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Okay, this is admittedly tangental to my blog topic (as are most of my posts…), but I just have to wonder, Carrie Bradshaw style… what’s with the media misconceptions about sex in romance novels? Romance novels are a 1.4 billion dollar industry, which means that a whole sh*t ton of women (and even a few men) are reading them. And yet I still hear the following two phrases uttered with some frequency whenever people in the media discuss the romance genre: (1) “Romance novels are smut/porn/bodice-rippers.” (2) “Romance novels don’t have any sex in them.”

Neither statement is correct. The first one in particular rankles because of the inherent judgement contained in the words smut, porn, and bodice-ripper. That issue aside, romance novels as a whole are neither explicitly sexy nor totally sex-free. Individual books may be one or the other, although it’s equally likely that a book will fall somewhere in the middle.

The reason this is on my mind is partially because of an article I ran across in the Huff Post entitled Romance Novels Without Sex?. Here’s how the article begins:

Shadow Mountain Publishing debuted its new spin on the Romance novel recently — the brand “Proper Romance,” a line of “No-Sex” Romances, and its enchanting debut title Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson [$15.99].

While “No-Sex” and “Romance” might seem incongruent, especially given those bodice-ripper covers we’ve come to know so well, Edenbrooke has proven itself to be a winner right out of the gate.

Inspirational, sweet, and Amish romances are hugely popular right now, but as many people pointed out in the article’s comments section, these types of “n0-sex” romances are nothing new and have been around for decades. Romance and no-sex? Not incongruent at all.

And then there’s the misconception that romance novels never contain sex.

I was struck by a comment I heard on Slate’s recent Audio Book Club discussion of 50 Shades of Grey, in which one commentator mentioned that 50 Shades‘ explicit sex was what differentiated the book from more typical romances, which always “fade to black” after the initial kiss. Wait, what? Romance novels published before the mid-1970s, yes. But many, if not most, of today’s romance novels include fully realized sex scenes.

So where are all of these ignorant statements coming from? I think I just answered my own question. 🙂 If you’ve never read a romance (or have only read one), it’s easy to buy into the various pervasive myths about the genre. Unfortunately, those myths are perpetuated by people who have also never read a romance novel or have only been exposed to a very small sub-section of the genre and have no clue what they’re talking about.

The truth is that there are all kinds of writers out there just as there are all kinds of readers. Some romance novels have explicit sex and some don’t have any and some fall somewhere in between. 50 shades, indeed.


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