Reading tastes have changed a great deal in the last forty years. I remember when 'Lady Chatterly's Lover' was considered too hot for general consumption. Today that book with its 'steamy scenes' is considered tame, and many readers enjoy the explicit depiction of sexuality.
So the question is, where does the author draw the line? How explicit do you get and what subjects do you write about? Since the release of '50 Shades of Grey' the bar has moved substantially, but it still remains with the author to determine how far she/ he wants to go.
I deal with the after-effects of sexual abuse in some of my stories, but I don't describe that abuse. Anything that denigrates either gender is abuse in my books, (so scratch 50 Shades from my reading list,) as I can't even read that stuff, no less write about it. So in my Roman Historical Romances (not so much in my others) women and children have been raped, slaves have been forced to have sex with their owners and women have their breasts cut off. But you don't witness any of it. The reader just goes on the journey of healing with the character afterwards. And that healing often occurs in the bedroom.
Let me show you what I mean. In the love scene from 'Lionslayer's Woman' below, the heroine, a slave who has had her breasts cut off by a past master, is having to reveal her scars to her lover. Is it hot or not? You decide.
'Slowly she lifted her head to meet his gaze, saw the request there and gave her permission with a brief nod. Before she had a chance to change her mind, his hands came up and very gently pushed the hair apart like a curtain, revealing her scarred and ugly chest.
She watched his face, hypersensitive to even the slightest rejection written there. All she saw was pain, so much pain. His eyes blinked back tears that glossed them.
Tears? Why would he cry at the sight of her chest? Was he feeling pity for her now? She didn't want his pity! She tried to step back away from his gaze, tried to turn, but his hands gripped her arms like a vice.
'Don't. I haven't finished.' His voice was like broken glass underfoot and it crunched against her sensitised nerves, hurting her.
But she knew struggling against his grip was useless. He would hold her there until he'd looked his fill. Her shame was beyond bearing and she turned her face away, letting the thick veil of hair fall over her chest again.
He released one arm and threw the hair back over her shoulder angrily. 'Stop it, Cyra. Don't insult me like this.'
'Insult you?' she got out in furious shock. 'I'm the one being insulted by your pity! I don't want your pity. I survived what that bastard did to me. I'm no victim to be pitied!'
He grabbed the back of her neck and jerked her close so that their noses were almost touching. 'Do I pity a warrior his scars? No! I feel his pain and applaud his strength. That's what I'm doing, Cyra. I'm feeling your pain and wondering at the courage it took to challenge that bastard and for you to survive... this... butchery.' He almost choked on the last word.
Tears glistened in his angry eyes.
Suddenly a dam broke within Cyra and a torrent of need poured out of her. She reached up, grabbed the sides of his face and pulled him down to her so she could devour his mouth. Her tongue invaded him, seeking his, wanting to own him, be him, feel him in every particle of her being. The need slammed through her until she gasped under the onslaught.
Then he was there with her, as desperate for her as she was for him. Wanting her as intensely, if not more intensely, than she wanted him. For several long minutes, they fought each other to get more, to have more, to be more. Breaths mingled, gasping, teeth clashed, tongues duelled. Hands... Hands were everywhere at once. Greedy to feel every inch of flesh, desperate to be felt... to experience the sheer delirious desire of being touched.'
This love scene is typical of what I write. If I ended the chapter with the first kiss as the bedroom door closes, the reader wouldn't get to witness the healing that Leonis provides. It wouldn't be as authentic to say 'The next morning Cyra looked down at her naked chest with acceptance. Leonis had given her than gift last night.' Telling is never as good as showing (unless we're talking about violence.)
But no matter what's selling at the moment, don't try to write hot love scenes if they embarrass you or you're not good at them (writing not doing them). You'll always find readers who prefer to fade at the bedroom door. Write what works for you.
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