Ruined Panties and Orgasmic Screamers—The All-Time Biggest Peeves in Lesbian Fiction


Lesbian fiction pet peeves. With those four words you have the spicy formula for a raucous debate or a duel to the death. Quite possibly both.

In a fit of madness, I decided I wanted to know all the things, big and small, funny and not, that drive lesfic readers up the wall. So I turned to some avid readers, an unscientific poll, and social media—namely, a popular Facebook group for lesfic lovers.

As a lesfic writer myself, I’m well aware authors are fallible and can often forget the little things in their enthusiasm to create intricate plots. But readers notice. And how.

Before I get to the results, I should note that there are sometimes exceptions to these literary faux pas. Violating these peeves can make sense if the story demands it. Experienced writers can even turn certain bugbears into a clever plot point. But most of the time—nope, we’re only human, and these peeves are only good for a laugh.

So what did the amused, spleen-venting readers conclude?

Panties no washing machine can fix

Beware the ruined panties. These things have attained a mythical status in lesbian fiction as items so fragile that being highly aroused while wearing them renders them useless forever more. Forget tossing them in washing machines, they’re fit for only one thing—a smug morning-after glance and a wistful kick to the bin.

Yet despite being noted by readers as a ridiculous concept—right up there with passing out after great sex, dramatic fainting due to shocking news, and failure to use lube for sex acts rhyming with “trysting”—the Ruined Panties Myth lives on in lesfic.

It wins an honourable mention as the most warmly regarded peeve. Possibly because its roots are in fan fiction. (So to speak.)

Wait, she was your sister?

The number one peeve by a mile was characters not asking obvious questions or making assumptions in order to force drama. It’s worse when it’s a smart character doing the dumb thing. In real life, these dramas would be solved with one conversation. For example, no one, after witnessing her girlfriend kiss someone else, would then move out, her heart breaking, without bothering to ask who it was and why she kissed her. The frustration from unrealistic plots and bad communication gets readers fuming.

Hello, I love you

The second-biggest peeve was contentious. Instant love. Some authors argue there is nothing wrong with depicting this because it happens in real life. Critics argue it can be too rushed and unbelievable in fiction. Most readers say they want the journey to be a little twisty before the U-Haul screeches to a stop and the rescue pet gets co-adopted. Bottom line: It’s how well the writer sells it.

Let’s Talk About Sex

High on the peeves list was sexy times written badly. Like when a character goes from dressed or underwear-clad to naked in one breathy moan. Or there are confusing, complicated, or impossible positions. A beta reader once told me one of my sex scenes was “disappointingly unworkable”—she knew because she tested it with her wife. Now that’s a committed beta.

Oh baby, it’s a matter of taste

Not all quibbles are universal. Some people have no issues with peeves that others loathe. Examples are women being called “baby” (especially when the character is older), women who cry a lot, shy virgins who have pro moves in bed, and women initiating sex while dressed like a slob. Interestingly, that vast lesfic sea of perfect, rich, blonde lesbians with six-packs who don’t know they’re beautiful gets a side-eying from a few readers who point out it’s so overdone and totally implausible. Wait, what?

Getting technical

The technical peeves are the worst kind because no amount of skilled writing can hide them. Think, bad editing, point-of-view shifts within a scene, kids who sound like adults, and adults who sound like teens. Info dumps are among the worst things for writers—how do you convey all the background information without making the reader feel like they’re watching the History Channel or building an IKEA kit? It’s brutal for writers and a snooze fest for readers.

Once a bitch…

As for my own peeves, well, I have three. The forgetful: I get OCD-level twitchy about women rushing to bed who leave their home’s front door wide open, as well as lovers who have kids but don’t lock bedroom doors.
The screamers: Orgasmic lovers who literally scream into ears. My first girlfriend did this once. It was agony. I told my mother my Walkman caused the resulting partial hearing loss. Not even kidding.
The personality switch: Look, if your protagonist was a hard ass before she got a new lover, she’ll still be a hard ass in the morning, just with a bigger smile. She will not do baby talk or describe rainbows in your soul.

In sum

Mistakes are easy, and there are so many ways to make them in writing. Even this blog is an info dump of its own. So perhaps the important thing is just to stay focused on the big three — realistic drama, realistic sex, and real people.

Oh, and don’t forget to ditch the ruined panties. They only ever need a good wash.

*Do you agree with this list? What are your pet peeves in lesfic? Leave a comment.


Lee Winter is an award-winning veteran newspaper journalist who has lived in almost every Australian state, covering courts, crime, news, features and humor writing. Now a full-time author and part-time editor, Lee is also a two-time Lambda Literary Award finalist and a Golden Crown Literary Award winner. She is the author of The Red Files and Requiem for Immortals.

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  1. Heather (@TheSaxyOne) May 30, 2017 at 15:58 - Reply

    The ruined panties thing has always annoyed me. It’s not like explosive diarrhea where you want to just forget it ever happened. Laundry is a good thing.

    Women, without fail, are always soaking wet and dripping down their legs in no time. Just gonna throw out some reality here. Some of us take a liiiiiiiiiiiiittle bit longer to get ready.

    I had to laugh at the dedicated beta. I know I’ve read some stories with positions that the average joe is going to get a cramp from doing.

    • Lee Winter May 30, 2017 at 16:59 - Reply

      Very funny! Thanks for the comment 🙂

    • Tina May 30, 2017 at 19:56 - Reply

      This made me laugh for real.

  2. Cathie May 30, 2017 at 16:05 - Reply

    With this summary you could teach a course on “How not to write lesfic”. That poll and its subsequent comments was the most insightful and hilarious post I’ve seen on social media in maybe forever. Thank you for undertaking this arduous and important research. Cheers!

    • Lee Winter May 30, 2017 at 16:56 - Reply

      Thanks so much, Cathie… I’m awed by this feedback. I may have overshot the runway. I was aiming for pleasantly amusing. 🙂

  3. April May 30, 2017 at 18:01 - Reply

    Thanks so much for pointing these pet peeves out because as a reader I get really annoyed and roll my eyes at the main characters instantly falling in love or when a main character abruptly undergoes a huge personality change and it is just credited to love alone. I did have a hearty laugh at the beta reader trying out a sex scene, now that’s dedication indeed!

    • Lee Winter May 30, 2017 at 20:45 - Reply

      So glad you singled out the personality change one…that’s my pet peeve of pet peeves 🙂

  4. Rebecca May 30, 2017 at 23:05 - Reply

    I’m also really tired of so many stories relying on rape/sexual assault as a way to give a character emotional baggage and explain their personality. It’s in A LOT of lesfic and seems like an easy way out for some stories.

    • Lee Winter May 31, 2017 at 18:23 - Reply

      Wow, does this happen in a lot of stories? How depressing.

  5. 40Greenway May 31, 2017 at 00:31 - Reply

    Overarchingly, I LOATHE the word “panties”.

    • Lee Winter May 31, 2017 at 18:20 - Reply

      Lol. What do you prefer instead?

  6. Jennifer May 31, 2017 at 03:21 - Reply

    The panties thing always got me. When I was young and just discovering sex I thought I was doing something wrong cause mine were always fine and could be washed lol.

    One trope that kills me though is how two women are traveling/stranded somewhere and there’s only one bed available. They decide to be mature and share it, but, inevitably, one or both of them lies awake all night in a lustful haze. Sigh…

    • Lee Winter May 31, 2017 at 18:22 - Reply

      LOL about the panties! Meanwhile lesfic tropes would make a great topic for another day. *Runs off to make a note*

  7. Janine June 1, 2017 at 13:32 - Reply

    These are hilarious! It seems a bit harsh criticising authors with our pet peeves, I for one, couldn’t write a book and there are so many talented lesfic authors out there. However, having said that some plots/over used phrased really do get tiresome. A prime example “she released the breath she didn’t know she was holding”. There are a lot of lesbians out there having trouble breathing! As for ruined panties, it amazes me how many women in these books are so wet that that it’s running down the inside of their thighs! Really!

    • Lee Winter June 1, 2017 at 17:56 - Reply

      As a lesfic author myself I figured if we can’t laugh at ourselves, when can we? 🙂

  8. Marcy June 2, 2017 at 03:25 - Reply

    I’m a huge fan of butch/femme stories and my biggest pet peeve …. butches don’t wear panties! Nothing kills the mood then reading a scene where the butch takes off her panties. Call them Boxers, briefs, tighty whities, but never panties ;o)

    • Lee Winter June 5, 2017 at 10:30 - Reply

      Good point!

  9. […] like writing, or even challenge yourself with controversial concepts. While you’re at it, try and avoid the most common mistakes lesfic writers of all stripes […]

  10. XVnot15 September 11, 2017 at 00:12 - Reply

    HEH my pet peeve? The description of lesbian characters including somewhere right off the bat the observation that they have …”Long slender fingers”. I swear it’s supposed to be the lesbian version of being well hung or something Well i for one have short stumpy little fingers and according to my Lady wife of 25 years, they’ve never been a problem.

    • Heather (@TheSaxyOne) September 11, 2017 at 17:43 - Reply

      I was googling my twitter name (because I’m a dork like that) and found this piece again. I forgot I event commented on it. Anyway, I agree with the fingers. Not every lesbian has these beautiful long slender fingers, and not every lesbian who does is the greatest lover ever. I never even thought about it until I looked at my hands one day and thought, ‘Damn, my fingers are short,’ then I laughed because I sounded like such a guy.

      Oh and another pet peeve of mine are the couples who kiss and have to stop due to lack of oxygen. Uh, what? I don’t know the world record for the longest kiss but I KNOW they were breathing during it otherwise they wouldn’t have lasted very long.

    • Lee Winter September 24, 2017 at 01:45 - Reply


  11. Jenn M September 13, 2017 at 13:39 - Reply

    This was such a good interesting article. I’ll try and take it all on board – thank you!

  12. Lex September 23, 2017 at 22:50 - Reply

    I stumbled upon this late but had to comment. Some of my pet peeves were touched on, insta-love and what Rebecca mentioned, rape. I think it was the end of 2016, I realized I had read 5 out of 7 lesfic books that had rape. I was like “what is going on?!” Luckily this seems to only happen in waves, and has not been as bad in 2017. But there are two pet peeves, not mentioned, that really bug me. Constant flashbacks, and the obligatory break-up at the 75% mark in lesfic romance.
    I hate multiple flashbacks. One or two if important are okay. But constantly going back and forth, drives me nuts. It takes you out of the flow of the story. And if flashbacks get really bad, you can’t tell if you are in the past or the present. I wish more authors would start the story in the past and work their way forward, instead of jumping around.
    Lastly, the break up at 75% mark, is constant in lesfic romance! Most of the time, the characters just speaking to each other, would have prevented this. I just read a book where the characters have a huge fight at the 75% mark, but didn’t actually break up, I was ecstatic! Unfortunately the break-up at 75% mark happens so often, I’m not sure it will ever stop.

    • Lee Winter September 24, 2017 at 01:50 - Reply

      Five out of seven? That is appalling! I couldn’t agree more. I, too, hate forced drama like a break up without good reason. If they must break up, make it believable at least! Thanks for the great comment.

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