In Praise of Smut
I read a lot. Probably several people’s worth of reading, both in terms of volume and taste. I’m one of those readers with several books going at any given moment, juggling them based on location, time of day, and mood. And one of those books is always a romance novel.
This is not going to be a full-throated defense of romance. That, dear readers, will come another day. What I want to say today is that, when I read a romance, I want to read some high-quality smut.
That’s right — bring on the sexytimes. It’s certainly not the only, or even the main, thing I’m in that book for, but I expect those characters to get it on, for several pages, several times, in interesting and athletic ways, well before the last quarter of the book. Character development is all well and good, and pacing and plot make the world go round, but if I don’t hear about some rampant man-staffs and perfect pink pleasure parts, I’m out of here.
I don’t need to venture into any seedy truck stop bookstore to find what I’m looking for. I know all the tricks for finding this stuff, and I’ve known them for years. If you fan a well-read paperback open slowly, it’ll open to the naughty bits because previous readers’ hot little hands have put more stress on the binding at those points. Trade paperback romances tend to have more graphic sex scenes than mass markets for some reason, except for those “inspirational” romances, but those always have the same cover art: some gormless twit, standing in a field of grass, in clothes that make a burqa look burlesque.
And it’s not all pen names and bodice-ripping covers. The list of NYT Bestselling authors that meet my criteria is as long as my arm, and I can buy their books in Target or Barnes & Noble without the slightest bit of embarrassment. All those books with women in flowing gowns or bare-chested men in kilts you see at the grocery checkout? Full of lusty virgins and urgent thrusting. You have NO idea what’s going on in there.
Now imagine what the girl on the bus is reading on her KINDLE.
And if anyone is uncomfortable over women getting their wrinkly bits tingly right there in broad daylight, let me tell you what makes me uncomfortable: it’s every person who gets a hard-on when they crack the cover on a novel that lets you put yourself on the zipline down from a Black Hawk behind enemy lines, where you land and deliver silent righteous justice to the filthy terrorist. Total porn. Worse yet, moralizing porn that warps your worldview while getting you off.
So if I want to read about exciting, multi-hour, contortionist sex with a large, strong, attentive lover who sees the hidden value in the heretofore neglected woman? Sue me. What’s the worst that happens? Maybe I decide that I’m turned on enough to ignore the backache, and to pretend the sleeping kids in the other room is “the threat of discovery,” and that sleep is for the weak, and actually get it on with my unsuspecting husband. At least my porn doesn’t encourage me to invade another country.