Lesbian Fiction: There’s more to it than throbbing, moaning, and fading to black


“The flesh beneath Sam’s fingers was hot. Her heart raced; her muscles trembled. This was heaven. Or at least as close to heaven as she would ever get. Minutes ago she had finally managed to pin Gillian up against the kitchen door, and now she had one hand on a soft breast. “I. Love. You.”

Gillian moaned. “Yes. Yes.”

“I want you to come. And I want to see you explode.”

A groan was her answer.

A door banged.

“Shit.” Gillian’s eyes were wide.

“No. No.” Sam whimpered and pressed closer against Gillian. “They aren’t supposed to be back before five. This is not fair.”


Did you ever have that moment in your life when you thought “this is not fair” when it comes to sex scenes? Either because you didn’t want to read one or because there weren’t enough or because the author used a fade to black?

What is it about lesbian fiction and sex scenes?

Back in 2013, a friend published a lesbian romance that is the bestseller among her bestsellers. Surprisingly so, because there is no skin on skin, no touching any love buttons, no sucking on nipples that taste like strawberries, and no supernovas going off anywhere. There simply is no sex scene in Something in the Wine by Jae. Intimacy, yes. Sex, no.
It was interesting to see that she received a ton of e-mails from readers thanking her for not including a sex scene in a lesbian romance and a ton of readers cursing her for exactly the same thing.


A similar thing happened to me when I published my erotic romance, Heart’s Surrender, a novel that won the GCLS award for Best Erotica in 2015. Several readers complained about too much sex, while others thanked me for the hot sex scenes (and the good story). The latter made me very happy, the former not so much. Because Heart’s Surrender is an erotic romance, so what do you expect?


Another friend who wrote a lesbian mystery had someone asking her why the prostitutes in The Red Files weren’t fucking each other. Lee Winter was gobsmacked and told me, “But I wrote a lesbian mystery, not lesbian erotica.”


So, the burning question is: How many sex scenes does a lesbian fiction story need?

For once in my life, I have an answer to a question: It depends.
I would have made such a good lawyer.

Or let me word my answer a bit differently – Know Your Genre.

I’m constantly amazed about the fact that most people believe that lesbian romance equals lesbian fiction equals lesbian romance. That’s like saying that the Harry Potter books are a romance because in the end Harry gets what’s her name and Ron gets Hermione (and I’m still not happy about that) and the bad guys get what they deserve (which is cool).
Yet I didn’t hear a lot of people complain about the lack of sex scenes in those books, because everyone knows that JK Rowling didn’t write a romance.

On the other hand, there’s, for example, Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey – a fantasy novel about a society in which love and physical pleasure are central aspects. I know what I get when I buy those books. And I haven’t seen a lot of people complaining about too much sexual tension in those books either.

The more I think about sex scenes in lesbian fiction, the more I believe that we have a much bigger problem than the simple question of how explicit does the sex have to be.

Some months ago, Curve Magazine’s Android App had been suspended by Google, based on “violation of the sexually explicit material provision of the content policy.” It has been reinstated since because the suspension was simply nuts. But often you’ll find Curve Magazine in the adult section of bookstores and newspaper kiosks. Not because the magazine is all about lesbian sex—but because it says “lesbian.” And therefore it has to be about sex. Right?

Lollipop heart on vintage wooden background

I was angry when I heard about that. I don’t want to go looking for magazines that support the lesbian community in the adult section. Why is it that most of the time lesbian fiction is expected to be about two (or more) women in bed with each other?

The plain truth is that lesbian fiction is an umbrella term for a variety of different subgenres, one of them being lesbian romance. Fasten your seatbelts for the following statement: lesbian fiction doesn’t equal lesbian romance, lesbian erotica, and/or lesbian porn.

Lesbian romance is nothing but a subgrene in lesbian fiction. It certainly sells best; that I can tell you as a publisher. But it’s still only one of the many subgenres of lesbian fiction. There is also lesbian mystery, science fiction, steampunk, paranormal, general fiction, new adult, young adult… I can’t even list them all.It’s awesome that we have such a variety of different genres that all involve lesbian protagonists. I certainly wish I had known about all those books when I was a teenager and had butterflies going off every time Mrs. Zang looked at me with those amazing gray eyes… Sigh. Back then, I had no idea that books existed that would have helped me understand what I was feeling.

Woman resting with book near fireplace

And back then, I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to read lesbian erotica or erotic romance.

As a publisher, this can be depressing when you think about it. I want us to encourage writers of all genres to fill our literary world with as much color and depth and diversity in fiction as mainstream writers experience. This can only benefit readers and our society. There are so many choices for straight readers, and I want lesbians to have the same. I would love for women who have no interest in multiple-partnered bed-jumping exploits to have as many books to suit her tastes as the women who love a saucy erotic thriller, and everything in between.


As a community, we love diversity. So it would be great to embrace it in our reading, too. The bottom line is, we have to acknowledge and educate ourselves that not every plot HAS to lead to rumpled, sweaty sheets. But if it does? Well, that’s fine, too.

Well, okay, it’s more than fine. It’s awesome.


Your guide to lesfic sex:

Lesbian romance: Often but not always contains at least one sex scene. Some may fade to black, where you just see the beginning and then it’s the next day. It’s worth noting that Wikipedia says “(…) primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people.” Notice that it doesn’t say anything about sex? Nonetheless, if you buy a lesbian romance these days, it often has sex. Even so, some of my favorite romances fade to black.

Lesbian erotica: Brace yourself for swinging from the chandeliers. There will be sex, more sex, and yet there will also be a plot. You will learn about the characters amidst their sweaty fun times, and in some of the better books, there will be intimacy, too.

Lesbian porn: Sometimes known as a PWP (porn without plot or “Plot? What plot?”). Most often found in fanfiction, this is, as the title says, just an excuse for the ladies to get their kit off and get it on. If you don’t want to read sex scenes, do not touch these books.

Lesbian mystery/thriller/sci-fi/drama/supernatural/everything else: See how it doesn’t say romance, erotica, or porn in the subgenre? That’s because it’s none of these. There may or may not be sex. There will be lesbian protagonists, though, off saving the day. There will be excitement, action, and character development galore. Just do not automatically expect throbbing, moaning, or fading to black from your lesbilicious space pirates or private detectives. They may have their hands full with being glorious in other ways. Or not. You just never know.

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About the Author : Astrid Ohletz


  1. Cori Kane February 14, 2016 at 11:51 - Reply

    great blog post, you really hit the nail on the head, as they say.
    but did you just diss ginny weasley? you know, it’s not her fault that she’s the only flat character in the series, yes?

  2. Sacchi Green February 14, 2016 at 16:28 - Reply

    Excellent explanation of the genres! As a writer and editor of lesbian erotica, I do see people applying “Plot, what plot?” to erotica as well as porn, but I always want erotica stories to be about something besides sex as well as being erotic. “Plot” may not always be the right term, but character development and “story arc” are what I look for.

  3. cw February 14, 2016 at 17:10 - Reply

    Totally agree and thank you for the excellent ‘guide’. Something in the Wine is a great book though not my favorite by Jae and that has nothing to do with lacking a sex scene. I think she was right that would not have made it a better story. Prostitutes fucking in The Red Files? Where, In the bathroom at party announcing the new business? And why, their purpose was only to arouse the ‘something ain’t right with this picture’ interest of the reporters. Excellent book by the way Ms. Winter. I generally stay away from anything labeled erotica because too often the sex scenes are outside MY comfort zone and there isn’t enough to the rest of the story to hold my interest. I won a copy of Heart’s Surrender and need to say I really enjoyed it because it was A fun read with a good story line. And I will definitely stay away from PWP thanks to your guide.


    • Lee Winter February 16, 2016 at 08:47 - Reply

      I think what happened, cw, is she read the blurb of Red Files, got all excited about mention of three dozen prostitutes, said oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, and then got very deflated by the lack of action when she read it. She said she thought it would be an erotic romp. No idea where she got that idea from. LOL

      Thanks for liking my book. 🙂

  4. LT Smith February 15, 2016 at 11:03 - Reply

    Loved the blog. Very informative …and I am clearer about where my work fits into the work of lesbian fiction now. No chandeliers, but maybe my characters getting their ‘hands full’ of other stuff and not just body parts is more my cup of tea. Love the word lesbilicious. I will definitely be slipping that into conversation today.

  5. […] Ylva Publishing posted Lesbian Fiction: There’s More To It Than Throbbing, Moaning and Fading to Black. […]

  6. […] The discussion of lesbian books and their relationship with sex scenes is already a discussion  […]

  7. Bénédicte May 5, 2016 at 16:49 - Reply

    I found the entry as you see… Exactly what we discussed and I again totally agree 🙂

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