Monday, October 16, 2006
Is the Sex TOO Perfect?
The other night my husband and I had a date night, and over cocktails and appetizers at Harry’s in Shorewood, we discussed my erotic romance works. David was overwhelmingly positive in his commentary--I really never realized he liked my stories that much--but he did have one really interesting criticism.
He felt the sex was too perfect.
First of all, David said my heroes are all virtually perfect (except the scoundrels among them, who manage to be perfect scoundrels). The heroines he found pretty much likewise. That was acceptable, really; he didn’t mind my creating characters that are somewhat larger than life. However, reading the love scenes put David in mind of the same confusion and intimidation he felt in his younger years, comparing the sex in novels to his own romantic experiences. How could a guy hope to live up to that in the real-life bedroom? Couldn’t I cut him some slack and have something go wrong in these torrid passages once in awhile?
To reassure the man, I had to explain something about the female brain.
I shared with him a magazine column I’d read earlier in the week. A woman wrote in for advice concerning her relationship with her husband, who liked to look at pictures of hot, naked women. The wife was completely freaked out over this, feeling she had no chance to compete with these perfect young girls. The columnist explained to her that men’s brains are very compartmentalized when it comes to these things; no doubt the husband never compared his wife to these women at all. She was in one compartment: his unique sweetheart. The magazines dolls were in another compartment, one that had nothing to do with real life. He knew as well as anyone that they weren’t really real.
In the same vein, I explained to David, very few women confuse the way sex is in fiction and fantasy with how it is in real life. I write these mind-blowing love scenes, with their cataclysmic pleasure, preternatural intimacy, and spiritual ecstasy, never thinking for a second that such stuff happens in reality.
I wouldn’t necessarily write about sex this way if I had a different style and wrote in a different genre. For example, if I wrote literary mainstream fiction, like my idols John Irving, William Goldman, and John Updike, I would write about sex the way it really happens between normal people.
But my stories are almost mythological. The characters are very archetypal, and represent concepts and characteristics that are powerful to the psyche. The union of my various mating pairs is always at least a little cosmic, intended to speak to the soul of the reader more than the logical mind, to the subconscious rather than the ego, if you will.
Even when I’m writing a contemporary story about two office workers making love on a desk after hours (“Office Mating” from Soulful Sex Volume I), the lovers are acting out that classic fantasy on behalf of all the readers who are too wise and practical to ever act upon their office crushes. It’s clandestine love, it’s breaking the rules, but what if it was so “meant-to-be” that it actually worked? For the sake of the archetypes and the mythological theme, these two office workers are going to have fabulous sex on that desk...no one is going to tip over onto a stapler at a key moment.
But that said, I know full well if David and I had tried it in the office where we originally met, the results would have been comical at best. That’s real life, and it doesn’t need to be like my stories to be wonderful and meaningful and fun. Which is basically what I told him over drinks at Harry’s, and I think he believed me.
For all his worry, he doesn’t seem too intimidated by the competition in the pages of my books.