Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Making Love

There are a lot of euphemisms, synonyms, and slang terms devoted to the sex act, especially as it appears in print. “Having sex,” “bumping uglies,” “doing the nasty.” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, to say nothing of some of the more "printable" ones.
The one that sets my teeth on edge the most is “making love.” This particular poetic description conjures up images of two people “chastely” enjoying each others' bodies while rose petals rain from the ceiling, little diapered cherubs float aloft playing soft harp music, and they whisper tender declarations of undying love.
(Insert record scratch sound effect here.)
Yes, I also deal in sarcasm.
In reality, sex is a sweaty, sticky, wet, messy business. During a truly erotic encounter, the cerebral cortex shuts off. There’s literally no room for conscious thought. Part of this is because the blood that permits our brains to operate is rerouted to other areas, which then take over all “thinking.” This is why a guy with an erection is unlikely to be capable of intellectual speech. The lights are on, but no one’s home; the little head is doing all his thinking for him. If you can get a grunt out of him at that moment, you’ve got about all the reasoned discourse you can expect until the Viagra wears off.
At the moment of orgasm, it is utterly absurd to believe anyone capable of thinking about the PTA meeting tomorrow, or the conference with the kids’ principal next week. If you’ve ever had a truly intense and satisfying orgasm, you know that until the spasms subside, you can’t do anything but sit back and enjoy the psychedelic explosion of white noise in your mind. At the end of a vigorous and truly sexy interlude, neither participant should be able to do anything but look at the ceiling and gasp. A mumbled “I love you” might, and I say might, be made out among the panting, but that’s as far as that goes.
Is that to say that making love is impossible? Certainly not. There are those times when you start off slow, with lots of foreplay, taking your cues and pleasure as much from your partner’s responses as your own. It is even possible to make love to yourself, and no matter what Dr. Freud may have said on the subject, there’s nothing wrong with that. You can’t truly please someone else unless you know how to please yourself and what the “hot spots” for YOU are.
But such episodes, although intense, are also rare. Sensuality and seduction take a backseat to the animal urge to mate. As “civilized” people, we may not want to admit it, but when those juices get flowing, we haven’t advanced one single day since the first caveman. I know women who will personally trip a man they want, beat him to the ground, and have their way with him. There are men who secretly wish the mating rituals harkened back to a simpler time: a “thunk” on the head, a nice nap, and he’s there waiting for you when you wake up. Men have to exercise a bit more discretion with this line of thinking, though: at best the unfortunate male will be branded a Neanderthal. At worst, he’ll have to be very careful how he handles his soap in the shower.
So why do we, as romance writers, make such a primal act so frilly?
Because it deserves it. There’s plenty of porn out there, if all you want to do is get your rocks off. We want you to feel. We want you to remember why, in the best of all possible worlds, you first kissed this person you’re with today. We want you to remember what it was about that person that made you trust them with all your insecurities and inadequacies, remove your clothing, and present yourself without hesitation, barriers, or fear to them.
We strive to recall that sweet, nostalgic feeling of the first time that pain and awkwardness were no longer an issue and both partners took and gave of themselves freely, with confidence and desire. The first heated “I love you” whispered in that moment when both partners were striving toward mutual release. And the tender embrace afterward, when it didn’t matter a damn about the sweat or the wet spot on the bed, as long as they could stay as close as possible without the erotic connection. 
To simplify that little ramble, we want to remind our reader that the expression of sensuality is more than inserting Tab A in Slot B. There's more to sex than a series of neurochemical and physiological responses which facilitate the placing of Tab A in Slot B. And there's more to love than merely sex. Sex is the dessert which completes the menu, but without the meal that precedes it, cheesecake, delicious as it is, will never truly satisfy on its own.
If we've done our job properly, you, as the reader, will remember these things. Or, if you haven’t been fortunate enough to experience this for yourself, maybe you’ll seek it out for yourself. Once the rapture subsides and your brain comes back on line, we hope, you’ll lay there in the dark and your lover’s warm embrace and think, “So that’s what they meant!”
We couldn’t ask for a better review than that.

Until next time,
J.S. Wayne


DA Kentner said...

Nice, JS.
Well said.

Sarah Ballance said...

"So why do we, as romance writers, make such a primal act so frilly?
Because it deserves it."

YES, THIS!!!! You nailed it! The best love/sex/git'er done scenes I've ever read have engaged my heart before the rest of me caught on. While there is certainly a place for porn, those scenes are not the ones I remember. But get me emotionally invested with the characters and I'm a reader for life!

And, hey, do I smell biscuits?

J.S. Wayne said...

@ David: I read a post you wrote several weeks ago about overused cliches, and I started to write a response. By the time I was done, I had the plot bunny for this post! So thank you for inspiring me!

@ Sarah: I couldn't agree more! I think that's why erotic romance does so well; it blends the emotional and physical to a degree that simply isn't possible within any other genre.
*Sets down a tureen of sausage cream gravy* Hey, I'm a Texan! What's a meal without biscuits? ;)

Anonymous said...

This was a fun read! Have you met my husband? *facepalm* that doesn't sound right in this context, let me try again. Perhaps the rolls are reversed in my relationship...I'm not the talker *insert laugh here* my husband is and I tease him about it. But he's got it right, asking and interested in how I feel about things.
More spouses should do roll reversals, intentionally or not, it keeps things interesting. I like reading romantic stories where the rolls aren't so clear, where there is give and take. If writers use a formula of Hot cardboard man A meets and boinks Hot cardboard woman B, who cares. I want to be emotionally invested. I'd like to be reminded of my greatest sexual exploits and then tempted to try something new!

Great write. Funny, witty as usual.

J.S. Wayne said...

@ Muse: Thank you! I'm glad you liked it.
I think the best part of a relationship has nothing to do with the physical aspect. Let me rephrase. The best part of a relationship is when the emotional and physical collide and explode. That's why some of the best sex is make-up sex, and some of the best love scenes start off with one character flinging a (shoe, phone, brick, stick of dynamite) at the other. In that moment, both parties are emotionally stripped bare, allowing for a more intense release.
Thanks for coming by!

Louisa Pare-Luigi said...

"Sex is the dessert which completes the menu, but without the meal that precedes it, cheesecake, delicious as it is, will never truly satisfy on its own."

I love it! I'm going to keep this one in my back pocket, if you don't mind. Every once in a while I run across someone who needs to hear it put this way. (Maybe its me, ha!) Great post.

Bonnie said...

The second best sex is make-up sex. The best sex is when you are totally high on the other person. You just can't get enough, be enough, love enough, express enough, touch enough, "make love" enough. It's when even touch is an expression of gratitude - passion - thrill - desire - tenderness - fun - and most of all, unbelieveable joy. Your're right. "Make love" is too trite a phrase for those blinding moments of ecstacy/happiness/merging/giddness/primalism/enlightenment...

Bonnie Ferrante

'Course if you had posted this when I was married to my first husband, I would have had a completely different response. ;-)

J.S. Wayne said...

@ Louisa: Copy away! Just make sure I get credit :P Seriously, I'm glad you enjoyed this. Someone once said that the Eskimos have 57 words for snow! Given that, trying to sum up the emotional and physical components of sex in two words is an exercise in futility.
Thanks for weighing in!

@ Bonnie: Your point is well taken, but then, that's why I said SOME as opposed to ALL. There's a lot to be said for a slow, heated build until the touch of your lover verges on agony and the only thing MORE painful would be to pull away. Both methods ultimately achieve the same end; but I gotta be honest, I'm a big fan of the paradigm that DOESN'T include a shoe being whipped at my head beforehand!
Thanks for stopping by!

E. Jamie said...

Awesome post! The very best sex scenes are those that make that mix of both emotional and physical together. Porn is all well and good but in a romance, if we haven't fallen in love with these characters BEFORE they knock boots, why will the reader care really once they do?