Because sometimes less is definitely more, especially when authors have to resort to bovine metaphors.
I have a confession to make: I have a potty mouth, which I (mostly) keep under control, but I don’t often like reading the f-word in romance. I don’t have a problem with the f-word in general, but it’s very much a matter of context for me. Words I skim over without blinking in erotica or romantica don’t feel right in romance. When I want to read something down and dirty and explicit, I go for a romantica, but when I read a romance, I expect my sex to be a little bit prettier. That doesn’t mean it can’t be hot, just less sleazy in its descriptions.
When a long-time favourite contemporary author started using the f-word in the love scenes in her later books, I felt a little bit sad. Even though she is a mother in her 40s-50s with many published romances under her belt, it felt like she, or her stories at least, had lost their innocence.
Maybe it’s because the more aggressive slang words for sex and sexual parts (fuck, prick, dick, pussy) make such excellent insults and curse words. Those words already have such strong and negative connotations that they feel out of place in a scene meant to demonstrate a connection and further develop a relationship between a man and a woman who will fall in love and spend the rest of their lives together. In my more unguarded moments, I may drop more f-bombs than is strictly necessary, but the one word I hesitate to use is the c-word. Strangely enough, I don’t mind ‘cock’. (BTW, that last sentence right there should demonstrate the importance of context.)
Right now I’m reading a paranormal romance debut by a new author, which I enjoyed until I got about halfway through and reached the first real sex scene after all the teasing. Suddenly the c-word jumped out at me and it threw me out of the scene for a minute. I continued reading and got back into it by the end of the page. When I turned the page, there it was again in the first paragraph. I almost groaned out loud because it didn’t improve upon repetition. I didn’t think it even belonged in a paranormal romance the first time.
My perseverance was rewarded by getting to read about the human heroine’s ‘ridged nipple’ (was the other one normal at least?) and when the hero ‘milked her clit’ (do I even need to say anything to that one?). I think the most disappointing part was when the hero dropped the c-bomb at the beginning of a new sex scene.
I accidentally killed a fairy with this book soon after I started it, so I already know some things don’t turn out the way I expected, but while I think I like the story enough to see this book through, I’m wondering whether or not I’m going to bother with the next one when it comes out. I guess it’s not just the language (even though it’s the biggest contributor) but some cringe-worthy sexual descriptions as well that are putting me off, which is sad, because the premise of the series is promising, the writing in all other respects is engaging and the hero has interesting brothers. I just don’t want them even thinking about sex anymore because in the third quarter of the book, I’ve counted 8 c-words, 2 pricks and 1 ‘tits’. This does not bode well for the romance.
How important are the sex scenes to your enjoyment of romance? Do you skim them, skip them altogether or is their promise a drawcard for you? Are there words you don’t like or do you call a spade a spade? And what happens when you read bad sex in an otherwise good book? Does it ruin your enjoyment of the story as a whole?
The F-word? by Arjan Einbu (via Flickr)
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