By Alexa Day
Last week, I got to hang out with a colleague of mine for burgers and beer. After the Pro Bowl ended and before we started talking about whether Tom Brady’s balls were indeed perfect, we chatted for a moment about our writing.
Okay. Mostly, she indulged me as I complained about one of my pet peeves: erotic romances where the hero and heroine have sex too soon. Way too soon. Like within the first 15 pages. This is not the awkward near-miss that might have been sex or mere sexual thoughts or something like that. This is the hero and heroine having sex before I’ve really gotten comfortable with them.
It’s not so much that I object to sex between strangers in my romances. I’m a firm believer in the “slutcelebratory” romance, after all. I guess my issue with sex so soon is that I don’t know the hero and heroine yet. I don’t care enough about them to be invested in the sex. They just seem like two lucky people who fell into bed, and how nice for them, and I wonder what’s on TV right now.
My colleague and I wondered if sex so soon was just part of the genre and its tendency to test romance’s boundaries. I wasn’t so sure, but the thought bothered me a little. Erotic romance leans pretty heavily on both the frequency and intensity of sexual encounters, but how much emotion could anyone muster up within the first few pages? How much anticipation? How much tension? Where can these two people go from here? Is it possible to accomplish more than titillation that early?
Is titillation so awful?
I think Debbie Ford wrote in The Dark Side of the Light Chasers that the stuff that irritates us the most is also within ourselves, and I wondered aloud how long it took to get to naked fun time in my first book, Illicit Impulse. So I went home and checked my paper copy. The first page with actual story on it is page 7. Grace, the heroine, has sex for the first time eleven pages later.
Yep! Pot, this is Kettle. Kettle, meet Pot.
In fact, my latest story, “1-800,” opens with the hero and heroine having sex. Like on page 1. Now, to be fair, it’s a short story, so there’s not a whole lot of time to get to the sex, but still, it’s right away.
I had to scramble for excuses. Debbie Ford or no Debbie Ford.
Sure, Grace gets it on right at the start of Chapter Two. She isn’t with John, who’s the hero. She does have to share every detail of her encounters with John — you know, for science — and they have a pretty difficult time working through all that. But Grace does get an early start on donating her orgasms to the advancement of neuroscience.
I don’t really have an excuse for starting “1-800” in bed. I knew the most important thing in the story was that the hero, Jason, was deeply in love with his fiancee, Kate. I guess I thought this was the hottest way to go about proving it. And it was kind of fun. I gave Jason a hard time after that. So there.
One of my favorite things about writing erotica and erotic romance is having the freedom to use sex for any number of plot and character development reasons. I think we have the most latitude to write angry sex, random sex, fearful sex, experimental sex, and this-won’t-go-beyond-tonight sex. I love that because I think we real people are having real sex in the real world for any number of reasons, many of which have little to do with romance.
So should I be more okay with the sex right at the beginning of the book?
I’ll try. I really will.
But if there’s a happy ending that close to the beginning, I’m going to need to see a much happier ending at the end. Know what I mean?
Do you think the sex is getting too close to page 1? Is that necessarily a problem? Let me know what you think and where you see it being done well.
And follow Lady Smut. We won’t make you wait for it.