Tag Archives: romance novels and Christianity

What Romance Writers Teach Me About Sex

I live a weird life. Ask me about my profession, and I’ll answer that I’m a writer. But what I write gets a little more complicated — because I write about Christian sex in marriage and teen fiction.

A few years ago, I joined the Romance Writers of America (RWA) — the largest writing organization in the United States — because of its excellent educational programs and community support for fiction writers. I don’t label myself a romance writer, but there is some romance in my teen books. Anyway, I spend a great deal more time with romance writers than I ever expected. It’s been interesting and enlightening.

Some romance writers share my values, many don’t. Yet romance writers have taught me a few things about how sex is viewed by women. Remember that the romance genre is a billion-dollar industry and responsible for 13% of all adult book sales. Like it or not, these authors are turning out something that appeals to women readers.

What Romance Writers Teach Me About Sex

Women are sexual beings. I knew this at my core, but my growing-up church culture made it sound like guys were the sexual ones and we women were an afterthought when it came to sexual pleasure. I also hear from many wives who struggle with a lack of sexual desire so it can become easy to dismiss how God intended us to be sexual beings.

Let me assure you most women want sexual pleasure, even it comes through the pages of a romance novel. What appeals to these women, however, is not the sexual intercourse itself so much as the awakening of their senses and the drawn-out excitement of sexual touch and arousal. I do believe God made women as sexually inclined as men — simply in a different way.

Romance and foreplay matter. In many romance novels, sex doesn’t happen until late in the book. Instead, the story focuses on the undeniable attraction between hero and heroine, the wooing and courtship, the kissing and foreplay.

Some have suggested husbands should read a few romance novels to get a sense of what their wives want. I’ll save you guys the time and summarize: Just because you caught your wife doesn't mean you stop pursuing her. Click To Tweet This may seem like a paradox, but romance and foreplay matter to your wife. That’s the stuff that makes her feel cherished and desired and aroused and, quite honestly, ready. So pay attention to it, and maybe even check out the sex advice I constantly give husbands.

Almost-kissing is almost as hot as kissing. You don’t even have to open the books to get this one. Just scan a bookstore shelf of romance novels and count how many book covers have couples kissing versus couples almost kissing. I guarantee you the almost-kissing covers will win the wager.

This principle can be applied to marriage in how you interact throughout the day. You can heighten sexual desire through suggestive talk, flirtation, light touches, lingering close in one another’s arms, teasing kisses, running your hands along the hems of the other’s clothing, taking your time to undress slowly and deliberately.

Sex isn’t simply about sex; rather, God created sex to be an entire experience for our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls in marriage. I’m in favor of the quickie at times, but don’t rush it all the time — savor the experience.

Orgasms are awesome. Actually, romance writers didn’t teach me this. I had my own well of wisdom to draw from on that one. But it is fascinating how sexual climax is always, always, always included in romance novel sex.

Don’t ignore this important aspect of sexual intimacy. Most husbands climax pretty readily, but wives can be a little less certain in the climax department. Merely because it’s a little more challenging doesn’t mean a gal doesn’t want to go for it. Because yeah, orgasms rock! (Thank you, generous God, for that.)

Put a little effort into figuring out how the sexual experience can lead to a satisfying pop of pleasure for the wife. If you’re struggling in that area, check out Orgasm: If Only I Could O or But I Still Can’t Orgasm! What Next?. For most wives orgasm doesn’t need to happen every time, but it’s a wonderful experience when it does.

One last thought: I believe quite a few romance writers who pen amazing love and sex scenes for their novels are not having great sex in their real lives. Which tells me that we long for the full experience that God intended — the experience that’s far better and more satisfying in a God-blessed marriage than in any romance novel.

I know for myself that, even as a writer, I simply cannot put into words the beauty and meaning involved in sexual intimacy with my husband. I pray each reader here will experience that in their own marriage.

Winner: We had over 100 entries from last Saturday’s announced giveaway, so I was feeling extra generous and picked two names! The randomly chosen winners are Samantha and Jason. I’ll be sending them an ebook of their choice.

Giveaway: This week’s giveaway is my own romantic fiction ebook, Behind Closed Doors: Five Marriage Stories. Don’t worry: No steamy, blush-worthy scenes, even though the topic is marriage and sexuality. However, these five short stories are intended to address real life while reflecting God’s design for sexual intimacy.

To enter, simply share any of my blog posts on Twitter and include my Twitter username, @HotHolyHumorous. I’ll automatically add you to the drawing, which closes next Thursday, August 13, 10:00 p.m.

For some different thoughts on this topic, check out Common Myths of Romance Novels.

Common Myths of Romance Novels

Jane Eyre book cover

I like romance novels. At least some of them. Hey, one of my favorite novels ever is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Lately, romance novels have taken a beating from some Christian writers and speakers and, in many cases, rightly so. It’s a very bad idea to base expectations about relationships and marriage on happily-ever-after fiction. You see, falling in love isn’t the same as staying in love or making a commitment or fostering a long-term marriage. And romance novels are mostly about that falling-in-love stuff.

I think we can read romance novels (of the PG/PG-13 kind; I’m not talking 50 Shades here), as long as we filter through them and don’t pull comparisons to real life. Don’t expect your husband to be as lovey-dovey as the heroine of the romance novel or your sex scenes to be quite so seamless as they are on the page.

The real danger, though, is the underlying themes that we may accept hook, line, and sinker without even realizing. Think of theme as the lesson or moral of the story. For instance, the theme of Red Riding Hood? Be careful with strangers. The theme of The Wizard of Oz? “There’s no place like home.”

But some themes are myths, especially in romance novels. Let’s take a look at a few:

The Time Traveler's Wife book cover

Love conquers all. So what if the guy you love is a time traveler and bounces in and out of your life at various ages? So what if your love interest is a vampire who desperately wants to suck your blood dry? These are minor challenges in the face of Invincible Love! So say most romance novels. Sure, there may be 200-300 pages of figuring out how to make it work, but they always do. Somehow or other, their love makes all of the obstacles surmountable.

The thing is, I believe this one to an extent — in that active love, practiced by both spouses as described in Scripture — can indeed conquer obstacles. But romance and “chemistry” can’t. In the real world, you need someone who shares godly values with you and who will put elbow-grease effort into your relationship.

Real love happens at first sight. One of the hackneyed exchanges in romance novels is a single person asking an attached person: “How do you know when you’re in love?” And the wiser, more experienced person answers, “When you meet that right person, you just know.”

Balderdash! Real chemistry happens at first sight. Real love takes time and care to develop. Sure, you want to have chemistry with your spouse, but if you no longer feel your tongue hanging and your toes curling at the sight of your beloved, no worries. In a long, successful marriage, you will likely have at least once that you wonder, Why did I marry this person? Did I mistake stomach butterflies for true love? Those rushing feelings of being in love can energize you to work on a relationship with someone, but nobody knows for sure that someone is perfect for them on first sight. You have to work for perfect … or at least amazing.

Wuthering Heights book cover

(Romantic) Love makes bad people good. You know this one: Good girl meets bad boy. Because of her overwhelming love, bad boy leaves his bad life and embraces a new life — full of light and love and laughter. *cue music* Romance novels often assert that people can change, practically overnight, for the sake of romantic love. They will happily leave behind their wayward ways and fulfill all of their potential because of the love of a good woman.

Now let’s poll all of the women who married men with severe addictions. Did those scenarios all work out … easily? As much as we love a good conversion story (yay, Apostle Paul!), changing your character takes a lot of work, a lot of time, and a lot of commitment. Few people overcome their inner demons in the time it takes to court a mate. I’m not saying that people don’t change; they do. But don’t count on your romantic love to suddenly yank someone out of a nasty mess. What really changes people is their own determination to turn over a new leaf, the support of others around, and God’s working in their life. Romantic love can inspire, but it’s not enough.

Great sex is key to falling in love. It’s practically a given these days that a fictional couple will have sex, and then decide that they are truly meant to be. Perhaps they suspected, but the way their bodies melded together was so perfect in their lovemaking that it sealed their destiny. *swoon*

Blah, blah, blah. Give me a couple who’s willing to work on their marital intimacy, and I’ll give you a couple with a successful sex life. I don’t care if their first time functioned like a Rube Goldberg machine. I’ve known plenty of couples who had fabulous sex with someone, and the marriage didn’t work. But a working marriage — with two committed, understanding, desiring-to-honor-God spouses — will eventually produce fabulous sex. Romance novels, and our society as a whole frankly, has the cart before the horse.

The Mountain Between Us book cover

Romance novel from a Christian author

So can you read romance novels?

As I said, I read romance novels — although I tend toward romantic comedies where things don’t always go right and that’s funny — but I don’t swallow these themes. I’m careful about what I read and how I read. I make sure that my Christian world view informs the way I see novels, not the other way around.

After all, we’re generally okay with our daughters seeing Disney princess movies, but at some point, we expect them to grow up and realize that their future hubby won’t be riding up on a horse or on a magic carpet singing love songs. We know that fiction is a pretend world. It may be entertaining, delightful, and perhaps realistic about some aspects of life, but it isn’t a manual for how to get or be married.

If someone wrote my marriage as a novel, you would fall asleep by page 12. Because much of making my marriage work is the small, seemingly mundane stuff of basic courtesy, carrying out household tasks together, honoring each other in how we spend time and money, hugs and pecks, and tickling and giggling with our children. Who wants to read that? (Although our sex scenes might be steamy … 😉 )

So my marriage isn’t like a romance novel. I’m fine with that. After all, things didn’t end so well for Romeo and Juliet.

Do you read romance novels? What are your standards for what you read? What other themes have you seen in romance novels (or TV or movies) that you believe are myths?