Let me start off by saying that I’m not trying to tell authors how to write. I’m not a writer and I don’t aspire to be one, at least not fiction. I love the M/M sub genre and want it and the authors to succeed and I support both on this site. The reason for this post is that, as a reader, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the direction in which M/M seems to be going – there is so much sex in the books whose sole purpose seems to be to fatten the word count. Most of these sex scenes do not “further the plot”, and I’m so jaded with all the superfluous, boring sex that I skip much of it. Other readers have been very vocal, for similar reasons. You can check out some of their comments which were much more eloquently expressed in the recent poll – How Do You Like Your M/M Erotic Romance?
So, why are we being fed a surfeit of poorly written, repetitive, unimaginative sex in M/M books? There’s so much of it now in M/M “romances” that these books are getting dangerously close to the realm of PWP (porn without plot), and sometimes the only way to distinguish one from the other is the HEA/HFN endings. Should there not be a balance between the sex, a plot, character development, and a bit of prose and intelligent dialogue? Am I expecting too much? Where is the “romance” in M/M romance? Is it only the HEA ending?
I recognize that many writers are faced with a dilemma when they are told by some editors and publishers that they have to include a high percentage of sex in their M/M books or they won’t get published. Here’s a comment from one writer in another poll:
We are REQUIRED to have a certain percentage of words that are sex, REQUIRED to start sex within a certain number of pages, and REQUIRED to keep it active and hot throughout the book.
That gave me pause. Imagine being told that you have to write a certain percentage of sex. That’s enough to put you off having actual sex. The reason many of us like sex is because we get to do it when we want to, not when it’s a chore, and that’s probably why so many of the sex scenes in M/M romances are dull and lifeless, because it seems that some authors do not enjoy writing the scenes and a large percentage of them don’t flow naturally from the story. Many authors follow the same formula:
1, 2, 3 fingers, the lube, the condom, penetration, and after a minute of vigorous thrusting, the ejaculation. The condom is thrown in the garbage (thank the gods most writers no longer tie them off), 🙁 one partner takes a warm cloth to wipe the other off and then they fall asleep.
There doesn’t seem to be any originality! Don’t writers realize how many times we read this same paint-by-numbers scene over and over and over and over again? I hate to say this, but most of the sex scenes in these books that are supposed to titillate, are identical to those in other M/M books which are just as dull and boring. It takes skill to write a sex scene that will raise anyone’s body temperature as well as entertain, but a lot of writers are uncomfortable writing about sex and it shows. Let’s not even talk about oral sex!
A few authors who write wonderful romances with sex scenes that I read again and again are Laura Baumbach – A Bit of Rough, Mexican Heat; Jordan Castillo Price – PsyCop, Channeling Morpheus, and Sweet Oblivion series, or any of her books for that matter; J.L. Langley – any of her books but especially My Fair Captain and The Englor Affair; M.L. Rhodes – any of her books but especially The Draegan Lords series; Chris Owen – Bareback, 9-1-1; Sean Michael whose book Secrets, Skin and Leather gives me goose bumps whenever I re-read it. It’s not the sex I can’t stand, but the unimaginative sex. The authors mentioned above are examples of writers that, in my opinion, can include a lot of sex in their books and make it hot, and that’s because their sex scenes are both well written AND advance the plot. Another author who does this very well is Ally Blue – Easy, Forgotten Song, Catching a Buzz. There are many other authors whose books I love who are excellent writers and their sex scenes are not just an excuse for two horny guys jumping into the sack (not that there’s anything wrong with that occasionally, just for fun). That’s another aspect of the sex that I miss – the FUN.
How can writers make sex so boring? It’s almost sacrilegious!! ‘Sex’ and ‘boring’ should not even be in the same sentence!
I asked Jordan Castillo Price this question when I interviewed her a couple of days ago:
How do you write such steamy sex scenes that are exciting and never boring? You are probably one of 3 authors who can write an entire book filled with sex scene after sex scene and I would enjoy the book and not want to throw it against a wall. Is there an art to writing sex so that the reader is not bored to tears?
Her response –
The sex scene is always about something else, and you can never come right out and say what that something else is, because the characters shouldn’t be aware of the subtext. But the “something else” should inform the actions of all the characters. I’ve eavesdropped on some readers saying that they skim the sex scenes in books where the scenes are too numerous, and I think if there was something else going on internally while the characters were doing the deed, there would be no way they could possibly skip ahead.
That is called “advancing the plot.” Perhaps some of the newer M/M authors might want to take a page out of Jordan’s playbook.
Here’s a quote from an author a couple of days ago who commented on Jordan’s interview:
I’ve taken to skimming sex scenes in some books for that very reason. If the house is on fire the characters should not be ripping their clothes off until they are outside the house and away from the fire! …..
Some writers do seem to be following an obscure formula that says there must be a graphic sex scene every x thousand words no matter what else might be happening with the plot. I’m greedy and want plot to happen during sex, not just as something to link the sex scenes.
Or maybe I’m just missing the subtle clues of plot and character development hidden in the thrusting and grunting.
If authors as well as readers skim the sex in M/M books, and make fun of the lack of plot and character development, there must be a reason. I skim all but 30% of the content in some books because that’s the percentage that contains an actual story. Maybe some of the writers need to rethink what they’re feeding us. Or perhaps most of them don’t care, and it doesn’t matter if we read the books as long as we buy them. The statistics indicate that sales of these books are through the roof, but has anyone ever checked how many of them are DNF? About 45% of the M/M books that I buy are DNF because the stories were not worth my time to finish them. On the flip side there are many excellent books which are “comfort reads” for me, and that’s because they are actually stories with all the elements we expect. One M/M novel that I absolutely loved had one full-out sex scene but the touching, the kissing, the emotion, the intimacy between the characters, the dating, and all the “moments” reminded me that there’s something called “romance” in M/M romances. That book is The One That Got Away by Madeleine Urban and Rhianne Aile. This is partly what I said in my review of this book
The One That Got Away is like a bottle of vintage wine that only gets better as it ages in a cool place. The slow pace and build up to Trace’s seduction and deflowering, the emotions between the two characters which is seldom done well in erotic books, and the authors’ timing were all impeccable, as the love affair unfolded. There is humour, friendship, and lots of fun between the pages of the book, with Trace and David exploring this new and scary world in which they find themselves as they navigate unchartered waters including their new closeness, intimacy, the first date, and even jealousy.
If you want a love story between two terrific characters that will grab you by the heart and never let go I recommend that you buy The One That Got Away, a really sweet love story where each protagonist courts the other….. This is not a book with sex on every page, au contraire, and you may want the romance to move faster, but you have to trust Urban and Aile to time the pacing just right so that you experience the flow of this exquisite story.
Those editors and publishers who demand a high percentage of sex in M/M books are not doing their authors a favour. Are they aware that many of us don’t even read the sex scenes in M/M because they are so boring? (Except John) 🙂 When I asked on another poll a long time ago if there was room for sweet romances in M/M, one publisher said that these books are supposed to be erotic, therefore they must contain a high percentage of sex. I ‘get’ that erotic books must contain sex and I love to read erotic books, when there’s also a plot. Most M/M readers want a story, not PWP. If some publishers are indeed demanding that their authors pump up their books with sex to bloat the word count, they are doing a disservice to this sub genre.
I’ve been reading gay romances before they were called M/M, over a decade or two ago, when authors gave us stories with two male protagonists who fell in love, had problems that they resolved (or not), and ultimately they either stayed together or decided to seek the open road. If you’ve read as many of these books and for as long as I have, understandably much of the sex in the books is no longer fresh and new but rehashed. Any theme gets stale after reading only 50 books of the same old same old, and I have read over two thousand of these male/male romances over the years (okay I don’t have much of a life other than books and sports and men :)), so maybe that’s why I want a story I can enjoy to go along with the sex. I love sex when it’s hot, just like everyone else, but that’s not what I’m reading in M/M lately where the sex is like doing the dishes or having cold cereal for breakfast instead of a beautiful omelette or crepes with strawberries.
I’m the first to admit that tastes vary and everyone has their own views about the amount and quality of sex in M/M romances, and some of you will disagree with this post but remember, there is a difference between erotic romance and erotica. So, how do you like your sex in M/M romances, readers? Authors, you are readers too – how do you like your M/M sex? Many authors have said the amount of sex should depend on the story and there should be no limit. But what about the quality of the sex in these books? What if there’s no story and it’s mostly sex?
Have your say. You can bitch slap me now. 🙂