Romance Writers: Are You Ashamed to Write About Sex?

March 28, 2011

I wrote a story once where the protagonist, a teenager, is killed by her abusive mother. At the time, I was a teen, and I sat down with my typewritten pages and read them aloud to my mother, who promptly informed me that she wished I had written different subject matter because…

“What if someone thinks you’re writing about my relationship with you?”

I know Mom was thrilled when I tossed the controversial subject matter aside and spent over a decade writing for magazines that she could purchase in her local grocery or book store. She read those articles. The subject matter was safe: pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. I often heard her proclaim my genius to friends and acquaintances as she encouraged them to pick up the latest issue of this or that.

I’m not expecting a similar reaction to my romance novels.


My name is Elley Franco and I write about falling in love, including sex–explicit sex. I’m not ashamed, but I’m pretty sure some people I know will be.

The young people in my life:

A friend’s teenage son asked if he could read my book once it’s published. I smiled and rambled off a generic, “Oh, I’m not sure you’d want to read what I write. It’s romance.” In an ensuing conversation with this child’s mom, I stated that I liken what I do to an actor or a director working on an R-rated movie. I’ve heard plenty of entertainers say, “My children don’t see my movies, because they aren’t old enough.”

Well, ditto.

For now, but when they are old enough, I’m thinking they (my boys at least) could be fairly mortified by their mother’s (sick) mind.

My grandmother:

When I was pregnant with my second child, my oldest stood up at a family dinner and proudly proclaimed his mommy was going to push his new baby brother out of her vagina. My grandmother choked on her meatball, tsk-tsk’d until her beet-red blush passed and then (I’m sure) said a half dozen prayers for my heathen soul.

If vagina bothered her…just wait.

The Sisters of the Divine Spirit:

Ah, Catholic school, where I wrote for the school newsletter. Topics included parochial league soccer games and a poem about daffodils.

If I write about a soccer game today, more than likely the hero is playing without a shirt, and the heroine is ogling him in a deep POV that leaves nothing to the reader’s imagination. Following the game, the hero lays the heroine down in a bed of daffodils, and they make love. (And they’re not married. And they use birth control.)

I can see why Sister Martha might think she failed in providing me with a sound Catholic education.

But I know who I am, and I know what I write. Sex is a big part of romantic love. I think too many of us were raised in a society and in homes where sex was viewed as a necessary evil. And if it ever was celebrated, it was only celebrated in the context of religious gifts and procreation. I’m tired of that portrayal. I’ve been married to a man I adore for fifteen years, and you know what? I like to have sex. It’s not “my marital duty,” and it’s not because we’re trying to conceive. I just like the way it feels. Maybe that speaks to my husband’s talent between the sheets, but I think many women–who don’t sleep with my husband–are having a similar experience with their own husbands (or boyfriends).

Sex is fun! It’s fun to read about. It’s fun to think about. It’s fun to do.

I meant what I said and I said what I meant. I’m not ashamed to write sex—100 percent. 

How about you?


4 Responses to “Romance Writers: Are You Ashamed to Write About Sex?”

  1. KimberlyFDR Says:

    I’m not ashamed to write about sex when the story warrants it, but sometimes it’s not warranted in my writing.

    In my novel, the main character and main secondary character are involved, but I cut away during their initial sex scene (possibly only sex scene?) because it’s not the point of the story. There’s a larger plot going on that is complicated by the fact these two characters are involved, but the graphic retelling of their sex life isn’t the point and it would detract from the story being told.

    It depends on the genre. If I were writing a romance novel, then sex would be part of it. Since I’m not, then it’s not as vitally necessary.

    • Kimberly,

      I have a friend who writes romance, and her sex scenes are often cut aways. She writes a much sweeter scene than I do, but I don’t think the story loses anything without the explicitness.

      On the flip side, I recently read Jaci Burton’s Perfect Play, and her sex scenes made me blush and even squirm. Still, it was a satisfying read.

      I think it’s about a writer staying true to his or her voice. And you’re right–it does depend on the genre.


  2. Tari Says:

    Every steamy word I write, I think….well, if I use a pseudonym, maybe my mother will never find out, and a couple of other people as well. It’s not that I’m ashamed, it’s that I know they will be, and some will be worried about my soul, but like you, I’m comfortable with what I write, I’m not embarrassed by it, I just wish that those that I love could be comfortable with it as well. I have 3 sons, ages 18, 21 & 28….I’ve talked to them about it, and they’re okay with it, they may not read it (which I’m okay with) but it doesn’t embarrass them for their mom to write ‘explicit romance’. They matter most, hopefully, the others will love me anyway……

    • Tari, I like to look at things as thought I’m climbing a ladder. First rung is safe. Top of the ladder scares the crap out of me. Somewhere in the middle is where I’m at now. Bottom rung would be writing non-fiction again. Safe. Top of the ladder would be autobiographical sex stories complete with picture or video. I’m good where I am, and the people who love me better just be glad I’m not on the top of the ladder. LOL!

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