicken? I couldn’t resist….

  28. 28
    Danielle says:

    This is an interesting discussion in all its aspects. I hope Miss Black does come by, because I’d like to ask her to expand on what she meant by distinguishing sexual fantasies as a genre and romance.

    First of all, I’m not sure that a “genre” of sexual fantasies exists, except for a few books like Nancy Friday’s collections of fantasies reported by ordinary Americans (which, BTW, I highly recommend for anyone—but especially writers—because whoa, the very broad range of kinks that perfectly ordinary people come up with will Blow. Your. Mind.) Or by that, did she mean erotica?

    Secondly, most if not all romance tropes are drawn from sexual fantasies. Even a relatively tame line like HP is chock-full of ‘em: forced marriage and/or seduction, “beloved captive” of the pirate/chief/shiek (or as Arethusa calls it, “Kidnapped by Sheikh Abdullah”). These just don’t jump out at us as sexual fantasies, probably because they’ve become clichés. But they’re lovingly detailed, rather far-fetched scenarios which elicit arousal, both emotional and sexual, in some readers… sure sounds like sexual fantasies to me.

    I don’t think it’s “confusing to readers” either; it’s usually quite clear from a book’s cover art, blurb, and other cues how sexually explicit it will be.

  29. 29

    My general attitude is that if both partners are interested, of legal age and consenting, have at it. My opinion isn’t important, because, pardon the pun, it’s not my ass.

    As for whether it’s romance, erotica, whatever, blah, who cares. Buy what you like, read it with pride, and let the rest of them worry about what it is. They’ll tell you when they send you the emails questioning your moral strength.

    Trust me, I get them.

  30. 30
    embi says:

    Damn- I am all for the polyamoury thing. If I could find 2 like-minded men I’d go at it with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. 

    As far as morality and such- as long as the people involved are consenting adults how can any form of “love” be wrong? It always saddens me when people talk about monogamy as if it exists because we aren’t capable of loving more than one person at a time. Bullshit. I have 2 kids- I love them both. I have a dozen friends I truly love- a couple of family members I actually love as opposed to only tolerate…
    My heart and my head seem to be able to handle all that without a melt down, so what’s the big deal in thinking one adult couldn’t experience or act on real romantic love for two other people?

    ‘Scuse the incoherent rambling and the typos, I’m still waking up.

    Happy Thursday all! One more day ‘til freedom…..

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