> Queer Books Please: What is sexy? Some thoughts, and a GIVEAWAY!

Friday, June 14, 2013

What is sexy? Some thoughts, and a GIVEAWAY!

I read a lot of romance novels for the podcast. It's not the only thing I read, but it's one my top guilty pleasures. Yes I like serious literature that tries to explore and capture the human condition. And I like fantastic, plot based genre fiction that seeks to surprise and amaze. But frankly, sometimes you just want to read something, knowing that you're going to get to read about women related sensually with each other. And I think those sort of scenes have a place not only in romance novels, but any sort of novel.

What I'm saying is, I like sexy stuff in my books.

 But what is sexy?

I'm going to give you a couple of thoughts on that question--and then I want to hear what you think. What do you think is sexy?

At the end of this post, I've set up a survey to try and figure out what other readers of lesbian fiction think is sexy in their literature. Fill it out and I'll enter you to win a book of my bookshelf. It might even be a sexy book!    

What do I think is sexy? I have a couple general thoughts on the matter.  

1. It's not all about what your nipples are doing 

One the silliest cliches in lesbian romances is the moment where one love interest catches sight of the object of her desire, and finds her so magnetic and so attractive... that her nipples immediately get hard. (stiffen, turn into hard peaks, pebble (!!!) So many ways to say it. I give some more examples in episode 5...) Sometimes I think lesbian romances are so clinical about describing the physiological responses of the aroused body that they forget that what makes a truly memorable and exciting sex scene are characters with great characters, where the sex means something.

Last week on the podcast I got very excited about the relationship in RULEBREAKER, a science fiction romance by Cathy Pegau. The relationship between Liv and Zia lacks some of the dramatic passion and conflict that often characterizes the romances in these novels. Instead their feelings blossom, not just because they are attracted to each other, but because they work well together and respect each other as friends as collegues. I know this sounds dorky, but I think that can be totally sexy!

My point is this: sexiness is not about how much sex is in a book, and how detailed a description you give of each and ever act. A romance is going to delight me because the lovers have genuine chemistry between them that feels both real and hot. And I think it's important for authors to remember that being a lesbian in a lesbian relationship is not only about the kind of sex you have. It's also about romantic feelings that transcend what's going to happen in the bed. If that isn't acknowledged in the relationship, it is going to feel half hearted.

.... on the other hand ...

2. In defense of explicitness. 

I've spoken with people who really don't like explicit sex when they're reading. Sometimes it makes them uncomfortable, or it feels gratuitous, or they just don't think the stuff that gets described seems very sexy. I suspect some of this has to do with personal preferences--if the couple are engaged in some act that you don't care much for yourself, maybe that turns you off completely. Or maybe they're talking about something you do like--does it hit too close to home? I've never minded reading about sex myself. But I want to defend explicit sex scenes, because I think, particularly in lesbian fiction, they serve a really important purpose.

You see, all lesbians don't approach sex in the same way. There are a lot of different ways we can get down, different acts, different levels of reciprocation. With heterosexual sex, rightly or wrongly, there's lots of stuff that can happen, but it tends to be leading up to missionary position intercourse. Ta da! The big finish.

What's the big finish for a lesbian couple? It definitely depends on the couple.

All this is to say that the particulars of a lesbian couple's sex life in a novel can be a lovely and fascinating way to reveal character. Fading to black may be tasteful, but the reader misses out, not just on a bit of sexiness, but on some real interesting information on the relationship.

TIPPING THE VELVET by Sarah Waters may be one of the finer examples of extremely sexy scenes used for greater literary purpose than simple titillation. Nan King has a number of different sexual experiences, many of them rather detailed, but those details work to show how Nan goes from naive to jaded to someone capable of a relationship based on mutual respect and equality.TIPPING THE VELVET is fun because it's a super sexy, exciting book to read. But it's great because those sex scenes aren't just about sex, but about power, self-confidence, hedonism, and about coming of age, and growing up into a better person than you once were.

So what do you think? Do you want sex in your lesbian fiction--how much?  Fill out this survey!! And I'm going to send away at least two books from my bookshelf to people who contribute, so there's definitely something in it for you! Here's some of the books I have to offer: THE DAUGHTERS OF MOAB by Kim Westwood, STRANGERS IN PARADISE vol 1, TIPPING THE VELVET by Sarah Waters, KISSING THE WITCH by Emma Donoghue, SPIN STATE by Chris Moriarty, BATTLE SCARS by Meghan O'Brien, COMMENCEMENT by J Courtney Sullivan, THE WRESTLING PARTY by Bett Williams, and Y THE LAST MAN vol 1.

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  1. Thanks for the shout out : )

    I like to read and write on the more sensual side of things, though enjoy a good explicitly worded romance now and again. But no matter if the couple sleeps together the day they meet just for the sake of having sex or if they're consummating a long, emotional dance, I want to know what's going on in their heads as well as to their bodies.


  2. I think that's a really good way to put it. And it's weird, because sometimes I think being very specific about what's going on in the bed can help illuminate the head stuff... but sometimes it can overshadow it. Maybe that's a length thing, too. Once you start getting into a true play by play, it's easy to let the scene go on way longer than it needs to be.