When I tell people I’m not only a romance novel reader, but an active advocate for the genre, I tend to get met with silence. Most people, after all, don’t want to be rude to your face. But there are some, and contextually, it’s often after a few drinks, who will come back with ‘isn’t that porn for women?’
And I tend to answer, ‘well, kinda’. It’s not the porn they’re thinking of, but porn exists on a number of levels, and romance novels do tend to fulfil their readers’ emotional fantasies. But that’s not what this post is about.
If the conversation continues, my inquisitor generally only wants to talk about one thing: the sex. I will normally try and explain that sexuality in romance novels is varied and can be nothing more than holding hands, but, let’s face it, that’s not what people want to hear. So we talk about the dirty stuff.
And it’s funny, because I’ve had this conversation a million times over, but I can never get through to my conversational partner that, honestly, in romance novels, size doesn’t matter.
Now I’m not saying that romance novel heros are not well-hung. It’s a fantasy, people, and if you’re going to write a fantasy, then damn, you write that fantasy. And it includes a good length and – more importantly – girth, no gag reflex, no pubic hair in the teeth, and multiple orgasms. After all, good fiction is good fiction. No point in pulling your punches.
But that’s not the important part of the characters’ sexual experience. I mean, it’s a good start. But what is true of romance novel sex can be true of all heterosexual sex (and homosexual and menage, but I’m mostly talking heteronormative here, and mostly in a ‘to men’ way. However, I think the lessons are universal, for everyone who wants to please their partner, and enjoy a satisfying sex life).
Let’s be honest: sex is really easy to make time for when you know 99% of the time, you’re going to get off. Women don’t have that guarantee. Except in romance novels, where their partner makes damn sure that they enjoy themselves. Here’s how:
- He pays attention. Not just in a ‘pant pant that feels good doesn’t it baby pant pant’ way. He notices her breath, the flush on her cheeks, the way her body reacts, her involuntary movements. He takes the time to learn her own personal turn-ons, her unique erogenous zones, the way she likes to be touched. He is with her, not just some nameless, faceless vagina, and he makes sure she is there with him.
- He takes his time. After all, he knows he’s going to get off, so there’s no rush to the finish. His ending is guaranteed. So he can be patient and thorough about making sure that she can join him. He takes the time to do all the above in 1, which means that next time, if they want it fast and dirty (and who doesn’t like to mix it up?) he knows how to get her off fast.
- He talks to her. I don’t mean post-coital ‘where is our relationship going’ talk. During. He talks to her before, during, and after. It’s been said a number of times that a woman’s most potent erogenous zone is her mind, and our hero makes sure to activate it. It doesn’t have to be dirty – shy women may find that a turn-off – but it does have to be intimate. Letting a woman know that you’re incredibly attracted to her is pretty much a universal turn-on. (just a hint though – shoving your erection into her backside on the dance floor isn’t. It’s all about context)
- He learns from her. I have read a lot of women’s magazines in my time, and they all say pretty much the same thing: men want you to show them. Romance Heroes embody this – they don’t take it as a slight against their bedroom skill, they don’t assume that they know everything about her body because they’ve seen a couple of clips on RedTube. First, they make her comfortable enough to give her the confidence to share the secrets of her body, then they take the time to listen and learn. The added bonus to this is the more comfortable and confident the woman is in the bedroom, the better the sex will be. Sexual risk-taking can be a huge phobia for women. Building trust (and then taking that trust seriously) can pay huge dividends.
- He knows that an orgasm isn’t the be all and end all of sex. Don’t take this as permission to overlook her orgasm. That’s a rookie mistake. But there’s a lot more to good sex than mutual orgasms, and our romance hero knows that. He gives good game in the lead-up, during, and after, remembering that his heroine is not only a person, but her, a unique person different from every other person he’s slept with, with different experiences, feelings, and needs. So whether she needs to be seduced, she needs to be held, she needs to laugh, she needs to be in control, whatever, he recognises it, and attempts to make it happen. It helps that he’s done 1 through 4, which has provided him with vital information.
Now not every romance hero does all of the above, and certainly not the first time – after all, if all sex was great, emotionally fulfilling sex, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of conflict to flesh out a novel.
However, a great many do, barring those who automatically know how to make the heroine see stars (see fictional fantasy). And these novels are insanely popular with a great many women.
It might not be exactly causation (there’s a lot going on in romance novels for people to love), but there’s a heck of a lot of correlation. So why not? I mean, if an improved sex life is the worst that can happen, you’re in a pretty good place, right?