Monday, April 9, 2007

Misplaced Hymens, Gigantic Members, and Other Pet Peeves

I read extensively in the various genres loosely collected under the umbrella “smut.” From flat-out porn to erotica to erotic romance to mainstream fiction with a spicy slant, it’s probably on my bedside table. Or triple-layered in my bookcases. Or piled up next to my favorite comfy chair. Or on my handheld or laptop so I can read it discreetly at work or while visiting my mom.

If you read enough of any one genre, you’re likely to develop strong likes and dislikes, and I’ve developed quite a list of porno-peeves over the years. I don’t mean particular acts or kinks that turn me off. I can quite happily read a well-written story about something I’d have absolutely no interest in trying, and even things that leave me cold, I’m willing to accept as “not my fantasy, but someone’ll love it.”

No, I’m talking annoying plot devices, clichés, and mistakes that could have been easily fixed.

In no particular order, here are a few things that make me want to toss books around, or at least curse a lot:

Gigantic Members: Okay, big cocks are delightful. Those of us who like boys at all tend to like big, meaty boy-bits, particularly in our erotic-fantasy reading. But I’ve reached the point of being tired of 12-inch, wrist-thick dicks. Which is sad, really, because this is a drool-worthy image. I just think they should be reserved for special occasions, not automatically attached to every hero. (Curiously, I find this tic most in erotic romance. You’d think it would be erotica by and for gay men, but no…while they’ll have loving descriptions of cocks, they’re usually not monsters.)

Random Boinking: This is a contextual problem. In a very short story, say a 1500-word vignette, or something along the lines of Penthouse Letters, I don’t expect a lot in the way of character development or plot or motivation, other than “two or more randy people meet and have wild sex.” If the work has more substance, like an actual story arc and characters who are more than names and “36-24-36” or “Gigantic Throbbing Tool,” I want a little more set-up than that. If two (or more) strangers fall into bed, I’d like a little motivation. Is impulsive sex normal behavior for them? If not, what’s making them take a walk on the wild side now? It doesn’t have to be Love at First Sight—it probably shouldn’t be, unless one character is psychic or something and can somehow sense this random stranger is a potential love of his/her life. It can be simple overwhelming horniness, or loneliness, or something dark and complex and sad. But you have to make me believe in it, especially if it leads the characters into behavior that’s not just wild and hot, but unsafe and reckless.

Virginal Heroines: Everyone has to start somewhere, and the journey of sexual awakening, from curious innocence to bold and horny experience, can be fascinating, especially if the author does a good job portraying the emotional arc as well as the physical one. (I’m looking forward to reading Rachel Kramer Bussel’s novel that she talks about in her April 7 post, for instance. I bet she’ll avoid the clichés.) But lately, half the erotic romances I’ve picked up, maybe more, have had inexperienced heroines. Hello? A little realism here, especially since erotica publishers won’t let us write about fifteen-year-olds.

In a historical, I’ll buy it, but you have to give me a compelling reason that our heroine, in a time period where sex had even more potentially life-altering consequences than it does now, would choose this moment, with this person, to start exploring her sexuality. And please don’t make it just something irresistibly sexy about the potential partner. An amazingly attractive hero (or other heroine, if it’s that’s kind of book) is a good start, but at this turning point of the heroine’s life, the ultimate motive needs to be hers and hers alone.

If it’s contemporary, the author faces a worse challenge. Modern adults face a lot more pressure to have sex than not to. If someone chooses to abstain, the reasons are probably deeply personal and deeply engrained and aren’t going to evaporate just because they meet someone hot. I find the virgin’s progress toward that decision easier to buy in more traditional contemporary romances where there’s a long, teasing journey to sex. In that kind of book, there’s time for the heroine to work through whatever made rollicking sexual intimacy not seem right for her at the book’s opening. Don’t show me your innocent heroine just decide she’s done being a virgin and picking someone random to teach her without some background that lets me believe she’d operate this way.

Sexism isn’t Romantic or Sexy: Speaking of peeves, where are the inexperienced heroes, the shy young men starting their erotic adventures at the hands of a more experienced woman? Certainly they seem to be a no-no in erotic romance, and I don’t see nearly as many of them as I’d like in erotic fiction in general. (Tilly? This sounds like it might be up your alley!) Is that because it’s assumed male virginity is no big deal? That men are supposed to be experienced and teach women? Yawn! Not that the teaching scenario can’t be hot, hot, hot, but I’d like to see it from the other side more often.

In the same vein, dominant alpha males can be sexy in the bedroom, but unless it's a story about a dominant/submissive relationship, where the sub explicitly consented to being bossed around, dominant posturing outside the bedroom can get annoying. Unless it leads to a fight, a realization, and incredibly hot make-up sex, possibly with role reversal.

Getting the Facts Wrong: There’s simply no excuse to get basic facts wrong with the Internet at everyone’s fingertips. Yet I can’t tell you how much “Uh, it doesn’t work like that” stuff I’ve encountered. BDSM sessions that would end in an emergency-room visit. Positions that only Cirque du Soleil acrobats could achieve.

And misplaced hymens.

Hello! If you opt to write about an inexperienced woman enjoying her first vaginal intercourse, please know where the hymen is! It’s not deep inside the vagina, no matter how many times you’ve read this in older romance novels. I swear, someone wrote a really bad deflowering scene, complete with misplaced hymen and pain and buckets of blood, back in 1977 that’s still being rehashed today in otherwise far more sophisticated books.

Unlubed Anal Sex: Do I really need to explain why this bugs me? Especially if it’s in tandem with Gigantic Cocks and Virgins? Ouch!

If it’s a dark, edgy, BDSM-oriented story where the characters decide to play at consensual non-consent and are deliberately courting pain and a certain amount of risk…fine. Might not be to my taste, but I’ll buy it from those characters. But stories where the author just seems to forget the lube? Book goes flying!

So what are your pet erotica peeves?


Portia Da Costa said...

I think you've actually covered most of the peeves I can think of, Teresa, including the word 'smut' itself, which probably peeves me as much as anything on the list! But I won't get into that one... LOL!

If you're looking for erotica with inexperienced men being tutored by more worldly women... well, I've written at least three novels which contain elements of that scenario ie. Lessons and Lovers, The Tutor and another in the pipeline. To me it's a much more interesting setup than 'man tutors woman'... although I have written that one too...

Janine Ashbless said...

I read a book once in which the author seemed convinced that upon arousal women's breasts inflated like balloons - to the extent that the writer featured a constraint chair with boobie holes in which the female would get trapped by her inflated titties after a bit of fiddling.

I have to speculate that the author hadn't actually that much experience of female anatomy.

Madelynne Ellis said...

I think you've covered most of the bases, Teresa, but I'm going to add...

Arrogance as a euphemism for sexy. Arrogance in itself is not sexy, it's horrid. Course, if said attitude is used as a reason for a fight, that's different:-)

Anonymous said...

I'm not here this week - don't break Lust Bites while I'm gone - but as you asked me.

Well, I was going to mention Portia's The Tutor too as a book where a virginal man is coaxed by a more experienced woman. That theme is, as you say, right up my alley, but I've not really written it myself. In Peep Show and Mad About the Boy the heroines are in LTRs. In Equal Opportunites Mary is about 8 years older than David and he hasn't had sex for nearly two years since his accident - but he would never ever decribe himself as virginal.

I don't have any virgin werewolves - they're all right bloody tarts.

victoriablisse said...

"Speaking of peeves, where are the inexperienced heroes, the shy young men starting their erotic adventures at the hands of a more experienced woman?"

I'll toot my own horn here, I've written about a virgin guy in "Getting Physical" and he is delowered by my lady lead. I really enjoyed writing it, because as you say you just don't see that kind of story line much.

I cannot stand actual sizes being mentioned in stories -if I read "12 inch cock" or "38DD boobs" I just won't read any further because it smacks of lack of imagination to me.

t'Sade said...

I have to agree on the 12-inch monsters. I know in The Mummy's Girl, the only monster-sized cocks was the wolf-headed god and the mummy himself. Everyone else was perfectly normal. And I liked it that way.

However, I might disagree with unlubed anal sex. Well, non-natural lubes. My mate hates lubrication during anal with men, so they just cuddle and tease until the guy gets going. Of course, its lubed in a way but it takes a long time, which isn't always appropriate in books.

Alison Tyler said...

Lovely post, Teresa!

The only thing that scares me about topics like this is a fear of seeing something that I do regularly on the list. (Um, and I think my characters in novels do tend to fall into bed on a regular basis. So that would be "Random Boinking," which is such a cute description!)

But my current pet peeve as an editor is the over use of the word "it" in stories. (This would be a peeve of mine in straight or erotic fiction.)

Seems so easy to go back over a piece and replace the "its" with whatever "it" actually is.


Kate Pearce said...

Yup-I think you got most of them-and I'm happy to report I've never given anyone in my books a 12 inch cock-ow.

I also write historicals so I do have some inexperienced heroines but I write about the smart intelligent ones who are dying to have sex :)

Olivia Knight said...

(And Olivia harnesses the full force of her PMT to answer this one... Can I pour anyone a glass of vitriol?)

The worst line I ever read: "He forced apart her willing thighs."
If he did force, and they were willing, OUCH! Cracking bones, anyone?

My *worst* scenario is dirty old men - there's a book called "Schoolgirl Lust" (okay, with a title like that, what can you expect?) that's as off-putting as paedophilia. I quite like the "schoolgirl" trope, from the schoolgirl's point of view, but with someone HER OWN AGE - not some ageing bearded letch. Eurgh! (Or at the very least, a VERY YOUNG art/music teacher... Naff, I know. Lots of my lurid little fantasies are.)

And my second worst - of which the same book is guilty - is lesbian scenes blatantly written for men's delectation even if they pretend to be from the women's POV. Most girls have a vanilla lesbian tucked away inside, and some not-so-vanilla, but I'll risk speaking for all of us when I say we don't get off on the visual display of rollicking around together - it's much more a touch-and-feel event. And in my experience, more concerned and tender than with men. (Obviously not throughout.) And - I quote - "fingering each other's virginal teenage slots" - I'm sorry, that's disgusting. That's enough to make anyone a militant placard-waving feminist of the Andrea Dworkin variety.

Nikki Magennis said...

'She came over and over again'.

That phrase. That pushes my buttons. I'm not sure why - I think it reminds me of the 'and she woke up and it was all a dream' ending to a story - it's an anticlimax and in my ahem personal experience if you come OVER AND OVER AGAIN it's a fuckin red letter day, not a six word sentence.

Big cocks - I vote in favour. But other sizes are fun too.

Olivia - I love it when you get all Dworkin on us. But I'm going to own up to a visual penchant. Dirty pics get me going, and I don't buy into the 'girls aren't visual' school of thought. (That book sounds like a stinker, though.)

Olivia Knight said...

I didn't mean I wasn't - or women weren't - visual. But if you're the one actually having sex, you're not exactly hiding behind a bush the whole time seeing how it looks. Difficult to explain - I guess it's the porn p.o.v. (no-one's / the voyeurs) compared to the Hollywood p.o.v. (immersive) and I find the latter preferable.

Anonymous said...

I reckon I could debunk the girls aren't visual notion with a three second flick through my *ahem*, *picture* collection

Janine Ashbless said...

Aw guys, the biggest peeve we surely all have is poor use of language - although we'll all define it differently.

I particularly hate pseudo-coy words like "love-canal" or "love-juice"*. I'm sure there are worse though!

(*I actually quite like "fuck honey", mind you.)

Nikki Magennis said...

'fuck honey'. I like it.

Hold on - is that a noun?! Where on earth did you find it, Janine?

Janine Ashbless said...

"Lustquest" by Ray Gordon.

I don't recommend it particularly. Mr Ashbless bought it for me because it's about an aspiring young erotica writer who becomes possessed by an evil spirit ...

Madeline said...

Interesting subject, and one that scared me a little, because I was afraid of seeing too many of my 'techniques' listed. But, where they are listed, I pass muster because I do set it up properly. ie. Penny, in 'Wild Card' has spontaneous sex with a gorgeous movie star who wants her to teach him how to gamble. But she's abstained for months and, of course, he's a gorgeous movie star, so... In the same book, my male character has an eight and a half inch cock which, while large, isn't a true monster.
My pet peeve - well, it used to be when a woman passed out from having sex, until I put that in my book. It still bugs me but now that I've done it (put it in the book, not passed out from sex) I guess I can't complain. I think most of this stuff is subjective, like the 'anal must incorporate lube' thing. Lots of folks don't use lube. I guess I'm pretty accepting because I figure, well, yeah, it could happen...
I don't like the miserable jerk as main male character though. And I don't care for the 'my last boyfriend was a total a-hole' because I ask myself, I wonder why she stayed with him...but I'm using that in my next book so I don't suppose I'll dislike it for much longer.
your somewhat hypocritical pal,

TeresaNoelleRoberts said...

Coming back to comment late...It is funny that I can think of instances of most of my pet peeves that have worked just fine (except misplaced hymens)--IF the writing's good enough! Sometimes Random Boinking makes perfect sense in context, but the point is there's a context for it to make sense in!

Madeline said...

This has been bothering me all day so I'll slip it in now. A female friend recently told me she didn't think her hymen was really broken until her third or fourth bf. I asked how that was possible. She replied that the bf was bigger than the other guys and that's why he broke it and the others didn't. So, unless the other guys had miniscule members (and I happen to know they didn't because, well, let's just say she and I shared a similar taste in men) that means her hymen was indeed quite a ways up inside her vagina...
Is there a doctor in the house?

Nikki Magennis said...

This page has all you need to know about the hymen, with pictures of different kinds. (It is outside the vagina.)

Wikipedia has photos too. You'd think they'd issue us with a map when we hit puberty, eh?

That's your sex education lesson over for today!

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