Man plus Woman equals What?

“As soon as a man and woman of almost any age are alone together within four walls it is assumed that anything may happen. Spontaneous combustion, instant fornication, triumph of the senses. What possibilities men and women must see in each other to infer such dangers. Or, believing in the dangers, how often they must think about the possibilities.” – Alice Munroe

If the Yahoo home page is even remotely accurate in suggesting what people wonder about, then people appear fixated on revealing dresses and bathing suits, who celebrities are sleeping with, and older people who’ve “still got it.”

“It” is the danger of a man and a woman alone in a room.

If novel sales are even remotely accurate in telling us what we like, then we like speculating about what might happen in that room (car, forest, castle, swamp) when a man and a woman are alone. According to the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Romance was the top-performing category on the best-seller lists in 2012, generating $1,438 billion in sales.

“Romance” in novels is often linked to the danger of “Man plus Woman.”

Like many other authors who read a lot of books, I am variously amused, excited, disgusted, bored and curious about the what the reporter says s/he will tell me about in his/her celebrity story or what the author promises to reveal between the covers of his/her novel. As an author, I usually care a lot more about how the writer/reporter tells the man+woman story than what happens when the man and the woman are together. Not much is new on that score, but I guess we like hoping there might be.

There are times when I think the cynics are wrong about the $ sign being our defining symbol. Perhaps it should be a bed.

The old newspaperman Horace Greeley once said that the thing most readers are interested in the most is themselves. I know a lot of us are interested in having money, friends, security, good food, successful children, great health and long lives. A lot of that involves the $ sign.

Yet, when reading habits come into play, a lot of us apparently want to be in the bed when–as celebrity journalists’ would say–somebody arrives in a jaw-dropping outfit and asks, “How about a night of spontaneous combustion?” Or, if we can’t be there, we like hearing about people who are.

I’m not a romance novelist or a celebrity journalist, so I try very hard not to focus my writing on the sexual what that happens in the “Man plus woman” equation. But, as I look at the importance of the bed in our culture, I sometimes wonder if I need more beds in my books.


5 thoughts on “Man plus Woman equals What?

  1. It depends on what you think of as erotica. My 93 year old mother called me after she read Sabbath’s Gift. I asked her if she liked it. She said, “Yes, but I didn’t like that there was so much sex and violence in it.” I wondered what on earth she was talking about. Then I told her, “Well, yes, there’s a murder, and I suppose that’s the violence. But too much sex? I then went through my book, scanning it for scandalous scenes. Ah, yes. “They were necking like teenagers.” And, “She lay in his strong arms.”
    So I asked her if I embarrassed her. She said, “Well, I recommended it to my Sunday School class before I read it.” She sounded embarrassed.
    So I told her, “Okay, go back to Sunday School and apologize for recommending my book. That you didn’t know there was sex and violence in it.”
    So she did.
    And my sales in Boerne, TX went up. Gotta love those Methodists.

    1. Definitions of a little sex vs. a lot of sex in books have changed so much over the years. Movies and books that were viewed as risqué when I was growing up seem tame now. Normally, I wouldn’t think of necking (do people even use that term any more) as being scandalous in a novel. On the other hand, sales are good.

  2. chellecordero

    My dear (late) uncle wanted to read all of my books, including those that had rather detailed sex. I blushed but sincerely valued his opinion. He liked them all and while he teased me about some of the sex scenes he did say that every scene was “appropriate” and actually lent to the character depiction (passion, thoughtfulness, etc) and lent to the story. The library at the senior residence carries many of my novels at his suggestion.

    I think the important thing is that the story is not about sex, a writer needs to used emotional involvement, some adventure, some inspiration, lots of reality, throw in some dreams – and have lots of fun.

    btw Marilyn, love your story!

    1. That’s the important thing” the sex is part of the story, that it fits in to a larger plot and theme. You’re a good sport, Chelle, stopping by my tongue-in-cheek lament that those of us who don’t write romance, don’t get as much action. 🙂


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