What’s the Hang Up About Sex?

It never ceases to amaze me that as authors, it’s easy to step up before fellow writers, our family and friends, or strangers and say we write genres like thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, nonfiction, etc.  You know, the ‘real’ books that people will lay down on the coffee table in the living room for guests to see.

But you write romance that’s known to have sex in it, and suddenly, it’s like, ‘Oh, I better put this in the dresser drawer so the pest control guy doesn’t spot this when he does his around the house spraying!’  Unless it’s ‘wholesome’ and ‘clean’ romance, we hesitate to admit to it.  At least starting out.  And just think of how romances are defined.  ‘Wholesome’ and ‘clean’ is what I see to describe sex-free romances.  The majority of people know this.  This implies that if there’s sex in the book, then it’s ‘sinful’ and ‘dirty’. 

Now this stigma is much more emphasized when it comes to erotic romances.  I have a friend who I believe would love to go into fiction of a more erotic note, but she’s worried if she doesn’t use a pen name and hide it from everyone, then her writer friends will ostracize her.  She already took her fantasy romance and made a sex-free version of it to appease her mother who gave her grief over the sex in the book.

Whether we want to ackowledge it or not, there is a huge hang up about sex in our culture, and I’m sure, around the world.  I believe it’s because we’ve taken sex out of its proper context.  What many people have forgotten is that sex is a gift God gave mankind.  It’s not just a physical act.  It’s emotional and spiritual as well.  And to boot, it feels good.  At least, it’s supposed to, and if it’s done in its proper context, it will. 

One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that a large portion of romances take it out of context, as does Hollywood.  Teens swapping partners and doing the whole ‘friends with benefits’ thing is not how sex was meant to be.  Take  a look at Smashwords’ erotic fiction sometime, and you’ll see how sex is ‘glorified’ by some authors–authors who have reported wishing they could write another genre but erotic stories is what sells so that is what they write. 

I’m going to take three examples of how sex is used out of context and glorified by Hollywood and some authors.  This is what contributes to the idea that sex is bad, and it lends to the hang up we have about it as a culture.  Ready for my three examples? 

1. Rape.  I’ve seen books where some guy comes to rape a woman, but she’s able to use that sexual energy for a fun time instead.  Not kidding, people.  Those books exist.  I saw it in the bookstore one time.  I had a roommate in college who was raped, and it messed her up.  Worse, the cops on base refused to report it because it would make the campus look bad, and her parents told her she must have been wearing something to deserve it.  This is why she never reported it anywhere else.  She tried seeking help and those she trusted failed her.  Rape is not erotic.  It’s not sexy.  It’s not romantic.  It leaves scars from which a woman may never recover from, and yes, I’m aware men can be raped too.  In fact, I approach that angle (subtly–implied but never fully stated or shown) in my Return of the Aliens series, and I show how it’s damaged the guy emotionally.

2.  Molestation.  This is a piggyback off of rape.  I can’t tell you how many erotic books I’ve seen where the dad or uncle or mom or some other authority figure has found a way to ‘sexually enjoy’ a member of their family.  An offshoot of this is the ‘younger family member brings a friend over’ scenario.  Ick and double ick, people.  Adults should never be taking advantage of teenagers or those who are younger.  I have met five people who’ve been molested and my aunt (who died before I was born) was molested as well.  My mother was born when my aunt was 17, and my grandmother made sure my grandfather never got his hands on my mom.  Back then, they didn’t divorce like they do now, so they stayed married regardless of the stuff that happened in the family.  My aunt was miserable.   To tell the story of her life would only depress you, but let’s say she found ways to end up spending the night at the police station to stay away from her husband.  And for those who’ve been through it that I talked to,  I have yet to hear how romantic and wonderful it was for them.  It does a lot of damage.

3.  Adultery.  Boy, is this one ever taking off in popularity!  I’ve seen storylines ranging from ‘Husband and wife are bored so they bring in a thirdy party to spice things up’ or ‘Husband is married but then he finds his soulmate and must be with her’ or ‘Wife feels neglected so she goes off to find someone who can complete her’.  I could go on.  There are so many scenarios.  It’s amazing to me that anyone would think adultery is romantic, but it’s a sign of the times, is it not?  We’ve gotten so used to being selfish and thinking ‘Who cares who gets hurt as long as I get what I want?’ in our culture that we’ve grown apathetic towards others’ feelings.  Marriage is for life.  It’s not a ‘Let’s try it out and see how it works’ situation.  I don’t recall anywhere in my vows where I promised to love and cherish until it was no longer convenient for me.  So many people get hurt in adultery.  First, there is the spouse.  Then there are the children (should there be any).  Then there are the family members who invested their time into the in-law.  I know one woman who divorced her first husband because ‘she wasn’t in love with him anymore’, and I was bummed out because I liked the guy and had become his friend.  Then she got married again, and this time her husband left her and their kid to shack up with someone he used to date ‘back in the day’ (and he won’t sign divorce papers and her kid is stuck in the middle going to live with his dad some days of the week while living with his mom the other days).  It’s a mess. 

I went in longer than I needed to on all of that.  But you get my point, right?

So when we write sex in a book but do it by putting it in it’s proper context to show how beautiful and wonderous it can be because it really is more than a physical act, people assume it’s smut or porn.  Is smut the same thing as porn? 

The post is long enough and I lost my train of thought, so I’ll end it here.  😀

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out https://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.
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6 Responses to What’s the Hang Up About Sex?

  1. Rape, molestation and adultry should be taboo subjects there is no fun, enjoyment or excitement in any of them

    • Thanks for the comment. 😀

      It amazes me how well those books sell. Apparently, there’s a market for taboo topics. And I didn’t even hit the whole incest thing, but it came to mind after I finished the post that was too long anyway. lol

  2. There was a soap opera when I was a kid where the guy raped the girl and then they fell madly in love later. I don;t know what it was (we didn’t watch them, my grandma did) but my my grandma would carry on about it every time she turned on the TV. yeah, that’s just the kind of guy I want to marry; some guy who attacked me…

    The molestation thing is twisted. i had friends that this happened to, and they didn’t think it was erotic, let me tall you…

    and how is cheating romantic? I can go with divorce romances, okay, but if you’re still married and that unhappy, then get a divorce. It’s not sweet, or romantic to cheat on someone who trusts you… It’s just crappy. Period.

    • Ewe. Falling in love with the guy who raped you. Sounds like romance to me. *rolls eyes*

      I think the molestation erotic stories are an insult to those who’ve been through it.

      I agree. Have a divorced person instead. I don’t see how hard that can be.

  3. I think the hardest thing to get over is the looks people give you when they hear that you write romance or erotica. Either its the “I have shit on the bottom of my shoes” look, the “Man, what twisted fantasy are in her head?” look, the “How can I get a piece of that? She must be great in bed!” look, or the “What did I do wrong?” look of disappointment from a mother. I just want to reach out and smack the looks from their face, or in the case of the lustful one, pull out a knife and dare them to try. 😛

    As for the sex-free version, it was partially to appease my mother and partially to reach another market of readers that are probably all closet romance/erotica readers to begin with anyways. But I have had some readers that have loved the idea because then they can suggest the book to friends that they were too afraid to mention the book to because it was romance. 😀

    Good thing I just threw it all out the window and added the pen name to my main website. Now if I could just throw out all the idiots in this world that give me nasty looks…

    • Want my rolling pin to bop some people over the head with? 😀

      Let me know how the clean versions sell. I’d like to know if it’s worth it.

      As for the people… This is why I didn’t read romance books for the longest time.

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