I was going to write just one post on sex in romance novels, but I think it's a topic that deserves more attention than that. So, look for this series to continue on Fridays, to get you all hot and bothered for the weekend. Oh, and thank you, Salt 'N Pepa, for the title.

Romances have gotten a bad reputation in the past for being "porn for women" or full of filler to pad the pages between sex scenes. This categorization is unfair, and I would have to ask if the people who make statements like this have ever sat down to read a romance novel.

Romance Writers of America says that:

Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending.

A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.
You'll notice the absolute lack of the word sex anywhere in there. But romance novels include sex to varying degrees, because in a story about two people falling in love, it's going to come up (no pun intended). Whether the author leaves the bedroom door closed, or treats her readers to a steamy, pulse-racing scene, or just has sexual tension building through the story, sex is there.

In romance and its sub-genres, the degree to which sex is included in the story varies, depending on the publisher, on the author, and on the sub-genre. In an inspirational romance, for example, sex will occur only after the characters are married, and will likely not be described in detail. In contemporary, paranormal, romantic suspense, and other sub-genres, there are few genre-based restrictions on how much sex is included. It would typically be up to the author and/or the publisher to decide how detailed they should be. In erotic romance, you'll see graphic sexual encounters, but the driving force of the story is still the relationship between the main characters (which is different than erotica, where the sex is the focus of the story).

Sex scenes in romances can run the gamut from sweet and tender to hot enough to make you want a cold shower. But the thing they all have in common (or should, if the author's done her job correctly) is that the sex is a natural extension (again, no pun intended) of the relationship. The hero and heroine don't meet in chapter one and fall into bed in chapter two (usually). It takes time to get there. Sexual tension needs to be built to the point that it's inevitable for the characters to take that next step. We believe they're hot for each other because we've felt that tension and need rising for the last umpteen chapters, so when they do finally consummate their relationship, it's the start of that "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending" mentioned by RWA above.

So, do romance novels have sex? Yes, because relationships do. It's as simple as that. It's not dirty, it's not obscene, and it's not a reason to trash the romance genre. It's just a reflection of life.

Next Friday: Sex as a Plot Device

Happy writing!