I linked earlier to this news report about the new owner of Britain’s Erotic Review moving away from female erotic writing to “almost exclusively male writers” because they know more about sex.
Aside from the blood pressure liftoff among female erotic romance and erotica writers on the internet, the attitude made me roll my eyes. Way to grab headlines by shoving your head up your ass – which, now that I think about it, was something a guy once said to me so I guess cranio-rectal impaction is erotic, huh?
For the holidays, I was gifted with a subscription to Oprah magazine, and while flipping through the first twelve pages of ads for crap I don’t want, I saw a brief write up about speaking to one’s male child about sex. One of the pointers: discuss condom use frankly. Another: a lot of time is spent talking to girls about valuing their bodies sexually – the same message ought to be sent to boys, who are subject to the sexual pressures in a completely different way. Boys need to respect their bodies sexually, and the sexuality of their prospective partners – and the assumptions that guys can without fail get it up, stick it in, get it off and make the experience mind-bending for all involved without being personally affected at any time is utter crap.
Devaluing a guy to the width and use of his dick is as damaging as making teen girl adolescence all about bare midriffs and pre-pubescent sexuality.
For me personally, visceral sex without any emotional involvement carries with it no excitement. Insert tab A into slot B doesn’t do it for me. So for the Erotic Review editor to say that erotic content should be written from a “scratch and itch burst of endorphins” is more of that same devaluing: reducing sexuality to a reflex action with no meaning behind it by associating the male sex drive with automatic jizzerating.
It’s just as damaging for men to be perceived as sexual automatons as it is for women to deal with the stereotype that emotions are the end-all be-all for sexual pleasure, and that sexual lust in the form of standard hornypants is inappropriate in a female.
It is a standard trope of romance that the hero has sex with the heroine and – surprise! – the orgasm is More Than Any Orgasm Before and because of that unforseen connection to her and her alone, it is meaningful and unforgettable. Yes, that’s often ridiculous treacle and tripe in narrative practice, but it also reinforces that idea that, except for sex with The One, sex for men is meaningless, rote, reflexive and forgettable. Every now and again you meet a hero who has had meaningful relationships – and one presumes meaningful sex – but clearly, as evidenced by that hero’s presence in a romance novel, something happened such that the relationship didn’t work out. The power of the magic hoo-hoo to evince orgasms without equal that inspire monogamy and emotional connection is a heady (har!) one, but it still marginalizes the sexuality of both parties to a listless selection of stereotypical roles.
Taming the rake with one mighty spoogefest is powerful mojo indeed, but the underlying power, that something about this girl – and not just her hoo-hoo – is so alluring that she alone inspires him to actively work at building and sustaining a relationship, is much more complex. The manner in which that subtext is employed can move both the hero and heroine away from the simplistic assignment of sexual value of emotionless/emotion-full nookie into a more nuanced and human portrayal. These are the romances I enjoy most, especially because the emotional and personal journey of the hero is of equal importance to that of the heroine, and real guys with real feelings and real desires are infinitely more attractive than mindless stereotyped boneheads with bonery boners.
Which basically means that a book full of itch-and-scratch sexual content is not going to do it for me – not by a long shot.
What do you think of sexually experienced heroes who were personally invested in their past relationships? Do you love the magical taming of the Wang by the endearing, enduring monogomous power of the Hoo-Hoo mixed with Real Dudes? What books do you adore in which the sexuality of both characters was treated with careful attention to reality?