“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?
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?
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?
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.
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.