Does sex in literature kill the romance?

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I’m not a prude. I have no objection to reading about sex, but for some reason any description of sex in literature kills the romance for me. In fact the most romantic books are those in which the couple aren’t even together, but separated by a war or other uncontrollable event. That feeling of longing is so romantic and beats most occasions when the couple is actually together.

The most romantic book I’ve ever read is The Time Traveler’s Wife the couple’s love for each other heightened by Henry’s continual time travelling. There is so much truth in the old saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”.

I think the best sex scenes are those in which the bedroom door is firmly closed to us. Knowing what our favourite characters get up to ruins their magic for me – I’d much prefer to leave all the sex scenes up to the imagination. Sex isn’t a subject that we normally discuss, so what one couple finds normal, another will find very strange. I don’t want to feel weird because I know too much about a couple, however fictional. I want to feel their love through knowing glances and a shared happiness.

Edited to add:

I’ve just been reading a beautifully romantic scene in the otherwise wonderful Cutting for Stone and thought it was an excellent example of sex ruining everything:

Without removing myself from within her, I rolled onto my back, holding her, flipping her, and setting her on top of me, her breasts hovering over me.
“You need to pee? Go ahead,” I said, my breath coming quick.
“You’ve done that before, too.”
I grabbed her shoulders and pulled her  to me hard. I smelled her fever, and the scent of blood and sex and urine. I came again.

Do you think that sex in literature kills the romance?

Which is the most romantic book you’ve read?

Visit the weekly geeks for more discussions on romance, sex and love.

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  1. Stujallen says:

    yes can be off putting read roths humbling a book full of sex it wasn’t great ,favourite romantic book ,the english patient full of pictures of a couple falling in love or p s i love you a lovely storey

    1. Jackie says:

      Stujallen, I haven’t read Humbling, but have heard that Roth is notoriously bad at sex scenes. I haven’t read The English Patient either, but having seen the film I can see that it could be romantic. Thanks for the recommendation.

      1. marc nash says:

        Hah yes! Roth is bad at sex scenes. One could draw some analysis from that fact, but I’ll refrain!

  2. marc nash says:

    It’s an interesting thought but then what do you feel about violence being described in either action novels, thrillers or even literary ones? I can’t comment about romance genre because I don’t read or write it, but in literary genre you can reveal so much about character and relationship through the physical intimacy. For example, I have a 4 page section of a novel where after a sesh in bed, the MC is desperate to prolong the connection and uses various parts of her body to stop the callow youth from opening his mouth and prattling to spoil the moment. What she does isn’t inherently sexual, such as putting her finger across his lips to shush him, or shaking her head with the tresses flowing free, but if I’ve done my job right, there is a sexual association behind each movement and it becomes a kind of after-play as they manoeuvre for the upper hand – he to speak, she to prevent him. Plenty of crackling tension, but no out and out sex.

    Isn’t sex just another metaphor for human beings, relationships and emotional states like any other? I love physical descriptions beyond the obvious what the eyes are doing and how something is said. In dialogue sections, I always find myself wondering what the speaker’s hands and feet are doing!

    But a good question to throw out there.

    1. Jackie says:

      marc, Thank you for the thoughtful comment!

      I don’t have a problem with violence, as long as it is an important part of the plot and not just there to entertain people with a sick mind!

      I don’t mind reading about sex in books either, but don’t find that it is romantic. Perhaps it is a difference between the genders? I think the fact that your long section has plenty of sexual tension, but no actual sex is good. I haven’t read it, but can see how something like that could be romantic.

      I agree with you about the physical descriptions too. I’m not a fan of long dialogue and like detailed descriptions of behaviour too. I think it is often important to mention sex in a novel, or imply that it is taking place. I just don’t want a detailed description of what takes place.

      1. marc nash says:

        Thanks Jackie, sad to report it isn’t romantic because for the male it’s a one night stand and ultimately she is unable to bend him to her yearning to keep the moment and the glow going.

  3. Stacy says:

    Sometimes sex in literature can work. It can be romantic and deepen the relationship. Other times it just seems like too much information and I tend to skim through those pages. Doesn’t bother me to skim through a few pages if the rest of the book is good.

    1. Jackie says:

      Stacy, Can you give me some examples of books in which sex has helped to deepen a relationship and come across as romantic? I can’t think of any!

      I don’t skim over the sex scenes – they often give me a giggle! LOL!

      1. Andreanna says:

        i have to agree with stacy, and if you need to really look at any books, the historical fiction genre is notorious for it romantic interludes, be they just fore play, or the actual sex. yes it is akin to avasion of privacy, but it also helps us to understand the relationship between characters somewhat better.

  4. It depends, the sex in a novel like Crash by J.G. Ballad is absolutely vital. It’s far from being romantic but it still needs to be there. I think that, most times, if a book is aiming to be romantic the emotional engagement it produces can be ruined by the inclusion of sex. By giving all the details of the “act” the “reality” of the romance is ruined. I don’t know whether in the romance genre (Mills & Boon etc…do they have sex in them?) that the reader wants to project themselves as the person who is seduced and everything that goes with it, and so by revealing the act of copulation it ruins the illusion. Or something, I don’t know.

    talking about badly written sex, didn’t Updike win an award for the all time worst sex in fiction

    1. Jackie says:

      DamnedConjuror, I haven’t read Crash, but know that sex is important in a lot of books – they tend not to be there for romantic purposes though.

      It has been ages since I read a true romance book, so don’t remember how much sex they have in them. That is an interesting question though. Hopefully someone else will know the answer.

      Updike won a lifetime achievement award for bad sex in literature!

      I was reading some of the bad sex award nominees earlier today – very funny!

      1. I knew it. I actually kind of enjoy it whenever the author has written a sex scene that tries too hard (does that warrant a “oooh matron”?) it’s so gloriously terrible you can’t help but laugh. I suppose I’m quite puerile at heart, give me a dictionary and I’ll go straight to the “foul” words.

        this is kind of related, but did you ever watch the prog. on BBC4 about the woman who was trying to write a book for Mills & Boon? It was quite interesting seeing how much work you have to put into writing one of them. And here I was thinking that it’s just, successful woman meets billionaire playboy who after seeing her has to settle down but there’s some complication, oh no! he’s actually a bloody mutant…a sexy, six-packed mutant!

        1. Jackie says:

          DamnedConjuror, No I missed that Mills and Boom programme – it sounds interesting though.

  5. Amanda says:

    What you say about the Time Traveler’s Wife is strange to me. There was so much very descriptive sex in there that it killed any romance for me. I’m not a prude either, but I thought much of what was in there was completely gratuitous.

    1. Jackie says:

      Amanda, It has been a long time since I read TTW, so perhaps I’m just forgetting the sex. I thought there were very few sex scenes in the book – one where Henry has sex with his younger self and one other. I wish I had a copy of TTW here so I could read them and see if they ruin the romance.

  6. Bitsy says:

    For me it’s not the fact that sex is in the romance novels that ruin the romance for me, it’s the super explicit sex that ruins it for me. If it gets to the point where parts are named and acts explicitly described that is a bit much and you clearly are not creating a scene for character development or story advancement it’s just sex for the sake of sex. That doesn’t add to a story.

    Now if the sex is integral to the part and if it’s written tastefully and not titillatingly – perhaps leaving some things to the readers imagination – it can hugely add to the book. Especially if the sex adds to the story in a meaningful way.

    I agree with most commenters here though, I describe my ideal and most books fall far short of that. Writing a sex scene is an art. You can be a great writer but totally crap at writing sex. To be honest most of what is out there is not meaningful or even romantic, just lolarious.

    1. Jackie says:

      Bitsy, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time. I think you’re right about sex needing to be a part of the story, but I think the more explicit it is the worse it is – I often find that even taseful sex will temporarily spoil the romance for me.

      There was a lot of sex in 2666 and The Slap but I didn’t mind as I never felt it was supposed to be romantic. I think that sex can be successfully used to make other points in a book, but not to increase romance.

      1. Bitsy says:

        Exactly. It has to be something that adds to the story itself (character, plot, theme) and not be a gratuitous addition for no reason to be a worthwhile addition to the story.

        Unfortunately all of my examples of this come from fanfiction where there is less shame attached to it and more freedom to explore it and implement it than in the printed word where it is branded with a scarlet letter and pigeonholed into one specific genre.

  7. was there sex in Time Traveller’s Wife? I cannot remember any….although, tbh, I can’t really remember that book very well

    1. Jackie says:

      DamnedConjuror, There was, but I don’t think there was very much. I don’t remember though, so perhaps I’ve just blocked it all from my mind!

  8. pussreboots says:

    You know… I should have added Odysseus and Penelope to my list of romantic couples. You can see my post here.

    1. Jackie says:

      pussreboots, I’ll come and take a look at your list!

  9. Sandy says:

    I’ve actually given this some thought. And I think you are right. Romantic scenes in the movies can work, but in print, not usually. Now, with the example of TTW, I’m not sure. Something about a naked guy showing up in front of a child seems a little creepy, and not the least bit romantic, but I will give it the benefit of a doubt as I haven’t read it. Usually the sex scenes seem pretty cheap, even well done.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, Many people have questioned the paedophilia aspect of TTW, but I didn’t see it that way at all. I think you should try to read it, as I’m sure you’ll love it.

      You are right about sex scenes working in the movies. Perhaps it is because they don’t use words?

  10. Jenny says:

    I started reading your post thinking you were totally wrong, and then I couldn’t think of any books where I felt the sex scenes made the romance work better (apart from The Time Traveler’s Wife). It’s usually far more effective for the author to use implication and asterisks, I think.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I think implication is the best way of building the romance, but perhaps you’ll think of some examples to prove me wrong soon?!

  11. I like the sex being implied, not shown. Or it becomes porn instead of romance in a novel…

    Here is my Weekly Geeks post!

    1. Jackie says:

      gautami tripathy, You’re right – a lot of the sex scenes in literature feel like porn. It just isn’t romantic.

  12. I am totally in the no explicit anatomical sex camp! To me the exchange of words rather than fluids can be much more romantic. There is, for example, the scene in Jane Eyre when Rochester talks to Jane about the possibility of her leaving Britain for Ireland:

    “…I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you – especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly.”

    To me, that’s romantic!

    1. claire says:

      I don’t mind sex in lit, but nothing too explicit or it kills it for me too. Kundera, for example, I love him, but sometimes there’s too much of it I want left out. It can be done subtly without overt description. I love Jill’s comment above. Ditto.

      1. Jackie says:

        Claire, I haven’t read any Kundera, but hopefully I’ll get round to it soon. Hopefully the sex wont bother me too much. Thanks for the warning.

    2. Jackie says:

      rhapsodyinbooks, Fantastic quote! You’re right – that is really romantic! Jane Austen writes some very romantic things.

  13. Louise says:

    Good question. I do not tend to read many romances – in fact, its been years since I’ve actually picked one up on purpose. I don’t remember how the sex is described in that particular genre, except I’ve always felt that it involved eye-rolling giggling rather than breathless, romantic wanting on my part. I am not a great romantic myself, perhaps that is why?

    Sometimes I’ve picked up a book thinking it was say a thriller, and then it turns out it is a romantic thriller. I have just finished reading one of those now, and I have to say that I am not impressed and am thinking about writing a scathing review. I haven’t read such a silly book in a long time. The crime wasn’t well thought out and the romance was not romantic at all. And the sex was described in a way that only made me yawn and laugh.

    1. Jackie says:

      Louise, I haven’t read anything from the romance genre for ages either, but a large amount of literature contains love stories. I haven’t seen any eye-rolling giggling, so perhaps they are only present in some sorts of romance that I’m glad I’ve managed to avoid.

      I look forward to seeing your romantic thriller review – it sounds as though you could provide us with some amusing quotes!

  14. Interesting question, I can’t think of sex scenes being romantic in any books have read but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be in it as charcaters should be real and real people have sex. Not answering the same question but I do think there are lots of books where sex is vital such as the above mentioned Crash or In The Cut or Lust Caution the way the characters have sex says a massive amount about there personality, intentions etc etc

    I don’t think its porn though. Porn will be placed somewhere far different publishers are well aware of the lines!

    I also think romance is subjective, not by gender (that seems to easy and a bit presumptous) but just by our personalitys. I hate being bought flowers and think they should stay in the gardens, field etc rather than die in my flat for a few days glory… Other people think red roses are love! Good discussion topic!

    1. Jackie says:

      Savidge Reads,

      You raise a few interesting points. I think that the difference between porn and the sex scenes I’ve seen in some literature is only in the length and frequency of its appearance in a book. A book wont be classified as porn if it only includes a few pages of graphic sex, but if the graphicness of that same scene was repeated frequently then it would certainly be on the porn shelf.

      I agree that romance is subjective. There is a big gender split, but there are exceptions to every rule. I’m not a fan of flowers either!

      I hope you are having a romantic Valentines day however you decide to celebrate!

  15. Ellie says:

    Maybe because I’m the type of person that does talk about sex with friends that I don’t find it off putting in books. I’m not much of a romatic either, so lots of fluffy stuff with no sex at the end doesn’t seem very real. I read plenty of books without sex, don’t get me wrong, but if it’s about a ‘romantic’ relationship, I sort of expect it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Ellie, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time! I do think that books need to let us know when the characters are having sex, but if I want to feel the romance then I don’t want to know all the gory details – I prefer to leave it up to my imagination. Perhaps I’m just not used to talking about it though – good point.

  16. winnie says:

    I am for the most part very open about sex. But, when in love with someone I do agree it should be kept in the bedroom behind closed doors. What you share with someone special is excactly that. between the two of you. Only you and that other person should know how you make each other feel. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Jackie says:

      winnie, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time! I think you’re right – sex should be kept behind closed doors. Literature is a strange situation as we do need to get to know the characters., but I stand by my statement that reading about sex kills the romance in a book.

  17. Hm, interesting topic. I think sex and romance in novels are both mutually exclusive and subjective. I can’t think of a lot of novels that have sex in them that I have read recently; A Single Man had a sex fantasy/masturbation scene that had nothing to do with romance. Last year I read Love in the Time of Cholera, which is an intense love story with a lot of sex scenes but the sex is between the male protagonist and other women; I think GGM writes sex scenes well. I also read Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, which stands out as a major love story although I can’t remember whether there were any sex scenes. One of my favourite love stories is predictably Pride and Prejudice and I do prefer when love is explored and the sexual only intimated or not even relevant.

    I think there is also a huge difference between pornographic literature (i.e. Crash) and erotica (i.e. Nin); I loathed the former example and adore Nin. Sarah Waters also does sex well and I don’t think it detracts from the romance.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, I agree that Sarah Waters does sex well, but that is lesbian literature so it is difficult for me to judge how romantic it is, as I think I’m reading it in a different way to heterosexual relationships.

      I haven’t read Crash or Nin, so can’t comment on either of them, but it sounds as though we’re in agreement that sex needs to be absent for romance to develop properly.

  18. Isabella says:

    My problem with sex in novels has to do with the fact that, most of the time, it’s very poorly written. And that’s because, even while it’s a pretty universal experience, everyone’s individual likes and dislikes are so different. One person’s turn-on is someone else’s idea of disgusting, or ridiculous. Translate to the page, and, well, it probably won’t be read in the tone the author intended by agreat many people.

    There’s a lot of sex without romance, and it’s often reasonably well done, for the same reason as above — it’s the fact of it that matters that any emotional or romantic tone. It’s essential in books by Houellebecq, for example, and it might make me a bit emotionally uncomfortable but that’s kind of the point.

    Two recent reads of mine come to mind where I think sex is essential to the romance. The sex scenes aren’t particularly graphic, but there’s nothing coy about them either. One is Atonement, by Ian McEwan (which I didn’t much like particularly, but I think this sex scene is intensely romantic); the other is Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence (to answer your question, this is THE most romantic book I’ve read in a while). Interestingly, in both cases the sex is early on, after which there is long separation, which serves to heighten the romance. That sexual bond makes the romance of it all that much more believable (because romance without sex isn’t very realistic either).

    1. Jackie says:


      I think that a lot of authors struggle with sex scenes. I think they over think them, worry about their friends and family reading them and then edit them too much, making them feel unnatural. Sex in hard hitting books (I presume Houllebecq falls into this category, but haven’t him it so am not sure) works because the author probably has no fear of this sort of thing and isn’t trying to create romance anyway.

      It is interesting that your two examples occurred at the beginning of the book. I can see how sex after a long separation would be romantic, but I still don’t want to know the details!

  19. Louise says:

    After having written my first comment, I got to think. Some years ago I read a lot of vampire books. The particular series (Anita Blake Vampire Hunter) started out with some rather erotic scenes between the protagonists, and along the way, the sex became very steamy. Fine with me. The books are not meant to be romantic as such, and I have no problem with erotica. Then after the first 6-7 books, the sex became so weird and while we are in a fantasy world, it just became too much, it became less erotic and more pornographic. Now I don’t mind pornography (within the frameworks of the law) either from an academic point of view, but I don’t read it, I don’t watch it and am not interested in it at all. So I had to put that series away, and haven’t read it since then. It simply became too much.

    Now, the book I just finished (must write review soon ;) ) had some very silly sex descriptions, and it tried hard to be romantic. I don’t know, but I just don’t find things like “Her female lips” (and no, the writer was not talking about the lips on a person’s face) neither romantic nor sexy.

    1. Jackie says:

      Louise, I think a big problem with sex scenes is the terms they use. Too medical and it loses all romance, too vulgar and half your audience will be offended. The “female lips” euphemisms is a middle ground, but unfortunately it just makes people laugh. Authors can’t win – they need to avoid the sex scenes all together.

  20. Julie says:

    I think Clare and Henry are my favorite romantic couple in a book for sure, but if I recall, they had sex all the time! It was actually something I liked about them. It wasn’t routine and boring, but fun. I guess them being seperated by time did make the times they were together better.

    I just finished “Cutting For Stone”, which I thought was a great book! I was really disturbed though by the scene you wrote about. After all that waiting, that sex sounded awful and not romantic at all!

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    1. Jackie says:

      Julie, I must have forgotten about all the sex and am ruining my own argument by highlighting that book as being the most romantic!

      Cutting for Stone is fantastic. I’ve just finished it, but still think that sex scene was very odd. I’d love to know why Verghese made her wee on him, but I’m too scared to ask!

  21. I think this is more a case of references to peeing during sex ruining the mood. I, for one, do not want to smell urine while I’m enjoying a nice roll in the hay.

    But I’m glad you’re enjoying Cutting for Stone. It is really wonderful.

    1. Jackie says:

      Rebecca, That was an extreme example, but I think it shows that people have very different tastes in the bedroom. Urine ruins the mood for me (or at least I assume it would – I’ve never tried LOL!) but in reading a lot of sex scenes I don’t remember any being romantic.

  22. heidenkind says:

    I think sex in literature CAN work, but people need to realize that sex is rarely romantic. If you think about it, it’s kinda gross, actually. So I usually prefer the dot dot dot style of writing sex scenes–unless of course I’m reading the book FOR the sex scenes, in which case write away, authors. ;)

    1. Jackie says:

      heidenkind, Exactly! Reading about sex isn’t romantic and so it should be left out if that is the mood the author is trying to create.

  23. Dorte H says:

    Well, sex does not necessarily kill romance, but I think there a lots of superfluous sex scenes in books. Usually I don´t exactly mind them, but I am not terribly interested in reading them either.

    When I write a manuscript, I do add a few sex scenes, but that is mostly because modern readers expect fictional characters to have a sex life so … Sometimes the scenes are necessary for the plot, though, and in that case the should of course be written properly and convincingly.

    1. Jackie says:

      Dorte, I find it interesting that you add sex scenes just because people expect them. I’m not sure that they do and I think I’d only add them if they were needed for the plot. Interesting…

      1. Dorte H says:

        I can hear this came across a bit weird!?

        What I mean is that the first detectives were not real human beings, just detectives (Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes etc). Today detectives are real people so they have families, holidays, etc. So modern Danish readers certainly expect an argument and a bit of sex now and then. I might prefer happy marriages, but they are not regarded realistic.

        1. Jackie says:

          Dorte, Don’t worry – I knew what you meant! I just wonder whether anyone would actually complain if there wasn’t a sex scene in a book? Everyone goes to the toilet and washes their clothes etc but this is rarely in a book. I’m not sure that anyone would notice if a book lacked a sex scene, but perhaps I’m not the typical thriller reader, so don’t know much?

  24. Lu says:

    Sometimes I think a well-written sex scene is just what a book needs and might not ruin the romance, but when I think back on those sex scenes, they’re usually much more metaphor and simile driven than descriptive sex. That sex scene you used is a perfect example of a terrible one. I almost laughed out loud when I read it. Or vomited. Not sure which one would have been more appropriate.

    1. Jackie says:

      Lu, Perhaps I should forward the above quote to the bad sex in literature awards! I think I have read some reasonable sex scenes, but they leave almost everything unsaid. I wish I could think of a specific example. I’ll have to keep looking!

  25. marc nash says:

    To judge from most of the comments here, seems you can write anatomical & squelchy details in literary fiction,where it’s more likely to be about degradation, or power games or some such, than actual romance. Whereas the narrative of Romance Lit is presumably far more about the gradual drawing together of two people, than their actual consummation which may even take place after the final page of the book. The funny thing about that to my mind, is that makes the narrative one long tease, cos you know they’re going to get down and do the wild thing in the end!

    1. Jackie says:

      marc, I think detailed sex works when the book is portraying violence – it makes the scene even more shocking. In romantic fiction it just doesn’t work (in my opinion) perhaps this is an example of the male/female divide and women just don’t find any mention of sex romantic?

      1. marc nash says:

        Begs the question as to whether there is a gender divide in this particular genre; ie is there any sizeable male romance-buying constituency out there?

  26. Jenners says:

    I’m with you on Time Traveler’s Wife … I thought it was very romantic! And I’m with you … I do think the actual sex scenes don’t often work. It is just too silly. I think what is even sexier is when there is some obstacle in the way. Honestly, the reason the Twilight books worked for me was because they couldn’t really DO anything and there was all this longing and wishing but nothing happened but it made you ACHE for it to happen. I hope that is clear!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, I can see why you’d find the Twilight series romantic. I was too annoyed with the book to get caught up in the romance, but all the elements of love and longing are there.

  27. Meghan says:

    I do read actual romance novels and there are practically always sex scenes in them. To be honest, it rarely takes away from the romance for me, but I think I’d prefer the books without the sex! I know it’s part of life and it seems natural for them to be doing it, but I prefer the door shut unless it’s furthering the plot or relationship in some way. The only book I can think of that did this was Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie, where the physical intimacy revealed a lot about the characters’ weaknesses and helped them grow as a couple.

    That sex scene you quoted made me feel ill. That would certainly kill the romantic mood for me, in real life or in fiction. *shudder*

    1. Jackie says:

      Meghan, I haven’t read Welcome to Temptation, but can see how a well written scene could reveal character strengths/weaknesses.

      The author of Cutting for Stone was doing a live Q&A on the web today. I was tempted to ask him about that scene, but in the end I chickened out!

  28. Wonderful post! I dont read many romance books for just this reason. I am just not into reading about anyones sex life.

    I do however like how you said that it should be behind closed doors and that I agree with. I just read The Hotel On Bitter And Sweet and it is a wonderful romantic book in my opinion. Dear John by Nicholas Sparks would be another one. There is one sex scene but no details to go with it. Those books I enjoy.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sheila, I have Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet on my wishlist. Unfortunately it isn’t published in the UK so I either have to wait a while or cave in and buy it from overseas. I am tempted to spend the money…

  29. Steph says:

    To me it’s so funny that you mentioned Time Traveler’s Wife as being romantic because one thing that really stuck out to me in that book was the sex scenes, which I found really explicit and uncomfortable! I think most books I’ve found romantic are the ones that leave a lot unsaid so that there’s a lot of simmering and stewing, and as you said, things left to the imagination. I think it’s hard to talk about sex in a way that makes it actually sexy!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I think that perhaps so much time has passed since I read it that I’ve forgotten the sex scenes. I’m going to have to track down a copy and have a look at them!

  30. Verity says:

    Interesting discussion – the bad sex awards always show how badly done it can be! I’m of the belief that it’s probably better left out.

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, I had great fun browsing the bad sex award nominees yesterday – some are so funny! I’m looking forward to seeing if the above quote makes the 2010 awards!

  31. Andreea says:

    I agree with everything you said in your post!

    1. Jackie says:

      Andreea, It is good to know I’m not alone!

  32. Auraya says:

    Hi there, I have been a lurker on your blog for a little while now and I thought I would finally be brave enough to leave a comment. I quite agree with you that sex in literature can kill the romance. I especially can’t stand crudely described sex scenes. The one you quoted would be a good example. In fact, I think it may have just put me off reading the book!

    I think the only author who writes sex scenes well is Jennifer Crusie (Meghan mentions her book Welcome to Temptation) – somehow the sex comes across as intimate and passionate without being intrusive or crude.

    1. Jackie says:

      Auraya, Thank you for de-lurking! Please don’t let the above comment put you off the rest of the book. I’ll write a review soon, but basically the whole book is fantastic apart from that one little section. With 2 recommendations I’ll have to have a quick look at Jennifer Cruise’s writing – thanks for backing up Meghan!

      1. Auraya says:

        My tastes don’t normally run to so-called ‘chick lit’ but Jennifer Crusie is one of my favourite authors. Her characters are engaging, her writing (especially in the newer books) flows really well and most of all, her books are funny. I would recommend Faking It, Bet Me, Welcome to Temptation and Tell Me Lies.

        P.S. A bit off topic but I was wondering why you’ve removed the header on your main page…. I liked the picture of the books.

        1. Jackie says:

          Auraya, OK. I’ll see if the libary have copies of any of them. Thanks!

          Sorry to hear that you miss my header. Thank you for noticing and letting me know that you prefer my blog with it. I thought the image was too big and the photo unprofessional. I was going to take another photo, but then quite liked my site without it. I still have all the books in the sidebar and thought the farm lane image was better branding. I quite like the clean new look. Hopefully it will improve ove the next few weeks as I make a few more changes.

          1. Auraya says:

            That’s fair enough :o ) I do like the sidebar on your blog very much – they give one an instant idea of where you are at with your reading.

  33. Rebecca Reid says:

    I am a prude, so yes, sex in literature is a big turn off. Interesting that you mention Time Traveler’s Wife. I remember that having tons of sex in it. I don’t remember any romance.

    Most romantic? Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Sigh. I love it. Something about the fact that they fall for each other an yet Elizabeth thinks he hates her and he thinks she hates him.

    1. Jackie says:

      Rebecca, I’m going to read P&P soon. I look forward to reading about real romance, without the danger of any crude sex ruining it.

  34. Dan Holloway says:

    Fascinating – I’ll be intrigued to see what you make of the sex scenes in Songs from… because I’ve tried very very hard to make them add to rather than detract from the romance, and as a writer it’s intriguing to see whether people find themselves lifted out of the scene by sex scenes per se, or by them done in a particular way. I know lots of readers who say that flinching away from descriptive writing about sex puts them off because it’s unnatural, it creates boundaries that don’t exist in real life, it stops them havinga fully embodied experience of the romance. For me overdescription definitely DOES kill something – but only if done a certain way. The scene you quote is, well, personally I find it rather gross but that’s the toilet references rather than the sex, and I know people who would have an issue with me thinking like that.

    The general argument about disembodying sex is, of course, endlessly interesting and goes back to discussion of Plato and the hierarchy of spirit over body.

    1. Jackie says:

      Dan, Songs is getting nearer the top of the TBR. I will get to it eventually!

      I should gather together a selection of sex scene quotes and do a poll as to which one crosses the boundary!

      1. Dan Holloway says:

        Yes! That’s an excellent idea – only I have a feeling that a lot of whether a scene works or not is context – how and whether it “fits” with the larger scene an author is writing, or whether it feels simply plonked there for the sake of it – so whether there is a continuous pace and voice and rhythm will matter. That said, the scene you quote here would never make me anything BUT wince :)

  35. Callista says:

    In general no sex doesn’t ruin the romance but then I don’t really read romantic books unless it’s erotica (that sounds bad I just don’t like romance, it’s not like I read lots of erotica… anyways…)

    However I felt disgusted by your quote you shared, not because it was about sex, but because I’m not into “Golden” sex. Ewww.

    1. Jackie says:

      Callista, I don’t normally read romance books either. Perhaps that is where I’m going wrong!

  36. Violet says:

    I think it depends on what kind of romance books we are speaking of. If we talk about Mills and Boon or Harlequin type romance books, sex does not kill the romance, in fact it is even expected. If the sex scene is bad, just skip the couple of pages and no harm is done.

    But if we talk about other kind of books, like Time Travellers Wife, I think a bad sex scene would ruin the romance.

    the scene you mention in the other book is actually really bad and although it wont kill the romance for me it might leave a bad taste.

  37. Samantha says:

    Oh No! I am now awaiting your final views on Cutting For Stone – hoping that this sex scene hasn’t marred an otherwise great read!

  38. Kathleen says:

    I’ve never really thought about this issue before but your excerpt from Cutting For Stone definitely makes me realize that a scene like this can really ruin a book for me.


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