Sex and Romance Writing by Nancy Brophy
Sex sells. Visual sex truly sells. In the 1940’s and 50’s there were “Detective Magazines” with covers of women mainly in bondage poses. Women in distress stories, I assume, but certainly the covers appealed to an element of society, which conflicted with our Norman Rockwell view of America post-war.
I have never read one of the magazines, but probably would if one came available. Although, I have found a titillating cover frequently disappoints. Either the inside story is too raw or too sanitized, which may be a result of sex being written by men. Men and women need different stimuli.
Bodice rippers as they were known in the 70’s and 80’s also had interesting covers. Fabio made a career out of blowing hair and a rippled chest. The thing that always puzzled me was the woman with bodacious ta-tas barely contained, was faced away from the hero. Turn around, honey. Things will go better, I promise.
In both of these examples, the woman was usually an innocent victim, never the one in charge of her fate, while men were portrayed as crass, cruel and unknowable. Granted, there were other stories as well, but the overall image of the genre was that of sex-driven stories or porn for women, if you will.
The genre changed. Women are in charge of their destinies. Men have a point-of-view. And the sex is consensual and can be initiated by either party. Whoo-hoo. And many of us still choose books to read by the covers. Now we still see a lot of torsos – mainly hunky men. Sex still sells. Why? Each generation believes they invented sex.
We write to encompass the human experience, which includes both emotional love and physical love. Despite the fact many of us mock the insert-tab-a-into-slot-b approach, others will always see our genre as porn for women.
But as writers we must tap into the universal experience – the one that marked us for life. The one that happened before we were smooth and practiced, before we expected to be disappointed in love and before we learned not to risk everything on a spin of the wheel, the toss of dice or a boy’s smile and whispered promises.
The writers I like to read capture those moments of desperation. They convey the longing and insecurities we’ve all experienced. They bring back golden memories. But more importantly, they reconfirm everything I believe. That the bad get punished, that risks have payoffs, and in life there will be a happy ending.