In books that is.
Since December I’ve been slowly getting back into the M/M genre. Very slowly. I’ve been reading much more in other genres and so whenever I pick up a m/m book I’m shocked by the amount of sex. It’s like I forgot how much sex dominates the genre.
Clearly time has done nothing to change the fact that m/m basically is synonymous with erotica romance rather than just gay romance. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing since it sells well and people enjoy it. I love it. If someone’s going to have sex in a book, I’d rather the author show it than fade to black. Generally of course and there are always exceptions.
However my recent forays back into the genre have me feeling like a prude. When reading Amy Lane’s book Gambling Men, I easily fatigued on all the sex. I remember distinctly saying to myself “They’re having sex AGAIN? Why can’t they just have a relationship conversation than go to bed for once.” I fully recognize that this particular book is not a full on sex fest (like oh Sean Michael for example) and there is honestly nothing excessive about the number of sex scenes in comparison with both previous Lane books and others in the genre.
Even saying all of that I got tired of all the moaning, stretching, and cumming.
I chalk this up to reader preference and clearly my tastes are changing, as they’re wont to do. But what seriously struck me while reading books recently is that the sex scenes are fine but they’re not exactly necessary. Authors do a commendable job furthering the plot through the sex scenes but that’s because there are so many that it’s needed. Without that, the sex scenes would be distracting fluff.
This brings me to the questions on both sides.
For authors – are they incorporating sex scenes because the story calls for it (and authors like to write them)? Or are they adding so many because that’s what the genre and readers want/like?
For readers – how much sex is too much sex in an m/m book? Is there such a thing? And would you read the story anyway without the sex?
22 thoughts on “How much sex is too much?”
To be honest, I get confused. Sometimes there is definitely sex over-kill, but on the other hand, I’m editing my new story and there are two sex scenes in 31,000 words and neither one is 15 pages long. Are people going to think it’s too tame? But really, what is the point? They’re stuck in a hotel at the border crossing for 3 days, of course they are going to have sex often as it’s a new relationship (and we all know we boink like bunnies when we first hook up with someone), but is there any point in showing it? I didn’t. But you get a bit paranoid as it seems sex-fests sell better. (Not that I have visions of financial grandeur.) Apparently some publishers will demand more sex, but I can say I’ve not run into that so far and if it happened, I’d have to decline without really good justification. Not just “add three more sex scenes”.
As a reader I’ve read lots of books with no sex at all and enjoyed them. I’ve never thought after “rip-off, no sex”. I guess I know that if I’m in the mood for sex I can find books that have them, But I do go through phases where I want more sex, then others when I end up skimming sex and as you said, it’s supposed to further the plot, not just be sex for word-counts sake. I also get annoyed with inappropriate sex, sex that seems out of place. I’ve never been tempted to have sex at a funeral.
I don’t really question that sex happens in books or even a lot of sex happens. It’s realistic and sure everyone loves it but I wonder what’s the purpose? I think you hit it well when you said you can pick and choose what you want.
If I want a lot of sex and not much plot, I’ll pick up a Sean Michael or something similar and enjoy the 3 words between sex scenes. What sometimes gets to me is that a lot of the mainstream authors in the genre tend to have a lot of sex in their books. I never really noticed and clearly that’s a sign of my tastes changes but now I pick up books by authors I loved and notice there is a lot of sex in there. And prior to this preference change I mostly noticed when there -wasnt- a lot of sex. Not in a negative way but since it’s so prevalent, it stood out.
Sometimes I think sex filled books either sell more or have the impression of such.
If you find yourself getting excited because the two main characters are having a simple conversation instead of having more sex then there is way to much sex.
I like sex scenes but I am fine with fade to black as well. What I do find disappointing that there doesn’t seem to be any sort of build up to these scenes anymore. Its more like insta-sex without the anticipation of those scenes that use to be such a presence in romance. I have noticed this happening more and more in m/f books as well
ooh excellent point! I do so love tension. It’s one of the main reasons that tv shows do so well is because people love sexual tension. I’m with you in that i wish there was more of that. I tire easily on sex when the main couple is having it in the first chapter because where else is there to go from that beginning? Good point that it’s happening more and more.. you’re totally right.
This is all personal preference. I’ve read books where I’ve been wanting the characters to have sex and then there are books that I’ve been baffled by random sex encounters but other people have felt differently.
I know there is a consensus amongst romance readers that erotica=gay romance but in reality, the people who read erotic romance in all pairings know this isn’t true. By definition, erotic romance is a romance story where the sex moves the plot forward or where the heat level is very high but the ending involves an HEA or a strong HFN.
Saying all that, I write specifically erotic romance. I really enjoy writing sex scenes but I don’t write unnecessary sex scenes. Each one moves the plot forward, whether it is character development or it would be the natural progression of their relationship.
Oh it’s definitely personal preference, no question. I don’t think erotica=gay romance but I do think gay romance=erotica. Mainly because there is so little of gay romance that doesn’t involve heavy erotica. I get that it’s about sex moving the plot forward – but I also think there is the caveat to that where the plot could be moved forward in another way too. It doesn’t -always- have to be a sex scene.
I really do love and enjoy sex scenes where it’s a natural extension of the characters’ love or fits the moment. Give me some great makeup sex or hate sex or even that first I love you so much sex. These are endless examples of great moments where sex is natural and people want that extension. But there also tends to be the default to sex scenes as a way to move the plot forward too. Show this couple is super in love with another devoted sex scene. Yes it gets the job done but it’s going to be repetitive soon.
As a writer, I tend to write them cause they fit the situation… that’s all.
I’m definitely more a romance than a erotica writer, though I don’t shy away from sex scenes, I just don’t always feel they’re needed.
My newest story doesn’t have any sex scenes, though it does have a rather erotic scene in it. After finishing it, I wondered about it, and let it go. It didn’t feel right, so, I didn’t write it.
As a reader, I like books with or without sex scenes. Though, if there are too many generic ones, I skip them… I mostly read for the story, sex scenes are just a nice bonus 😉
Well said on both accounts! I do think some books tend to lean towards more natural sex scenes and others don’t. I love both kinds. I, like you so eloquently said, read for the story, the sex is just a nice cherry.
I’ve never read a story and thought “damn, I want some explicit sex.” Though I did kind of feel that way about Charlie Cochrane’s series until I realized how much I’d hate to ruin the semi-privacy of the characters. The sex just wouldn’t fit.
For me, as an author and publisher, if the sex doesn’t advance the plot in some way, then the scene needs to be cut. Sex can be a plot device, but it needs to be used as such. I think a lot of the sex in these novels are actually filler to boost up the ‘hotness’ content and the word count. Higher word count/more sex, usually means higher price/more sales.
As a reader, if I find an author who does the above, using sex just for sex’s sake, they quickly go on my no-buy list. I don’t was 50% plot and 50% pointless sex. I want all plot with awesome sex woven in to advance that plot. I think this leaning toward the former is why I don’t buy many books anymore. Hot sex is great and all, but for me, it has to serve a purpose. If not, then it’s gratuitous, and I have better ways to spend my time. 🙂
Great point and I’m quickly becoming that way. I categorize my reading for what I want. If I want random sex then I want to know which authors do that (and there are MANY) so fine. But what bothers me is that I’m seeing more and more sex that yes, advances the plot, but it seems the easy way out to do it. Hey more sex, everyone loves it and I can justify it with a purpose.
Which is fine, up to a point. By the third or fourth scene of this in a book I start to fatigue.
For me it’s no different than having a snarky, butt kicking action hero that gets out of a scrape by either saying something witty or “somehow” escaping. Sure that works and it’s explained but when it happens over and over again, you want something else.
Amanda nailed it: “If you find yourself getting excited because the two main characters are having a simple conversation instead of having more sex then there is way to much sex.”
The latest offering from Cameron Dane was a good example – waaaay too much sex, and it was poorly written, purple prose sex at that. I only made it through the book by skimming/skipping the sex so I could find the tiny bits of plot in between sex scenes.
I’m not a fan of purple prose (gah) but just the same I’m not a fan of repetition either. A certain amount of it is fine but I can get to the point of predicting certain sex scenes are going to happen with pretty good accuracy. Making food=sex, arguing=sex, going to bed/waking up=sex, working out=sex.
Purple prose is formulaic but sometimes I’m not sure the obvious and repetitiveness of sex scenes is any better.
I think that there’s more sex generally in fiction. I’m seeing more of it in contemporary f/m romance these days – it’s hard to tell where the line crosses from contemporary to erotic romance.
I prefer open door sex to fade to black (in general, but there are some exceptions of course) but I don’t like sex when it doesn’t move the story along. KA Mitchell books have great and frequent sex scenes for example and I would have liked one *more* in her most recent book because the ending felt abrupt and a bit unsettled for me.
If the rest of the book isn’t grabbing me, then the sex scenes will probably hold little interest for me and if there isn’t any rest of the book, then I’ll probably ditch it. 🙂
I totally agree it’s eeking into other areas. I was reading a contemporary mystery recently when suddenly the main couple was having graphic sex. It made sense for the characters and their relationship but for me it was totally out of the blue. I was expecting a fade to black due to the genre. Very jarring.
I do think that final sex scene is pretty tricky. Either it tends to be too much or not enough. There have been a couple of books where I thought the book was over – everything wrapped up, final happy sex scene only to turn the page to a new chapter and start the ending all over again.
I’m fine if the sex moves the story along (which is the general rule) but I guess I wish sometimes the sex was the best way to move the story along rather than just one potential (and kind of easy) way to move it. But that’s personal preference no doubt.
I won’t read a book with sex scenes that are all fade-to-black. I think, for me, it makes me feel as if the author is trying to put a curtain up over the character’s lives that isn’t necessary.
It’s okay to fade-to-black on sex scenes that don’t add anything to a plot. But there is ALWAYS a sexual encounter with established couples and new couples that opens up character traits. ALWAYS. We reveal ourselves during sex, even if it’s to reveal that we’re buttoned up tight by controlling emotion/sound. Being naked with someone make you vulnerable and it’s in that vulnerability that things are revealed. Block me out of that moment, and I probably won’t read your stuff again =/. (unless we’re talking YA, which I rarely read anyway). If you’re not comfortable showing your characters in those moments of vulnerability, even if i’ts not graphic, then, imo, you’re either insulting me by thinking I’m perving on your peeps, or you’re a little too close to your characters and think they deserve modesty that they do not =P.
I’ll skip sex scenes that are excessive or do nothing to advance the plot. And my eyes will roll out of my head and try to escape my rage if characters have sex in ridiculous places/at ridiculous times.
I’m glad you brought this up, Kassa. I had a lot of people email me about how upset they were that I hadn’t included a penetrative sex scene. As you can tell by above, I’m not a prude about it, but I’m also about timing and plot advancement. If it doesn’t fit the characters/the story, it doesn’t go in.
I don’t mind fade to black honestly and there are a couple romances where that happens frequently. I know some authors that never include graphic sex scenes no matter what. Usually it fits the tone of the book or the author’s voice and I don’t mind then either.
I just want the sex scene to either make sense or have a purpose. I can’t imagine anyone actually being upset that there isn’t graphic sex. I mean .. sex isn’t necessary to any plot by any means. I think sex is a fun way to advance the plot but I don’t think it’s necessary in any story. In fact I can’t think of a single story where the sex couldn’t be taken out and replaced with something else. Perhaps the sex is the -best- way to advance the plot and therefore works better than an alternative method but I also there are other ways to get the end goal than just sex scenes.
In short – I’m shocked you got complaints.
Sometimes I read a book and there’s a lot of sex in it but I don’t notice because it’s all very well written and integrated into the story. Other times the sex is so repetitive that it’s dull and I skip it. It honestly depends on the author and the book as to how much is too much for me in terms of the sex scenes. On the other hand I don’t mind reading a book with very little, or no sex. I like variety and luckily in this genre I can find it very easily :).
Gah wordpress ate my comment so I’ll try again. I do agree there is a lot of variety in the genre but at the same time I think it’s a chance on whether the sex will work. It’s kind of like the plot itself. You pick a book and hope the various elements – sex, characters, plot, writing – all work but you can’t really tell ahead of time what those elements will be. I think it’s hard to tell if a book will have graphic sex, fade to black, or something in between. So while I like variety, sometimes it’s because that variety happens upon you rather than choosing it.
Hmmm, this is a very good question. Sometimes too much sex is not always because of quantity but rather the quality as well. I have a book in which the sex (in terms of pages) is not much, but because it feels too “bland”, with the banal mechanical one-two-three-fingers-scissors-condom-lube-penetration-cumming … it already feels too much.
But I tend to agree with what Amanda said there. If I start to wish for more actions or conversations or activities outside the bedroom (or sex) that means that there’s too much sex for me. If I start to skim over the sex scenes, that means that there’s too much sex for me. It’s just that most of the times, the sex are there but don’t do anything for the plot or character building.
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