Gratuitous Sex, Quantum Entanglement, and My Love Affair with Jack White

Warning - Gratuitous Sex

Warning! Gratuitous Sex!

Gratuitous Sex – Quantum Entanglement – Jack White. 

Think those are just random words I used to lure you in?  Wrong!  I’m going to discuss all of them.  And they will all be relevant (I hope).

Let’s start with the gratuitous sex bit.  My novel, Infamous, just hit the e-shelves, and the gratuitous sex issue has been on my mind recently.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m an avid romance reader as well as writer. I like hot sex as much as the next person.  There’s nothing I like better in a good read, especially a romance, than a steamy sexy scene.

But lately, the term ‘mommy porn’ has been bandied about quite a bit.  Erotica has been the hot word du jour (as though it never existed before 50 Shades), and. . . Infamous was published.

Infamous was, I thought, a rather sweet romance.  Very family oriented. With, you know, a few steamy sexy scenes.  In fact, just the right amount of sex (so I thought) to express the relationship that existed between my characters, Morgan and Jessica.

Imagine my surprise when I found out Infamous had been picked up for Crimson Romance’s “spicy” line.  Spicy!  Wow.  Now, I should tell you, I didn’t really have a problem with this.  I did write the steamy sex, after all.  I read widely – including that new-fangled erotica on occasion.  I don’t have a problem with sex scenes or erotica.  But there is one thing I do have a problem with.

I’ll give you the scenario:

I’ve downloaded Hot New Romance Novel by Bestselling Author to my kindle.  I’m enjoying it quite well when I get to this part (situation wildly altered to protect the guilty):

The protags, two physicists, are walking up a hill one afternoon discussing string theory as it relates to quantum entanglement and arguing over whether they should even take a second glance at loop quantum gravity.  This is a Big Deal in the plot because their research grant is at stake.  It’s an animated discussion.  Then — Suddenly — They are having sex!

Tab A goes into Slot B and. . . . .WHOA!

Okay, back up.  I was skimming a bit, because the math behind string theory is a bit over my head, so I obviously missed something.  Except I didn’t.  There’s no emotional lead-in to explain why these two people are suddenly having monkey sex.  None.  Then they get done and continue with the physics discussion.

Okay, that was the quantum entanglement bit.  I’ll admit I cheated a little.  It might not have been completely relevant.

Now here’s the thing.  This is not a love scene.  This is not even erotica. This is nothing.  This is sex-for-the-sake-of-a-sex scene.  I am not amused.  I lose a bit of respect for Bestselling Author.

Why did all this become relevant to my “sweet” romance (with the steamy sex scenes)?

Well, apparently “sweet-with-steamy” wasn’t quite “spicy”.  My editor asked me to add two sex scenes to maintain a heat level appropriate to the line.  I agree (hey, I want the sale) and I am (I tell myself) a professional.

I sit down to make revisions, and the first scene goes off without  a hitch.  It’s actually just an expansion of a scene that was already in the book.  I have the sneaking suspicion that I was just lazy not to have writen it in the first place.  Onward to Scene Two.

And here’s where Artistic Integrity rears it’s head (who knew I had such a thing).  I don’t want to write Scene Two.  You see, I’ve made a Big Deal in the place where Scene Two is supposed to go about Jessica and Morgan not having sex.  It is toward the end of the book and they are not in a good place.  They are barely speaking.  They are not having sex.

But I’m a professional.


I spend several days kicking around different ideas for Scene Two (which I now refer to in my head as “Gratuitous Sex Scene”).  I begin to have empathy for Bestselling Author and her physicists.  I complain to my husband (the non-romance writer)  who is spectacularly unsympathetic and says, “I don’t see the problem. We have fights.  Sometimes we have sex in the middle. It  happens.”  Except in writing romance.   In romance, sex means something.  Otherwise, it is the romance equivalent of Chekhov’s gun never being fired.

Enter my love affair with Jack White.

Jack’s White’s “Love Interruption” more specifically (although, yes, I was already crushing on Jack before that).  Here are the lyrics that did it for me:

I want love

To roll me over slowly

stick a knife inside me,

and twist it all around.

Holy cow! That’s devastating. That’s beautiful.  And. . . it hit me. . . that’s what Jessica and Morgan needed if Gratuitous Sex Scene was going to work.

So I wrote it.  Or I tried.  I honestly can’t judge my own work. But I did try.

In the end, I think (I hope) it made the story stronger.

Thank you Jennifer Lawler (Not-So-Evil Editor) and Jack White (rock god).

So here are my questions for you – when is the sex gratuitous?  Always? Never? Some gray area in between?  Have you experienced the Quantum Entanglement situation in a novel you’ve read?

If you’ve been kind enough to read Infamous, I’d love your feedback on how I handled the love scenes between Jessica and Morgan.

You can read the first chapter free on my website.  I warn you, there may be gratuitous sex.  You can come back here and flame me if I broke my own rules!

Irene Preston lives in the hill country outside Austin, Texas.  Her “spicy-sweet” novel Infamous is currently available at most ebook retailers.

Infamous by Irene Preston

Does Infamous by Irene Preston Contain Gratuitous Sex?

What happens when a Hollywood socialite falls for a conservative soccer dad?

Everyone knows Jessica Sinclair.  She’s that girl on the cover of all the tabloids. As a Hollywood insider, Jessica has spent her life partying with A-list celebrities, shopping on Rodeo Drive, and living through scandal after scandal. When her estranged husband offers her a second chance at the ‘All American’ lifestyle she can’t pass up a shot at real happiness.  Back in suburbia, Jessica spends her nights in sexy role-play hoping Morgan will overlook her deficiencies as a homemaker.  She spends her days attending  P.T.A. meetings, burning cookies, and asking herself “What would June Cleaver do?”  More to the point, what will Morgan do when she winds up back in the tabloids–with his teenage daughter right next to her?

Visit Irene at: | Facebook | @IrenePreston | Pinterest

Buy Infamous:

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  1. I’m with you, Irene…I need the lead-in. I need to feel the connection, or I feel cheated. And I love those lyrics by Jack White. Beautiful.

  2. I love the lead-in. It’s like reader fore-play – and who doesn’t like fore-play? As a reader I’ve run into it once or twice and it does throw me out of the book a bit because, like you, I have to go back and see if I missed the cues. The only time it really, really, really bugs me is in thriller/romantic suspense. I mean, if the hero and heroine are running for their lives, the bad guy is *rightthere* behind them, why stop to have the sex? Why not get clear-ish and *then* have the sex?

    • Oh – jeez – yes. I must be a horrible mate, because I just don’t think I could go for a quickie when my reptile brain is screaming *RUN* The awful thing about some of those is that the author does do the lead-in. Only I’m not following, because *RUN*!!!

  3. Having read your book, I didn’t think any of the sex was gratuitous, and I, too, am not a fan of quantum entanglements. Even knowing before I read that your editor had asked you to put two scenes in, I couldn’t figure out which ones they were.

    For me, the important element of any sex scene is that it changes something between the characters. If their relationship comes out the other side different than it went in, that’s a good sex scene, and the sex in Infamous always felt important to the story like that. Oddly the sex scene in romance novels that often feels gratuitous to me is the one that happens at the end of the book after they’re together. If it’s simply there to reaffirm what I already know, I often skim it (Hey! We’re happy! Let’s have happy sex! Oh, look, we’re still happy! Yay!) Don’t get me wrong, in real life happy sex and no drama is a good thing, but that’s not why I read books.

    • Awww – thanks for the compliments. I skim the ‘happy-with-baby’ epilogues for the same reason you skim the final sex. I’m done. (And yes, Infamous has an epilogue *shakes head sadly*)

  4. I enjoy hot romance but not for the sake of the sex. It has to be a romance and it has to feel natural for me. If the intimacy isn’t integral to the developing relationship in some way, I’m very displeased. This is why I stray more towards sensual writing versus erotica.

    • Maybe I’m just drawing arbitrary lines in the sand, but I too make a distinction between ‘hot romance’ and ‘erotica.’ There’s nothing wrong with erotica – but the focus is different and that’s not always what I’m in the mood for.

  5. Great points Irene. I loved your sweet and spicy book, I think you balanced the emotions and sex very well.
    I understand and appreciate “quantum entanglements” (when done well) In my new book I have a scene where amid raw emotions and a decisive conversation (layered with death threats) my characters have sex. BOOM! It’s in your face and unexpected, and the reason is I think sometimes (rare as it may be) the couple will find themselves in a place where there are no words to express what they’re feeling, and the deep, raw, burning need for connection surpass any rational thought. (e.g. Is this a good time or place to sex the hell out of him/her?)
    I don’t necessarily think you have to have a “lead in” as long as the sex (during and after) have a, uh, purpose…besides getting naked.

    • I’m withholding judgment until I read. I’ve read your work and I can’t imagine that you don’t make this work!

  6. I know the feeling. For my first book over 20 years ago, my editor wanted me to put in three extra love scenes. Not only that, I had to read them to her over the phone! (This was pre-internet.) Made for some funny moments. I’m half way through your book and loving it. Congratulations!

    • Get. OUT. I’m pretty sure that would have been the end of my love scenes. Sorry, I now write inspirational!

  7. I’m sorry, was there a question I was supposed to answer? I’m still stuck on the Jack White video…Mmmmmm….

  8. This is a really good post. I can see your dilema, and yes, I’ve had that happen before.

  9. I remember reading a “gratuitous sex” scene; the h/H had just met, and they got each other off in a parking lot. (Ulp!) Well, I suppose that’s one way to get the ball rolling. I am certainly no prude. But when it comes to sex, I like a slow build-up. I think that there’s a lot of things that are clash-banging around in the female brain in the background, especially at the beginning of a new relationship. “Where will this lead to?” “Am I doing this right?” “What happens tomorrow?” I’ve read far too many romance novels, and this exhilaration + tiny fear doesn’t come across on the page.

    I like for sex to have a certain intent behind it, and most of the time, this needs to be spelled out for me. Otherwise, the scene reads hollow, and it probably won’t move me.

  10. ‘Ulp’ is right – that is a little fast for me!

    You hit the nail on the head with ‘tiny fear.’ I gave Jessica sexual confidence but loaded her up with some other insecurities. I find characters that have no fear motivations flat and unbelievable. We need those fears to empathize and create motivation.

  11. Thanks, everyone for stopping by. I’ve enjoyed your comments. However, I can’t believe you all let me get away with “the math behind string theory is a bit over my head” – lol. (I can totally do that math.. . .NOT)

  12. Honestly, I was surprised to see INFAMOUS in the “spicy” line. Not that it’s not sexy – it is – but it’s definitely a sweet romance. If the scene you had to pull teeth to write is the *spolier alert!* pantry closet at the pool party scene, I’m glad you added it. It’s lovely. (Notice my lack of the use of the word “gratuitous.”) I suppose INFAMOUS could be called spicy, but not gratuitous (how could that be, when the h/h are married and totally in love?) and far, far from erotica. The characters are 3-D, oh-so-sympathetic, and sincerely in love. the romance felt real, and that’s why it worked for me. 5-star-review worked for me 🙂

    • *Glowing a little*

      Okay, you caught me. The Pantry I added on my own recognizance while writing. I just felt we needed a little more heat in the kitchen!

  13. Irene, I too love the steamy scenes in romance. But what makes them steamy is the emotional story behind them. I think that’s what makes all of yours so great. If your infamous (sorry) second scene is the one on the desk, I thought it was perfect. Such a perfect portrayal of where they were in their relationship. It was hot, but so tragic.

    • *Ding-Ding-Ding* – You nailed the scene! I’m so glad you liked it. I was *very* apprehensive about that one after I sent it off. In the end, I’m glad Jennifer asked me to add it, though.

  14. I’ve tried reading spicy but I move too quickly from the scene to try to get back to the story. And yeah, I need the emotional tie in first. Great blog.

  15. First: I love a good sex scene. Having said that, I need it to make sense. I’ve read books where I’m like “WTF, why are they having sex?” It takes me out of the story. I’m currenlty reading yours, and so far completely enjoy each scene 🙂 haven’t gotten to the end to comment on your last one. Long story short, not a fan for random acts of sex.

    • Thanks for stopping by Synithia. I hope you’re enjoying Infamous – make sure and let me know if I stumbled anywhere!

  16. Irene,
    I really enjoyed this post. What great thoughts to ponder. I’m definitely an emotional-connection leading to sex girl. I write romantic suspense and harsh, intense situations can lead to characters being pushed together. My husband…my best, my most tough critic gets frustrated with me sometimes when I hold off on sex. He’s at one point shaken a manuscript in irritation and then cheered when finally the two get together. I’m taking this as a good sign. 🙂

    All the Best,

    • Oh, that is *so* a good sign! I love a read where the sexual tension builds, and builds. . . and *builds* until you just can’t stand it!

  17. Without emotional connections between H & H, for me, it’s not there…I want the foreplay…the look, the first touch, the first kiss, the second kiss (even hotter), the cuddling…I can’t do just ‘sex’…or the fwb some people have chosen, and that’s okay, that’s their choice; but for me, I need one partner whom I feel that emotional bonding and build upon it.

    Great blog, Irene! It’s on my list to read 🙂

    • I’m with you, Kay. Sometimes I’m actually surprised at the amount of sex I really did put in Infamous. I don’t think of the story that way – I’m focused on the emotions I was trying to get on paper. I hope that comes through in the writing.

  18. Wow, thanks for sharing this — so cool to have insight into other writers’ dilemmas. I loved Infamous, and even though it’s fun and sexy, it’s definitely grounded in emotion and family. I would read a lot more spicy romances if they were all like yours!

    P.S. It’s funny when people were trying to guess which sex scene you added, because I liked all the ones mentioned except the one on the desk, which for the life of me I can’t remember! I must have somehow known it was not part of your original vision 😉

    • It’s toward the end (barreling down on the BLACK MOMENT – Fun and Games are OVER at this point – lol). I’m really looking forward to the Name of the Game. I love that you named your girl Kyle!

  19. I was so happy to read this! It is always a revelation to me to see like-minded folks. After spending years in English classes earning a B.A. and an M.A. in English, I was silent about my love for romance, and my best friend and fellow blogger is the only woman I know in “real” life that reads and admits to loving romance. I have been blogging for awhile now about my personal life, about politics, and news, and other things that bothered and interested me, but it took me sooooo long to finally gather the courage up and start my own blog about romance. And I might never have done so had my best friend not pushed me to start OUR blog. So, I am always so pleased when I dabble my toe into the blogosphere and find things like this. You are so absolutely right about gratuitous sex and the need for lead in. I was shaking my head yes reading this: “In romance, sex means something.” Amen, sister! I imagine that for scene number 2, you are talking about the sex-plosion in the the office in the middle of their worst fight(?). I loved that scene actually. It felt as though it was an earnest look at how sex and love and lust can get all messed up and confusing and somehow be both good and bad at the same time. A tough scene to write probably, but one I appreciated.

    • Thank you! Yes, that was exactly the scene. Writing it affected me so much I almost felt like I was coming down with the flu. The minute I typed the last sentence a weight lifted off my mind and I felt completely better.

    • And congratulations on ‘coming out’ as a romance lover! A lot of us have been there!

  20. Irene, Irene, I’m mad about you, your take on gratuitous sex, and, and. . .Chekhov’s gun, indeed and Tab A into Slot B. Love it! This from a new fan, romance/suspense author Charmaine Gordon. 82-going strong.

  21. Oh, thanks for the like on my Ghost of Thanksgiving Past post. That’s how I found you. Please leave a comment sometime.

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