Last week, I found a recent copy of Cosmopolitan in the den; such is life when daughters come home from college for the summer. The largest headline screamed 75 Sex Moves Men Crave; naturally, that was the article I first turned to after picking up the magazine.
Of particular interest was number 50: “When we were having sex from behind, she wouldn’t turn her head to look at me. I want to be able to see a woman’s X-rated expressions as I’m doing her from behind.”
This is not an article about doing it doggie style...I promise.
It is, however, about sex scene tropes, particularly in erotic romance, and wanting to watch a woman’s X-rated expressions during sex seems a hop, skip, and a jump away from the oft-read edict from hero to heroine not to close her eyes while she’s reaching for the stars, sexually speaking.
In Christine Warren’s Black Magic Woman, just as Asher and Daphne settle down to business, he sees her eyes begin to close. His response is to bite her lip as a warning that she keep ’em open. Not only does he pin her with his body, he pins her with his gaze. The narrative continues:
She kept her eyes open wide and locked with his. He could see the strain of it on her brow. He knew her lids wanted to close, wanted to block out the distraction of sight in order to concentrate wholly on the miraculous pleasure of their joining. But Asher would not allow it. He wanted to see every nuance of the act reflected in her face. Even as her gaze went blind and unfocused, he could see how her pupils dilated further, opening wider and wider even as her body did the same.
Got the picture? This gorgeous demon is having hot, sweaty, other-worldly sex with the woman he loves, but it’s more important to him that she look him in the eye instead of concentrating wholly on the miraculous pleasure of their joining? Really?
I can’t begin to count how many romances feature heroes demanding their heroines keep their eyes open, and I always thought it was ridiculous. Reading in Cosmo that it may in fact be a turn on to some men surprised me, but honestly, all that comes to mind when reading Asher’s thought process is that this gorgeous demon totally misplaced his priorities. I kinda thought the entire reason for hot, sweaty sex was to lose yourself in the miraculous pleasure of joining with another person, not to purposely limit the other person’s miracle.
Of course, “look me in the eye” has nothing on sex of the anal variety. Erotic romance is filled with heroines who learn to love being packed from the back. Does it appeal to authors and readers because it’s taboo...because it’s something many readers haven’t experienced...or a bit of both?
It’s a staple in historical romance that virginal heroines lose their cherries in orgasmic love scenes to hunky heroes. Virginal heroines don’t seem very realistic in contemporary romance, so this is one way to recreate that type of moment, but it certainly kicks up the kink factor immediately because, well, the two are not the same. (Although in some circles anal isn’t even considered sex, but let’s not get into those nice, religious girls who believe they’re maintaining their chastity by playing that way.)
Sarah McCarty actually devoted an entire book to the popping of anal cherry. Mac’s Law features a heroine who is virginal in every aspect of the word until she lands a job as cook on Mac’s ranch. She sticks her lengthy sexual to-do list in his brown bag lunch and his eyes practically bug out when he reads it. Doncha know...anal sex is one of his favorite activities, and it’s on the list! Coincidentally enough, it’s a constant on the heroine’s mind.
It seemed strange to me that the heroine obsessed about the dark, forbidden pleasure of this particular activity when my guess is that it’s more of a male fantasy than a female one. Surprisingly, though, I enjoyed the book, regardless of its outlandish premise.
Perhaps the biggest erotic romance trope, though, is when heroes tell heroines they can’t come without permission. It makes sense in the context of stories about domination, but it pretty much comes into play in most erotic romances, whether or not D/s is involved. As I wrote in a review for AAR in 2008, “after reading a couple of dozen erotic romances with the same hero-to-heroine requirement, I’ve got to wonder how many women are wandering around out there who have hair-trigger orgasms? Lucky them—where do I sign up for mine?”
That was more than three years ago. Add a score or more to the “couple of dozen” I’d read in 2008 and you’ve got a better idea how de rigueur it is in erotic romance. On its face it is, kinkily speaking, a rather intriguing notion, but then reality hits; unless a woman is on her own, it takes quite a bit of time and effort for her to reach her peak. To me, the need to delay it is far more fantastical than being asked to do so.
Laurie Gold cannot stop reading and writing about romance—she’s been blabbing online for years. She remains a work in progress. Be one of the few who visits her at Toe in the Water or follow her may-be-too-political-for-you tweets at @laurie_gold.