ecently there was an article in Women.com titled “7 romance novels that won’t make you feel dirty while reading.” There really wasn’t any wrong with the article, or the books they listed. I’ve read most of the books on the list, and they were really good. What irked me a little was the use of the words “clean” and “dirty.” The article described books without on-the-page-sex as “clean” and implied that those with detailed sex scenes were “dirty” and that women should feel somewhat ashamed of reading them.
Now, I want to be super clear about this. I enjoy romance novels that have detailed sex scenes, and I enjoy romance novels that don’t include on-the-page sex. Frankly, for me, it’s all about the story. If the story is good and I can relate to the characters, I’m perfectly fine if there aren’t any descriptive sex scenes in a book. What I don’t like is the implication that: 1) people who enjoy reading sex scenes are dirty/bad/wrong, and 2) there’s anything dirty or bad or wrong about sex in general. I’m a card-carrying member of the “Imma read what I want and you should, too” club. If you like reading a hot, descriptive sex scene, I think that’s great. And if you like reading books that don’t include sex, I think that’s great, too. Whatever you enjoying reading is fine and you should be proud of it!
My point is, we’re not Puritans. Sex is normal and natural and nothing anyone should be ashamed of. So why are romance novels so often broken down into “clean” and “dirty” categories? There’s so much more to them than sex or lack thereof.
And while I’m on the topic, there’s sex in books in other genres, too. I’ve read Westerns and horror and sci-fi novels with descriptive sex scenes in them. Why aren’t those ever lumped into “dirty” or “clean” categories?
Now, I’ll admit that I’ve fallen into this trap myself a few times and have most likely referred to a few novels as “clean” before, but I won’t be making that mistake again. Going forward, I’ll be using the terms “closed door” or “chaste” instead of clean. And “dirty” doesn’t really have any place on our site going forward. (Unless we’re talking about dirty-talking heroes, which is a totally different subject altogether. Those will ALWAYS have a place here…)
As usual, we could rant about a topic forever, but what we really want to know is what you think. So, what say you? Speak now or forever hold your peace!