I did not learn about sex from romance novels, thank God, but I know a lot of women who (at least partially) did. I was fortunate enough to have a mother who treated sex in a completely matter of fact way–it was part of being an adult and there was no shame involved in discussing it. As a result, even at the tender age of fifteen I approached romance novel sex with some skepticism. When I first started reading romance the sex scenes were the sort of vague, purple-prose laden encounters that involved a lot of shattering into a million tiny pieces, flying apart into the sun, or the shimmering of colors behind closed eyelids. Basically it sounded a lot like a stroke and/or an acid trip. And the orgasms were always simultaneous.
Now there are as many different types of sex scenes as there are romance novels. Variety is a good thing, usually. But for every delicious Victoria Dahl or Maisey Yates bearded cowboy love-scene, there's also a sex scene out there that is either improbable, anatomically impossible or horrifically painful to think about. Below are the Big Ten things I hate in sex scenes. Brace yourself. And, obviously, this review contains strong language and adult situations and all that shit.
1. Velvet Covered Steel
No, that's not a name for a Glam Metal band. It's the description of every hero's erection ever. It's not bad, I'm just sick of reading it
2. Sex On a Horse
What the actual fuck, people. I read this a lot in Old Skool romances. I actually remember reading a book where the horse was “frightened by the scent of their lovemaking.” I wish I could remember which book, but I don't. Now, I agree that plenty of fondling or even a Handy-J could occur while on horseback, but actual intercourse? That is the most chill horse ever. Every horse I've ever ridden has waited for me to stop paying attention to try and brush me against a tree or something.
Plus how does that work? You'd have to a Russian gymnast and a trick rider to contort your body enough to stay on the horse and achieve penetration. And then you'd have to move. If I was a horse, I would not put up with that shit.
This is when the hero's peen is so goddamned big he has to work to get inside the heroine, then once he is in, the magical vadge doesn't want to let go. Example from The Immortal Highlander by Karen Marie Moning (which is actually a great book, BTW):
“Easy, Gabrielle. Relax,” he gritted.
She tried, but she couldn't; it was instinctive to resist, and they waged a silent sexual battle for a few moments, where he hardly gained another inch. Her muscles were bearing down on him, resisting his steely intrusion.
He sucked in a hissing breath through clenched teeth. “Gabrielle, you're killing me; you have to let me in.”
“I'm trying,” she wailed.
I know there are fetishes about putting really large things inside vaginas, but I would think that in course of regular intercourse, if you have to fight to get the penis in, it's going to hurt. When I read the above passage and she instinctively resisted, I assumed that instinct was born of pain. If you need a shoehorn and a bottle of Wesson Oil to get down to business, then as a reader, I'm cringing.
4. Gushing, Weeping and Seeping
Anytime the heroine is doing one of these three things I assume she's got some sort of infection going on. Enough said.
5. Womb Clenching
The heroine is having SO MUCH FUN her womb is clenching. Now, to be fair, the uterus contracts during orgasm, so technically womb clenching is going on. But every time I read that her womb is clenching I think she's having a menstrual cramp or a contraction. I mean, “clench” has such negative connotations. You clench your fists, your teeth, your butt cheeks. Why is her womb clenching? Is it angry?
His fingers drifted over [her breasts] again, gently scissoring her nipples. (The Greek's Million-Dollar Baby Bargain by Julia James).
You know what two words NEVER belong in a sentence together? Nipples and scissors.
And that A stands for anal. Anal is like the new virginity in contemporaries. The heroine has likely had sexual partners by the time she's met the hero, but she's never had anal. And he's going to go where no man has gone before. That's not the part that pisses me off.
The part that pisses me off is that the heroine has enjoyable anal sex without any preparation or, occasionally, lubricant. The hero magically gets his whole wang in there without causing her any discomfort or pain because he strokes her clit or something like that. Along with misplaced hymens, romance novel heroines are apparently born with very loose sphincter muscles.
8. The Third Arm
No, I'm not making a penis reference here. This is when the hero and heroine are getting it on missionary style and he reaches down to rub her clitoris while still keeping himself propped up over her and gently stroking her cheek.
Or sometimes (especially in Old Skools) he wipes her tears away with both his thumbs while again, staying propped up on top of her.
Either he's got a friend hiding behind the curtains on the canopy bed, sneaking in to help a bro out or he's got the most amazing ab muscles ever. He can do a plank without his arms, motherfucker. Now that's a hero.
9. Three's a Crowd
I've read my fair share of menage scenes. I'm always amazed when the heroine has sex with two dudes for the first time and no one falls down, tips over, or slips out. Double penetration is apparently only slightly harder than anal for a newcomer (hur hur). And how is it that when she's with two different dudes (maybe even three) the dudes never touch.
I'm thinking specifically of the Maya Banks' Colter series. The Colter brothers share a woman, and engage in four-way sex with her, but they never ever touch because that would incest, I guess. C'mon. Someone is going to brush a thigh or suddenly get a handful of his brother's balls. It's just going to happen.
And my all time least favorite?
10. Cervical Penetration
The hero's wang is so amazingly big that the heroine can “feel him in her womb.” Well I fucking hope not. For that to happen he'd have to push through the cervix and anyone who has had an IUD placed can tell you that you don't want anything pushing through your cervix. I'm breaking out in a cold sweat just thinking about it. Here's a passage from Passion by Lisa Valdez that will induce a PTSD flashback in anyone who has Mirena IUD:
On a low moan, her cunt began to draw. With the first strong, sucking pull, Mark bore down with all his strength, grinding the swollen head of his cock against the opening to her womb.
There are so many, many things wrong here.
1. It's a vagina, not an octopus. It's not drawing or sucking anything into it's maw.
2. Is the vagina moaning? Because grammatically, it is.
3. YOU DON'T WANT ANYTHING PUSHING INTO THE OPENING OF YOUR WOMB. At this point the heroine should be screaming in pain or least saying “FUCK!” really loudly, and not in the good way.
Passion also contains the following passage:
He choked back a groan and bit into her pale shoulder as he thrust against the tight, tilting fingers of flesh that protected Passion's womb.
I've checked. There are no fingers growing out of my cervix. If there were, I'd be in the ER right now breathing into a paper bag. Also, are cervix fingers like chicken fingers?
So what about you? What drives you nuts about romance novel sex in the not-so-good way?