How Reading Romance Helps Promote Sex Positivity

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Read all about the connection between sex positivity and romance novels!

Sex Positivity and Reading Romance

Romance is a genre that gets quickly written off by people that don't understand it. Not long ago, I wrote about how reading romance books helped me finally accept that I'm a lesbian. Another wonderful thing is that reading romance can promote sex positivity.

The romance genre isn't perfect. Many authors still rely on slut-shaming and girl-on-girl hate to make their female protagonist stand out from "all the other girls". Through The Discriminating Fangirl, I came across a link to a guest rant on Smart Bitches Trashy Books on this very thing. Sarah from *Smart Bitches Trashy Books has an excellent reply:

For a genre that's written for women, by women, about women, we often maintain very narrow, particular standards for women, especially heroines. I think those standards are changing, and there's a lot more fluidity when it comes to heroine sexuality and the expression thereof, but still, slut shaming happens.

Unfortunately, there's a history in romance of things we would frown upon today. I remember being in my early teens and finding a romance novel I read secretly read in my room. After a separation, the "hero" of the book rapes the pregnant heroine. She's angry with him for a while but, by the end of the book, all is well. I was young, but even then that didn't sit well with me, especially as someone who had been raped too.

I'm not sure exactly when that book was published, but as someone who still reads romance today, I've noticed it has come a long way and think a lot of people would agree with me. Over all, romance has become a lot more sex positive and shown more positive portrayals of sex.

Just what is sex positivity though?

Sex Positivity In Romance Novels

A sexual medicine doctor and gynecologist, Dr. Michael Krychman of the Southern California Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine, says it's about embracing your sexuality as an intrinsic part of who you are. "irrespective of your age and irrespective of the social construct." Sex positivity also means "maintaining a healthy attitude towards sex - or lack thereof - and valuing it given your individual needs."

In an interview with romance writer Maya Rodale, she talks to sex educator Kait Scalisi, MPH, about romance novels and the sex lives of readers. According to Scalisi, there are a lot of positive things about reading romance. It is a "great tool for starting a conversation about these things with your partner." It also allows women to feel more comfortable and open when talking about sex when they read about it in a positive light.

A study at Northwestern University found a correlation between safe sex in romance novels and more positive attitudes about safe sex in romance readers. This demonstrates that romance novels can have a big impact on readers. Books in which protagonists ask for consent and only proceed when it is enthusiastically given or are unafraid to say no when they aren't in the mood for sex can only continue to have a positive influence.

Of course, these aren't the only aspects of sex positivity. It also involves respecting and owning your own sexuality and desires, along with those of your partner/s and anyone else you encounter without negativity. It's realizing everyone's sexuality and desires are different and can change. It's understanding that some people don't like, enjoy sex, or are repulsed by sex and are just as valid as those that do.

It's also knowing that you can be sex positive and still struggle with sex for whatever reason. I personally enjoy sex, but after what I've been through, still sometimes struggle with it or don't feel up for it and that's okay.

Further Reading

Sex Positive Romances

3 Reasons Why Sex-Positivity without Critical Analysis Is Harmful by Melissa A. Fabello

10 Things Sex Positivity Is Not by Miri Mogilevsky

What Does It Mean To Be Sex Positive? by Erika Moen

One last thing:

Be sure to check out this video on romance and sex positivity between romance authors Maya Rodale, Alexis Daria, K.M. Jackson, Maria Vale, Megan Frampton, Falguni Kothari, and Joanna Shupe!

Let's Keep the Conversation Going...

What are your favorite sex positive romance novels and writers?

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