Now that Fifty Shades of Grey has essentially mainstreamed erotica (seriously, I recently saw Anne Rice's early BDSM Sleeping Beauty books repackaged and sold at Fred Meyer with the tagline, "If you loved Fifty Shades, you'll love this!" Which might be true, or it might be kind of a big old surprise for readers who had no idea those stories involve, among other things, pony play), can we talk about the recurring sexual characteristics in these sweat-soaked tales?

See, I was reading Sylvia Day's Crossfire series recently -- I can say this now, right? Since we're all freely admitting we read smut books? It's not like confessing you stuffed a leather whip in your butthole to look like a sexy Appaloosa pony? Okay then! -- and I was thinking about how these types of stories involve the same themes over and over: the rich, dominating, emotionally-resistant-yet-helplessly-falling-in-love man. The clumsy, doesn't-know-her-own-beauty woman.

But in addition to the Edward-and-Bella vibe, erotic romance books always dole out the same sexual revelations. Some of which are seriously damn hot. And some of which are ... not.

For instance, the man-taking-forever-to-orgasm thing. I mean, hey, I get the fantasy of a lover who's so attuned to your needs and so in control of his own that he can hold off for as long as he wants. It's just that taken to the extremes it always is in these books, it all sounds so exhausting. It's like Sting, you know how he's supposed to be this bigtime yoga tantric sex fiend who can get it on for eight hours at a time? (I think this myth has been busted, actually, but just go with me.) BIGGEST TURNOFF EVER. Seriously, after the first hour, wouldn't you be bored out of your mind? "Oh, you're still -- you haven't? -- um, okay. Mmm, so hot." Hour three: "I'm just ... don't mind me, I'm just going to catch up on a few emails, here." Hour five: "Yeah, actually, I've had to go to the bathroom for like 45 minutes and Modern Family is on, so ...?"

Ditto the instantly-being-able-to-go-for-round-two thing. Men in romance novels never experience a moment's worth of wiltage, which, okay, it's sexy to think about a dude who's so hot for it he's just sporting a forever boner, sure, but also OMG can we take a break? I need a glass of water! I need some carbohydrates! Put that thing away for a minute, jesus.

There are plenty of scenarios that seem rooted firmly in the land of if-only, of course. Like, say, instantaneous vaginal orgasms. Or wildly passionate no-condom sex that concludes with both partners casually going about their fantasy-world business, like pulling down their eveningwear and strolling into the benefit gala without a moment's consideration for the ... um, cleanup job that would normally be necessary.

But what's with the semen? Can we talk about the semen? (I'm sorry to keep saying semen.) Why do so many erotic novels focus with laser precision on the amount and constancy thereof? Yes, I want to imagine a hearty, well-enjoyed orgasm, but no, I don't want to visualize how much DNA evidence it might leave behind. Christian Grey and his ilk are like virile human firehoses, and the idea of that never fails to take hold of my escapism vehicle and pull it in a hard right turn towards WetWipeVille, a decidedly less attractive fantasy destination.

Finally, there's the Inevitably Awkward Birth Control Reference, which my Internet pal Temerity Jane describes perfectly:

It’s obviously not a very big deal to write books in which adult women make adult choices to have sex. Yet in several -- many -- at least in the last two or three in a ROW -- of the books I have read, when the whole condom/birth control/etc moment comes up, the lady mentions or explains, either out loud or in expository text, that she’s on the pill to regulate her period. This is supposedly to explain why she would be taking the birth control pill when she doesn’t currently have a steady sex partner.

Authors. It was 2012. It is now 2013. You are sexually evolved enough to be writing and publishing sexy books for ladies comfortable enough to be buying and reading them. Your lady hero can just BE on the pill. She can just take it. She can still be on it from her last relationship. She can take it just because. She can take it to regulate her periods and not say so. She doesn’t need to explain it to the dude about to bone her -- because he doesn’t care -- and she certainly doesn’t need to explain it to the readers. Because we’re ladies and we’re reading a sex book and we’re not judging her.

HEAR HEAR. Please stop faux-apologizing for your main character's choice of birth control, smut-book authors, because buzzkill.

In conclusion, I'm all in favor of more dirty choices for my library, I just have a few recommendations for how to make those adult novels even more appealing. Also maybe just once the girl could be the rich, powerful one? That would be a fun change.

What are your contemporary erotica pet peeves, assuming you read such filth?


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