Most readers of my blog know that I write some steamy romance. A few of you even know that in the past year, I got a new job editing “sweet romance,” which is the industry term for romance with no sex at all.

I’ve always enjoyed all kinds of romantic stories and movies as a reader and a viewer, so I don’t find it strange at all to work on both. I’m even in the middle of writing a sweet romance right now.

However, I’ve always known that lots of people, particularly people who haven’t read a romance in twenty years, treat steamy romance writers with derision. They make jokes about the goofy euphemisms romance writers supposedly use for sex organs, although almost all romance writers have discarded these in favor of more direct language.

They also behave as though writers of sexy romance must all be bad writers. Most romance writers are women, and there is some sexism at work here: a discomfort with women authoring sexual content instead of being the object in it.

I’ve known all that for years. What I’ve learned in the past year, though, is that plenty of people also deride sex-free romance.

 

 

Some of this is defensiveness, based on how steamy romance writers and readers are treated. And it’s absolutely the case that some big fans of sex-free romance will heap scorn on the sexy kind.

However, the very existence of sex-free romance is not a criticism of sex-filled romance, and there are many reasons why people prefer the former.

The majority of readers of sex-free romance are uncomfortable with sex scenes, maybe because of their religion, their culture, or their upbringing. Many of them don’t want to encounter premarital sex in particular, because they believe it’s morally wrong. You already know about that.

But from talking to readers, I’ve learned that there are a whole host of other reasons people read it, too.

Some people don’t like sex scenes because it reminds them of past abuse or trauma.

Some people can’t relate as well to sex scenes because they’re virgins.

Some people don’t like them because they have body image issues, and would prefer not to dwell too long on thoughts of whether they look okay naked.

Some people are unable to have sex…or having sex is so difficult that it’s honestly not even worth it. It may be because they or their partner has a sexual dysfunction, medical condition, or disability. People in this particular situation can feel quite alone, when in fact, it’s not even that unusual.

And some people are asexual.

I have a high sex drive, and I still enjoy sex-free romance for pleasure as well as for work. Sexual tension is still tension, and sometimes I just want to relax and experience a story with less tension.

Now, nobody needs to justify the kinds of stories they enjoy, as long as those stories don’t advocate harm. Sometimes we ourselves don’t even know why we like something. Nonetheless, these are all perfectly understandable reasons to prefer sex-free romance.

I don’t care that much if people deride sex-free romance. Lots of people love to talk about what they don’t like, and I’ve done the same thing before, so I can’t be too much of a hypocrite. These days, I try to define myself by what I do like, and let other people enjoy whatever they enjoy uninterrupted, but it’s a fairly recent development.

It does bother me, however, when people say that romance can’t be platonic…that, by definition, it must include sex, or at least sexual desire.

I think when people say things like this, they feel very liberal and enlightened. In fact, it’s hurtful and dismissive to asexuals and to those in committed romantic relationships that are platonic for whatever reason.

Romance is a broad genre. The only real requirements are love and a happy ending. I think it’s great that there are so many different kinds of stories to reach different kinds of readers…and even satisfy the same reader’s every mood. There’s room for everyone.