Cover Your Nose - or - Love Is In The Air
April 16, 2011 6:41 PM   Subscribe

Bad (and some so bad they're good) excerpts from bad romance novels. Includes things like: "And as he ground sinuously against her tender flesh, she began to quake and contract, whimpering with tortured delight. Her senses exploded; her very body seemed to dissolve into a fierce, white-hot blast of elemental heat. And in that boundless, exploding star of pleasure she felt his essence mingle with hers as he buried his face in her hair and erupted, pouring his passion into her soft, responsive frame."
posted by fantodstic (95 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Et cetera and so forth and so on.
posted by fantodstic at 6:44 PM on April 16, 2011


Relevant
posted by KChasm at 6:44 PM on April 16, 2011 [17 favorites]


^^^ That is perfect!
posted by fantodstic at 6:46 PM on April 16, 2011


Are there ever examples of GOOD romance novels?
posted by curious nu at 6:47 PM on April 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


This was posted on reddit a few days ago, but there was a brilliant comment http://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/gnpgs/he_had_a_dick_attack/c1oxme1 which is even more twisted and funny. I apologize for the crosspost but it is too funny
posted by Runcible Spoon at 6:48 PM on April 16, 2011 [41 favorites]


Seriously?? You might be having a Dick Attack and you're asking a bunch of strangers on the internet about it?? Close the browser and go to the emergency room!!!
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:56 PM on April 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like this post. It opens softly like the wet, glistening dewy petals of a spring tulip on a gray day on a Washington apple farm in May, then it comes on strong like a rippling bull thrusting and snorting at the soul of the matter -- a white hot furnace of incredibly awkward and improbable lust.

I give it three and a half bodices, but only if you don't ask me how you rip half a bodice.
posted by loquacious at 6:58 PM on April 16, 2011 [13 favorites]


I just thought of a new use for a Markov bot...
posted by cj_ at 6:59 PM on April 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


a fierce, white-hot blast of elemental heat.

heh heh heh, heh heh, heh heh heh. Heh heh heh. /Beavis and Butthead moment
posted by Mister Fabulous at 7:00 PM on April 16, 2011


The best parts are when they go so deep into the thesaurus you literally can't tell what body parts they're describing anymore or what's supposed to be happening. Like this:

her engorged basketry of cowl and lip

Her what?? I'm going to assume that means "vagina," because what else could it be, but wow.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:00 PM on April 16, 2011 [14 favorites]


Oh, god, Runcible Spoon, that was hilarious.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:01 PM on April 16, 2011


Who is it that reads these books? And why don't they just watch porn on the internet like normal people?
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 7:05 PM on April 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


No throbbing bratwursts being thrust into throbbing womanflesh?

For shame.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:06 PM on April 16, 2011


You know, I mainly write stories about people getting their heads punched off, and sundry predicaments surrounding that. I actually consider that pretty easy compared with the terrifying thought of this kind of lovey-dovey stuff. So I can sneer with the best but my joy in sneering is tainted by knowing they are failing at something I'd be afraid to do.

/pans to fireplace, dot dot dot.
posted by Artw at 7:08 PM on April 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Aah, and it reminds me of this one:

"The animals will hear!" bellowed the ear licking penguin as the awesomely endowed midget sucked her oozing charlies and plugged his purple middle leg into her festering cunt.

This should be a special section of the Bulwer-Lytton bad fiction contest or something.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:08 PM on April 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dear Author has some of my favorite "bad romance" reviews (with excerpts):
*review of The Gingerbread Tryst (yes, this would be an erotic gingerbread man)
*review of Knight Moves (involves bad hygiene and a spinfuck)
*review of Pleasure 2035 ("pussy wept")
*review of Making A Scene ("joy juice" and a pap smear)
posted by flex at 7:10 PM on April 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


That reddit comment is the funniest thing I've read in ages.
posted by cj_ at 7:11 PM on April 16, 2011


Haha, I love romance novel sex scenes!

Fanny Hill is still the winner in my heart, though. Check out this tender description:
I, struggling faintly, could not help feeling what I could not grasp, a column of the whitest ivory, beautifully streaked with blue veins, and carrying, fully un-capt, a head of the liveliest vermilion: no horn could be harder or stiffer; yet no velvet more smooth or delicious to the touch. Presently he guided my hand lower, to that part in which nature, and pleasure keep their stores in concert, so aptly fastened and hung on to the root of their first instrument and minister, that not improperly he might be styled their purse-bearer too: there he made me feel distinctly, through their soft cover, the contents, a pair of roundish balls, that seemed to play within, and elude all pressure, but the tenderest, from without.
posted by bewilderbeast at 7:12 PM on April 16, 2011 [6 favorites]


"And as he ground sinuously against her tender flesh, she began to quake and contract, whimpering with tortured delight. Her senses exploded; her very body seemed to dissolve into a fierce, white-hot blast of elemental heat. And in that boundless, exploding star of pleasure she felt his essence mingle with hers as he buried his face in her hair and erupted, pouring his passion into her soft, responsive frame."

...that's-- that's not what it's like for you guys?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:15 PM on April 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Who is it that reads these books? And why don't they just watch porn on the internet like normal people?

From my years of experience volunteering for a library bookstore, I know that the only people who would buy these were married middle-aged women, most of whom had several children. The books were 25 cents each, and women would buy them by the bagful. We had regulars who would come by every Saturday, children in tow, to donate the bag from last week and buy a whole new set.
posted by pecknpah at 7:16 PM on April 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


My girlfriend's mother reads romance novels, but they're less the traditional bodice-rippers and more sexy vampire ladies falling in love/lust with hunky private detectives. Or something like that.
posted by brundlefly at 7:19 PM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Scenes like this are why I now hate the word "pleasure." It's like a creepy uncle of words, showing up in perfectly innocent contexts and leering at you.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:19 PM on April 16, 2011 [16 favorites]


Who is it that reads these books? And why don't they just watch porn on the internet like normal people?

My mom. And it's been porn for women like her for much longer than the internet has been around.
posted by weathergal at 7:19 PM on April 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Countess Elena: "Scenes like this are why I now hate the word "pleasure." It's like a creepy uncle of words, showing up in perfectly innocent contexts and leering at you."

I can't hear it without thinking of Hedonism Bot.
posted by brundlefly at 7:20 PM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are there ever examples of GOOD romance novels?

Uh... yes. Much like there are good mystery, western, science fiction, thriller, horror, and fantasy novels.
posted by asperity at 7:23 PM on April 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity’s mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world’s thirstiest gerbil."

Eeeeek! Eeeeek! Slurp slurp slurp. Eeeek!

That's hot.
posted by adso at 7:25 PM on April 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


Seems like an appropriate place to insert the entire text of this:

“My, God! I just love blogging,” said Joy.

“Me too,” tooted Peter, “We should write about blogs.”

“You don’t have to tell me,” said Joy putting a hand up like a traffic cop. “That’s all I write about already.”

Peter chuckled. “Fantastic! The only thing I love more than blogs is reading about blogs.”

“Tell me about it. It’s sooooo past second system effects.”

“It’s such a cool meme the way blogging about blogging has spread,” Peter reflected.

“Yeah, it’s a whole new paradigm, cascading and creating virtual neural paths.”

“Agreed. It’s like we’re right on the edge of its tipping point. It’s all about emergence now.”

Peter overcome with nostalgia said, “Remember that thing I did in ’99 that everyone still talks about?”

“Mostly it’s just you that’s still talking about it, Peter!”

They both laughed and sipped their lattés.

“Oh, I’m working on a service to show bloggers blogging in real-time,” said Joy. “It could leverage the political power of the bloggerati.”

“Wow, like a webcam but without all those distracting nipples and stuff,” mused Peter. “I, myself, am working on a series of blog entries from public locations.”

“Like a missionary among the proletariat? I love it. If we can reach the saturation point, I just know blogging will become the preeminent force for informational dispersion. True anti-idiotarianism!”

“Information is power,” Peter said pointedly.

“Then, boy, are we powerful. No one knows as much about blogging!” Joy giggled and for a moment thought she’d had a tiny orgasm.

Excerpted from Mono-medium Macro Mutual Masturbation in Perspective-Free Contexts: a tale of rubbing each other’s tails. It’s the hotly anticipated sequel to my phenomenally successful sophomore effort Stochastic Teleology: the Astrology of the Bloggerati.

I do hope you’ll grab it when I bring it out this Fall. It’s a great, big stocking stuffer."
posted by fantodstic at 7:27 PM on April 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


He was stroking her body over her silky dress and when his fingers got down to where her dress ended, just below her thighs, he reached up between her legs and plunged two fingers into her vulva, and began to probe her vaginal canal, as if he was searching for lost car keys.

Wow. I... wow. Yeah. No words. Just extra, y'know, sexxxy.
posted by flex at 7:27 PM on April 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Somewhere, far away, there's a warehouse full of ghostwriters rolling on the floor with tears of laughter pouring out of their eyes as they try to one-up each other in writing the ripest fucking prose they can.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:27 PM on April 16, 2011 [9 favorites]


Thomas Pynchon? That Thomas Pynchon?
posted by emhutchinson at 7:30 PM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who is it that reads these books? And why don't they just watch porn on the internet like normal people?

My mom. And it's been porn for women like her for much longer than the internet has been around.


Bingo. Once again, the "porn made by and for men is 'normal' but porn made by and for women is hilarious and awful" trope rears its purple, engorged head... what a surprise!
posted by vorfeed at 7:31 PM on April 16, 2011 [19 favorites]


Isn't all porn hilarious and awful?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:32 PM on April 16, 2011 [16 favorites]


I'll be in my bunk.
posted by zarq at 7:35 PM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Years ago, I arrived at my first day of a job at an office full of women, mostly in their 40's. The lady giving me the grand tour of the office told me, "We do a lot of reading here. You can bring books you want to share and put them on that shelf over there, and if you want to borrow one you can feel free! We all love to read!" "Great!", I thought, being a big reader myself. I went to peruse the bookshelf and all books, without exception, were bad, bad romance novels. After the initial surprise wore off, I wondered how these women weren't embarrassed that all their coworkers knew they liked to read about engorged members being thrust into the soft and welcoming warmth of an eager secret garden. I mean, I would be.

I ended up reading one, just so they wouldn't think I was being stuck up and aloof by refusing to partake in the book club. There was not only lots of throbbing, but also time travel! So I guess I picked as wisely as I could have.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 7:38 PM on April 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


Metafilter: You are my forbidden desire.
posted by ZakDaddy at 7:39 PM on April 16, 2011


"Arriving quite suddenly" is absolutely my new favorite orgasm euphemism.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:41 PM on April 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


When you work at a mass market retailer, at least four times every year you have to return unsold product for credit. Usually that just means shipping back unsold CDs, DVDs and hard cover books, but in the case of paperbacks - especially romance novels - it still means ripping off the covers to send back, and destroying the rest of the books.

At my Target, that always calls for an assembly, in order that a random sentence might be read from a few random books, one after another, by whoever wants to participate before the cover-less books were trashed. The results are always hilarious, and often even make sense narratively.
posted by Curious Artificer at 7:49 PM on April 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


This review of romance novel buttsecks it quite possibly the funniest thing on the internet this week.
posted by 26.2 at 7:53 PM on April 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


One of my favorite time-wasters is a community on Livejournal with a similar focus, called "Weeping Cock". Except they don't confine themselves to published and professional romance novels -- they also look at purple prose in amateur porn.

Right now the big community stars are "the three-ring binder series" -- excerpts from a bunch of porn someone found while they were helping a friend move into a new house (the previous owner left it all behind). Some of the choicer quotes:

"Junior had him spread-eagled over the desk, with his stomach compressed against the mahogany, and his dewing scrotum glistening like a grandmother under the fluorescent lights."

"Lancelot’s eyes widened like spinning tires. “Of course, sire,” he said. He stripped from his armor and leaned over the practice dummy with which he had been sparring. He was still sweaty from practice, and looked as though one of the castle’s maidservants had rubbed him down with cod liver oil."

"....they fucked with the enthusiasm of elephants."

...trust me, you want to read more of these.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:00 PM on April 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


Are there ever examples of GOOD romance novels?

Apparently! When I read this apologia for the genre (with samples!) five years ago, I felt ashamed of my dismissive attitude towards Romance, and planned to check out what it had to offer. In bookshops, though, it's just hard to know where to start, what with all the rubbish. But I like love, and romance is one of my favourite aspects of all the other genres I enjoy - and I don't think I'm alone. There's certainly nothing intrinsically wrong with getting some of that in concentrated form.

Isn't all porn hilarious and awful?

As long as I'm defending romance novels, I might as well speak up for porn too. Porn doesn't have to be hilarious and awful. I always get the impression other people (especially other women) are watching better porn than me, but even I manage to stumble into the good kind sometimes. For instance, I assumed, because of the context in which I encountered it, that this (so NSFW) was going to be a regular short film, but was pleased to discover that it was actually my favourite (gay) porn ever.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 8:02 PM on April 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


OK, so I've got your bad romance, but I also wanted your love and revenge!
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:07 PM on April 16, 2011


When I was reading Dracula knockoffs last year (yeah, there was a reason, although I haven't got around to writing the article yet), I was taken aback by this, ahem, climactic moment from Karen Essex's Dracula in Love: "At that moment, both ends of me exploded with staggering pleasure, as if my body had been ripped in half and my skull cracked wide-open, letting in the heavens" (279). I mean, I've heard of explosive sex before...

Still, I did run into some perfectly competent romance novels when I was writing about fictional Anne Boleyns a few years ago, but--probably not coincidentally--most of them predated the erotic romance category.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:14 PM on April 16, 2011


This belongs in this thread [NSFW or rational thought], although it's not really from a romance novel.

It's not actually from anything. An author decided to write one page of a fake novel as absurdly as possible.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:25 PM on April 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have this horrible habit of grabbing romance novels off the shelf and reading the last paragraph out loud. Try it. Sometimes the looks you get are priceless.
posted by njohnson23 at 8:28 PM on April 16, 2011


Let's make fun of women's porn, because men's porn is serious business.
posted by jokeefe at 8:31 PM on April 16, 2011


Let's make fun of women's porn, because men's porn is serious business.

Eh, there's way more than enough bad "men's porn" and it gets made fun of a lot as well - and I'm all for it. Seriously, Sturgeon's law of 90% of everything being crap would be generous in the straight male porn industry.

I don't see this as making fun of women's porn. It's making fun of bad porn.

And I hope most of the people here being snarky know that good erotica exists in text, film or whatever, and they're all cool and well adjusted about it.
posted by loquacious at 8:41 PM on April 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Romance novels are porn that's sold openly in drugstores and magazine racks, and thanks to anonymous-looking ereaders women can read porn anywhere they like: on the subway, over lunch in the office breakroom, or in front of their young children at the playground. It's the single way in which women get more freedom to enjoy their sexuality than men.
posted by nev at 8:41 PM on April 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


Let's make fun of women's porn, because men's porn is serious business.

From what I've read on metafilter, men's porn is a degrading exploitative industry that's grounds for DTMFA.

The last real porn thread we had turned into a nearly 500 post epic about the dangers of it. We may laugh at women's porn, but we condemn men's.
posted by zabuni at 8:42 PM on April 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


mccarty.tim: "It's not actually from anything. An author decided to write one page of a fake novel as absurdly as possible."

Sweet Baby Jesus, what the fuck did I just read?
posted by brundlefly at 8:42 PM on April 16, 2011


Men's porn (by which I mean your traditional pornographic videos aimed at primarily men*) gets made fun of all the time.

The absurdity of the dialoge/stories, the (generally) low production values, and the general lack of regard for anything but the sex make porn rife for parody if you try to view it as a film.

*Not to say that women can't/don't enjoy them. I'm talking target demographics.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:56 PM on April 16, 2011


Let's make fun of women's porn, because men's porn is serious business.

I did a post poking fun at a particular sub-genre of men's porn a few years ago. It lasted all of twenty minutes on the front page.

Serious business, indeed.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:09 PM on April 16, 2011


...And he came hard in her mouth and his dick jumped around and rattled on her teeth and he blacked out and she took his dick out of her mouth and lifted herself from his face and whipped the pillow away and he gasped and glugged at the air, and he came again so hard that his dick wrenched out of her hand and a shot of it hit him straight in the eye

Frightened, his dick ran out of the room and out the front door heading for god knew where. For shooting someone in the eye, his dick would get ten to twenty years. And Christ, his dick had rattled on that woman's teeth. His dick had to pretend nothing had happened. It was the only way. An hour later, his dick was at the bus station, clutching a one-way ticket out of town.
posted by storybored at 9:16 PM on April 16, 2011 [23 favorites]


There's plenty of good romances out there. With actual plots, that don't only revolve around the fizznuckin' being written as corny and badly as possible. Really. I'm sure there's plenty of recommendations that Smart Bitches could find for you if you cared.

I do continue to be amazed that stuff like that gingerbread book (REALLY?!?!) and Harlequin Presents that is done so badly is so popular, though. I guess as long as there's the sex, the middle-aged women don't care? Like men with film porn?
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:18 PM on April 16, 2011


This site has Pynchon, Marquez, Amos Oz, Paul Coelho, Tama Janowitz. These are not only romance novels, they're badly written sex scenes from all kinds contemporary fiction. And the dick rattle excerpt is from Giles Coren, memorably of this previous post.
posted by gladly at 9:33 PM on April 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow, there's some bad stuff that gets published. I think part of what makes romance novels easy to make fun of is not just that they are consumed (and produced) primarily by women -- it's that they are so public. Porn, in contrast, is secret and hidden, but you can pick up dozens of quite raunchy romance novels from the take one/leave one racks in the lobby of my local library, and you can read them openly on the bus, on the subway, or in the lunchroom at work.
posted by Forktine at 9:41 PM on April 16, 2011


We all know it's porn, but it's packaged to allow plausible deniability; the covers are so over the top cheesy, with no actual naughty bits showing, but with lots of colorful costume and background, that they are disarming. The titles are never "Fucked by a Native American" but instead "Heart of the Wolf Spirit," or whatever.

Likewise, the fact that characters almost never start going at it right away, but have to wade through quite a bit of historically inaccurate plot first, acts as camouflage. It also keeps your kids from realizing there's SEXX in your books if they happen to pick it up and read the first chapter.

Whereas your average porn DVD title/cover provides no such camouflage.

All of this window dressing allows your nice respectable grandmother/aunt/church lady to declaim that she is reading it for the plot, and the sex is just there as...character development. "Oh, I skip over the racy bits; it's just such a romantic story!" she'll exclaim, and since it's your mom/aunt/grandma, you're not going to push her on it to admit she's lying.
posted by emjaybee at 10:10 PM on April 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


I believe my wiff and I have fantastic sex. Admittedly I have no comparative measure against which to base this statement, but whatevs; it sure works for us.

I get the feeling most romance novelists (or readers?) have not had the experience.

Too lurid, for one thing. The descriptions seem off to me, though I'm not sure I'd do better at describing it. The inevitable physical inaccuracies are always ridiculous, too. It's like sex for people who don't have sex…
posted by five fresh fish at 10:17 PM on April 16, 2011


The primary example of m
posted by five fresh fish at 10:21 PM on April 16, 2011


"Who is it that reads these books? And why don't they just watch porn on the internet like normal people?"

When I was in college romance novels were very popular in the dorm because you could buy them for 25 cents at the library, read them in a single evening (or even just a couple hours), and be assured that the ending would be happy, the adversity would be overcome, and it would not particularly tax your mental faculties. We passed around boxes-full.

I mean, it's escapism. Who DOESN'T like escapism in some form or another?

And yes, most of it's pretty formulaic. Some of it is AWFUL. Some of it is really, really good! But I think you could say that about any "genre" fiction.

I developed one major romance novel preference, and that was that they be historical, since the traditional convention of the genre requires a damsel in need of rescue. Historical damsels in distress can be all spunky and sassy and still need rescuing because of the Evil Patriarchy Refusing to Let Her Rescue Herself, but modern damsels in distress were mostly just whiners that made me want to scream, "GO TO COLLEGE! GET A JOB! STOP WAITING FOR A MAN TO SAVE YOU!" Although I understand most of the modern lines of the big publishers now have more feminist heroines and more reciprocal rescuing.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:21 PM on April 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


…example of mockable men's porn:

Dear Penthouse: I never thought I'd…
posted by five fresh fish at 10:23 PM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I forgot to add: there is such a thing as good historical romance (kinda) porn; Chester 5000XYV is awesome and very NSFW.
posted by emjaybee at 10:27 PM on April 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Georgette Heyer is awesome. She is the ancestor of all the historical romances. Except that she wrote well-researched, witty books that were full of fascinating period detail.
posted by winna at 10:34 PM on April 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


...he prodded the moist cleft of her womanhood with the hot rod of his manhood, and shuddered.

"Oh no," he squeaked, his voice crackling under the strain of adolescence, "I've done it already!"

"Never mind," she sighed, "Pass me your shirt."
posted by tumid dahlia at 11:41 PM on April 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I vaguely remember an essay by German writer Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935) mocking this sort of scene, and arguing that there's an essential silliness about sex, which always makes the very serious depictions fail.
posted by dhoe at 11:44 PM on April 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Mmm," she moaned in pleasure, pausing frequently to pick his pubic hairs from her tongue and lips.

"Mmm," he moaned in return, enjoying the feel of her mouth on his member, and struggling not to fart, even though he hadn't even needed to before.
posted by tumid dahlia at 11:45 PM on April 16, 2011 [11 favorites]


Are there ever examples of GOOD romance novels?

Georgette Heyer is awesome. She is the ancestor of all the historical romances. Except that she wrote well-researched, witty books that were full of fascinating period detail.
posted by infini at 12:07 AM on April 17, 2011


My trembling digit just gave storybored's comment a savage yet gentle favoriting.

I read it aloud, and my wife and I laughed so loudly that the cat is looking at us in alarm.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:26 AM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mary Balogh is also a very good romance novelist, though if you read over a dozen in a row they do have some elements she likes to reuse. Of course, she does publish two substantial, interesting novels a year -- it's not surprising that characters or situations get redone.
posted by jb at 1:15 AM on April 17, 2011


I don't have the rest of it, but reminded me of the amazing tale of Bronwyn and Spikenard. [previously]
posted by yaymukund at 1:32 AM on April 17, 2011


Regarding Pynchon, et al, presences on this site, well, how do you right a good, yet explicit, sex scene? Even visual media, like film, are terrible at them. Any ideas? Perhaps a MeProject?
posted by converge at 3:44 AM on April 17, 2011


There are plenty of good romance novels. You'll notice that it's often sites (like Smart Bitches and Dear Author) where people actually like good romance novels where they trash the terrible ones most enthusiastically.

I think genre fiction always inspires a certain amount of worthless trash, because genres have tropes, and there are always plenty of people who believe that all you have to do is dump a bunch of the tropes into whatever you're writing, and you're done. Bad romance novels are just like bad mystery, bad fantasy, bad sci-fi, whatever: a lot of junk is turned out for money, but people who want to bother can find the stuff that isn't junk, often by hanging out with other people who want to bother.

(I have misgivings about having written "a lot of junk is turned out for money" in this particular thread, by the way, but there it is.)
posted by Linda_Holmes at 4:39 AM on April 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


There's one other thing I want to mention (sorry): Much of what's on that page doesn't come from romance novels. It's just a bunch of bad sex scenes, which is a very different category. Jonathan Littell, Thomas Pynchon, Tama Janowitz, Will Self, Paul Theroux ... these aren't romance novelists, and the cited works aren't romance novels. Don't get me wrong -- some of them are. But this is just a hodgepodge of bad sex writing, some of it from literary fiction.

It's both underinclusive and overinclusive, basically, because these aren't all romance novels, and if you REALLY wanted to look at bad writing in romance novels, it would go well beyond gross, weird descriptions of sex.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 5:05 AM on April 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


That Reddit comment wins for "Torolf entered her like she was a lottery." and the word "clunge"
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:26 AM on April 17, 2011


This belongs in this thread [NSFW or rational thought]

I'm going to yell "That's the stuff that makes me forget about my problems" next time Mrs. Example and I are having the sexy times.

On a COMPLETELY UNRELATED note, anyone know the best way to sleep comfortably on a couch?
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:04 AM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think genre fiction always inspires a certain amount of worthless trash

There ought to be a law!
posted by Artw at 6:07 AM on April 17, 2011


I love Georgette Heyer too but it's ridiculous to think of her novels as being in the same universe as what we're discussing here. People reading romances for this kind of description are not going to be satisfied with Heyer's elegant turns of phrase.

You never know which particular combination of words are going to ring someone's bell; I've re-read sections from all kinds of books because of the particular mental image I've got and used it to enhance my private times (no purple prose from me!) so it doesn't surprise me that someone could get tingly from the thought of some of the things proposed in these books.

It's possible to be aware of the shittiness of something on one level whilst revelling in it on another!
posted by h00py at 6:22 AM on April 17, 2011


Florence King apparently wrote romance novels as well as pulp for the magazines. I bet THOSE were awesome.
Not just tongue in cheek, but tongue in everywhere else.
posted by pentagoet at 6:42 AM on April 17, 2011


Let me know when Naomi Wolf starts condemning this stuff because it will make women want men too little.
posted by adipocere at 7:36 AM on April 17, 2011


Oooh. I've just come.
posted by Decani at 8:05 AM on April 17, 2011


""Mmm," she moaned in pleasure, pausing frequently to pick his pubic hairs from her tongue and lips.

"Mmm," he moaned in return, enjoying the feel of her mouth on his member, and struggling not to fart, even though he hadn't even needed to before.
"

Comedy really is nothing but tragedy plus timing
posted by Blasdelb at 8:14 AM on April 17, 2011


On the other hand, passing around a bad romance novel to read aloud for the laughs led directly to my first threesome. This makes it difficult for me to regard the genre with anything but fondness.
posted by kyrademon at 9:37 AM on April 17, 2011


One way low-stakes sex works is laughter as when one laughs at bad porn and the laughter shades into arousal anyway. From Don DeLillo's White Noise:

I said, "Pick your century. Do you want to read about Etruscan slave girls, Georgian rakes? I think we have some literature on flagellation brothels. What about the Middle Ages? We have incubi and succubi. Nuns galore."

"Whatever's best for you."

"I want you to choose. It's sexier that way."

"One person chooses, the other reads. Dont we wânt a balance, a sort of give-and-take? Isn't that what makes it sexy?"

"A tautness, a suspense. First-rate. I will choose."

"I will read," she said. "But I dont want you to choose anything
that has men inside women, quote-quote, or men entering women. 'I entered her.' 'He entered me.' We're not lobbies or elevators. 'I wanted him inside me,' as if he could crawl completely in, sign the register, sleep, eat, so forth. Can we agree on that? I dont care what these people do as long as they don't enter or get entered."

"Agreed."

" 'I entered her and began to thrust.' "

"I'm in total agreement," I said.

" 'Enter me, enter me, yes, yes.' "

"Silly usage, absolutely."

" 'Insert yourself, Rex. I want you inside me, entering hard, entering deep, yes, now, oh.' "

I began to feel an erection stirring. How stupid and out of context.
Babette laughed at her own lines. The TV said: "Until Florida surgeons attached an artificial flipper."
posted by mistersquid at 10:17 AM on April 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Lots of cheap shots in these comments from folks who don't know fuck-all about the genre. There are some terrible romance novels published, just as there are some execrable novels published as lit fic, SF, mystery, you name it. There are also some great novels published in the genre, just as there are some great novels published as lit fic, SF, etc.

To call the novels porn is to suggest you've never read one. (Or you've managed to find the rare bird that, by virtue of its oddity, proves your suspicion.) I write 100K romances that each have perhaps 6,000 words (three scenes) with description of actual sexual activities. I've never gotten an email from a reader demanding more sex in my books. For those looking for porn, there are quicker and better ways to find it than slogging through 96,000 unrelated words. If you're really curious about the appeal of the genre, then you should probably abandon the porn hypothesis and start from scratch (with the aid a few books by well-loved romance authors).

Who writes and reads romance novels? Judging by the people I know who have approached me at signings, the group is quite broad, resistant to generalizations, and includes everyone from wide-eyed thirteen year olds to college students to lawyers to college professors.

I'd like to summon more cutting outrage, here, but I can't get too worked up about it since I'd already exhausted my energies elsewhere in lampooning that NY Times article that suggested women only read George RR Martin for the sex.
posted by artemisia at 10:24 AM on April 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Maybe porn that is only about sex is kinda shitty which is why porn has such a bad name?
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:45 AM on April 17, 2011


Epic lulz. Thank you all!
posted by xenophile at 10:50 AM on April 17, 2011


When I was in 20’s I had a spell where I read some romance novels, and I’m a fairly manly man. I tend to pick up and read things at random, and got into it for a while. Most of the ones read were just like lightweight TV; simple, undemanding, everybody has a good time, nobody gets hurt. I think that’s the reason they’re popular.

I think the idea of calling them "porn for women" is not so much in the strict sense as leaning toward the way car magazines are called car porn. I was going to write something funny there but it was way too much work.
posted by bongo_x at 10:58 AM on April 17, 2011


You know what, LOTS of SF/fantasy novels have passages JUST like that one. I call double standard.
posted by jfwlucy at 12:22 PM on April 17, 2011


Let's make fun of women's porn, because men's porn is serious business.
posted by jokeefe at 4:31 AM on April 17


All porn is funny. Let's make fun of it all!
posted by Decani at 1:56 PM on April 17, 2011


Unless descriptions of sex roughly resemble the lyrics of the Hokey Cokey, I'm not interested.
posted by Jehan at 2:44 PM on April 17, 2011


Regarding Pynchon, et al, presences on this site, well, how do you right a good, yet explicit, sex scene? Even visual media, like film, are terrible at them. Any ideas? Perhaps a MeProject?

One of my favorite depictions of a sex scene, to my surprise, happened during the Japanese animated film "Mind Game".

Check it out.
posted by fantodstic at 3:50 PM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


don't want to burst the (torrid sweaty pounding basket cow lipped? etc) bubble but at least one of the entries is deliberately poor:
viz Molly Ringle's world's thirstiest gerbil sucking on the cage mounted water bottle won Ringle first prize at last year's Bulwer Lytton:
http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/lyttony.htm
posted by Plutocratte at 7:10 PM on April 17, 2011


There are "romance" novels which are primarily erotica. They are released under specific presses - almost entirely, if not entirely, epresses, and they have a high density of sex to plot.

Then there is the very much larger genre of romance literature in which the plots revolve around relationship formation and testing. Sex may or may not occur in the plot, it may or may not be "on-screen".
posted by jb at 8:24 PM on April 17, 2011


..her ovaries sizzled like grits in a skillet...
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:22 PM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Years ago I was offered a free pass to a writers' conference if I would agree to attend something called a "Tea Dance" at the Roosevelt Hotel in the Roosevelt Hotel here in NYC. I thought what the heck, I took dancing classes as a kid, I can do this and really wanted to check out the writers' discussions. I didn't realize it was for Romance Writers. *sigh

After the embarrassment wore off and the cringeworthy tea dance thing endured (there was even a quite funny contest of the guys who model for the Romance novel covers, a Chippendales whoo hoo event, lots of giggling, thong underwear, bulging packages and ogling beefcake), I went to the various discussions anyway.

What amazed me is how interesting they were. All the holiness of the publishing world, the sanctimonious pretentiousness of The Written Word In Literature was not there. It was nuts and bolts talk about how many chapters, how romance novels make up 50% of the biz of all fiction in print, how many paragraphs, how long to get to the, er, climax, getting decent agents. It was refreshing.

And then an old friend, who I never thought was a likely person to write one of these bodice rippers, wrote a romance novel which I thoroughly enjoyed, Olivia and Jai.

When they're well done well, romance novels are a marvelous enjoyment, definitely a guilty pleasure, like confessing to liking Celine Dion or Michael Bolton (which I do, in very limited doses). Forever Amber was the first one I read I liked. It would be good to get a list going of faves.
posted by nickyskye at 4:49 PM on April 18, 2011


When they're well done well, romance novels are a marvelous enjoyment, definitely a guilty pleasure, like confessing to liking Celine Dion or Michael Bolton (which I do, in very limited doses).

Oh, of course - writing from any genre is marvelous when it's done well.

It's kind of like the little girl from that nursery rhyme -- when porn is good, it is very, very good, but when porn is bad, it is horrid.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:07 AM on April 20, 2011


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