April 29, 2012
The Sexytimes Factor
What is too much? What is not enough?
I recently finished the book The Desire for Dearborne by V.B. Kildaire, and my review mentioned that the sexytimes, while multiple, were not too explicit and kept to about a page or two each. Someone commented on my review that she had recently read a book with a 28-page sexytimes scene, which, while causing my jaw to drop, also led me to wonder where I would "draw the line" (so to speak) on sexytimes.
Now, I'm the first one to admit that I like a little sexytimes action in my stories. What can I say? I'm pervy like that. However, I did cut my teeth on squeaky clean romances back in high school when I was reading traditional Regencies (e.g., of the Signet and Zebra variety) and category Harlequin Romance novels. These styles are both romance niches that consider kisses to be the ultimate in titillation and which I fondly refer to as more "ankle barers" than "bodice rippers." Obviously, I've - ahem - graduated to acquire a much more broadened taste for romance along the entire spectrum of heat level.
That said, what I think all of this boils down to is expectations and execution.
I still read the occasional squeaky clean traditional Regency or Harlequin Romance, so clearly some level of taste for that type of romance remains in my romance-reading brain. I don't expect any sexytimes to make an appearance going into the story, so I'm not disappointed when I turn the last page and the most they've done is kiss. As long as the story and writing are good, the squeaky clean romance can be just as enjoyable as a steamy one. It's just that I'd have to be in the mood for a squeaky clean romance.
The same goes for steamy romances with lots of sexytimes. A lot of sexytimes may be stimulating, but they don't make a romance a winner if the story's poorly-executed and lacking in plot. I've read romances (not erotica, which by my definition focuses on the characters' development through sex) that are pretty much a series of sexytimes scenes, one after another, that fail to show the actual connection the two character make in the romantic sense.
If I were forced to give a page count or style, though, based on my usual reading preferences, I'd say anywhere from five to ten pages per scene would be ideal and with a decent level of explicitness...but within reason. By "within reason," I mean I want the sexytimes to be clear on what's going on, but I still want to escape realism to a certain extent and have them occur in the land of Romancelandia. So, to use an example in m/m sexytimes, yes I do want to read about whose tongue is on which body part, but I don't want to read about the main character thinking about feces on the condom, which I assume is a very real ramification of anal sex, but which I just don't need to have spelled out for me.
So...to respond to my original questions, I guess my ultimate answer is a very grey-area "it depends." First, it'll depend on the subgenre that I'm reading to know if I think there's too much or not enough. Second, it'll depend on how well the sexytimes are integrated into the story and further develop the romance.
Looking forward to an evening with her latest steamy sexytimes pick,