Men and Sex and Women and Sex

Men have feelings, too - who gives a shit? 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?

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Marcy Arbitman says:

    That’s NUTS! I have three sons and I made it clear that they need to respect themselves AND their partners! Also, I review for JERR and I know many female authors who write M/M erotica beautifully! I also know some male authors whose erotica is more like porn. I love erotica, but I am not interested in porn!

  2. 2
    Heidi says:

    I agree with everything you said—if it’s all about how suddenly “magical” and special this one time is with the one girl out of millions, it doesn’t really cut it for me. Sex in romance novels shouldn’t just be a contest between the man and the woman regarding who the sex was better for. I can’t relate to that kind of empty sex.

  3. 3
    Heidi says:

    I have to say that I agree with you, certainly. I find it too anticlimactic (har!) when the mighty hoo-hoo overcomes the rake and he has orgasms unlike any others and decides then and there that this woman, above others, inspires “feelins” in him. I find it a little too formulaic (even tho at times I certainly buy it).

    It is more satisfying, ultimately, to have a hero/heroine who has had relationships before, has been sexually fulfilled, but finds something in this particular partner, this person, that makes them want to spend time with them outside the bed as well, and that getting to know the person emotionally, mentally, adds to the sex and takes it deeper, makes it more meaningful. That works for me. It is hard to find those romances. Maybe some of the Marianne Stillings with the Darlings? I know that they sometimes had relationships before that were certainly meaningful. And Maybe Kathleen O’Reilly’s books as well.

    On the social front, if I may get up on my soapbox, men are usually introduced to sex through magazines and sometimes images that are unhealthy, to say the least. My DH is certainly one that was not given the most healthy intro to sex thru magazines and porno starting at 11. And you know how the average porn movie goes—not exactly with a lot of respect to women. So to say that he got a distorted view of sex and how to treat women is speaking mildly. Then, his dad cheated on his mom and they were all aware of it. Well, didn’t add up to a great example of how to have sex and treat women. Luckily his mother and sisters were wonderful women and treated him like a prince so they took away a lot of the sting but he certainly didn’t get any ideas that there was supposed to be feelings involved in the sex! ACK! Luckily he is a wonderful and loving person and has gotten past that with maturity, but SHEESH! I don’t want my sons having that kind of intro to sex ed!

    Okay, climbing down…

  4. 4
    RStewie says:

    I wasn’t going to comment, but I couldn’t pass up the spamword: Small43!!

    All I have to say, though, is that my step-son is coming into this stage of his life.  His dad, of course, can talk to him frankly and openly about it, whereas I just show through my actions that women are equal to men, deserving of respect, and, although we CAN be the “weaker” sex, what we have to contribute is just as important as our “stronger” partner.

    I really appreciate the insight though, that boys, as well as girls, need to be taught the value of their own bodies, and the value of their own selves.  This was very thought-provoking to me, and timely, in that we are getting him for the summer this very weekend.

  5. 5
    Sarah W says:

    I don’t know if this is what was asked, exactly, but I just finished Eloisa James’ This Duchess of Mine, and the main romance was marvelous (as always, IMO)—-but another part that made my heart skip was the intense platonic friendship between Jemma (the heroine) and Villiers, who is the impossible childhood best friend of the hero (and the supposed third point of the hero-imagined love triangle).

    Villiers can get nookie anywhere (and has 5 or 6 illegitimate children to prove it), but has very few true friends.  Jemma is one of these and it is a beautiful, tender thing.

    Villiers has been evolving through the entire Desperate Duchesses series, and has also been a catalyst.  His romance is up next, and a certainly hope he finds the same deep friendship with his heroine, as (again, IMO) mere lust will not elevate that relationship for him to the point where he will believe in love.

  6. 6
    Jane O says:

    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.

    Isn’t that pretty much the definition of porn?

  7. 7
    stevie says:

    I am fascinated by Copstick’ strange claims which she seems to have come up with in the hope of spamming her mag; someone should explain to her that viral marketing is a bit more complicated than she thinks.
    Admittedly a lot of things are more complicated than she thinks, but there you go; one step at a time…

  8. 8

    I think it comes down to confusing erotica with porn. They are NOT the same thing—but some people have a hard time understanding the emotional differences. Or the fact that emotion makes a difference. (And then you have those who confuse romance with porn, but that’s a whole ‘nother related can of, um, eels.)

    “Erotica is a genre of literature that includes sexually explicit details as a primary feature. Unlike pornography, erotica does not aim exclusively at sexual arousal. Though the distinction is blurring in modern works, erotica traditionally contains more sexual details than romance novels.”  From About.com, first hit when searching ‘erotica definition.’

    Would be a good distinction to be aware of, were one putting out a magazine of, ostensibly, erotica…

  9. 9
    SonomaLass says:

    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.

    Yes, yes, YES!  Exactly!!!  That’s what I love about romance, whether erotic or not. Those are the books that really work for me.  I think that’s why I prefer slightly older characters, because they have some experience (heroines, not just their heroes!) and some context for evaluating how they feel about this other person.

    A book I just read recently was Mary Balogh’s A Summer to Remember.  The hero is sexually experienced, the heroine (as in most historicals) is not.  But she has been engaged, so she has a basis for comparison as far as her feelings go.  The best part for me, though, was how the hero gradually came to realize that what he felt for her was not just a different kind of desire, but actually love.  He thinks in detail about the difference between what he has felt for past sexual partners and what he feels about this woman, and that’s explored in and out (hur!) of a sexual context.  Sure, he has a mighty wang of loving, and her hoo-hoo is certainly magic, but not in a way that glosses over the hard (ha!) parts of figuring out your own feelings, and another person’s, and what to do about them.  When they do get their HEA, it is emotional AND sexual, and you feel that they have earned it. That’s my kind of romance.

  10. 10
    Tina C. says:

    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.

    I was the one that talked to my kids (2 boys and a girl) about sex, drugs, alcohol and the difference between legal/illegal and recreational/“big problem” (and, given the addiction on both sides of the bloodlines, the fact that they have to be very aware and very careful about their indulgences).  I gave it all to them as straight-up as I could, usually in the car when 1) they couldn’t bolt and 2) they didn’t actually have to look me in the face (got much better responses out of them that way).  The sex part always included:

    Sex is awesome.  Even if you don’t love the person, sex can be pretty awesome.  However, it tends to be much much better if you actually care about the other person and he/she cares about you.  (For my daughter, I added, Especially for women, since most guys—unless he’s one who takes pride in that sort of thing—don’t seem to care if you get there if they don’t also care about you.)  The more you care about someone and the more that they care about you, the more you both care about pleasing each other and it just gets better and better.  (For my sons, I added, And just playing wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am doesn’t make anyone happy, especially your partner!) 

    Be safe.  The Pill is not safe for anything except preventing pregnancy and most other methods of contraception have their own pros and cons.  To be safe, you do one of two things—you use a condom or you don’t have sex.  The latter is the safest way, obviously, but a condom is your next best option. 

    You always use a condom, even if you’re on the Pill, until you are absolutely sure that your partner isn’t bringing something unpleasant to the table.

    He or she said so and you’re really horny isn’t “absolutely sure”.

    “Just this one time” and you’re really horny isn’t “absolutely sure”.

    No matter how urgent it feels at the time, sex is momentary.  Babies and certain very unpleasant diseases are a lifetime.

    It really sucks to explain to every future partner you may have that you have an STD.  Even if it’s a curable one, that’s not a good conversation.

    If you don’t have a condom, there ARE other things you can do. 

    At that point, I usually got a “Moooooooom, pleeeaasse!”.  Except with my eldest.  The boy is 23 and still tells me more than I ever wanted to know about his sex life.  I don’t discourage him from talking to me, but sometimes, it’s a little disconcerting.

  11. 11

    I certainly tend to enjoy the romance stories where the hero is more experienced, and is able to translate that experience into something intimate and special with the heroine because of the emotional connection with her. If written well, the emotional connection is what gives the magic hoo-hoo it’s power! That said, I like to think the experienced hero was not a cold and callous lover to all of his previous conquests. One would like to think he is a rake because he made love to these women with passion and consideration, and they liked it. I don’t see a hero being successful with a wham-bam thank you ma’am approach. So reiterating Sarah’s point, it is about respecting yourself and your partner. 

    Sex in romance (vs. porn) should advance the story, the emotional change in the characters, and ultimately be an expression of emotion. If it doesn’t do at least one of those things then call it porn, stick it in an envelope, stamp it, and mail it to the editor of a porn magazine. That said, while the new owner of Britain’s Erotic Review may have his head surgically implanted where the sun don’t shine, it doesn’t mean the men he will hire will be that way.  One can only hope that they have learned the difference between erotica and porn without having to Google it! :)

    Spamword: quality98…wouldn’t real quality be 100?

  12. 12
    Jocelyn says:

    …this is interesting.  Erotica is a very different beast than romance, and though I think that the whole “men write better word-porn than women” assertion is absurd, I don’t think that love is a necessary ingredient in straight erotica (“straight” here meaning “not romantic erotica” because I’d say that just as true for gay erotica as hetrosexual).  A lot of the most classic erotica out there doesn’t really have love as a mainstay.

    But all the best-written erotica does have human emotion as central to the plot.  The characters might not be in love, but they aren’t just puzzle pieces fitting together and coming apart when it’s time to go back in the box.

    I read genres of all kinds, and though I do like love with my erotica, I don’t think it’s inclusion makes it better-written by default.  More accessable to more readers, maybe, but not inherently better.

    This conversation reminds me of something written by Anais Nin (possibly in the preface to Little Birds?) where she said most of her erotic short stories were originally written for a private buyer, a man, and how he kept on asking for less emotion.  He would send her these notes through her agent, “less emotion, more sex” and that’s the only contact she had with the purchaser.  Eventually she gave up because really, what was the point if he just wanted cardboard cut-outs for characters?

  13. 13
    Susie says:

    A little off topic…
    Sarah I see we share the same daily desk calendar!!
    Don’t you love it?  Mine is at work and I share it daily.  It is SO me.

  14. 14
    Cecille says:

    What the hell?!? Reading that article just annoyed me. So, female writers are like ladies who lunch, who don’t like food, ergo, female writers don’t like sex. Oh, with the exception of Cropstick, who can write like a man = no feelings? Nice one. *sarcasm off*

    I’m sorry, but that just made me really cross. As a teenager in Germany, I got most of my sex-ed from a magazine, like most of my male and female friends (The magazine appealed to both sexes and was very, very popular, not least because it discussed sex frankly). Apart from answering questions, it usually contained a section in which alleged teen readers described their ‘first time’, written either from a male or a female perspective. It was all about feelings!

    Looking back, I think I can tell that there was a definite agenda behind it, which was to basically tell teenagers that a) sex belongs into a loving relationship, b) if you’re not sure then wait, c) talk to your girlfriend/boyfriend about it, d) talk some more about it, and if you’re not sure wait, e) if things don’t work out, be patient with one another and talk about it, f) By all that is sacred and holy, use protection, children.

    Seriously, the gist was communication, love, communication and protection. And it was aimed at both sexes equally. Obviously, I can’t say whether or not that had a representative impact, but from what I gathered from my friends the most important message that they and I got was that it was all about respect and love. And how to act as a girl, if your boyfriend’s equipment refuses to stand to attention. Apparently, boys need reassurance too, and the best way to deal with it is to cuddle him, and try again later. Even teenage boys have feelings and get insecure? Seriously? Revolutionary stuff. :-D

  15. 15
    Cora says:

    And of course, every issue of that magazine seemed to contain at least one letter from a teenaged boy worried about being underendowed, inevitably answered with some variation of “Don’t worry, it’ll grow and anyway, size doesn’t matter”. It must have boosted the confidence of lots of boys.

    The magazine is still around and my students (I’m a highschool teacher) frequently read the letters out loud to each other. I suspect it tends to happen in my class, because I steadfastly refuse to be shocked by remarks about sex and anatomically incorrect penises drawn in the margins of worksheets. And usually the boys are far more interested in the sexual bits than the girls, who care more about the latest popstar interviews.

  16. 16
    JewelTones says:

    What do you think of sexually experienced heroes who were personally invested in their past relationships?

    I love a hero with a past and who has managed to have healthy relationships before meeting the heroine.  Heros with honor and depth who have managed to meet other people and pursue relationships and eventually wanders into the life of the heroine.

    I had 2 books instantly come to mind when I was reading this.  One was Emmaline and the Archangel by Rachel Lee.  In it, the hero was extremely withdrawn, very injured (physically and psychologically) but in his past were a wife, a bunch of kids, and a baby.  A very happy family all taken from him by tragedy.  But he loved.  And he loved deep.  And it was the depth of that love and that loss and that pain that kept him from wanting to get involved again, and it made him a better, more interesting, definitely sexier man.

    The other book was Lori Foster’s Too Much Temptation.  The hero was shown right off the bat to be a loyal, honesty man of integrity who – despite catching his fiance in bed with another man – still took the brunt of anger and accusations when the wedding was called off.  He wouldn’t say *why* and he just took it all in silence, but I liked that about him.  The fact that he was good in bed?  Whoopity do.  It was the honor and loyalty and family oriented nature that got to me.

    JT

  17. 17
    FrancisT says:

    Do you love the magical taming of the Wang by the endearing, enduring monogomous power of the Hoo-Hoo mixed with Real Dudes?

    Talling of the Hoo-hoo, there’s a great post here on the Glittery Hoo Ha (and the Man With The Golden Gun)

    It also includes a link to Sailor Jim’s guide to writing about the aroused male which is one of those classics that (once you have removed beverages and people who might wonder why you’re ROFL) needs to be read even if you’ve read it before.

    PS Third63 =Thirty1?

  18. 18
    AgTigress says:

    I think the new owner of the Erotic Review needs to work on understanding the complex and continually changing classifications of writing that deals with sexual activities and relationships.  She is confusing erotica with pornography, for a start, a fairly fundamental error for a person in her position.

  19. 19
    SB Sarah says:

    Sarah I see we share the same daily desk calendar!!
    Don’t you love it?  Mine is at work and I share it daily.  It is SO me.

    YES. I love it. Can’t tell you how much.

    I love the book recommendations that are coming out of this thread. Woo!

  20. 20
    Randi says:

    FrancisT: that was awesome. I appreciated all the warnings about drinking whilst reading.

  21. 21
    Alyssa Day says:

    I write both men and women who have had fulfilling love and sexual relationships in their past.  Because really, there’s something psychological if you haven’t had at least one of those by the time you’re in your mid-20s (personal decisions toward chastity and religious reasons aside, of course). 

    And I kept reading “scratch and sniff” where you wrote “scratch and itch” for some reason, which is disturbing on many levels.

  22. 22

    Do you love the magical taming of the Wang by the endearing, enduring monogomous power of the Hoo-Hoo mixed with Real Dudes?

    First, let me state that I haven’t read the previous responses. Short on time. 

    But I have to say that, despite writing romances for years, I was a little skeptical of that one Magic Hoo-Hoo giving the mighty Wang his most awesome of orgasms.  Yeah right.

    Until it happened in real life.  Let’s just say that if you combine true love and deep emotion with great sex, you are very well likely to have the best orgasm of your life. Time and time again.  There TRULY ARE different levels of climaxes and I think it depends on the emotion and situation of the moment.

    Not sure if this is even the question you asked, but I’m throwing it out there anyway!

  23. 23
    Zoe Winters says:

    On the editor at that erotic publication, a few people have said that it seemed like she was just trying to get more submissions from women.  Sort of like a dare or challenge.

    Which to me is insane.  Using sexism (against your own gender no less) to try to get more work submitted to you by the group you offended is like using racism to get more African Americans to submit work to you.

    Epic fail.

  24. 24
    marley says:

    oh my god.
    way too funny for words. an what an idiot, talking about the origin of this post.
    thankfully i had nothing in my mouth while reading the Man with the Golden Gun posting, and laughed so hard my cheeks are sore. way too good.

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