This may be a little embarrassing, but I think we know each other well enough now that I can admit something to you:
I own dirty books.
And before you ask, yes, that kind of dirty.
This used to be a source of embarrassment for me — not only is it possible to get caught with adult/slightly inappropriate reading material by friends or family, there is also a pervading theory amongst some readers that naughty novels are essentially trash.
And perhaps some of them are. I myself draw the line at purchasing a book published by Harlequin. From what I can tell, most of their books follow some pretty staggering clichés; including using Fabio for every book’s cover art.
Also, the Harlequin symbol is a rooster (seriously, Harlequin?).
Roosters aside, dirty books generally land in one of two categories.
Plot with sex
The slightly less stigmatized form of dirty book. Examples include:
- Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series
- Jean M. Auel’s Earth’s Children series
- Mercedes Lackey’s The Fairy Godmother
These are all very excellent books that just happen (she says, trying to justify) to describe a fair amount of sex.
I like this type of dirty book because it normalizes the stuff that other books gloss over, or in some cases go overboard with. This type of book portrays sex as a normal part of the characters’ lives, just as it’s a normal part of most real people’s lives.
This branch of romance novel is also better for me, because I can skip over the naughty parts and still feel as if I’ve read a book — why sacrifice plot for sex when you can just as easily balance the two? It makes for more interesting reading.
Sex with plot
This is your more stereotypical naughty reading. Examples include:
- Christine Feehan’s Dark Prince
- Jane Feather’s Duncan Sisters trilogy
- Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series
This type of novel has a bit (or a lot) less of a plot, and focuses more on the adult content for which they have been made famous.
And although neither type of book is known for its accurate portrayal of sex, I think that this second type goes even further afield with descriptions and scenarios — it’s all even less genuinely believable than the “plot with sex” type.
Popular genre (surprise, surprise)
The unrealism and sometimes cheesiness of romance novels is not dissuading anyone from reading them. According to the Wikipedia entry for “Romance Novel,” sales of romance novels in 2008 came to $1.37 billion.
Harlequin Books sells four books per second, half of them in international markets.
Although these numbers are ludicrous, I can’t bring myself to be surprised. Readers, especially those in the United States, are big fans of escaping from their humdrum lives and getting into a good story; and since we’re apparently all repressed sex fiends, it makes complete sense that romance novels sell so well.
Trash is good for you
Although I don’t currently have any naughty novels on my wishlist, I’m sure I’ll end up reading more of them in the future. And that doesn’t particularly embarrass me.
Humans’ brains can’t be running at top level all the time; just as studies have shown that employees work better when they take breaks, it’s not always good to read heavy, involved tomes.
Sometimes a little raunch is in order, whether you’re reading it to relax, get your mind off real life, or even (dare I say it?) indulging in a little fantasy of your own.
Do you own any naughty novels? Do you prefer “plot with sex” or “sex with plot”? How uncomfortable is this entire conversation making you?