Thursday, March 15, 2007

Warning: Sexually Explicit (paca)

No, really, this time I mean it. I've made that joke as a teaser before, but I'm actually going to end up discussing an erotic romance novel down below and quoting it, and it's explicit. Naughty bits will be mentioned and not with the term "naughty bits". (However, that makes me want to see how hard, I mean difficult, it would be to write an erotic story that's completely graphic but uses terms like "naughty bits".... I definitely see a project in my future.)

Anyway, you've been warned. Huh. I hope the llama's parents don't drop by....

The way I came to this topic was that I was discussing the cervical cancer vaccine thing (see post below) with a classmate, and she told me a story from her sister who has taught in Baton Rouge and Texas somewhere. The sister reported a class in which there are pregnant students sitting in the rows, while the teacher has them peeling petals off of a flower and explains to them that if they lose their flower too often, peeling a petal each time, they won't have anything left to give their husbands.

If my classmate wasn't wicked smart and trustworthy, I'd take this as an urban legend. In fact, I still have a hard time actually believing it. The classmate's point was about the irony of teaching this to already pregnant students. I was just thinking that I now know the reason abstinence education often doesn't have longterm effects on sexual activity: the students aren't sure what the class is about. They keep peeling flowers and picking fruit from the tree and watching trains enter tunnels and leave more baffled than when they entered.

But mainly I was thinking how insulting this is to all the girls in the class.

If they don't save their flower, they have nothing to offer their husband? Hmmm... Maybe they could offer... just an idea off the top of my head... love? Kindness? Humor? Chicken soup when sick? Passion, sexiness, smiles, intelligence, wisdom, advice, family,.... You get the idea. To put it bluntly, nowadays, a lot more men are interested in a woman's smile than her hymen.

So after all this ran through my head - my maidenhead? - I started thinking about an erotic romance novel I've read. As I've mentioned before, I've been perusing a lot of romance sites in the last year or so, and there I've learned about the erotic romance sub-genre, which is one of the hottest areas of romance fiction right now. N always looks at me funny when I talk about something on a romance blog, because I've never really read romance unless you count Jane Austen. And that was 11th grade. Anyway, I decided I would try an erotic romance book, because, well, I'm a guy and you know erotic's got to be a plus, right? So I finally read one. And I've only read one. (Sorry, December. I have a feeling you can think of one or two others I might read, but I didn't read your blog back then.)

I ended up reading Undressing Mercy by Deanna Lee. Of the rows of these books at Border's, I chose it mostly for the cover. It seemed a far better cover than most. Also, the back cover didn't make me cringe with domination themes, which, well, do nothing for me. In fact those themes, wildly popular among the female readers, make me put the book down.

I finally made it through the book, but it took a little effort. I hate to say that, but it's true. Much of the sex is really steamy and that's largely what carried it. But there kept being these places where I would roll my eyes or get annoyed. One was closer to the beginning. Our heroine, Mercy, is an Assistant Director of an art gallery, and she's been tricked, basically, into posing nude for one of their artists, hunky Shamus. Here's how the back cover describes her sessions posing for him. "Burning under the intense gaze of the hottest man she's ever known, watching his hands work their magic, Mercy feels vulnerable yet liberated and fully aroused, desperate for the kind of satisfaction only a master like Shamus can give."

The author does do a really nice job of building the sexual tension between the two in the first couple posing scenes, but then at the end of session 2, so this is maybe the 3rd time they've ever been in each other's company, when she's leaving, they come together for a passionate kiss and groping hands and he slides his hands up her thigh and a finger enters her. Yes, there.

It's an erotic romance novel. I'm largely OK with this. It's expected.

But after a little bit of him being inside of her, she breaks the contact and ends the torrid frisking. Shamus then shakes his head, disappointed in her, because she won't release the passion she has inside. You see, he can see inside her soul, he's an artist after all, and knows about the amazing passionate tigerwoman inside her that she's repressing.

My reaction was... well, f- you, Shamus. You've only met this woman three times. She's here making out with you, grabbing your ass, panting, you've got your hand inside her which she's OK with; and when she decides she might wait till the third date before ripping your clothes off, you are sad and disappointed in her self-repression? Patronizing as hell to me. What an arrogant shmuck.

I think I took a week off before continuing in the book.

Finally, I'm arriving at the connection between the hymen-preservation-society class and this book.

You see, Shamus is black, and in a erotic book, you know what that means. His middle appendage ends somewhere around his knees. (I'm giving Lee a pass on the racial stereotypes, because she treats Shamus with respect and it is an interracial romance. Actually, I was just flipping through and noticed a secondary character admitting benignly that she once had "fine, hot jungle sex" with Shamus. Minus 2 more points for the word jungle.) And this size factor is a huge bonus to Mercy. She likes it a bit rough and a lot big.

I told you this was going to get explicit! People will never read this blog the same way again.

Part of the story also revolves around Mercy having been raped, (don't worry, she smashes the guy on the head with a bat at the end of the book, which is a nice thing for the author to do. Shamus does not need to save her; she saves herself). The fact that she wants Shamus to take her, in a sense, troubles her, so at some point she runs to her therapist to make sure she's not messed up. After a bit of discussing this, we have the following exchange between Mercy and her therapist Lesley. Lesley is asking her to discuss what she liked about men before the attack.

"Since this isn't a regularly scheduled session, I'll give you a pass for the moment. Just talk to me about the sex for the time being."

"I suppose I was like most other women." I shrugged and covered my arms over my breasts. "Let's see... I'm tall for a woman, so I've always found taller men attractive. Strong but careful hands, stamina, and of course a big dick." I laughed softly and shrugged. "I mean, some women will say that it doesn't matter much."

"But you don't agree?"

"No, I don't. Size matters. It matters a lot."

Me again. So this bit made me mad again. I'm sad to say that I've never had sex with a man and don't possess a vagina, so I can't say if size matters or not. But let's imagine turning this around to a man talking to his therapist:

"...I've always found smaller women attractive. Slender but not skinny legs, stamina, and of course a virginal tight pussy." I laughed and shrugged. "I mean, some men will say it doesn't matter much."

"But you don't agree?"

"No, I don't. I want a woman who's tight. This bullet train doesn't stop in Grand Central Station."

Wouldn't most people think this guy's a complete A-hole living off old stereotypes and bizarre fetishes? If so, isn't Mercy acting the same way? Maybe size does feel good and after all she's supposed to be exploring her sensuality, meaning her physical senses. But, come on. You're saying what makes a great lover to you and the third thing you come up with is the guy has to hung? I'm OK with 'it feels good', 'it's a bonus', 'it turns me on' and the like. But 'it matters a lot'?

In some ways, these erotic romances are written by women for women, so maybe some of the talk is like locker-room junk. Guy's erotica probably has far more blatant shallowness in it ("her tits were the size of watermelons") but it is shallow when a guy does it, and it remains so when a woman does it.

So there you go.

I kinda connects up, right? It's people being obsessed with body parts instead of, well, people.

I can't run for office now.


bunnygirl said...

Well. I've never read erotic romance and I can barely tolerate the romance genre in general. So unless December or a similarly qualified person makes a recommendation, it sounds like I can safely skip it.

As for the story about sex ed in Texas and Louisiana, I can't speak for Louisiana or small-town Texas, or to how anyplace teaches it today, but suburban Houston used to have very good sex ed in the early 80s.

I have no idea what it's like now, but it wasn't abstinance-based and we learned anatomy and all the diseases and birth control methods in existence at the time. (Except AIDS, which was still called GRID and was then thought to be limited to homosexuals. We didn't cover homosexuality in sex ed, either.)

Sex ed was a standard part of the sophomore year curriculum at my school, but you had to get a permission slip signed by your parents or they would put you in ordinary health class instead. So there was an opt-out for anyone whose parents were too fundie to let their kid be taught by "Godless Secularists."

Our sex ed teacher emphasized over and over again that the only 100% effective way to prevent sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy was abstinence. We got that message drummed into our heads, and rightly so. One might even argue it was the focal point of the class.

But we learned everything else, too. Because, DUH, nearly all of us would have sex someday!

Personally, I think parents should not have the right to keep a child out of a sex ed class once they've reached the age of consent. But that's just my opinion. Even that would be too late for a lot of teens, but better late than never.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry over the flower analogy. That's just wrong-headed and sad. None of my mindless sexcapades for fun kept me from having passionate, deeply meaningful sex for love. And I've done enough of both to qualify as an authority on the matter.

Sex is what goes on inside your head, and a person is just as capable of getting messed up over it with a single lifetime partner as with hundreds of one-night stands. It's really all about the attitude you bring to it.

pacatrue said...

Really well said.

Robin S. said...

Hi Paca -

This was really interesting - like taking a walk down the aisle in a bookstore and checking out the erotica section. I haven't ever read erotica, and other than the end-game, the point, if you will, being about eroticism, I wasn't sure what to expect. So thanks for the information.

I like my sex scenes wrapped inside amazing fiction - such as the most erotic, sensual passage I have yet to read in a novel, the sex scene in Atonement. But these two people really loved each other. A lot. And that's what made it come alive for me.

If December has some recommendations, I'm open to them. I feel inadequate to make comments on EE's blog when queries for erotic fiction come along - because I don't know "the formula" for what is expected with them, know what I mean?

On another note - my older daughter is in college in England, studying for her BA in art - graphic design and photography. If you would like me to, I can ask if she or some of her classmates would like to send you some ideas on your language book project - my email is on my blog profile.

December Quinn said...

Ummm...if I have recommendations?

How about one of my books? Isn't that kind of a no-brainer? Hell, I'll send you an unpubbed book in MS word format if you want; I'm not picky. (Actually, give it some time and I'll have more, better books to choose from, when my EC books start coming out.)

Failing that, you could go for my crit/writing partner, Anna J. Evans; or if you need paperback try anything by Angela Knight, Anya Bast, Jaid Black, or Portia Da Costa.

Recommendations, indeed. Snort.

I've never read that book and I don't know the author. It doesn't sound like my thing, for a few reasons (none of which have to do with the interracial thing, she hastens to add, more to do with I don't like contemporaries as a rule, I like historicals and paranormals or fantasy, and I like a different kind of character and voice, she says diplomatically.)

Robin S. said...

Hi December-

this is the first I knew that you wrote erotica - I'd love to read your work!

Can you email some of it - my email is


The only erotica I'd heard of is Anne Rice's. Is it good?

If you go to the librray and nab atonement - Ian McEwan is the author - I can tell you where the part is that you should read.It is truly incredibly beautiful and sensual.

pacatrue said...

I should also say that I by no means gave a fair review of the book. These were a couple things that raised my ire when reading, and so when I was reminded vaguely of them, I mentioned them.

The actual book is indeed a romance, and it is a story of a woman who, since her attack, has understandably kept men at a distance emotionally. What she likes about Shamus is not just his appendage, but also the trust (I accidentally spelled "thrust" the first time) and fearlessnes she has with him. What makes it an erotic romance is that a lot of this normal romance stuff is expressed through sex and physical desire.

Can I recommend it? I guess there likely are better ones, like December's!, so I should hold off, but I got into the book in places, and as mentioned much of the sex is steamy.

Also, it's worth mentioning that erotic romance is not usually the same as straight-up erotica, per the official definitions. Erotica may or may not have a happy ending, and may or may not take place within a broader emotional romance. Erotic romances do have these features, and the main character does usually end the book in a happy relationship with her partner... and sometimes partners, from looking at the covers.

In short, this was not intended to be a slam against erotic romance. And I'm not just saying that because December drops by. I think there's a lot worth saying that can be said through the physical.

December Quinn said...

Ann Rice's erotica isn't my thing. I honestly don't know if it's good or not, as the only smaple of it I read was years ago, and I don't remember it well enough. I do recall it being more focused on the, ah, backdoor eroticism than I generally like my erotic romance to be. I don't mind it, and I've written it, but I prefer it to not be the only focus.

I'll email something along. :-)

I didn't think anyone was slamming erotica or erotic romance here, so don't worry. :-) I just couldn't figure out why my name didn't immediately spring to mind when you thought of "erotic romance". Because it should, you know.