Romance Novels and Intimacy
“It wasn't a thing I had consciously missed, but having it now reminded me of the joy of it; that drowsy intimacy in which a man's body is accessible to you as your own, the strange shapes and textures of it like a sudden extension of your own limbs.”What is intimacy? How many types of intimacy exist? Can a person experience physical intimacy without emotional intimacy? Which is more important in building sustainable relationships?
― Diana Gabaldon, Voyager
No, this is not a pre-marriage couples survey. These are question I ask and try to answer as I create characters and build their relationships for my romance novels. Although I write sexually explicit romance, it is important that the sexual acts are not just happening as a means to scratch an itch. There has to be a level of emotional, psychological, and/or spiritual intimacy between the people engaging in the physical act of intimacy. I'm going to try to stop using this word so much from this point on, promise.
How I define the word that shan't be named is super simple: When a person allows another person to see all their💩and they don't try to use air freshener to make the stink go away. Webster; however, defines the word as: Something of a personal and private nature. (BORING MUCH?) I'll stick with my definition for now. The act itself is quite confusing because most people have no idea what it is, how it looks, when or where to foster it. Everyone's looking for the enigmatic expression, but no one knows where to find it. Maybe that's why so many people read steamy romance novels, gorging on explicit physically intimate scenes as a way to feed the ever growing hunger for emotional, psychological, and spiritual intimacy.
I had to ask myself as a romance writer, "Am I providing a quick fix for the intimacy-starved and do my novels give readers a false sense of fullness, while leaving them malnourished?
I have mentioned four types of intimacy: Physical, Emotional, Psychological, and Spiritual. Of these four types, physical intimacy is the easiest to achieve. To engage in physical act of intimacy, one simply needs their body. This is just getting close to someone with the desire of achieving pleasure. I hate this type of intimacy as the basis for romance in adult contemporary novels. It reminds me of bad 70's porn. (chicka-bow-chicka-bow-wow) Allow me to set the scene for you.
***Enter pizza delivery guy in tight (rip-away) shorts and a mesh tank top holding a pizza box parallel with his equinus penis.
[Ding-dong] The door is opened by a beautiful, blond with a full face of make-up and a small towel barely covering her ample breast.
Girl: I didn't think you'd come so fast. she licks her lips and smiles at the delivery guy.
Delivery guy: I can assure you, if you let me inside, the only thing coming fast is going to be you. he pushes his way into the door and kicks it shut with his foot as he watches the tiny towel hit the floor.
You can see where this is going from here, right? I loathe reading romance novels and the only form of intimacy in the story is physical. I get it, people buy and read romance novels for the hot sex, but I want to believe romance readers are intelligent and are looking be intellectually stimulated as well as sexually. Many readers say they enjoy reading romance because it provides an escape from their everyday reality and of course, they love the HEA.
Demographically, women are the largest group to read romance novels and so many writers in this genre neglect the truth about women and intimacy. I get that women have the right to be as promiscuous as they want, but having the right to engage in something and actually enjoying the act of engaging are two different things. Most romance novels write female characters as being able to engage in physical intimacy without getting caught up, but I don't know if it's really possible.
My Position: I'm going to go out on a limb and say women are not able to have sex without becoming emotionally, psychologically, and/or spiritually intimate with their partners. Let me prove myself right.
Point One: Physiology--Women are different from men.
Duh!? I know we know this already, but I'm talking chemically. We are nothing if not animals and animals know two important functions: Survival and Procreation (continuation of the species). Not sure why we tend to place ourselves above the rest of the animals in the world, but we really are one chromosome away from sharing the forest with the rest of the primates; so get off your pedestal and figure out why this NSA (no strings attached) sex doesn't work for women. Votre attention s'il vous plaît.
Sex for a women triggers her mating instincts. She looks at every sexual partner as a potential father for her offspring and as such, she bonds with them in some way. A woman may want to be fancy-free and foot-loose, but we are not made that way. Men are designed to poke and run. Impregnate as many as he can. This is nature's way of ensuring the continuation of the species. So she doesn't mean to be a clingy bitch and he doesn't mean to be a cheating bastard...it really is how we are made. I was reading an article on Psychology Today, and found scientific proof of my premise.
When women have sex, oxytocin gets released because of the evolutionary drive to attach to someone who may be the potential father of a possible child. Evolution is not switched off because the pill, IUD, condoms and all other forms of contraception came into existence. Oxytocin makes women want to bond. Can our psychology override our biology? Men's bodies release testosterone which drives them off to go find some other women with whom to spread their biological material. So it seems that biology grows strings when women have sex.See, that's what I said. I may not have said it as eloquently, but you get the just of it, right? Anyway, it is for this reason that when I read some romance novels where women behave similarly to men in regards to NSA sex and they still end up with the HEA, I'm confused. Romance writers need to be a little more realistic when it comes to sex and women. Casual and sex don't go together when women are in the equation. If it doesn't work in the real world, it doesn't work in my romance books either.
As women continue to escape into the world of romance novels, they may seek to emulate their favorite book heroin and research shows there is a direct association between casual sex and depression in women. There is a feeling of dissatisfaction and displeasure with hooking up where women are concerned. In many ways, writing this hook-up culture into romance novels where women engage in this behavior and still come out on top is perpetuating a reality which does not exist.
I've touched on the emotional, psychological, and the physical forms of intimacy and how women are not able to experience one form without having the others engaged. What does this mean in layman's terms? Sex does not equal intimacy! Sex for a woman automatically becomes emotional and psychological forms of intimacy and if she is the only one experiencing the deeper levels of intimacy, then she is left feeling confused, hurt, and depressed. Women are not designed to engage in casual sex, I don't care what the feminist say.
Point Two: Spiritual Nature of Sex
For those of us who adhere to Westernised ideas and standards, sex is not something to talk about openly. Historically, sex for pleasure was only shared between men. Men only had sex with women to ensure the continuation of the species, but pleasurable, loving sex was reserved for men and their male lovers. After the introduction of monotheistic faiths, sex was seen as a means to an end; procreation and nothing else.
For those of the world who were fortunate enough to have been born to societies who understood and valued sex as a spiritual practice... you guys got it right and thank you for sharing this knowledge with anyone willing to listen!
I use sex in my romance novels as a vehicle of change, redemption, and rebirth. Are my sex scenes graphic and titillating? Yes, of course they are. But they also function as a vital aspect of the plot. Sex isn't used to keep the readers turning the pages or to make my heroin appear powerful, it is used to push the plot along as well as to show growth and change as my characters move through their lives. I want my characters to experience sex as a spiritual practise; a way of transcending the limits of their physical flaws, vices, and shortcoming to merge completely with the best parts of each other. Sounds crazy, right? But really, is that not what we look for from our sexual experiences?
I try and bliss out everytime my husband and come together, pun intended👅. No, but really. Sex is more than a physical release, more than a way to ensure the continuance of the species. It is the beginning and end of all creation.
Lisa Savage, psychologist and founder of Goddess Therapy discusses in an article on HuffPost the importance of the "cosmic orgasm". I'm thinking cosmic vs. vaginal... hmmmmmm, let me see which orgasm I'm going for. May I have a few hundred cosmic orgasms, please? Thanks. She basically says that spiritual intimacy is the most important form of intimacy because once this type of connection is made, physical, emotional, and psychological intimacy are only enhanced.
"Since sexual energy is the source of our connection to the life force, the benefits to physical, emotional, and mental health are obvious. Developing conscious rituals and techniques allow you to become more open to such transcendent experiences. It prepares you to be receptive to the possibility of connecting in higher states of awareness from peak sexual moments." ~ Lisa SavageWell, romance writers, readers, book bloggers and those who are seeking intimacy between the pages of a good book. I will leave you with my parting thoughts. I have often described myself as a reluctant romance writer because I'm more concerned with telling the stories my characters share with me than making sure they have an HEA. Even though I'm reluctant, I accept the fact that I am a romance writer who loves writing hot, sweaty, sex scenes between my characters. I also endeavor to establish spiritual intimacy between my characters, their circumstances, and their environments. In doing this, I stay true to myself and my understanding of what and how sex is between people. There is no sex for the sake of sex in my books. Sex as a means to connect spiritually--yes. Sex as a means to enhance emotional and physical intimacy--yes. Sex to make sure someone has an exploding vagina or an erupting penis--no.
Remember, writing is a journey and every so often, the universe provides stepping stones to make the journey easier. Enjoy the trip and remember to keep writing and stay enchanted.