As I’ve written before, I really, really don’t enjoy writing sex scenes. I have zero issues with other writers who do; in fact, I have been known to feel the slightest nibble of envy toward those brave authors who so effortlessly leaven their romance with the erotic.
With each romance novel I’ve written, the amount of sex slumps ever-so-slowly downward, till my last novel, The Tithe, only includes one brief glimpse, and it’s not even between the main protagonists.
And then. And then, the other day, I stumbled across a website that featured a top-ten list of sexless romance books. Sexless. Romance. Books. I knew not all romances had sex in them, but… but was sexless romance a thing?
Maybe I’m not the only one who prefers the sweet to the salty.
Upon reflection, sure, I can imagine some folks who might prefer a little less saucy in their literary fare. Conservative readers, for one, although some studies suggest (albeit inconclusively) conservatives are likelier to access porn than non-conservatives. Younger readers, for sure — well, at least if they’re anything like young Elle. Readers of Regency, inspirational, and historical romances, at least in theory – or perhaps in stereotype.
And, you know, asexual readers. If you’ve never heard the label before, it kind of speaks for itself. Asexual peeps don’t experience sexual desire; well, some do, but only under very specific circumstances. They may or may not have sex, but they don’t tend to seek, or even often want, it.
Asexuals, also called aces, might seem like a tiny blip on our romance radar, but some experts estimate the number of asexuals at 1% of the population, which is the same occurrence as (naturally) red hair. I’m a teacher, and just within the last year, three separate students have come out to me as asexual. One complains to me often about how unhealthily obsessed Americans are with sex; I’ve spent a lot of time chewing on her concerns.
Asexual individuals may or may not eschew romance. They may be, for example, heteroromantic (feel romance toward the other sex), homoromantic (feel romance toward the same sex), or aromantic (no desire for romance). Many, however, simply treasure the cuddly, if not the sexual, aspects of l’amour.
On a more cultural note, some argue we’re experiencing a shift toward sexless romances because porn and erotica pervade pop culture, and many of us have reached the saturated, ho-hum stage. Sex is just so jejune, doncha know?
Between you and me, I prefer that explanation to my secret concern that maybe, just maybe, I’m a bit of a prude.
Regardless of why a minority of romance readers want to consume more sexless romance novels, the fact is they do. And for people who, like me, whether ex-Pentecostal prudes or world-weary cynics who have cycled all the way back around to literary sexlessness, prefer sugar to spice, I am willing to step up and satisfy the romantic version of their sweet tooth.