Hello Everyone! This is my first post on this blog, and I suspect that future posts will be sporadic! But, I just saw Jessica Tripler’s excellent article on BookRiot about her pet peeves in Romance Novels:
A romance novel reader lists 9 things that drive her crazy about her favorite genre.
And of course, I read it and loved it – she’s spot-on about all of them!
One I wanted to talk about in particular is the “Moisture = Arousal” trope that’s so common in romances. I want to tell you, I tried, I tried, I tried SO HARD to keep this out of my own fiction, and it’s… difficult. Especially in BDSM scenes where there the consent happens before the sex act, and there is role-playing involved. Using wetness as a reassurance that the female partner is into it is… ugh. It’s almost ingrained. It feels weird when it’s NOT there (hello, Freudian Slip). I still hate seeing it when I read, but I’m much more sympathetic to authors when they write it in.
On Lube: There are scenes in Bad Penny where she uses lube, and there are scenes where she doesn’t and trust me, I overthought it in each case! I wanted to be mindful about it, since I specifically recommend Come as you Are by Emily Nagoski in my Acknowledgments section, and the chapter on lube (or lack thereof) resonated with me so much. Spontaneous lubrication does not go hand-in-hand with arousal for a lot of women. When it doesn’t, said women can feel a lot of pressure about it. Said women’s partners can feel a lot of pressure about it. They shouldn’t have to feel that pressure, they’re not Queen. Using lube is not cheating. Lube is the best.
Another thought prompted by that article: the intersections between arousal, fiction, what people think about to get turned on, and what people want in real life.
On Thoughts vs. Actions: Real life sex is so different from what you think about when you masturbate. Do you remember when Donald Glover left Community, and posted a bunch of reasons why he needed space on Instagram, talking about fear? One of the lines he posted was “I’m afraid people will find out what I think about when I masturbate” and how brave was that? How many people would stand up and admit that fear, let alone talk about the thoughts themselves? Not me, hah hah, I’m writing under a pen name.
In the immortal words of Girl Code: “What you think about when you masturbate means nothing. It’s always weird. For everybody. Sometimes, when I come, I just think of my cat. Just my cat’s face.” Yeah, that’s not making it into a romance novel, guys. But if you’d like a romance novel that does deal (beautifully!) with the weird shit people think about in order to come, I highly recommend “Begging for it” by Lilah Pace. It’s a rough read in parts, and triggery, but it’s so very good, and you know how I love my books with therapy scenes.
On Books and Expectations: Books are sort of the half-way point between what people think about when they masturbate, and what they want in real life. Scratch that, they aren’t half-way. They’re much closer to the “what people think about” side of that line graph, but are discussed and often analysed as if they should be on the “real life” side of the graph. Especially romance novels.
I’ve often read a book, rolled my eyes, and thought “What universe is this book set in?” knowing full well it was set in the author’s brain. I’ve sometimes worried about the author’s grasp on reality, knowing full well that the author (and her editors) often chose to insert or leave out realistic elements because of their effect on the plot, reader reactions, or for a host of other reasons.
This is one of the reasons I spend a lot of time in Bad Penny on club logistics. If I’m going to be comfortable reading about a sex club, I have to understand their security procedures and intake process. My experience as a reader informs my choices as a writer. But other writers make other choices. And that’s okay.
Anyway, cheers to Jessica for writing the article on her pet peeves, because I share them. Cheers to writers who include those pet peeves in their novels, because I understand they’re extremely difficult to avoid. And cheers to the readers, because talking about what makes us happy is always healthy.