Hi! Welcome back to this week’s episode of Sorry I Only Read Romcoms, my name is Aanu and I’m super excited about this week’s episode, because it’s coming off the heels of #WAP by Cardi B and Megan The Stallion. Of course, when it came out a whole conversation stirred up on twitter ranging from support, to think pieces and then the criticisms. It was very interesting reading the usual “oh women only rap about sex and bla bla bla” and when you at the connecting theme so far you will find strains of likability, elements of purity culture and policing of women’s bodies disguised as being intellectual or moral. Anyway, this whole conversation got me thinking about how sexaul assertiveness shows up in books today. So as a follow up to our episode on awkward sex, we’ll be looking at how agency is written in romcoms.
Let’s dive in, when was the last time you read something like “do we mind if we tried this instead? Or maybe this isn’t working, can we pause? Or a simple, this is what I like” I don’t think I have. In I want awkward sex, we talked about collaborating with awkward people and helping them (by them I mean us), get out of their heads. Today, we are extending that conversation to explore sexual assertiveness in books. So far, the tropes that I have noticed in books, at least until very recently:
- The knight in shining armor, coming to save the damsel from her sexually starved life trope. There’s an I can show you the world element to this. The dynamic usually involves very experienced men, with the women being wet behind the ears. And he becomes her teacher, showing her things she has never ever seen before and soon, it becomes their thing. I’ve also not seen the roles switched before. And weirdly with the percentage of women not having orgasms, that number is definitely not represented in what I’ve read so far.
To correct this, I will love to see more of a balance, if you’re writing about a 30 year old woman having sex with her partner for the first time, it could be great, it could be meh, it could be somewhere in between, but I think there are peculiar things she’d like that may not be in his tool box (because again, she is 30 and she’s been having sex for a minute) so what happens then? She tells him or she shows him and gives feedback when he tries it. What I think it shows is, an acknowledgemnt that she had a life before he came and will do, if it doesn’t work out and there is no assumption that sex is automatically great (remember when we talked about this in I want awkward sex, listen to that episode if you haven’t, its just about 6 minutes long).
Also it throws the language out there for young people and people generally reading it, so they’ll be like “oh so if my partner isn’t getting it right, I can show them?”. You know how people weirdly gravitate towards porn to learn how to have sex, there’s an element of that as well in rom coms, except one there is like zero love and the other one has too much love and both are just unrealistic. So more of “I want this, try this, yes, stay there, more, amen?” If you’ve read a book that describes this, send me a dm or a voice note, I want to read it.
Masturbation shaming trope: Thankfully I haven’t seen this a lot but sometimes jabs are sort of handed out like “oh you should get out there so that your right hand will rest or put the toys down and start dating or they’ll say is it Mr (insert name of the toy here) that will keep you warm at night?. It’s either this or it’s usually shown as a sort of release for pent up frustration, and while it’s written you will know that character IS frustrated. And there is nothing wrong per se with either scenario, but if you can show a character that loves gardening or cooking, playing with dogs or whatever, you can also write a character that loves her self pleasure time and does this to its own merit (you know she had a long day, she took a warm bath, oiled her body and gave herself a big O and maybe 2 pages later she can meet the potential love of her life). For one, that’s a cool way to find out what you like and when you do, you can communicate it well. I have seen it written though as part of the play with partners, and that’s fun.
Speaking of masturbating, it occurred to me there are people that don’t orgasm in partnered sex, like ever ever, only when they masturbate, so sex to them in partnerships is a form of intimacy or connection not a getting off tool, they just do it to bond with their partners. Some may see it as a defect to be corrected, others may own it, either way, it will be great to see how this is communicated, like “oh I’m good, and then partner will be like but you didn’t… and they’ll say “yeah but i’m ok just wanted to connect with you” or “oh that just my body body is, I guess but don’t worry I take care of myself”. The conversation can take any turn from “show what works for me so I’ll mimic it” to “ok as long as you’re good”/
It will be interesting to see a type of this conversation from a place of ownership, not shame, like “I know my body and I’m good” type of conversation, does this make sense?. Now I get that for a lot of people romcoms are a form of escape, I don’t think this takes away from that, I think there is room to include this in your ideal space because why not?
One author that does a decent job of showing any form of assertiveness is Kris Bryant, she always makes it a point to show that her character enjoys having sex and isn’t shy about showing it or saying what she wants and she does this with all forms of gender presentations with women, so check out her work! So what she does is thrown in a “so so so and so isn’t shy about saying what she wants”. She hasn’t yet created a dialogue around that, and that’s what I want to see.
So that’s it for today, please follow us on instagram @sorryionlyreadromcoms or my personal page @helloaanu (i/e hello a a n n u). Before you go I want to hear what you think, do you think including these elements take away from the fairytale ness of rom coms? Leave a voice note here or send me a dm, I can’t wait to listen and read. Talk to you next week, bye!
Listen to the episode here: