How Much Sex is Too Much by Barbara Winkes



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-6Woo! As your reading this blog, I (Jove) am in the middle of eye surgery. The fabulous Barbara Winkes agreed to fill my spot for today so y’all wouldn’t be lonely! How cool is she?

Barbara has a new book, Spring Fever, coming out any minute now from Eternal Press. Check out the sexy new cover over there on the right. You KNOW you want to get some of that.

Until then, Barbara is doing a fabulous giveaway here at Women and Words. The winner gets to choose an ebook from any of Barb’s other titles. Want a complete list? Check it out HERE. Leave a comment in the space below and we’ll be back with a winner on Friday, May 30. Good luck!

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How much sex is too much?
by Barbara Winkes

Sorry, no, I’m not going to give you relationship advice in this blog. My question refers to a conversation that returns every once in a while in the lesbian fiction community, about the number and intensity of sex scenes in fiction that might or might not be romance, and what it means for representation.

We all have a comfort zone and a curiosity when reading and writing–why else do it? As writers, we try to tell a story we’re confident about while at the same time pushing our boundaries, always hoping the reader will be with us on that journey. It’s great to find that perfect reader-writer match, from either POV, but it doesn’t always work that way.
Sexuality is a subject that is emotionally loaded and makes for passionate discussions.
I asked myself where I stand on the question of how much descriptive sex is appropriate in any type of fiction, and how that reflects on my own writing.

The more important question, can you quantify this at all?

Women, writers and readers, will be judged anyway, whether they enjoy fade to black, or graphic descriptions, or anything in between. That’s because we learn early that everything women like is always up for judgment and scrutiny, but when it comes to sexuality, the reaction is often visceral and instant.

Hollywood has been slow to catch up on the fact that movies geared towards women can actually make them a lot of money. I believe we can learn a lot from the discussion about Fifty Shades of Grey as well. To discuss the quality of writing, or the implications the concept might have on perceptions of domestic violence–that is relevant. The way the media has mocked the women who liked those books–or attacked them because they were largely bought by women–is not.

Back to the question at hand, it’s not even written in stone what a person might or might not be comfortable with at a certain point in their lives. Readers and writers experiment, find out what works for them.

As for representation, I believe that only a multitude of stories can give an idea of the whole picture–each individual story is one piece of a mosaic. No one would think the Fifty Shades represent all straight women, would they? We are diverse, as women, in the lesbian community, and so are the stories, the way we feel about them, the way we tell them. The answer to the initial question differs for everyone, and that’s okay.

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PS: My publisher, Eternal Press, has a 1-5 heat rating. Usually, I’d give the books in the series about Callie and Rebecca a 2, but the upcoming Spring Fever is more of a 2.5. Enjoy!


  1. Now I am curious about the “rating” and the description of each level.

    Nothing wrong with a good sex scene.


  2. Hi, Barbara! Thanks for joining us today at Women and Words.

    There are some hot n’ heavy (see what I did there?) debates about sex in fiction. In lesfic, I’ve noticed that there are an array of readers. Some absolutely do not want any sex in their lesfic, even if it’s romance. Some in that group will clarify that kissing is fine, but anything beyond that is not. Others want all kinds of sex in their lesfic (to which I suggest reading lesfic that is clearly marked “erotica”). And still others don’t have any issue with sex in their lesfic “as long as it fits the plot and is appropriate to the story.” Which of course leaves a whole lot of gray area in there, yes? Two people can read the same story and one might think there was way too much sex and the other may think there wasn’t enough or that it was “appropriate.”

    So, I’m not sure you can quantify such a thing. Presses have different ideas of what constitutes “heat,” and they’ll generally tell you what leve of heat corresponds to the sexual activity in the book (in accordance with their own standards), but another press might have a whole different set of standards and what constitutes “heat.” Writers, too, have their own ideas about what they will and won’t write in terms of sex.

    I’ve written romance that includes sex and romance that does not (and I’ve written other genres that may or may not include sex), and for me as a writer, I made those decisions based on the arc of the story and whether it “felt right” within the storyline and plot for the characters to engage on that level. Writing is as much intuitive as it is analytical, and writers often get a “feel” for a story’s tone and whether it’s in the best interests of the characters to engage physically. Like any other plot device, sex needs to fit within the story’s infrastructure and it needs to move the plot (generally forward) and/or reveal something about characterization. In some genres, like erotica, sex is a vehicle for the story, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sacrifice story for it, unless of course the whole point of the narrative is sex. In which case, as long as an author is clear about genre and category of genre, I don’t see a problem with that.

    I do agree that readers will find the writers whose work they enjoy the most and ultimately, that’s a good thing. 🙂

    Thanks again!


    • Many great points in this post! I agree with the notion of what ‘felt right’ to tie with the plot but sometimes throwing in a scene that is totally unexpected and out of character can be especially titilating too 🙂


  3. “We all have a comfort zone and a curiosity when reading and writing–why else do it?” You hit the nail on the head! It’s nice when an author throws in scenes that aren’t always vanilla in an otherwise romance-lesfic storyline…a zing of the unexpected is always a winner 🙂
    Congrats’ on your new novel!


  4. Well said Barb. Not only is there diversity among readers, each reader can vary in their preferences. We have different moods and seasons, choosing books to fit. An author once apologized to me that there wasn’t any sex in one of her books. I was stunned and asked why on earth she would apologize for a lack of sex. Apparently she perceives that reader’s expect a certain amount of ‘heat’. Not this reader. A good story doesn’t need sex. If it’s there as a natural part of the story – great, but I don’t look for it in all of my reading.


  5. Fully agree that there is diversity. I love to discuss it, but for me it comes down to how well it compliments the story. Emotions need to come across to the reader and sexual attraction/tension is definitely an emotion that moves readers in some direction. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  6. I like a good sex scene if it fits in the story. I hate when you can tell someone is forcing it in just to have it. For me the best are when the mood and emotion play into it really well. I am just fine with a fade to back or hot and heavy if it fits well in the story. Basically, if it is well written, I good with it.


  7. Good points made, Barbara. Everyone’s experiences will be different so it only stands to reason that certain sex scenes may not appeal to all.


  8. Good discussion.
    I read lesfic that varies from vanilla to erotica as long as the story is good. I’m in the group Andi Marquette describes – “others don’t have any issue with sex in their lesfic “as long as it fits the plot and is appropriate to the story.”
    Please enter me in the ebook drawing.


  9. To me the amount of sex scenes within a story should relate to the type of story. Is it a, thriller, a romance, or is it an erotic tale? As long as its relevant to the story being told…all is good. Some genres should include more scenes within the flow of the story, and if the genre calls for it, they should be more detailed. Again…it’s all about relevance, flow, overall story continuity.


  10. Sorry, I’m late, but I wanted to thank all of you for contributing to a great discussion. There are many aspects to consider, genre, the plot of the story, the characters’ backstory, yet, like some of you said, there is room in between for individual tastes, or even a certain day’s mood. Conversations here at Women and Words are alwats great fun! 🙂


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