Writing about sex

Just for some color, a mural found in Curacao on my 2022 cruise

This blog post has been prompted by a post made on one of my Facebook writing groups. The gist was “Help! I’m writing my romance story, but I struggle… every time… to write c… cu… you know, the c word”.

I had some definite thoughts on this but decided I didn’t want the OP to think I was unloading specifically on them by replying directly. So this post is a venting that’s been building a while. So, here are my thoughts.

Dear Romance Author,

You can’t write the word “cuddle”? Huh? What’s wrong with it?

Before you reply to my comment, ask yourself why there’s an expectation in your head for a different word. If you expect “the c word” in every romance you read, why would you have an inability to type it if you are writing a romance? You learned the expectations and norms of the genre by reading lots of books you loved with it, right? If you’re like me, you read aloud in your head. There’s a voice and yes, it’s saying that word. Multiple times.

If you have a different expectation of romance; that it should not *need* to use “the c word,” then write the story YOU believe is a romance without using it. And buy romances that don’t use it. (There are plenty that are not also “sweet”; the English language is far from limited when it comes to having words to describe sex, sex acts, and a sexual participant’s genitalia.)

If your response is “it won’t sell without it” then ask yourself why you’re embarrassed to write it, but you’re not embarrassed to buy and read it? If your answer to that question is “no one knows I read it, (I hide behind my screen) but they will when I write it,” ask yourself why you equate *reading* romance with such shame? Such shame suggests you are disdainful of yourself, of romance readers in general. You don’t truly care about these people you want to buy *your* books? You want to put them through a ringer of shame too?

Look. If you want to write romance and make money from it, and yet you simultaneously hold a feeling of shame around the content, the fact of the matter is you’re willing to earn an income enticing others to shame and “sin” but keep *your* appearance clean. That’s pretty shitty behavior.

That’s not even getting into “but readers will think this is what I do in bed,” which is a whole ‘nother tangent.

OK. So I’ve unloaded. How do you, as a reader and/or a writer of romance, feel about “the c word”?

For the record, my stories use the c word if the character whose POV is in play would use it, so it’s always colored by their upbringing, sexual experience, thoughts and feelings in the moment. Characters have even changed the word they use in their mind as they grow and change in a relationship.

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