Announcement, Smut Reporting

Smut is Political

We at The Smut Report are opposed to racism in all its forms, including pervasive systemic racism. And we want to state this out loud because it is our responsibility to speak out.

We feel compelled to state this outright in view of the ongoing protests in the US after the horrific murder of George Floyd (and Breonna Taylor) (and Ahmaud Arbery) (and and and). Black lives matter, and we recognize that we are part of the culture that has ignored and minimized Black voices for decades and centuries. Beyond that, we had planned to recognize and celebrate Pride Month in June, highlighting other marginalized voices. 

Because of the situation we currently find ourselves in, we want to be explicit: Smut is Political. And therefore, the work we do is also political. It’s easy to declare that some things – like romance books – shouldn’t be political, but that’s a viewpoint of the privileged.

When we say politics, we don’t mean voting (though you should definitely vote!), but rather the fact that smut can reinforce narratives about what stories are worth telling, what stories are worth listening to – and by extension, which people deserve happily ever afters and which lives have value. 

Smut might provide an avenue for escapist fantasy, but smut has historically and also continues to:

  • Glorify the military-industrial complex by valorizing hyper-alpha heroes with guns
  • Gloss over an economic slump, massive civil unrest, state violence, and repressive laws in the years following the Napoleonic Wars and during the Gilded Age
  • Paint ruthless businessmen as the most desirable romantic partners
  • Portray the Ideal Town in the United States as lily-white and straight and Christian and homogenous 

This doesn’t mean that we’re never going to read another military or cop hero, or another Regency romance, or another billionaire romance, or another romance set in Anytown, USA. But when we read these stories, we read them with the understanding of both why we’re reading them (sometimes fantasy is satisfying and fun) and what they represent. And we recognize that, while we might read these stories, we also want to read books that tell other, less well represented stories. Everyone deserves a happily ever after; we all deserve to have our love stories told with dignity and respect. We want to see the communities and diversity of our world reflected in the stories we read, as beautiful and messy and complicated on the page as they are in real life. 

We will therefore continue to read and promote stories by marginalized voices and about marginalized people. We will do our best to highlight problematic content – and problematic erasures – in the books we read. We will continue to educate ourselves so we can be better allies in this ongoing struggle. 

Right now, as we look forward to Pride Month and back to the systemic racism and violence perpetrated against Black citizens that has culminated in our current upheaval, we as persons of privilege are hyper-aware of our responsibility to acknowledge and amplify marginalized voices. But our responsibility doesn’t end when quiet normalcy returns. Amplification of marginalized voices is an ongoing responsibility, and one which we will continue to take seriously. We have been linking to various resources to promote allyship on our social media pages – especially our Twitter page – so if you would like more information about what you can do to be a good ally, we encourage you to head over there.

In addition, we encourage you to head over to these sites that promote Black authors and Black romance:

Girl, Have You Read…?

Black Chick Lit

WOC In Romance

Smut Reporting

“He slanted his mouth across hers”

When I wrote about licking sweat and how it wasn’t sexy, Silver Button Books (whose blog you can check out here) brought up another ubiquitous romance phrase: “he slanted his mouth across hers,” noting that it was weird and always made her think of toddlers smearing their faces across a glass window. 

If you think about it, this is kind of a weird way to describe kissing. All we really have in this description is an angle – the “slant.”

And if we go to my trusty Merriam-Webster, the predominant synonym is “slope.” Unless we’re talking about “slant” in a metaphorical sense, in which case synonymous words distort, falsify, pervert, etc. I think it’s safe to assume that romance writers who use this phrase are talking about a literal slant, not a metaphorical one. 

I decided some further investigating was in order. 

This phrase most commonly appears in historical romance, so I turn to some classic (and maybe less classic) clinch covers to help illuminate exactly what kind of kisses are happening here. Also, this is an excellent excuse to look at romance novel covers because they are an art form that deserve to be talked about all the time.

Continue reading ““He slanted his mouth across hers””
Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Ruby Dixon

Looking for a new author? Here’s everything you need to know about Ruby Dixon, whose books include Ice Planet Barbarians, The Corsair’s Captive, and Fire in His Blood.

What She Writes:

The sexiest keffing Sci-Fi smut you’ve ever read

What Makes Her Unique:

Ruby Dixon makes four arms sexy. She makes tails sexy. She makes giant, blue, three-fingered hands sexy. In short, whatever Ruby Dixon says ends up being sexy.

Writing Style:

First person point of view that alternates between the lead characters. Prose is zippy and easy to devour. Long, intricate plot lines with many different and dynamic characters. The (usually alien) men tend to be very hyper-masculine and the (usually human) women tend to be very strong and fierce in their own ways.

Why We Love Her:

Ruby Dixon absolutely nails diversity. Everyone is welcome in her fantastical, sexy, alien settings – everyone gets to have good sex. Everyone gets to have their own troubles and challenges. Truly wonderfully done.

How I Feel When I’m Reading:

She Might Not Be For You If:

The aliens are very anatomically divergent from what I would normally consider attractive in ANY way, so if tails and horns gross you out, steer clear. You may not like them if you don’t like Sci-Fi. If you’re uncomfortable with detailed sex scenes, she might not be for you. She also tends to explore all facets of the human experience and so if you find that you are easily offended by some triggers, you might have a hard time. And finally, if you prefer a modicum of realism in your smut, Dixon might not be the best bet. 

Notable Quotation:

“It wasn’t a monster come to eat me. It was this monster. 

Who’s come to eat me out.”

Ice Planet Barbarian

Content Warnings:

If it exists in the human experience, Ruby Dixon covers it. She does it with respect and understanding, but she doesn’t shy away from things that are messy or uncomfortable. Rape, trauma, disability, miscarriage, infertility, drugging, forced proximity – her longer series (Ice Planet Barbarians) has it all.

The Bottom Line:

If you’re in a smut rut and need something new…if you need to escape your day-to-day life in a dramatic way…if you like Sci-Fi…if you like to fall in love with a (hopefully) endless series…and most especially, if you’re remotely open to the most steamy, titillating, knee-weakening sex scenes you’ve ever read – Ruby Dixon is your next author.

Start With:

Ice Planet Barbarians. So many books! And several spin-off series!

Let's Talk Tropes

Trope Rant: Deception and the Heroine’s Meltdown

Here’s the situation: 

I was reading a book one evening (as I do), and the primary trope involved a dishonest beginnings scenario in which the hero was perpetrating the lie and the heroine was deceived. Shocking, I know. I knew this going in, but I always hope for the best when reading. 

Anyway, I was about 60% of the way through this book when everything started hitting the fan (per usual), and I naturally turned to my partners in crime to ask: 

Can you think of a deception plot (false identity or some other intentional secret, not just protagonists being dumb) in which the MAN was the one deceived, subsequently lost his shit, and refused to communicate? And of course, he also assumed that because one thing was a lie, EVERYTHING was a lie? Or is that just a heroine problem?

Because I can’t think of one hero like that.

I feel this trope goes a little something like:

  1. Hero assumes false identity for Noble(ish) Reasons, 
  2. Hero meets heroine, 
  3. Hero thinks maybe this deception was actually NOT the best idea, 
  4. Heroine finds out before hero can confess, 
  5. Heroine assumes that EVERYTHING WAS A LIE AND WHAT CAN I EVEN BELIEVE,
  6. Heroine refuses to talk to hero because he’s a LYING LIAR,
  7. Then, about 100 pages later when they finally actually TALK, hero admits that his reasons were sound(ish), and he really wanted to confess, and 
  8. Heroine realizes that maybe she should have thought there could be literally one single other explanation to the story before losing her damn mind.

It’s like: “I actually don’t trust you at all! Wait. I was wrong? OMG WE’RE MFEO, SO LET’S GET MARRIED AND HAVE BABIES!”

Holly noted during our text chat that this was exactly the plot of How to Marry a Marquis, and I thought that MAYBE someone could have come up with a fresh take on this trope in the intervening 20+ years since that book was released. Like, maybe the heroine could be, I don’t know, rational and communicative? Especially if she’s supposed to be in love with the hero? Isn’t trust an essential component of that loving relationship? I don’t get it. Mad – sure. Hurt – sure. Rethinking things – very possibly. Quitting the relationship without even talking to the person you’re so in love with?

Alternatively, I would accept a hero who completely loses his shit and behaves with the maturity of a larva. But I’m thinking there’s a reason we don’t see that too much. 

The reason is: that behavior’s not cute.

What do you think of this trope? Love it? Hate it? Ruthlessly impartial toward it? Please let us know of any you can think of one in which the hero was the deceived party. I’d love to read it.

Let's Talk Tropes

Favorite Tropes: A Positive Post from some Smut Enthusiasts

Ingrid said we needed some positivity, because Holly and Erin were ranting all the time. At least in our text messages to each other. So we’ve decided to share our favorite tropes. What we’ve learned is that our favorite trope might not belong to our favorite book, but for us, these tropes are a pretty sure bet for a satisfying read. 

An opportunity to get to know us – as individuals at TSR – a little better. 

What’s Your Favorite Trope? Why?

Holly:

Seducing My Spouse, full stop. Erin has talked about why this trope doesn’t work for her; the short version is that she either doesn’t buy that the problem in the marriage is actually fixable or she doesn’t buy that the problem was large enough to actually be a problem. I acknowledge Erin’s critique, but we’re just going to have to disagree here. What I love about Seducing My Spouse books is that the characters already know each other, at least on the surface. These are not stories about the initial courtship, but rather about people opening up to deeper intimacy. Courtship might be cute and butterfly inducing, but the love that you build with someone you’re already connected to feels like stability. Note: My love of this trope might stem solely from the fact that Eloisa James’ Desperate Duchesses series played a pivotal role in my development as a romance reader. 

No seriously. Go read Eloisa James’ This Duchess of Mine (but you really need to read the whole series to truly appreciate the awesomeness of Elijah and Jemma’s love story).

Erin:

THIS IS SO DIFFICULT! Although what all of my favorites tend to share is a Friends to Lovers situation. Like Holly with her Seducing My Spouse nonsense (I grant you, EJ does great things with it), what attracts me to the friends to lovers trope is that there’s already a relationship and it is deepened and strengthened as the protagonists are thrust into a situation in which they can realize that they want to be more than friends. But it usually doesn’t include some absurd wrongdoing that already messed up the relationship, which makes it great. I struggle with quick burns that rely too heavily on the sexual chemistry to develop the relationship, and a friends to lovers trope can have a quick burn that’s believable because the relationship development happened off the page and what we get is a peek at the protagonists really digging in to their forever.

Try one on for size:  Lorraine Heath’s When the Duke Was Wicked

Ingrid:

Major toughie, but there’s just no sizzle like Sparring Partners. It’s close to Enemies to Lovers but without the acid, so it’s just enough zip to cause some friction but not so much it’s a distraction. In other words, I love it when the chemistry is front and center. Sparring partners is also a diverse field, too–you can have a mild back-and-forth like a tiny verbal game of badminton, or you can have a high stakes game of barbed insults. No matter what, you know they’re going to make the dance to happily-ever-after an entertaining one. 

You’re going to like: An Heiress to Remember by Maya Rodale.


How about you? What’s your favorite trope?

Smut Reporting

I Want to Lick the Sweat from His Body

Have you ever wanted to lick someone’s sweat? Because I haven’t. 

Yet this image is something that appears quite frequently in romances. Specifically, the heroine sees the hero all sweaty from doing a Manly Thing (laying pipe, making a soufflé, playing sportsball, etc) and is like: “I want to lick that sweat.” 

Time for a poll!

Unlike my previous discussions of things that are not sexy (smirking, moist apertures), I can kind of see the logical progression of this one. 

Step 1: Man doing Many Things is attractive. 

Step 2: Man sweat – when it’s the Right Man – smells so delicious. 

Step 3: I want to put my mouth on Delicious Man.

It’s the final step that loses me – the move from salivating over someone to wanting to lick their arm or whatever. I suspect that the desire to lick sweat is generally concentrated on, say, the chest, neck, and back, but if that’s the case, maybe we should be a little more specific, eh? Also, I’m not a germaphobe, but if I’m attracted to someone, I feel like it’s a bit more sanitary to touch them with my hands rather than my mouth. Until the right moment, obviously, but you’ve got to build up to it! That’s what foreplay is all about. 

Maybe it’s because I live with a toddler who licks my arm on the regular and…it is not pleasant. Just the feeling of someone’s tongue suddenly running over your skin is…well, just typing that sentence was a little bit shudder-inducing. Unsolicited licking in general: not sexy. 

This has been a Hot Take by Holly, brought to you by every single contemporary romance ever written. 

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Mia Sosa

Looking for a new author? Here’s everything you need to know about Mia Sosa, whose books include One Night with the CEO, Acting on Impulse, and The Worst Best Man.

What She Writes: 

Contemporary character-driven M/F romances featuring characters of color. 

What Makes Her Unique:

The hottest sex scenes that also move the relationship forward.

Writing Style: 

Mostly alternating first person POV (her first trilogy is 3rd person) with characters and stories that tend to be very grounded, even when they include wealth/celebrity. Her writing features feisty heroines and situational humor that breaks up the heavier moments.

Why We Love Her: 

She’s a great writer, but folks, Sosa can really write sex. Like, the hottest sex scenes that really belong in the moments in which they exist and that drive the story and the relationship forward. She’s also good at writing relationship struggles not caused by people being stupid or making stupid assumptions about their romantic partners. You might want these characters to wake up (!!!), but you’ll understand where they’re coming from, too.

She Might Not Be For You If:

Not a lot actually happens in Sosa’s romances, so if you prefer your smut to be plot-driven or suspenseful or adventurous, she is probably not a good fit for you. Also, skip her books if you prefer closed-door or no sex romances. 

Notable Quotation: 

But trust me, listening to your breakup on a local radio show sucks big balls. Like huevos the size of a tuberous bush cricket–relatively speaking, that is. Stay with me here. You see, while some men walk around like their balls make up 14 percent of their body, this insect’s balls actually do. Nothing like a spirited game of Trivial Pursuit to round out your cultural literacy. And yes, I was tipsy, pero that morsel of uselessness made an impression on me, penetrating my apple martini haze and settling in my brain for eternity.

Acting on Impulse

How I Feel When I’m Reading: 

The Bottom Line: 

Sosa is really good at crafting a low-drama romantic narrative that is still suspenseful enough to be a page-turner. Her tagline is: “Funny. Flirty. A little dirty.” and that is a pretty accurate summation. 

Reading these books feels good.

Start With: 

The Worst Best Man.