Liz Everly’s Sexy Saturday Round Up this week linked to an interesting article at MODERNMAN.COM about “7 Sex Moves You Use That Women Hate”.
The article definitely hits upon a few home truths about sex in our modern times. (Mister, if you know what’s good for you, don’t mess with Madeline’s beauty sleep.)
While the article perhaps gives the unflattering impression that most men are like eager young dogs–pantingly happy to have any kind of sex, any time, any place, the tips are mostly for men who perhaps aren’t very observant or quick to pick up on subtle female behavioral and verbal cues.
Why is all the pressure on men to understand what women want instead of women speaking up? Why can’t women speak up without bruising the oh-so-sensitive male ego? Ah, communicating about sex! It just ain’t easy.
How nice then to take a break from the reality of men and women not communicating in our modern world and go over to the land of erotic romance. In a good erotic romance all that non-communication is transmogrified into perfect, mind-blowingly great sex. But how do erotic writers create such great sex on the page?
One ingredient of the best erotic romances — or indeed any romance — that creates amazing sexual magic between two people is when they like exactly the same thing in bed. But is that really possible?
Well…yes. It’s not about the slim odds of two people with some unusual predilection who happen to find each other [ “Joseph, I want you to rub my body all over with yogurt and honey, then lick it off.”] It’s more often about one of the partners being extremely open minded and happily rolling with the preferences of the other partner. In other words:
Joseph = most men = someone happy licking yogurt & honey off your body
Yet I suspect it’s not that easy to write a successful erotic romance scene merely by portraying the heroine speaking her fantasy out loud and the hero enthusiastically responding. There’s got to be more there than just the magic of communication and a willingness to commence with some kink.
So what’s the secret of great erotic romance? There are two books I’ll refer to here. One is Lora Leigh’s book, aptly named FORBIDDEN PLEASURE, and the other is J.R. Ward’s book LOVER ETERNAL. In each book there is a kind of structure at work that leads the reader to a satisfying conclusion.
1. The Partner Who Listens & Percieves
The article Liz linked to at MODERNMAN.com had some basic advice for guys: listen, think about it, then proceed with patience. Normally, there is nothing hotter in a romance novel than this kind of perceptive guy who’s a good listener, aka the mind reading hero. Lora Leigh tips this trope on its head with FORBIDDEN PLEASURE, because it’s her heroine Keiley who starts off listening and perceiving that something’s going on with her man. Keiley’s going to figure out what it is, and then address the issue, because she’s full of sass that way.
Meanwhile, in LOVER ETERNAL, our hero Rhage, a vampire, has such a vast experience of women, along with his uber-vamp-hotness powers, that he’s able to perceive every itty bitty thing about Mary at a glance. She’s saying no-no-no, but why? He scratches his head over this because her body is saying yes-yes-yes and they’re obviously meant to be together for forever.
2. Understanding the Forbidden Desire
In FORBIDDEN PLEASURE, once Keiley knows what the issue is (her husband Mac wants to share her with his best friend Jethro) she’s freaking out. They can’t do that. She’s not that kind of girl, etc. At this point Mac is the one who takes over with the listening and perceiving. He watches Keiley and notes that she’s wobbling between her own fears–and desire.
In LOVER ETERNAL, Rhage finds out a secret about Mary. (Spoiler alert! She’s dying.) Her forbidden desire is to have once–just once–a hot fling with an amazingly hot guy, and Rhage is her dream come true. So what holds her back from fulfilling her desire? Rhage is serious about Mary. He wants a no-holds-barred kind of relationship. She doesn’t want him to fall in love with her and then later rip his heart out by dying.
3. Building Up to the Forbidden Desire
Is exactly what Mac does with Keiley. Slowly, patiently, listening and watching her all the time to see what’s driving her crazy for more, and holding back from what’s too much (for now).
4. Overcoming the Inhibition Against the Forbidden (whatever it is).
Rhage picks his moments when Mary is vulnerable and feeling too pissed off at her own bad luck to care about making wise decisions. He’s there to catch her when she abandons common sense and lets their mutual desire sweep them away. Lots of very intense, hot sex immediately follows.
5. Fulfilling the Forbidden Desire
This is the moment we wait for and wait for as readers. In real life it can provide a touch stone of trust to look back upon and strengthen the relationship. In books, this is where we’re headed towards the HEA ending a.s.a.p.
In the future, we’ll see how this this “fulfillment of forbidden desires” trope develops. One modern development that I already like is when its the guy’s turn. It’s not only a heroine who won’t-can’t-omg yes! these days. Charlotte Stein’s story RESTRAINT presents us with an inhibited male who has a secret desire and the woman who will tease it out of him. There are many m/m romance authors showing us the guy-in-the-closet getting his “no, that’s not me, I can’t” protests on. Let’s face it, men are being targeted as the object of desire more than ever before.
Not only that–more authors are embracing male virgins in the genre these days. And there’s no rule saying that the more open-minded and experienced partner can’t be female. In fact, Ellora’s Cave has a whole line of older women-younger men romances called SOPHISTICATE that seems to call out for this kind of trope. I’ll check it out next week and report back.