Bad Sex In Romance

imageSo now that the Bad Sex Award has been given, and we’re all revolted by insect imagery (*shudder*), my question is this: what about bad sex descriptions in romance? I mean, you have your everyday thrusting, cresting, explodey-ing imagery, and then you have some truly erotic descriptions… countered by some truly unbelievably bad descriptions of sex and sex-related acts.

Of the What Not to Write that I’ve profiled here, only three were written in 2010, so with a very fine selection, it’s time to pick the Bad Sex in Romance for 2010.

The nominees for 2010 are:

The weeping furnace of her sheath from Stephanie Laurens’ “The Brazen Bride.

”…he could feel the dampness between her legs just from where they pressed together like Twinkies inside their cellophane wrapper” from Heidi Betts’ “A Bite Before Christmas.”

“What is that? Rainwater with chalk or lime deposits?” He snorted. “That was from me.” (aka “werepanther spooge puddles”) from Kerrelyn Sparks’ “Eat Prey Love.”

Keep in mind your horrible choices for 2011, because if you find bad sex descriptions, Good Lord, we absolutely need to know about them!

And if you’ve found worse in 2010 and we didn’t know about it, by all means share in the comments. One winner will be chosen of these three, but there is always next year for celebrating the very best of bad romance sex.

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  1. 41
    Joani S says:

    I also voted for Twinkies. Those poor spongy treat sales must be plumetting with the bad rep they’re getting lately. I’ll never be able to look at them the same way!! 🙂 Although I must admit all 3 of those made me shudder.

  2. 42
    Byde says:

    In A Mermaid’s Kiss the mermaid turns into a tiny pixie (maybe four inches tall) and rubs her entire person on the hero’s penis (he is normal human sized, so I guess imagine a half-sized Barbie doll being rubbed on dude’s wang).  Then he says something about rubbing her “tiny stickiness” on him.

    And then, of course, the infamous scene in the hot tub where her “delicate anal fins” are mentioned.  Guh.

  3. 43
    Susan says:

    They don’t have Twinkies in England?  How awful!

  4. 44

    I voted for the “werepanther spooge puddles” because while the other two might be really, really (really!) odd descriptions, they made me snicker. The spooge puddles made me cringe. Not funny, just gross. Watch where you step, indeed!

  5. 45

    Another write-in vote for the horse’s mouth. Because, yanno, teeth.

  6. 46
    Francesca says:

    I had to go with the weeping furnace. How does a furnace weep?

  7. 47
    Keely says:

    I voted for the puddles. Puddles are not sexy. And too – why the need to invent a new word for sperm? *shakes head* I don’t get it.

  8. 48
    AgTigress says:

    …her “delicate anal fins” are mentioned.  Guh.

    (Should be only one anal fin:  two ventrals, one anal, one caudal, which is the tail.  But maybe mermaids are different:  who can say for certain?)
    Is this weird, unfamiliar (to me) word ‘spooge’ or ‘splooge’‘?  And is the definition strictly ‘semen’ or ‘bodily fluid’?  Just asking. 
    No Twinkies in the UK as yet (to my knowledge, that is.  I am not a great frequenter of supermarkets).  For years, we read in American books about these wonderful, delicious delicacies called ‘Oreo cookies’, and then they finally appeared here:  they turned out to be mere common-or-garden boring old Custard Creams in a different colour-scheme;  what a let-down!  I suspect that Twinkies are no more exciting.
    😀

  9. 49
    elph says:

    I voted for the spooge too, because I hadn’t read the comments yet and therefore didn’t realize the horse’s mouth was back on the table. Because, not just teeth, but great big honking yellow teeth.

  10. 50

    I have to go with “weeping furnace of her sheath” because mangled-beyond-sense metaphors drive me nuts.

    Furnaces don’t weep or get moist, nor do sheaths. Furnaces don’t go into sheaths, sheaths aren’t hot, it’s a metaphor clusterfuck. Vaginas get wet, vaginas get hot, vaginas sheath objects inserted into them. But that doesn’t mean you can cram three disparate metaphors into one.

    I can sort of forgive the twinkie metaphor. Women see the “in their cellophane wrapper” and immediately think of fat legs encased in tights or something, because we’ve allowed society to permanently warp our view of our own bodies.  But a guy could look at a woman’s thighs as yummy cake, and the cream in the middle is…the cream in the middle.

    The splooge thing is icky, but not “bad” in the literary sense.

  11. 51

    By its very definition, a “sheath” is “an enveloping tubular structure,” and thus could easily describe a vagina.  A “furnace” is, again by definition, simply “an intensely hot place,” which could be used to describe said vagina.  While I personally despise the word “weeping” for anything related to the hoo-hoo, it really is used *all the time* in romance novels.  And, again, working solely on definition, it does (sort of) fit: “to exude or let fall (drops of liquid).”  So from a strict, definition only, standpoint, the sentence could also read “her intensely hot tubular structure exuded drops of liquid” and it would be technically correct and completely believable.

    But look at the sentence structure of the Twinkie sentence!  Look at the actual quality of the writing! “Her nipples were pointy little diamonds in the centers of her full, luscious breasts, her breaths were coming in tiny shallow pants, and he could feel the dampness between her legs just from where they pressed together like Twinkies inside their cellophane wrapper.”  First we’re talking about nipples like diamonds.  Okay, why not?  Whatever.  But then we switch to her breaths.  Then we switch to HIM being able to feel between her legs.  Okay, fine, let’s ignore the sentence structure, and focus solely on the description itself.  It’s been mentioned that the legs could be the Twinkies with the “creamy” center, which could make sense.  Except, that’s not what it says!  By the construction of the sentence, the dampness is separate from the legs—the LEGS are what are pressing together like Twinkies.  Implying that they are pressed against each other such as Twinkies would be in a package together.  Except, if they’re pressed together, why is he able to feel her dampness?  Maybe the “dampness” is being squeezed up between her legs because of how tightly they are pressed together?  If that’s the case, why would that imply she’s ready for sex?  That doesn’t even address the fact that Twinkies now come individually wrapped, and thus wouldn’t be pressed against each other inside a wrapper at all.  The sentence just doesn’t make sense!

    Bad, bad writing.

    But werepanther spooge?  If we accept that no one really knows what werepanther excretions really look like, surely we can accept that it might look like “rainwater with chalk” or “lyme deposits.”  I just don’t know.  I doubt anyone else does either.  Without the knowledge that it DOESN’T look like either of those descriptions, then the only part in question would be the reaction to there being puddles of werepanther spooge in the first place.  Which isn’t a representation of bad *writing,* per se, but rather writing that isn’t what a particular reader wants to read.  That’s not quite the same thing.

  12. 52
    AgTigress says:

    By its very definition, a “sheath” is “an enveloping tubular structure,” and thus could easily describe a vagina.

    Exactly.  I like your rational deconstruction of the weeping furnace metaphor.  And as I am sure you know, vagina is simply the Latin word for ‘sheath, scabbard’.  ‘Vagina’ means ‘sheath’.  In German, the words for a sword-sheath and a vagina are the same: Scheide.

    Why is everyone so skittish about ‘weeping’ anyway?  Moisture produced in various parts of the body — nose, mouth, eyes, genitalia —  is necessary, normal and healthy,  not automatically an abnormal discharge indicating infection.  Why is ‘wet’ acceptable as a description of natural sexual lubrication, and ‘weeping’ not?  Maybe this is an AE/BE dialect thing again.

    I don’t particularly admire the Laurens metaphor, but I don’t think it deserves the obloquy that has been heaped upon it.  It is a great deal more acceptable than the Twinkies one, which is utterly ludicrous, and the puddles, which are slightly disgusting.

  13. 53

    AgTigress,

    Personally, I dislike the term weeping because it is not commonly used in that context and thus the mental imagery is not a pleasing one.  I don’t want to think of a sentient twunt having an emotional breakdown.  I mean, when looking for the exact wording, it took a while to find an appropriate definition because it is an uncommon usage.  The most common are: Shedding tears, tearful; Dropping rain, weeping clouds; Having slender drooping branches.  None of those choices would work in this sentence.  And really, there are just SO many better ways to word it!  As I read books, even ones I truly like, I find that when the phrases turn purple that simply leaving off certain words, or eliminating specific sentences, would make the book so much better!  Less is more and all that.

  14. 54
    AgTigress says:

    I think this may be an British/American English difference;  it may be that the definition ‘to exude liquid’ is less commonly used in AE than it is in our dialect.  However, I have checked American dictionaries too, and that definition is certainly there. 

    But I agree with you that the whole metaphor is not scintillatingly brilliant:  I just don’t think it is a complete disaster, either!
    🙂

  15. 55

    AgTigress,

    The definition is certainly there—it’s how I found it, after all—but it did require a bit more poking.  Then again, I am using AE websites and definitions.  “Weeping” is generally used in the context of crying or sobbing.  Or, occasionally, with regards to a wound (although “seeping” is more likely).  It’s rare to think of it in a positive sense.  Since Laurens is…  what, Australian, I think?  That may be why it’s such a frequently used term for her.  And that may be another reason why I’m just “meh” about it—it’s used SO MUCH, by her and other authors, that it just doesn’t even register on my radar anymore.  It’s bad, but it’s not “worst quote of the year” worthy.  I mean, I can probably bring up 10 different quotes within the next 10 minutes, from books released this year, that I think are much worse than any of these.

    It was a quote quite similar to this that started up our bad quotes blog, actually.  It was from the book “The Sinner” by Madeline Hunter: “The desire deepened, went lower. It filled her hips and made her vulva cry.”  In this case, it was even more absurd, because it was her VULVA that was crying/weeping, not even her vagina.  When I read my husband that quote, it was like a light bulb went off and he started the blog.  These here, they’re bad, but they’re just plain not THAT bad, even the Twinkie one, awkward wording and all.  We’re SO used to weeping woman parts that quotes like these don’t make the cut anymore.

  16. 56
    Jean A says:

    I’m going with the weeping furnace.  I live in a place where the current outside temperature is -42 C with the wind.  If my damn furnace was weeping, I’d be dead and frozen through in 7 to 8 minutes, so the rest of the paragraph would be irrelevant.

  17. 57
    AgTigress says:

    Yes, ‘Wife from Rotten Romance’, this is my point:  the word ‘weep’ in BE, and quite probably in other Commonwealth Englishes, is used to mean ‘exude moisture’ often enough that it doesn’t necessarily, let alone invariably, evoke tears, human grief and sadness.  It just evokes a wet surface.  Leaves and plant stems can weep, exuding sap; wounds can weep before they start to heal, and even the condensation of water on a cold surface can be described as ‘weeping’.  On the other hand, when describing a person shedding tears, we are much more likely to use ‘crying’ than ‘weeping’, because the latter has a slightly poetic or even archaic nuance.

    I think many of us habitually underestimate the degree of misunderstanding that can arise from the variation between different Englishes.  In general, we understand the overall meaning of sentences written in another dialect pretty well, but the subtle nuances, the immediate cultural and personal associations and connotations of some words, can be as different between contemporary American and British as they are between 21st-century and 18th-century English.  We are on the alert for these different nuances when reading a 250-year-old text, but we tend to assume that a modern one means the same to its writer and other readers as it does to us.  To me, the ‘weeping vagina’ image simply means ‘wet’, and unless the context is overtly medical, I assume that wetness to be due to sexual arousal.  There is no automatic suggestion of either emotional sadness or infection, any more than there would be in saying, ‘the new cones of that oriental pine are weeping their sticky sap again’.

  18. 58

    AgTigress,

    That makes perfect sense to me.  Even when my first response is to think of crying, I recognize that it fits the different terminology quite easily (same with furnace, even though it’s been ~20F around these parts lol).

    A group of online friends and I were just having a lengthy discussion about the use of the word “cookie.”  The British/Aussies on the board were quite adamant that the term should be “biscuit.”  But, as you said, we all understand what we’re talking about when we use the terms (well, mostly.  I still don’t know what you would call the savory bread product that WE consider a biscuit).

    Either way?  I’m thinking the weeping furnace of a sheath is just plain too damned common to merit special attention.

  19. 59
    AgTigress says:

    “Cookie” and ‘biscuit’ are well-known classics.  What Americans call biscuits are scones to us.  (And what Americans call ‘buttermilk’ is actually soured milk!)

    But these are quite clear different terminologies.  Take subtleties like the pejorative nuance of quaint in BE, which I think is absent in AE(*), or the derogatory nuance of academic in AE, which is wholly absent in BE.  We don’t think these require ‘translation’, because we think we understand them, but actually we don’t:  we get the wrong impression, one that was not intended.

    (*) Try telling a Brit that her interior decoration is ‘quaint’, and watch her offended expression…  😉

  20. 60

    AgTigress,

    Oddly enough, I just don’t think a scone is the same as a biscuit.  For one, it’s too dense.  It’s thicker and harder, not flaky or buttery.  In fact, a biscuit (the kind I make) is more like a croissant in texture than a scone.  Also, scones can be sweet AND savory, but true biscuits, even when made with honey, are only lightly sweetened at most, almost exclusively savory.  I don’t think “you all” have anything quite like a good, especially southern-style, biscuit.  My little brother is a pastry chef, and he and I have had this conversation before.  He basically said that a scone is the best equivalent, but he hasn’t come across a good southern-style biscuit overseas, either.  Do you have dumplings?

    I think I know what you mean about “academic” in a derogatory sense.  It’s not used frequently, but it’s almost the same as saying something is… oh, maybe a “moot point”?—so basic it’s nearly irrelevant.  Is that sort of what you mean?

    Well, now, we’ve sort of gone completely off topic, but to be honest, I’m enjoying this conversation more than weeping furnaces and Twinkie thighs.  Let’s not even mention werepanther spooge.  😉

  21. 61
    AgTigress says:

    Scones come in many different varieties, and I would assume that American biscuits differ from them a bit.  The traditional recipes vary.  But a good scone is very light, tender and flaky when freshly made.  They get denser and harder only when stale, so I suspect you may not have had a really good, fresh, home-made English scone!  😉  The basic technique, though, is surely the same:  a quick bread raised with baking powder and made with butter and sour milk or buttermilk.

    Yes, we have dumplings;  not sure if we mean the same thing, though!  Lots of different definitions for ‘dumpling’.

    The derogatory AE sense of ‘academic’ I have encountered is not the one you mean (‘a point hardly worth making’), which we use too.  It is particularly with reference to prose style:  the assumption that ALL ‘academic prose’ is deliberately obscure, convoluted and pompous.  This is pretty offensive to the many academics who write clearly and accessibly.
    🙂

  22. 62

    I think the problem with “weeping” isn’t one of denotation—she’s using it in its proper context—but of connotation—I think a lot of us unconsciously associate weeping with sores and wounds and pustule-type stuff.

    I still maintain that while sheath and furnace are proper metaphors for the twunt (I LOVE THAT TERM AND HAVE APPROPRIATED IT), and “weeping” is a correct description of a lubricated twunt, when you put it all together you get a tortuously mixed metaphor.

    As for splooge….I much prefer modern romance novels to the Old Skool classics in part because I don’t like the purple prose and hazy, nonspecific metaphors for the physical acts – I like knowing exactly what’s being done, I like body parts referred to by, if not their clinical terms, their commonly accepted nicknames. I like specificity. However, I still think some of the more mundane and squickier aspects of lovemaking (and life in general) should be left out.

    The wet spot should be left out. The fact that lots of us need to get up and pee shortly after lovemaking, or else we’ll get a urinary tract infection (we can cuddle and enjoy the afterglow—but only after we pee) should be left out.

    Farting in bed—leave it out (that comes after the happily ever after.) Queefs – leave it out.

    And werepanther splooge? Leave it out.

    says55: Diva says I’m not old till I hit 55.

  23. 63

    AgTigress,

    Perhaps it’s just my US cookbooks, but the scone recipes ALL call for eggs, whereas NONE of the biscuit recipes use eggs at all.  I spent a little bit of time poking through a couple of my cookbooks (I have a LOT of cookbooks) and only found two mentions of eliminating the egg from a scone recipe, once for a currant scone, and once for a cream scone (the one where it specifically says not to use eggs, as opposed to leaving them out being an option).  Whereas for the biscuit recipes, there’s only one that calls for the use of cream (specifically for Cream Biscuits), and even the use of buttermilk is only specific to certain types.  I don’t mean that scones are HARD, so much as they’re DENSE.  Kind of like the difference between cake and brownies.  Cake is lighter and airier, whereas brownies are thicker and denser, even when both are made to their absolute ideals.

    Dumplings:  http://cooking.professorwalter.com/2010/12/plain-dumplings-spatzen-1945.html  (Although, to be honest, I didn’t care for this recipe when I tried it—I did so because “Professor Walter” is also “Uncle Walter” who is also my husband, and he wanted me to.)  Personally I prefer the recipe I use, which calls for a little more flour, a little less salt, baking powder and butter.  I love them cooked in chicken broth, or (preferably) with the chicken, so that they absorb the flavors, same with stews and soups.

    Hm…  I used to hate having lived in the south for so long (19 years!), but I guess I did retain my love for some of the food.  Although I don’t like grits—they get stuck in my teeth.

    I shall be careful to refrain from calling a Brit’s writing style academically quaint.  lol

  24. 64

    Kinsey,

    Twunt is a *wonderful* word.  I adore it.  It’s never on any censored lists, and it takes most people a couple of minutes to figure out what the heck I’m talking about.  I blatantly stole it off someone else, (http://www.blogger.com/profile/11997769708965362938), when we guest blogged on his site.  Nice man, erotica author, worth checking out.  🙂  And, well, if you want to see our post, it’s here: http://ohgetagrip.blogspot.com/search?q=uncle+walter

    Anyway, I agree we can leave some realism out.  A dutch oven won’t add anything to a story.  Although, I suppose there’s some truth to the notion that if you love the man, you must (to an extent) love his gas.  They go hand in hand sometimes, especially after you serve cabbage at dinner.  But there’s supposed to be a level of fantasy in a romance novel and a “here, honey, SMELL THIS” just isn’t in my fevered fantasies.  However, a *little* realism is a good thing, I think.  Laurens is terrible, for example, about having the heroine stand up and walk around *immediately* proceeding sex.  Um, yeah, that’s not going to make a mess or anything.  So, okay, I don’t want to hear that they shove a wad of toweling between her legs to catch the goo, but maybe the nice “wipe her up” mention that is in some other books would serve just as well.  Or, you know, just have them *stay in bed* rather than pace around dripping werepanther spooge, or whatever, all over the floor. That would work, too.

  25. 65
    AgTigress says:

    Kinsey—

    I think a lot of us unconsciously associate weeping with sores and wounds and pustule-type stuff.

    That seems to be so.  My point is that BE-speakers (and evidently Aussies, too) don’t have that as a major or primary association.  At least, I certainly don’t, which is why I have been puzzled.  I might be a bit worried by a word like ‘oozing’, though.
    🙂

  26. 66
    AgTigress says:

    W f RR—-

    the scone recipes ALL call for eggs,

    Then they are not proper, traditional plain English scones, the kind one eats with cream and jam!  No doubt some scone-variants, especially sweetened ones, may include eggs, but I have never put egg in a scone mixture.  The very idea!  🙂

    Here is the basic ‘plain English scone’ (Mrs. Beeton recipe, 1970s edn.,  but I’m sure if I check in my 1898 edn., it’ll be the same):

    1 lb plain flour; ½ teasp. salt; 2 – 3 oz lard or butter; 2 teasp. bicarb and 2 teasp cream of tartar (the main ingredients of commercial baking powder); ½ pint soured milk or buttermilk.

    NO egg!  Also no cream, sugar or any other cakey things.  This is a very light quick bread recipe.  One can use baking powder instead of its component parts, and if one uses fresh rather than sour milk, the amount of raising agent must be substantially increased, which can affect the taste.  When one adds the sour milk to the mixture, the immediate chemical reaction creates a very soft, light, aerated, spongy dough.  They are cooked fast in a hot oven.

    How does this compare with US biscuits?  In the same general class?

    I haven’t looked up your dumpling link yet, but the standard kind we use in beef stews etc. contain only flour, salt, baking-powder, grated suet and water.  Again, lots of variants, especially adding things like chopped parsley.  Americans usually get a fit of the vapours at the mention of suet, so I expect yours are a bit different, and the German culinary influence in the USA would have had an effect:  Germans are into many, many excellent kinds of dumplings.

    Oh dear, we are off-topic, aren’t we?

  27. 67
    AgTigress says:

    Just checked your dumpling link, WfRR:  egg dumplings – very Germanic!  And very good, too.  Our standard dumplings form a light, pastry-like dough that one shapes into small balls and drops into the simmering stew, where they cook and puff up.

  28. 68
    AgTigress says:

    Wish we could continue the culinary discussion, but I am just off to the airport, and won’t be back at my computer now for a week.
    😉

  29. 69
    AgTigress says:

    I shall be careful to refrain from calling a Brit’s writing style academically quaint.

    Or quaintly academic….

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