the sex we want to read about

The romantic euphemism is in San Diego for Comic-Con, so I’m eating lots of ice cream, drinking lots of wine, and reading romance novels to make the time pass as benignly as possible.

And the current novel has me thinking about the ways romance novels don’t teach people how sex really works. They’re plenty entertaining – god knows they distract me from the goopy mess I am while the euphemism is off working. But is it really too much to ask that these stories ALSO teach women about what makes sex glorious?

Like, how do romance novels represent the very best sex? I could do a formal content analysis, but I’ve read enough that I’m willing to just make a list:

Both people have orgasms. Big ones. Often simultaneously. Usually with unassisted intercourse. The woman usually has more than one.

It’s tied to a big negative emotion, like fear (high stakes situation! possibly ironic effect sex!) or anger (NOT HOW IT WORKS).

And the best sex partners, as in this particular book (Jennifer Crusie’s nutty “Faking It”) “know every sexual position that a man over 50 could want,” for example. They are “skilled,” experienced, even TRAINED. There’s this one book the list of 100 Best Romance novels that’s about a woman who seeks out a man to train her to seduce her own husband, because apparently it’s learning the SKILLS that will make him want her. I can’t bring myself to read that one.

In real life, the best sex – and I mean not just sex that’s memorable or sex that’s fun, but the sex that changes your life and rules everything around you (and yet results in no large-scale or long-term physical consequences, like infection or pregnancy or… injury or whatever) – the BEST sex, as I say, isn’t about skills, positions, or orgasms. It’s not about technique or training. It’s about full awareness in the moment, being intensely and minutely attuned to your partner, and allowing all your emotional walls to drop, one by one, without doubt or hesitation. The best sex is yes after yes.

The BEST sex is about emotional connection, and emotional connection is about openness. And openness is about vulnerability, curiosity, a childlike willingness to take risks like there are no consequences. Because in the best sex, there ARE no consequences, there is only joy and shared intimacy. The best sex doesn’t have to be physically adventurous – it CAN be, for sure, but it doesn’t have to be – but it will always involve emotional adventure, ranging from laughter and play to quiet, tearful sharing.

And I mean, don’t you want to read about that sex? Don’t you want a story that’s all about that? I would LOVE that! Don’t you think a novel with sex like that would sell a million copies?

Dear romance authors, please take note: fewer positions, fewer orgasms, more emotional barriers shed.