Hot Takes by Holly, 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

Hot Takes by Holly, 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.

Hot Takes by Holly, Smut Reporting

Heroines Who Giggle

I hate them. 

Actually, allow me to rephrase that to be more accurate. I hate it when a heroine giggles. I hate it even more when the heroine is an otherwise grown-ass woman with an established career but when the hero gives her the eyebrow wiggle or says something that’s mildly amusing she breaks into a paroxysm of giggles.

Let’s break this down. A “giggle” is a demure, girly kind of laugh. It’s quiet. It doesn’t take up space. It’s a bit fawning. It’s something little kids do. It’s something we do when we’re nervous. 

When a woman giggles, she signals to the man that she is with that she is not a threat. She is less powerful than he is. She is accommodating and therefore desirable. There’s a power imbalance there. 

Now, I admit, the occasional giggle around a new potential partner makes sense. You’re nervous. You want them to like you. But why is continuing to giggle at your partner as you move your courtship towards established relationship sexy or desirable? Why continue to perpetuate the power imbalance between the One Who Speaks Funny Things and the One Who Giggles?

I want to see romance heroines let out some good ole rip roaring belly laughs. 

This has been a Hot Take by Holly, brought to you by one too many grown ass women giggling in romance novels. 

Hot Takes by Holly, 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. 

Hot Takes by Holly, Smut Reporting

Sexy Smirking

I’m here to talk (briefly! I promise!) about a pet peeve of mine. 

Sometimes, I read romance novels, and the protagonists do a lot of smirking. Like, a lot. And I have to wonder: am I missing something? Is there such a thing as a sexy smirk?

Smut Readers! Help me out here:

When our Romantic Hero **smirks** at the heroine all the time, I have this visceral reaction. The first time it happens, I roll my eyes. The second time it happens, I highlight it. The third time it happens, I clench my teeth a little bit. Until every time the word “smirk” appears on the page, I am annotating my book in all caps while grinding my teeth: THIS IS NOT SEXY.

Because I know what words mean, and how to use a dictionary, I decided that I should investigate this a bit. Merriam Webster defines “to smirk” as “to smile in a smug or condescending way.” The very first example they give is from Harry Potter – and guess who’s smirking.** (Hint: it’s not Hermione Granger, who is definitely too cool for Ron and Harry, but I digress.)

Smugness is not sexy. Condescension is not sexy. Both imply a feeling of superiority in the smirker towards the smirkee. What is the appeal of a romantic pairing where one party clearly feels superior to the other? 

I’m not talking about alpha-holes. These guys aren’t alpha-holes. Alpha-holes might be smug and condescending, but they are too above it all to smirk. Smirking is what small-minded, irritating people do. And small-minded, irritating heroes are the very worst heroes of all. 

*If you chose this answer, please explain it to me in the comments! 

**Malfoy. It’s Malfoy.