Sex in Inspirational and Clean Romance

I know I am opening a can of worms here, but It’s my blog and I’ll say what I want too. 😊

As a romance writer whose audience prefers a clean read the question authors have is how to define it. Clean or cozy romance general means all the steamy stuff happens behind closed doors. The details are left to the readers’ imagination. But the attraction, the warm fuzzies, and sexual tension are part of what the reader sees on the page. Hugs, kisses that grow in intensity, cuddling close, and pressing close fully clothed are all acceptable in this definition. Lots of sparks and tingly sensations and a head full of thoughts of the love interest. Keeping the bedroom door closed is the basic definition of a clean romance. Inspirational romance falls in that same category. There may be intense moments and a suggestion of sex, but the shades are drawn for the reader.

Marriage bed

Now we come to the burning question, what about married sex?  That is an interesting question. I recently read a series of inspirational historical romance where among the scripture references and prayer the reader watches the main characters have sex for the first time. The author I suppose did it tastefully, but it still mentioned body parts and what the couple was doing including groans. Not something I’d want my middle-school granddaughter to read. And that is the key. Most people who read clean romance, especially of the inspirational kind will share the book with the younger generation. The characters are an example of the kind of successful relationship I would want my granddaughters to experience. Although we live in a very liberal society I find it discomforting to think she might stumble across something explicit on my bookshelf.

In the middle ages when royalty wed there were witnesses on their wedding night. A priest and perhaps another man would watch the couple consummate their marriage. Then there was no doubt that the two were truly married in every way. I’m sorry—but EWWW! I wouldn’t be married today if someone had been permitted to watch.

But it’s make-believe

Yes, I know, romance novels aren’t about real people. But explicit descriptions stir things in a reader that may make them uncomfortable. When they pick up what they expect to be clean and find more than they bargained for they will either throw it across the room or give the author a terrible review or both.

Because the scripture is my guidebook and every reference to sex in the Bible leaves the details to the imagination I use that as my guide as I write my stories. Sex in the confines of marriage is to be celebrated. Even if we have characters who struggle with the issues of intimacy the writer can show how they overcame it without giving graphic details.

Let’s define graphic

Graphic details have a different meaning from one person to another. Some readers don’t even want the name of body parts mentioned i.e. breasts would become upper torso. (I know that is extreme.)  For others, the steam can get intense but at that key moment the door is shut for the reader and we rejoin the couple the next morning.

Most publishers have their definition of what is acceptable in the pages of their novels based on their audience. Before you begin to craft those scenes, read books from their romance line, and learn what they expect. If it makes you feel uncomfortable then find a different publisher who fits your preferences.

A well-written romance will sell even without sex scenes. The story arc, the characters’ inner struggles, and eventually victories of the hero and heroine are what these readers want. A truly happily-ever-after ending leaves them giddy.

This whole post is about clean romance only. Now I’m going to ask you: –

What are your thoughts on the subject?  


6 thoughts on “Sex in Inspirational and Clean Romance

  1. I totally agree with you, Cindy. I do show my h/h kissing and hugging and in deep POV, include some mild sensations but make it clear they don’t want to move forward until after they are married, and they don’t. In my WIP the heroine discloses her past sexual sins and how it is still impacting her life even though she’s repented of it and she hasn’t engaged in the behavior since then. I’m glad you are bringing this up because there is some confusion because what is totally wrong for some is accepted for others. And even publishers vary in that degree.


  2. elainemcooper says:

    Excellent analysis and input, Cindy. It is indeed a challenge for romance writers to stay w/in the Christian guidelines which, admittedly, have morphed over the years. That said, some novels can come across as stiff and unfeeling and that does not inspire a reader to feel the tension between the characters, as well as the depth of love. Thank you for addressing this often ignored topic!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kristine Orkin says:

    Great article, and I agree with you. Romance novels are not usually my reading material, but love scenes can infiltrate all kinds of stories. I read a biography recently about Alexander Hamilton that included accounts of his marital relationship and infamous affair. The two authors’ use of language and exquisite word choices created both beautiful and torrid sensuality, yet no body parts or specific sexual acts were ever mentioned. Strong intellectual verbs, strong imagery, and strong syntax brought the story to life. I could actually feel the intensity of the husband and wife bond, the lust for the mistress, the bitter shame of Alexander and the deep hurt of his wife. Skillful language manipulation made this one of my favorite reads of all time.

    Liked by 1 person

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