Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sex and Comedy

by Sophie Mouette (aka Dayle & Teresa)

“Really, sex and laughter do go very well together, and I wondered—and I still do—which is more important.” (Hermione Gingold, Canadian Actress, 1897-1987)

“Laughter is the best tension reliever and sex is second. So if you’re having funny sex you're probably in good shape.” (Mark Gorkin, “The Stress Doc,” Licensed Clinical Social Worker)
Despite these comments, some people still think that erotica and humor don’t mix well. A recent interview with Morrow/Avon editor Lucia Macro in Romance Writer’s Report sounds the death knell for romantic comedy—done to death, this editor surmises, by too many heroines who were supposed to be funny and lovable, but came off as helpless and ditzy. (Although she does say “a dose of humor” is welcome.) And can the ever-popular alpha male have a sense of humor? (One of us knows a dominant who favors Hawaiian shirts and Hello Kitty sunglasses, just to confuse his sub, but the dominant/alpha male as seen in romance novels tends to be dark and brooding and lacking in the ability to laugh, except menacingly.)

When Teresa pitched our manuscript Out of the Frying Pan—an erotic romance whose secondary characters include a cross-dressing Vin Diesel look-alike action hero—to an editor, the editor stared blankly. “It’s sexy…and romantic…and comic?” she finally said. “How would that work?” The editor was young. Perhaps she hadn’t learned that the pleasures and pitfalls of falling in lust/love can be comedy gold, at least when they’re happening to fictional characters. (We prescribe a course of classic Hepburn films, where the dialogue is sharp and snappy and the sexual tension is thick enough to cut with a knife, even if everyone keeps their clothes on.)

Dark and angsty themes are all very well, but sex and love can be pretty hilarious, too. Plus, just because the sex is serious doesn’t mean your whole life is. It’s not necessarily the sex that’s funny, but we believe a romantic comedy can be really sexy, too. And that’s often what we set out to write.

In the case of our story “Behind the Masque,” (in Sex with Strangers) there’s sly humor in the voice of the narrator, a jewel thief with attitude:

I glanced down at my enticingly displayed décolletage. I could talk the talk, but the girls helped, too.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been pulled over for speeding, only to drive away without a ticket. I can convince the proprietor of a swanky shop that I really did buy this item, but I lost the receipt, and I honestly do deserve a refund. I can charm the fur off a mountain lion, as they say.

And when she gets down and dirty with a security guard she needs to distract, the heat gets serious, but she keeps the attitude:

He was leaning over me to kiss and lick and suckle, though, so I was humping empty air.

Until he stood and my mound connected with the impressive swelling in his uniform pants.

Well, then.

‘What have we here?’ I murmured. Unable to keep my hands off something like that—a hard cock is almost as enticing as a hot rock, and certainly more fun to play with—I pressed my palm against the bulge.

His hips jerked, and I felt his prick throb even through my gloves. My mouth watered.

Well, what better way to keep a man distracted? With a rustle of silk and brocade, I sank to my knees.

[…]From Joe’s reactions, I was pretty sure he wouldn’t have noticed a parade of elephants galumphing down the hall.

Sometimes, though, it’s not just the tone or the voice. Sometimes ridiculous things really do happen when you’re making love—as our two heroines in “Busted” (in Caught Looking) discover:

I couldn’t form a coherent answer. She buried two fingers in my folds, pressed them up into me. I clamped down on them, desperate for release. The combination of thrusting fingers and the thumb she had pressed against my clit and her mouth clamped on my aching nipple was overwhelming. So many sensations, driving me further to the edge.

I crashed over into orgasm, grinding myself against her hand. I clutched the headrest with one hand and pounded against the car’s ceiling with the other. “Fuck, yes!”

And that’s when a bright light shone in the window and a strident male voice said, “All right, kids, let’s break it up in there.”

It was the voice rather than the light that caught my attention, largely because my bare ass was facing the window, giving the officer a fine view. I pulled my bra up, and tumbled sideways into the driver’s seat, my feet still tangled in my jeans. The action revealed Elle’s breasts in all their glory. She yanked the edges of the cardigan together, but not before the cop outside got a nice eyeful.


I’d been caught making out in a car before. Even caught by a cop. But never
with a cop herself. Never when one of my partner’s co-workers, essentially, was watching.


I reached behind my seat and flailed around for my shirt.

“Jesus, MacIntyre.” Elle’s voice sounded annoyed rather than embarrassed. She rolled down the window a little farther and glared up at him. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”

And sometimes, the funny things lead to more hotness:

The way I was squirming wasn’t just from embarrassment. Some little part of me was turned on, not so much by what actually happened as by images running through my head.

(Caught Looking is an voyeur/exhibitionist anthology. Extrapolate from here, or better yet, buy the book and read the whole sexy story.)

Our novel Cat Scratch Fever takes place at a wild cat sanctuary that’s being vandalized. One of the volunteers, a former juvenile delinquent trying to go straight, discovers quite by accident that a sewer pipe has broken.

He stopped dead in his tracks. Across the green, his single utterance was loud and clear.


“Language, Lance,” Felicia called.


“We’ve talked about appropriate language—” Felicia tried again, amazed at his sudden descent into crudeness after weeks of him being successfully polite. Cleaning up his language, both grammar and colourful euphemisms, was part of the deal if he was to stay as a volunteer, and he’d been working hard at it.

He had dropped the bucket and rake, and now gestured helplessly, pointing at the ground. “Well, what do you
want me to call it?!”

And that’s when the slight breeze shifted towards her. Felicia felt the bile rise in her throat.

But earlier in the book, another character had had the opportunity to see a different side of our bad boy, proving he could be just as hot as he was humorous.

She’d heard that tongue piercings made a huge difference for oral sex—and, from other people, that they didn’t. Melissa was enough of a scientist at heart that she tried to maintain a certain objectivity and figure out the truth. She could definitely feel the stud, a hard ball slipping over her slippery flesh, tantalizing the nerve endings in a slightly different way from the tongue itself.

But it’s hard to stay objective for long when a gorgeous boy is licking your clit—with or without a pierced tongue—and pushing two fingers inside you. Maybe it was the piercing, the rush from the “porn-star moment,” the fulfilment of her long-time yearning for a down-and-dirty session with a bad boy. Or maybe Lance just liked eating pussy and did it well.

All she could say for sure is that she was rapidly losing her mind.

At the end of Cat Scratch Fever we had an erotic clinch in a walk-in freezer that paused (frustratingly so for the characters in the clinch) for a humorous moment. They’re interrupted by Valerie, a wacky and kinky board member who calls out to them, although they don’t respond in the hopes that she’ll go away…

(Warning: Contains spoilers. A name has been disguised to protect the guilty.)

“Well,” called Valerie, “I was just coming to say goodnight.” Something in the tone of her voice suggested that she knew perfectly well what Felicia was up to in the fridge.

Gabe was inside her to the hilt; she was stretched around him. She felt his hand worm its way around her and between her thighs to stroke her wet clit.

Staying quiet was getting harder by the second.

She fluttered and clenched around him, and felt his hips jerk in response. Well, if he was going to torture her, she was going to torture him back. Now a little roll while she tightened some more.

She bit her own lip. That had been a mistake, at least from a keeping-quiet point of view.

“Oh, and I wanted to let you in on a little secret,” Valerie continued, “just between us girls, because I know how angry you are at [the villain]. I suggested to the police that [he] would probably need a thorough going-over, just in case he’s hiding anything. Can you imagine how surprised they’ll be when they find the butt plug that’s stuffed in him? Ta ta, dear!”

The woman’s delighted laugh, which didn’t sound the least bit demented under the circumstances, faded as she left the café.

Felicia was so stunned by the revelation that for a moment, her mind went blank. Then Gabe started moving again, thrusting into her and manipulating her clit at the same time. Felicia clutched the shelf so hard that she thought she might yank the bolts out of the wall.

“God, yes!” Gabe gasped, suddenly moving faster. The blood buzzed in Felicia’s ears as she responded, clamping down around him and shuddering through another orgasm along with him.

Only then, spiralling down from her climax, did she start to giggle. Gabe leaned against her, and she felt his chest rock with his own laughter.

In the real world, guys with a sense of humor have a better chance of getting hooked up—so why shouldn’t our heroines appreciate a man’s rapier wit as much as his killer abs and ginormous erection? (After all, under normal circumstances, you can check out the wit sooner than the…other important attributes.) And besides, science is on our side!

“[N]ew research suggests, humor talent does offer a possible advantage in the contest to proliferate offspring…. At least that’s the implication of a study of college students at McMaster University in Canada. Psychologists Eric Bressler and Sigal Balshine presented the students with photos of comparably attractive members of the opposite sex, accompanied by autobiographical statements supposedly authored by the people pictured. On average, women rated the ‘funny’ men as more romantically desirable than the plain talkers.” (science writer Tom Siegfried)

Then again, maybe we should let someone who's both funny and sexy have the last word, not a bunch of scientists. And so we turn to cartoon bombshell Jessica Rabbit, heroine of the hilarious (although admittedly not very erotic) movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit? When the unnaturally curvy redhead is asked why she loves her husband—a manic animated rabbit in the vein of Bugs Bunny—she replies, simply, “He makes me laugh.”


LaughingPenny said...

If more people were laughing and loving, it would be a better world!

Just Craig said...

I adore humor in erotic stories. In some cases, the fumbling between a couple (or three? four?) might define their growing affection. Sometimes it underscores the desperation in the desire between lovers. Sometimes is illustrates that the couples relationship is strained.

Whatever the reason, sex and humor go together magnificently as ably illustrated by the excerpts provided.

Great post on a great topic, near and dear to my heart.

Olivia Knight said...

Funnily enough, writing for Lust Bites has lightened up my writing as a whole. One of the first things I had to learn as a writer was to be really mean to my characters, make the horrible things happen that they desperately didn't want to happen - that without that darkness, the joyous bits were less effective. I seem to have got the hang of cruelty now - my current heroine is being put through hell, living off snakes and field mice, tortured emotionally and psychologically. Then of course, you need the contrast again, so it's not all suffering... enter the spiteful hobgoblinny type creature who's been cracking me up for days with his snide comments. He's breathtakingly rude, but extremely funny, so I've been sitting in coffee shops sniggering at my laptop like a deranged witch.

The Princess Bride is another fine example...
"I'm not a witch, I'm your wife!"

Just Craig said...

Well put, Olivia.

I love the darkness in contrast with the light. Shadows become more intense when rimmed by bright light.

I like to write both humor and darkness, though there are stories where I lean much heavier on one than the other. Still I doubt I've written anything without some sort of humor in it, or darkness for that matter.

I love the image of you crafting your dastardly character, loving every minute of it. Many are the times I have laughed as I've written a particular scene or some dialog, and people around me think I'm deranged.

I'm not denying it, mind you.

TeresaNoelleRoberts said...

Olivia, I need to work more on torturing my characters (in non-fun, non-erotic ways, that is. I'm good at writing that kind of "torture.") Getting my characters into crazy predicaments is easy, but inflicting the deeper, darker sorts of hell on them is something I still shy from . (No doubt that's why I lean toward romantic comedy. The characters may still be in deep trouble, but they're zinging one-liners back and forth the whole time, and no one's likely to die. Want to die from embarrassment, maybe, but not actually die.)

Jeremy Edwards said...

I love this post! Humor and sex are my two favorites among life's pleasures. And, when writing, I often like to combine them. When writing primarily comedic works, I've found it natural to incorporate innuendo but challenging to incorporate actual sex convincingly; when writing primarily erotic works, I use humor more in the exposition, build-up, and incidental action than during actual sex scenes . . . but here's an exception (a passage from my WIP), where I try to bring wit right into bed:

He had never trusted a woman in this way. Not that he'd been afraid they would hurt him; but he had always felt compelled to keep his sexual steering wheel in his own hands. With Normandie, he was happy to be taken, to be driven, to let her try things on him, to raise his erection to monumental proportions in whatever way she chose.

"You can play with my ass anytime you want," he said.

"Thank you. We'll make a note of that."

Anonymous said...

Great post!

Love this topic

Sacchi Green said...

I generally turn to the humorous (but still sexy) bits for public readings, and i think the audience likes it that way. It's always an adventure, though , to discover which parts they'll laugh at hardest.

Anne Tourney said...

I definitely find men with a sense of humor attractive; in fact, that's essential for me. If I can't laugh with someone, I don't feel relaxed. If I don't feel relaxed, well, the juices just don't flow, if you know what I mean. The same goes for reading and writing erotica -- I have to have some fun, or it's not worthwhile. I think the genre is more open to humor now than it used to be. BDSM fiction, in particular, used to be so devoid of humor, so heavy-handed.

I really like just_craig's insight about the contrast of humor and darkness in erotic fiction:

Shadows become more intense when rimmed by bright light.

To me, this sums it up.

Great post -- very hot excerpts!

Kate Pearce said...

yes-I love to sneak a bit of humor into the classic romance novel scenario-the big build up, the sexual tension, the culmination-which in one of my historicals is over in about 3 minutes...
and the heroine asks was that it?
I love that scene-(if that's okay for me to say that about my own writing-I'm losing my British reserve living in the USA :)

great post and I agree with Anne-I love funny men.

Madeline Moore said...

I've had to tone down the humour in my work - I'm almost always told my original idea is 'too zany'. That goes for all my writing, not just erotica. I guess I might've been too influenced by the late Kurt Vonnegut Jr. So it goes.

There is a place for humour in erotica, just as there is humour in real live sex. It's important, too, that readers, especially women, get that an unexpected glitch in lovemaking, like getting her hair caught in his zipper or discovering that her cat is staring fixedly at your frenzied coupling, doesn't have to bring the event to a screeching halt. Stuff happens, people get messy, make embarrassing noises, poke each other in the eye with an elbow...batteries die at precisely the wrong moment, fruit that was supposed to be fetched from an orifice by a probing tongue disappears and has to be retrieved by grasping fingers...and that's all OK. This is actually something I intentionally put into my work in the hope that women who are easily turned off by the unexpected will lighten up and learn to go with the flow.

As for funny men. Well...a lot of the humour I love the most is sardonic, and sardonic men can be real pricks. Also, my very favourite funny men, like Steve Martin and Jim Carrey, are very dark people. When I was young I was drawn to men who made funny-but-cutting jokes. Now, I may laugh at their jokes but I'm not interested in getting to know them more intimately. Inevitably that cutting humour is going to wound me.

Humour can be used to diffuse a situation, and I've done so many times, especially with my children.

Finally, I had a rock star boyfriend once who cracked me up. He was a pig, a cheater, and kind of ugly, but he sure was funny. He was the only man I was ever involved with who believed, as I do, that if you can make the other guy laugh, you've won the argument and it's over. Once we were arguing about grammar in lyrics. I thought musicians ought to make an effort to be grammatically correct. (I was young.) He disagreed. We went back and forth for awhile, until he said, 'Let me put it to you another way - shut up.' I laughed and that was that.

Anne Tourney said...

He was a pig, a cheater, and kind of ugly, but he sure was funny.

See, that's the kind of guy I would go for, Madeline. Especially if he looked good in those tight leather rock star pants. Do you still have his phone number?

I hadn't thought about that sardonic, cutting type of humor, but I see what you mean about the potential to wound with it. I tend to prefer goofy, good-natured humor to the sarcastic variety. And I love a man who can do funny things with words. Most of all, I think I judge a man's sense of humor by how much he laughs at my jokes (not by how much he laughs at me naked, mind you :)).

Anne Tourney said...

Oh, and I meant to add that I like the guy in the kilt in the first photo of the post. Hope he laughs hard enough to fall backwards so we can see what's under it . . . .

He's not a descendant of the Bay City Rollers, is he?

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Re: darkness v. humor. Joss Whedon is a master at that! More often than not, in the same episode of Buffy, I went from laughing out loud to shrieking and cowering in fear.

Re: Sex as funny. That wasn't specifically the point we were going for here, because that's already been covered on Lust Bites. We were talking more of whether a humorous story could also have smoking hot sex (and, obviously, we think the answer is yes!).

Anne, Kilt Guy is John Barrowman, best know for his role of Captain Jack Harkness, omnisexual time traveler, on Doctor Who and Torchwood. :-)

Lust Bites Monster Woman said...

What goes "ha ha bonk"?

A man laughing his head off.

Madelynne Ellis said...

I think there's definitely a place for humour in erotica, but I'm more of a dry wit sort of girl than full on comedy. That and I'm way too fond of torturing my characters.

Deanna Ashford said...

Late as usual - that's me all over. I adore humor in erotic stories too - wish I could do it. My OH says I haven't a humorous bone in my body unfortunately.

Karl Friedrich Gauss said...

Certainly humour is de rigeur for seriously enjoyable sex or sex writing. For example, I usually don't go in for the heavier end of BDSM, but there's one blog in this domain that I love because the author is just so funny. Her latest post discusses a talking vibrator:

In case you wonder, here are four different pre-programmed phrases inside
the vibrator:

Go away, I’ve got a headache

Sorry, I have to get up early tomorrow

Hell, can’t you get a real man?

Mmm, you’re looking cute tonight honey

Not my kinda talk but hey.. “Bring Me My belt, whore” didn’t
make it into their top 10 choices.

The site is Kinkerbelle

Felix said...

When Madeline mentioned funny accidents, she forgot the day her high heel punctured an air mattress and we ended up deflated, or the incident with the door and the ringing telephone and... Maybe I'll skip that one.

My first submission to Nexus was rejected for being funny. The book was called, Marsha Moves Her Assets. It was about Marsha Mallow, who slept with her thighs spread in case of burglars.

Maybe Patrick, the editor at that time, had a point.

Janine Ashbless said...

Funny is sexy: look at the guys on "Whose Line Is It Anyway" - hardly handsome, any of them, but hot!

And, my personal favourite at the moment because I'm catching up on so many repeats of "Scrubs": Dr Cox.