Realism vs Romance by Ethan Stone

frotting1Ethan Stone loves to ask your opinions about controversial topics in M/M romance. This one is REALLY touchy, although it’s humorous. I know what I think but he’s more interested in  YOUR opinion. 🙂

Today I’m talking about realism versus romance regarding sex in books. I want to clarify up front this isn’t about the m/m genre getting it wrong because the het romance books do the same thing. And it isn’t about authors getting it wrong. We know sex in real life isn’t always like it is in the books. And it certainly isn’t about male writers doing it better than women writers.

Sex in books is always hard and rough fucking or sweet, romantic love making. The men spew like geysers and hardly need anytime at all to go at it again and again. It’s not that guys can never have orgasms close together, but most can’t do it every time. My ex-boyfriend was a rare exception, even at 46 he could still shoot multiple times in a night and do it again the next night and the next night. Unfortunately that’s about the only good thing I can say about him.

In real life there are things that occur that are not romantic or sexy at all. Anal intercourse can be messy. Forrest Gump said it best ‘Shit happens.’ And it can happen before, during and after sex. Is this something readers want in books? Personally, it’s not something I want but there are others who might like the more realistic approach.

In Dance with Me by Heidi Cullinan one of the MC’s, Laurie, thinks about the messiness of anal sex including lube leaking out of his ass when his partner pulls out.

“This was the part he had resented, he remembered now. The mess. The slight squickiness of sex, the sometimes serious squickiness. The awkward part where everyone cleaned up, where he’d stand and find himself involuntarily expelling the air that had gone in with his partner’s cock and then, inevitably, had to come back out. His first time with anal sex had seen him padding across the plush carpet of another dancer’s bedroom floor, face flaming as he farted his way to the toilet. This was the messy part of sex, and it was, he admitted, the reason he’d worked to avoid it.”

The mention of Laurie farting his way to the toilet grossed me out and took me out of the story but others raved about the realism of it. A reviewer at another well known review site liked it because it was “real, it’s true, and it’s a far cry from the romanticized, fantasy anal sex in m/m romance we usually see.” The author said it was a nod to a friend who had that happen. “It always resonated with me, the realism of it. For whatever reason I was all over that for that book,” she said.

Does that mean readers want to read what happens if a man isn’t totally clean when he gets poked. I don’t think so, but you never know.

frotting4When it comes to oral sex I like it when the characters aren’t perfect at it. Because that is realistic. I’ve had guys who are brand new to the gay scene and are awesome at giving head and there are guys who have been having gay sex for years and years who can’t do it well at all. It’s all about the teeth, guys, watch the teeth.

But there are other things that can go wrong during oral sex. What happens when the blower zigs and the blowee zags. Years ago I had a friend who showed up with a black eye one time. She was hesitant to tell me what happened but I got it out of her. She was giving her boyfriend a blow job and he was going so fast that when he pulled back and then pushed forward he poked her in the eye.

Another friend was sucking his boyfriend and using a dildo on his ass when the boyfriend fell asleep. What a downer that would be.

Fuckus Interruptus is something that has happened to me a lot in real life, but is something you don’t see too often in m/m. When I was married our kids seemed to know when we were going at it because that was when they needed something. Even nowadays it’s right when I’m in the middle of my private time when my son decides he needs to tell me something very important—like he needs batteries for the remote control.

In het romantic novels the women never have yeast infections, wear granny underwear or have random rogue hairs near their nipples.

Real life sex involves spilled lube and leg cramps. In real life men have trouble coming or even staying hard. For me nerves play a huge part in sex whether it’s with a long time boyfriend or a one night stand.

How often are these things seen in novels? Is this something readers want more of or not? Enquiring minds want to know.


  • Other Ethan!!! I can see the title of my next book as I type…My Best Friends Anal Leakage…a sure fire gastro-romance hit just begging to be written…or leaking to be written, as the case may be. I’ve even planned the sequel, There’s Something About Hairy!

    Very funny post, I giggled, laughed out loud, and blushed once or twice for all the wrong reasons.

    We’ll have to put our heads together at GRL and see if we can’t come up with an entire series. 😉

  • Great post, Ethan. Thank you for bringing this up.

    For me, it’s about the story and the characters. If the bit about the ultra-realism works well in the story and isn’t just something to get a rise/shock effect to the reader but helps to further ingrain the character’s mindset… whatever you want to put in is fine with me. If it’s just gratuitous, “Hey! Look how much I know and I want to share the nitty gritty with you!” type of passage. Then, no. Please don’t add that.

    Whatever keeps the characters in character and is part of the overall story is good. But that’s just my preference. 😀

  • I’m okay with some realism, although I don’t want huge grotty messes. I just read an historical that made the MOST revolting suggestion about the utility of rimming, and that was tooooooo much, but an occasional toot or something gone wrong is fine. As with anything else, doing it well is paramount.

  • Great topic Ethan. At RT in Chicago, I attended a workshop “Sex Scenes They Won’t Skip – Writing Realisitc Erotic Scenes”. The panelists were Damon Suede, Heidi Cullinan, Z.A Maxfield & Marie Sexton. After the great advice and much hilarity, the bottom line for me (a reader not an author) was – the best is messy & real.
    The popularity of erotica has raised the reality threshold for authors & readers but everyone’s reality ick threshold is different. Authors can’t know mine and they can’t please everyone. I guess I like a blend of both reality & fade to black in a book.
    That scene from Dance With Me made me chuckle because it happens to us hets too and not necessarily having to do with sex lol.
    Personally, as a “Catholic girl who started too late”, I appreciate the nitty gritty more. The reality was so different from the romances I read in the 1970’s & 1980’s.


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