I recently came across Lareign Ward’s essay, “How Romance Novels Could Save Straight Sex.” While the title is a bit overblown – because really, is sex something that we need to “save” the same way we need to save the whales? – she makes some excellent points about the joys of smut.
Unlike much of Big Important Fiction, romance novels taught me that good sex doesn’t have to be followed immediately by tragedy or betrayal (looking at you, Atonement). A woman’s sexual development doesn’t have to ruin her. These books helped me realize healthy sex is is a mutual encounter rather than a thing to endure passively. I’ve often heard sex compared to dancing, but it took romance novels to help me realize male-female relations should resemble a Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire number, not one of those high school dances where you awkwardly latched onto your date and prayed for the song to be over before you were forced to make sustained eye contact. That doesn’t mean I expect sex to be free of awkward or stressful moments, only that I know it’s not supposed to be one continuously mortifying moment. Books can give straight women unrealistic expectations the same way porn can give straight men unrealistic expectations, but at least in romance novels, the women aren’t faking it and the men ask before they finish on someone’s face.
Yes! Thank you! This is why it makes me angry when people reflexively shit on romances as nonsensical or escapist. Of course they are, but so is plenty of other media; and at least in romance novels, women get to have fun in the sack.
Truth be told, the world probably would be a better place if there were more female orgasms happening.
Really, though, the reason I bring up this post is because of the amazing cover photo.
I wanted that book. I mean, look at it. That is an amazing vintage romance cover, with all sorts of salacious and fun implications. Luckily, photographer Stephen Coles has a whole photo series of vintage romance novel covers, so it was not too challenging to figure out that this particular iteration of the title was by Leonhard Frank. Unfortunately, from the descriptions, it seems like it’s more of a Martin Guerre situation than a sexy rumpus love triangle, written as an indictment of the collateral damage of war. Bummer.
Anyone read this, and can confirm one way or the other? Other fabulous vintage covers or titles we should know about? Let us know in the comments.