I’m gonna start this post with a caveat – I do not want this post to be used to attack any romance writers, or their stories. This isn’t about them. This is about my personal preference only and why I feel uncomfortable reading stories that are advertised as romances. If you do this thing, I will fight you.

Let’s talk romance, readers. Specifically, romance novels – a genre that you’ll notice I don’t read or review a lot of.

I love reading love stories. I love reading when someone finds another person that fits them so well that they feel like they belong together. I love to get misty-eyed over the poetry they serenade each other with. I love to see people build their lives together. It’s one of my favorite things.

But I don’t actively seek out books that are romance heavy, or that actively advertises the romance except in young adult fiction, and there’s a reason for it. Really, if I’d had the word and definition of the asexual spectrum that I do now, I probably wouldn’t have this reaction to romance novels.

In all of the romances that I’ve read, and I will note that I have not read romance novels extensively, all of the main characters are all very About Sex. Which is great! Sex is cool! If you like it, that’s absolutely fine and I wish you well! But… I don’t like reading it.

When I read a sex scene, I get a knee-jerk reaction in the back of my mind that says, “That’s not for you. Don’t read that, Ceillie.” Knowing that I’m ace honestly explains a lot of this, but I can’t help that immediate flinch when I realize they’re headed for a sex scene.

I wish there were more non-sex-focused romance stories in the world that were just as good as my friends swear the erotica and sex-focused ones are, and that they were easier to find.

In YA, there’s occasional sex, but it’s not as common as it is in adult books or romances. I can brace myself for a scene or two, or skim past them easily enough if they’re light. In a romance novel, a lot of the time, the characters are constantly talking about sex, or wanting to have it, or actually having it, and about how it’s the best thing they’ve ever experienced.

When you add erotica and BDSM to that, I find myself shrinking down, feeling broken and small inside. I feel unwanted and sad, and lord knows there’s enough of that feeling in the universe without getting it from a book. When it’s in a book that I’m not expecting it from? It’s 10 times worse.

I wish there were more non-sex-focused romance stories in the world that were just as good as my friends swear the erotica and sex-focused ones are, and that they were easier to find. I’m told that amish romances and christian romances may be up my alley, but then we also have faith aspects that can be pretty uncomfortable.

I don’t really know what I want the genre to do, or what I need to do. I just really felt a need to talk about this, because I’ve never seen anyone say anything like this. Maybe a content system is what’s needed, to be very clear about what is erotica, or BDSM, or inspirational romance, so that the right readers can find the right stuff for them.

Maybe I’ll never be a romance novel reader, and that’s okay. Not all books are for all readers, and I completely understand that. However, I wish I felt just a little bit safer around the genre.

So, friends, having read this, I hope that you’ll find yourself a little more knowledgeable about what goes on in my head. It’s a weird place, I know. Have you ever felt like this? Have you got any particular recommendations for me? I’d love to talk to you guys about this in the comments!

15 thoughts on “Coffee Shop Talk: Romance Novels”

  1. I get how you feel. I’m usually fine with romance – there are only a few books I’ve had an outright Nope reaction to – but I definitely think one of the reasons I prefer YA is that it tends to be less explicit. I’ve just never understood that thing where people confess their feelings for one another and then immediately leap into bed. Maybe that makes sense to some people, but it’s not for me.

    1. I don’t get it either! I know everybody makes that decision at their own pace, but it’s just so fast for me that it leaves me confused, and then feeling bad about.

  2. Aw, hon, I’m sorry that this genre makes you feel crummy! Especially when I know so many people (including me) are constantly up on twitter being like HUZZAH SEXY ROMANCE. If I ever make you feel bad around that, I hope you’ll let me know so I can knock it off. Also, I know you know this, but you are not at all at all at all broken, you are exactly perfect the way you are.

    1. No! I love that you guys love it! I love that it makes you guys all happy! I just wish I could enjoy it, too, or find something similar that works for me as well! *hugs to you*

  3. I’m so glad you talked about this! I’m not on the ace spectrum, so obviously my experiences differ. But even though I’m alright about having sex and everything, I do get a little uncomfortable reading romance novels, particularly when the characters are SO FOCUSED on having sex. It’s like…I get it, but I have never been ~that sexual, even though I like sex in certain scenarios and with the right person. I’m definitely much more comfortable reading a YA book with romance elements than an adult book with romance for the same reasons you talked about. I definitely wish there were more books that focused on friendship, or on other aspects of relationships aside from just sex. ‘Cause, I mean, even for allosexual people, relationships are not just sex.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this <3

  4. A friend of mine told me that historical romances tend not to have explicit sex in them, especially regency romances. And she thinks that there are some Harlequin lines that are sweet, not steamy. Good luck! 🙂

  5. Thanks for sharing this Ceillie. I always like understanding a bit more what it is like in your brain, and this is a particularly interesting topic. I’m very much the opposite to you in this respect – I’m always eager for the characters to fall into bed with one another, and I’m actively seeking out erotica at the moment. I can see how the constant focus on sex would be both frustrating and alienating, though. Would it help if in people’s reviews they note if there are sex scenes or not? I would definitely add that as a content warning if that would make you feel more comfortable 🙂

    I agree to some extent that historical fiction seems to have less sex in it – have you read any Georgette Heyer? I read quite a lot of her stuff when I was younger because they don’t tend to have sex scenes in them. Also, maybe this group would interest you? https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/10067-clean-romances

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