Let’s talk about sex.
When it comes to a book’s sensuality level I always have a hard time doing the grading. I’m never sure if a book with explicit -albeit vanilla- sex should be McSexy, McSteamy or even McBurning.
When we were deciding on our sensuality rating we were quite clear on what a book should have in order to be one of the five categories. So if a book only had kisses and no other clear references to sex then it should be McPrude; if it had vague references to sex and maybe some petting -but nothing more than second base- then it should be McDreamy; heavy petting and sex scenes filled with euphemisms will make it a McSexy; if the book had explicit sex scenes was McSteamy; and anything beyond that like BDSM, ménages, etc. was McBurning. But then there were the shades of grey. What about a non-explicit ménage story? What if the fact that multiple simultaneous partners was hinted at but never shown? What should we rate a book like that?
Then we have the issue of what we define as vanilla and what we define as kinky, case in point m/m romance. If I’m reading an m/m book with any type of anal play or sex, like rimming and actual penetration, I’ll treat that scene as I would a regular, missionary or oral sex m/f scene. If, on the other hand, I’m reading an m/f book and suddenly there’s anal sex in the scene, then I’ll probably be surprised and I’ll give the book at least a McSteamy, maybe even a McBurning because anal sex isn't common in mainstream straight romances. The same applies to ménage scenes, does the fact that there are more than two people in the scene increase the heat level to scorching hot even if they are having the most regular sex someone could possibly have? I always wonder about all this and that’s why sometimes I have such a difficult time deciding the appropriate grading. I feel like I have a double standard and that I should rethink how I rate the books.
This leads us to another issue: erotica, and what makes a book an erotica. I honestly don’t know. I used to think that there were three basic differences: the number of sex scenes, the nature of the sex scenes and whether or not there were feelings involved. But there are books like Megan Hart’s Broken where the hero has lots of sex throughout the book, never with the same woman, sometimes with more than one and they are all one night stands, but regardless of all that, Broken is one of the most complex and even romantic -in a very unconventional way- romances I have read. Is it erotica? Or is it a romance? Maybe is both. My problem is that I’m typecasting and I’m equaling erotica to porn, which, let’s face it, sometimes it is, but not always, and so when I come across a book labeled as erotica that’s filled with deeper issues and lots of romance, I get confused because a romance with lots of explicit sex shouldn’t be labeled as something I associate with porn.
This sounds like I’m bashing erotica and even porn, but I’m not. What I wonder is if we should consider erotica a romantic subgenre, and by erotica I mean books that only have sex but no romantic feelings, like a book about someone’s sexcapades, because I wouldn’t consider that book a romance.
In my opinion it all comes to the fact that our definition of erotica, romance or even erotic romance, is as personal as our enjoyment of the book. Sensuality ratings are as subjective as regular gradings and should be taken with a grain of salt. If you are a regular reader of our blog and read one of my McSteamy reviews you probably know by now that what I consider McSteamy might as well be McBurning to someone else. So far I have only given five McBurning grades and one of them was to a book where the sex scenes weren’t that graphic but that had a lot of violence. I have a harder time tolerating violence than sex. I think that as long as the people having sex are consenting adults then anything goes, if you want to have sex with seven guys while wrapped in plastic (and I won’t blame you since it’s bound to get messy and the plastic might offer some protection) then that’s fine. The same goes if you only want to have missionary sex with one of those sheets with a hole in the middle. As long as that’s what you want to do, then fine by me. When it comes to me grading the sex scene I’ll keep playing it by ear.
Last but not least, I do think that sex with feelings makes a lot of difference on how we see a particular sex scene. If the people involved in the scene care for each other that will influence the way we see the sex between them. I have read books where the main couple have smoking hot sex with a lot of dirty talk including using words like pussy and cunt (which, BTW, I absolutely hate) but it didn’t feel cheap, in fact, because I knew how much they cared for each other, the scene ended up being way hotter to me. Had I read the same scene with different characters I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. In the end, our focus should be on the people and not the actual sex, and we should rate and judge each book individually and stop paying so much attention to categories and labels.
So what do you think? Where do you draw the line between erotica and romance? Would you judge a book based on the people having sex more than in the actual sex? How do you feel about sensuality ratings? Are they useful, misleading, do you care about them at all?
|This one has nothing to do with the post, but it's so true!|
Note: In case you were wondering, I got all the pictures here: http://someecards.com/