Last week Cosmopolitan.com editor Amy Odell posted her list of 25 erotica lit tropes that need to die. At first pass, I agreed with about half of the things on the list, but after a few reads I started wondering if the author had either read not very much erotica — or only really bad erotica. And then I started to feel sad because no one should have to suffer like that. I’m here to guide you to the light, Amy. Just call me your erotic romance shepherd. Below is my breakdown of the piece, as well as some book recs to point you in the right direction.
“1. Women climax on demand.”
Agree. This is one unrealistic thing I am not into. I have no qualms with bossy heroes, and I do believe that during a well-written (or real life!) BDSM scene, orgasms can be withheld and then the person may be able to climax on command, but generally, nah.
“2. ‘I come undone.‘”
Ehh, as someone who reads romance, I’m pretty accepting of any/all flowery language and am used to heroines spouting all sorts of imagery.
“3. Women come from penetrative sex.”
It’s fantasy! Sure, not all women orgasm this way. Most don’t. I’m not expecting the sex in romance novels to be reflective of the sex I have, in fact, I don’t really want it to.
“4. Women never have bad pain or hesitation when he wants to put something up their butts.”
There’s a reason women in romance novels are so eager. Generally, readers like clear consent in a story that is sex-driven. Whenever I come across hesitation in romance novels and one party has to be talked into doing something sexual by another party, I feel uncomfortable. And what’s so wrong about a heroine wanting a lil’ something in the behind? Plus, a good hero always uses lube.
Read this: Lean on Me by Cherise Sinclair. The author even wrote a guide to back door action.
“5. ‘My sex.'”
“6. ‘His length.'”
See #2. Also, with as much sex as there is in erotic romance, you can only use “dick” and “clit” so many times. I have no doubt authors aren’t afraid to use proper genitalia terminology (if you get squeamish about that sort of thing, you probably shouldn’t be writing about it).
Read this: Liberating Lacey by Anne Calhoun. I can’t recall if these specific phrases are in the book or not, but it’s an excellent story about a woman re-discovering her sexuality without any sort of kink or non-traditional circumstances. Just read it.
“7. Men are infinitely more sexually experienced than their partners.“
Agree 100 percent. This is where I started to question the quality of erotica you’ve been reading, Amy. There is a lot of magic peen and men who somehow know exactly what a woman likes in romance, especially erotic romance, but there’s also plenty of books where the hero and heroine communicate (verbally or non-verbally) about what feels good.
Read this: Control by Charlotte Stein features eager, bumbling virginal hero Gabe and a dominant bookstore owner who will gladly show him the ropes.
“8. Quivering thighs caused by sexual arousal.“
“9. Climaxing from almost nothing, like, he blows on her nipple.”
Uncontrollable heroine thighs! Ghost orgasms! (Note: there are romance novels with ghost sex, oh yes.) See #2. These exaggerations are used to emphasize how much the hero and heroine are into each other. It’s not realistic, but that’s okay.
Read this: Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren is my favorite example of a couple that has a realistic sexual connection. Ansel is great in bed partially because he asks Mia what she likes.
“10. No one sees anything when sex is had in a car.“
The car sex fairy is always extremely kind to romance heroes and heroines, and they never seem to get caught. See #3.
Read this: I had to crowd source this one. Erotic romance author Tiffany Reisz suggested Crash Into You by Roni Loren, where, if she recalls correctly, the couple gets caught (almost) doing the deed in a car by a cop. It happens.
“11. ‘Desire “pools in [a woman’s] belly.'”
Yea, it may remind some of bad indigestion, but see #2.
Read this: Speaking of Tiffany Reisz, read her Original Sinners series. She does a wonderful job of writing detailed sex scenes without having to name parts, and I’m confident she has never used this term. Start with The Siren and enjoy.
“12. UTIs don’t exist.“
Anal to vaginal sex with no clean in between is not cool! Amy, what are you reading!? This is unacceptable. I am so sorry.
“13. The ‘sex god’ likes to wash her hair when they take showers together.“
Having someone else wash your hair feels fantastic. You’ve been to a salon!
“14. Shower sex is the HOTTEST THING EVER I COME UNDONE OMIGOD.“
I am not a fan, but it works for some. Erotica author Cecilia Tan, for instance:
Read this: Rule of Three by Kelly Jamieson starts off with a really hot, quick shower scene that I feel is realistic. If you’re really just not feeling shower sex, there are plenty of romance novels where the hero has a little solo time in the shower. Try Beyond Seduction by Emma Holly.
“15. The couple does it like seven or eight times a day and still has time to go out to eat and work at jobs.“
This is definitely plausible when you first start dating someone you really like. And remember, romance heroes and heroines are typically suppose to REALLY, REALLY like each other. Or at least, really, really like having sex with each other (they might not like each other until the end). Romance novels are all of the wonderful bits of a relationship amplified with some fun, sometimes ridiculous, drama thrown in.
“16.Women have magical orifices that are not only resistant to infections but also require no lube ever.”
“17. The relationship is always love/hate.”
Okay, so you’re not into heroines assuming the worst and having it turn out that the hero wasn’t actually doing the terrible thing that they assumed he was. Every book needs conflict, but this example isn’t typically the most entertaining kind. I worry about what you’re reading, Amy.
“18. She always loves giving blow jobs.”
Generally, if a couple likes each other, they enjoy making each other feel good, right? Also, in order for the authors to include a variety of different sex scenes, the characters typically should enjoy doing these things.
“19. All guys are really super excellent at finger-banging.“
I partially agree. Jackhammer fingers have no place in fiction (or in real life).
“20. Finger-banging in public — like, you’re at dinner with his boss — is common.“
Public hanky panky is sometimes a thing in erotic romance. See #3.
“21. The man always has impeccable and sexy fashion sense.”
Do you want to read about a man who looks like a mess? The expensive suits aren’t as common if you venture out of the billionaire playboy trope.
“22. And can dance really well at da club.”
Read this: Delphine Dryden’s Science of Temptation series features a slew of nerdy, normal heroes. They don’t wear suits, they don’t dance at “da club,” they’re just charming in their own awkward ways. Start with The Theory of Attraction.
“24. The characters get aroused and speak with periods. Between. All. Their. Words.”
Punctuated dirty talk! If you have the sense to form complete, coherent sentences during sex, it probably isn’t mind-blowing. And in erotic romance, it’s almost always mind-blowing.
Read this: Never Enough by Lauren Dane has some excellent dirty talk.
“23. His penis is always the size of a firetruck.“
“25. Everyone orgasms every time they have sex. “
Read this: Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie, while not an erotic romance, has a wonderful scene where the heroine — midway through sex with the hero — decides she isn’t feeling it and wants to call it a night.
Do you have an erotica rec that trumps one of these tropes? Leave it in the comments! For even more steamy love stories, visit our Everything Erotica page.