Smut Reporting

Bitches Be Shopping

It’s time for a poll!

Given the title of this post, you might have already guessed that I am FIRMLY in the category of “Thanks, I hate it.” In fact, a shopping trip in the middle of the story sometimes goes so far as to ruin a book for me. Is this completely irrational? Probably. But since this is my hot take, let’s break it down. 

I’ll start with a caveat. I thought Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic books were friggin’ hilarious. So I am not opposed to characters shopping – as long as it has already been established that this shopping spree is part of their character or important to the plot in some way. 

What I really oppose here is the “suddenly.” Imagine a bunch of characters with a wide range of traits – but who all identify as female. They are having all kinds of adventures and sexytimes and what have you, but give them an AmEx black card and the internet / special access to a fancy boutique / an appointment at Tiffany’s and they all, to a one, turn into a blibbering mass of consumerist spending. 

Here are some questions that immediately pop into my head when this happens:

  1. Do NONE of the women in the room hate shopping? Maybe she finds trying on pants stressful because they never fit right!
  2. Why aren’t the male characters getting excited about buying video games / guns / whiskey?
  3. Are these women really so easily distracted by *shiny* things that they ignore bad behavior when there is stuff to acquire?
  4. Excuse me, ma’am, but do you really need another scarf? 

My beef with comes down to two realms of criticism: gender essentialism and capitalism. 

I am tired of the idea that women, no matter what other interests we might have, can be easily mollified by the new and shiny. 

I am tired of the emphasis in our culture on buying more stuff. The amount of stuff I already have stresses me out. If there’s nothing the current pandemic has taught us, I hope that we have learned that we can’t shop our way out of economic insecurity (we haven’t). 

Don’t get me started on the intersection of gender and capitalism, and the real economic insecurity experienced by many women in the United States, and the fantasy of being able to go on that shopping spree and not worry about it because your royal billionaire vampire boyfriend is footing the bills. I guess I know why authors include this scene after all. 


This Hot Take By Holly is brought to you by books that might have other things to recommend them, but were ruined by shopping scenes. I’m looking at you, Marrying Winterborne and A Hunger Like No Other

Motorcycle Monday

MC Romance: “Club Business”

There’s not so so much to say about the business of MCs in romance novels, but if we’re looking at the MC in terms of characterization, there are some interesting things to consider. 

First, it’s not always clearly stated – in fact, I can’t think of a single book in which the MC specifically refers to itself as an “outlaw MC” – but the MCs in smut are probably all outlaw MCs. Now, this sounds like something criminal or possibly exciting, but it really just means that the club isn’t sanctioned by the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) or doesn’t adhere to its policies and bylaws. That said, the overall sense of these MCs, even if they don’t directly address what kind of illegal business the club is involved in, is that they are shady. Why else would you need to kidnap a doctor to illicitly save someone’s life in the middle of the night? (Please see Striker by Lilly Atlas.) 

In real life, MCs that do engage in illegal activity engage in all kinds of illegal activity, including prostitution, which is never one of the things the MC does in smut (there are things readers tend not to approve of, and peddling flesh is apparently one of them). I read that making, transporting, and selling drugs (not just weed, but the bad news kind) is the number one MC moneymaker in real life. In smut, we have varied illegal activity, depending on how rough is the characterization of the MC, but guns and drugs are the top performers.

Second, in most instances, the members of the MC are essentially employed by the MC, and they usually have some kind of legal operation that can, bare minimum, operate as a front for their illegal operations. Most of them run some kind of auto or bike shop, but I’ll give a shout-out to the Reaper’s MC of Joanna Wylde fame for having a gun shop and strip club in their diverse business portfolio. Chantal Fernando’s Wind Dragons have a strip club and a bar. You get the idea. These are working people who live in a world of hourly wages (though, to be fair, that’s most of us, because there are very specific requirements for categorizing an employee as exempt if we’re talking US employment laws). 

These books are not for the readers looking for a white-collar guy in a sharp suit. In fact, as I continued to read, I began to think of some folks I know who really, truly, do not own dress clothes and who I have seen with my own eyes attend black tie dinners in jeans and a button-up shirt because that’s who they are and they don’t need to wear a black tie to a black tie event. Just throw a leather cut on that, and there you go. That said, these protagonists are typically portrayed as pretty sharp, as small business owners who have the same concerns as other small business owners. The hero in the first Reaper’s book is the club’s accountant, for crying out loud.

Finally, there’s a divergence between MC romance in which the club “got clean” versus is happily continuing to engage in definitely illegal activity, like running guns and drugs. In terms of characterization, the latter trends darker and more anti-hero than the former. 

If we’re talking “the club was into illegal stuff and cleaned up”, those series would include the Chaos MC by Kristen Ashley and the Knight’s Rebels MC by River Savage. I might also include the Torpedo Ink MC by Christine Feehan in this crowd, because they were Russian assassins but now they’re an MC with paranormal powers that rights the world’s wrongs. (It’s super messed up, absolutely, but it is nowhere close to the level of yikes of Undeniable by Madeline Sheehan.) Nevertheless, these clubs still totally get their vigilante action on, so they are by no means upright citizens walking the straight and narrow. 

If we’re talking clubs that just don’t care about the fact that what they want to do ≠ what the government says it’s okay to do, then you’re looking at clubs like the Reaper’s MC by Joanna Wylde or the Undeniable series I mentioned above or, honestly, most of the other clubs I read about. In these cases, I found it interesting that most of the time the gun and drug running was addressed as a matter of course, as if there was no moral issue with this activity. Chantal Fernando in particular tends to address this business as a non-entity, which I found perplexing. (Like, why get bent out of shape about sex and not about other moral quandaries?) Even so, there’s an undercurrent of dark and dangerous associated with “club business” in these books. 

I thought it was fun to pick apart what the club does for work as an exercise in exploring what type of work an author might show as valuable or not. How the business demonstrates the cohesiveness and success of the club. How smart the brothers might be, when from the outside world they’re perceived as thugs. (Though, let’s be honest, people are not generally super psyched about strip clubs either, so what does that tell us, if that’s the MC’s business?) How they do or don’t take pride in their work. The characterization of the MC’s business doesn’t only show that the heroes are employed (however that might be), it provides a ton of social commentary that significantly enhances the overall feel and tone of the book.

Well, that wasn’t the last chart I’ll provide, but I don’t expect we’ll see too many charts when we talk politics next. Smut is super political. Don’t let anybody tell you different. 

PS: All my Motorcycle Monday posts can be found here

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Kristen Ashley

Looking for a new author? Here’s everything you need to know about Kristen Ashley, author of the Dream Man series as well as a bunch of books Erin’s been talking about for Motorcycle Mondays.

What She Writes:

Primarily contemporary romance, but also fantasy romance. Also primarily long and integrated series.

What Makes Her Unique:

Ashley writes alpha (or alpha-hole) heroes, but her protagonists tend to work through relationship hurdles with emotional maturity (mostly – there are some outliers) unusual in much contemporary romance (especially romance with alphas). This is possibly because the primary struggle of her books isn’t whether or not the protagonists can get to solid ground in their relationship, but is rather something that is happening to them.

Writing Style:

She writes in an extremely conversational style, with the heroines in 1st person POV and other perspectives she might jump to (most often the hero, but sometimes others) in 3rd person POV

Our Faces When We Read Her Books:

Why We Love Her:

Ashley is really good at characterization. Like, down to heroines swearing or referring to their private parts in different ways that make sense based on their personalities. Her protagonists’ approach to relationships is not always neat and tidy, but it emphasizes the importance of communication and openness and trust in a relationship. Also she finds ways to connect all of her series (especially the Denver books), so if you’ve read a lot of KA, you’ll get little peeks of other old friends.

Notable Quotation:

“Now, you listen to me, scary biker dude,” I snapped. “I need this job. I haven’t worked in two months and I need this job. I can’t wait two more months or longer to find another job. I need to work now.” His blue eyes burned into mine in a way that felt physical but I kept right on talking. “So you’re good-looking, have great tats and a cool goatee. So you caught my eye and I caught yours. We had sex. Lots of sex. It was good. So what? That was then, this is now. We’re not going to play, not again. We’re done playing. I’m going to come in at eight, leave at five, do my job, and you’re going to be my scary biker dude boss, sign my paychecks, do my performance evaluations and maybe, if you’re nice, I’ll make you coffee. Other than that, you don’t exist for me and I don’t exist for you. What we had, we had. It’s over. I’m moving on and how I’m moving on is, I’m… working… this… job.”

Motorcycle Man

She Might Not Be For You If:

You like your writing technically correct and polished or you dislike macho, domineering alpha-type heroes or you can’t stand toxic masculinity or you don’t care for a lot of explicit sex or you don’t enjoy working-class protagonists or you like your romances short and sweet

Content Warnings:

Ashley deals with a lot of issues, including rape and abuse, but also including poverty and power dynamics and death of family and politics and religion and so on. She also writes with a mind to diversity, but sometimes those supporting characters are stereotyped (though I think she’s evolved over time, and her more recent books tend to show more current consideration and awareness of racial and LGBTQ+ characterization).

The Bottom Line:

Kristen Ashley is definitely not going to be for everyone, but if you enjoy your heroes on the domineering end of the spectrum and you like character-driven stories that are often inter-woven, you’d probably enjoy diving into the worlds she’s created.

Start With:

The Hookup if you’re not prepared for full-blown alpha-hole, or Rock Chick if you’re thinking you might enjoy an alpha-hole that comes with comedy

Smut Reporting

Please don’t tell me about your pubes

Scene: Here I am, reading a romance novel. Things are getting hot and heavy. Off come the shifts. Off come the pants. And then, the hero remarks on the heroine’s pubic hair, mostly shaved except for the perfect landing strip. 

And I am not excited about the sex any more. 

To be clear, explicit sex is not a problem for me. And details about other body parts also don’t stop me in my tracks. But tell me about what her pubic hair (or lack thereof) looks like, and everything inside me just shrivels up. 

At first, I thought the crux is that describing the shave pattern of someone’s pubic region is a purely visual moment. I don’t get hung up when a woman’s sexual partner captures her goji berry nipples and sucks them into his or her mouth. But I also don’t get hung up when said partner just looks at her goji berry nipples as they harden at the end of her pert breasts. 

Upon further reflection, what’s going on here for me is the weight of what it means (or doesn’t?) to shave one’s pubic hair in a certain formation. Like, when the author tells us that the heroine fully shaves her mons or leaves the perfect landing strip, is the author trying to tell the reader something about that character? Because I don’t really know how to interpret that information. If she has a full bush, is it because she’s messy or because she’s a hippie or because she’s lazy or what? Is a woman more clean and moral and upright if she never has a hair out of place? Or am I reading too much into it, and a character’s pubic hair should just be taken as body descriptor outside of their personality, just like the goji berry nipples.

I can think of one exception to my anti-pubes rule. In Blind Date with a Book Boyfriend by Lucy Eden, Jordyn tells Mike that it’s been a while so things might be a little messy down there. This works for me precisely because there’s context, and the information actually reveals something about Jordyn and her history and personality – and Mike’s response, in turn, reveals something about him. See! Pubes can tell us a lot about a person, if we let them!

No poll this time, faithful readers. I don’t want to hear about your pubes either. Sorry, not sorry. 


This Hot Take by Holly is brought to you by an email Erin sent me and Ingrid about a book called “Daddy’s Worst Nightmare” where the heroine is so sheltered that she doesn’t know what a cock is, but also shaves all her pubic hair, because that detail just pushed me over the edge.

Motorcycle Monday

MC Romance: Let’s Bone

If I were going to describe MC romance sex, it would be like this:

🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆🍆

🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

Mmmmkay?

Short story: There’s a lot of sex, and it’s super duper detailed, hot and heavy. And also, in case you’re not caught up on all the other posts in this series, the heroes are also all dominant in the bedroom. 

Maybe with slightly less bed destruction….and sparkly vampires

How about a little like this:

Whew, boy…

Some of this?

I always imagined it with a bit more finesse, though…

This wouldn’t be amiss either:

Ermagherd 365 Dni…Insanity

DEFINITELY this:

You’re welcome.

Anyway…

Sex is sex, but there’s more interesting stuff going on with sex in MC smut than sexytimes so steamy I need to keep a fire extinguisher next to me while reading. Specifically, all the other stuff going on with the rest of the brothers and in and around the clubhouse.

If you cast your mind back to my discussion of setting, you’ll recall that one of the primary understandings we’re meant to have about these biker folk is that they’re wild and free. They’ve cultivated a space where they can be just that. 

One of the ways this manifests is they do what they want. This includes have sex when they want and where they want. That might include…public spaces in and around the clubhouse. (Please see, like, all of the Reaper’s books by Joanna Wylde or Tracker’s End by Chantal Fernando.) Most often it includes promiscuity and a, erm, healthy sexual appetite that’s understood but isn’t necessarily on page. (Please just see all the books.) 

All of this sex is usually with the club women I discussed last week, unless we’re talking about protagonists featured in that or prior books in the series. Club members who might have old ladies but who weren’t protagonists in prior books in the series are significantly less likely to be, erm, monogamous. 

So what we’ve got is: clubhouses are portrayed as sex palaces and bikers as promiscuous, which means that in nearly every story there’s a point at which the lack of fidelity and monogamy between the club members and their old ladies (or any women at all, because club women are skanks, of course) becomes an issue for the protagonist couple. Or, more specifically, it becomes an issue for the heroine. People all over the world have sex…all over the world. But the centralized in-your-faceness of sex in the clubhouse I guess brings the idea of non-monogamy home for the heroine. Or rather, centralizes the idea of cheating, because it’s always about cheating, never about the possibility that couples might choose to engage in non-monogamous relationships. (One notable exception to this is Arrow from the Wind Dragons books. He has a non-monogamous relationship in book 1, and it becomes a small issue in book 2, Arrow’s Hell.)

This fixation on cheating is borderline obsessive, and the lack of consideration that parties in this “live free or die” lifestyle might choose to have open relationships is, for me, a head scratcher. I feel that if I saw people having public sex – copious quantities of public sex with miscellaneous partners – I might think their notion of relationships might not match my WASPy upbringing. It makes sense to me that heroine protagonists would think about what they want in terms of a monogamous relationship, but it makes very little sense that they would get bent out of shape about seeing a non-monogamous relationship in the context in which it occurs. Except inasmuch as this obsession serves to reinforce norms and ideas about monogamy, who is interested in monogamy (hint: it’s women), and the idea that a woman needs the special something that makes womanizers magically monogamous. Or inasmuch as it can act as a catalyst for relationship drama. Which, let me just say, is typically predicated on a lack of communication and trust between partners. So that’s not great. 

In sum, there are quite a few value judgements occurring where sex is concerned in these books, which is interesting because you’d think that people who are all about doing their own thing would be less not more judgemental about who’s having sex with whom and where. But that’s not the case. It’s a rather incongruous take, when all is said and done. 

Next week I think we’ll take a break to do an author spotlight, and then we’re back for our last three pieces about MC smut culture. 


Previous posts in this series can be found here.