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Is it good, hard sex? Or is it something else?

I’m not sure why, but it seems that a lot of the paranormal romances I’ve read have the same type of scene inside that really gets me upset. Sometimes I skip said scenes, and sometimes I’m reading it, with tears in my eyes. Always at the end, I feel as though something has gone wrong in this book. I no longer respect the hero. The point behind the scene is to show the hero’s strength, whether it be magical or physical. The scene? Angry Sex. Ok, we all get off on angry sex now and then. Don’t get me wrong – it’s in all kinds of books and we all like to read it. It’s hot, and it’s sexy, and we all wonder “should we piss off our husband’s just for fun?”

But in reality, what some of these books are portraying is rape. The heroine has said no, and the hero continues to push. The hero wishes to teach the heroine a “lesson” in how powerful he is. A true alpha male doesn’t prove how powerful he is using sex. Instead, he does it against villains or other males, hoping she’ll see how truly strong he is. If she can’t, then obviously they weren’t meant to be.

It’s funny, because when I first joined groups of readers, I heard how awful it was that another author had bullies for heroes. She was drawn and quartered in the public. Cries of rape and violence swept through blogs like wildfire. Interestingly, this author only had one book where the hero went a bit far, and the heroine pretty much went at him, accusing him of rape, and he realized he’d gone too far. He paid for his “crime”. Yet in these new books, there is no outcry, there is no hero realizing he went too far. And worse, there is no heroine accusing him of rape.

So where is the line? Where does “angry sex” turn into “rape”? For me, it’s when the heroine says “NO” frequently during the event. For me it’s when the hero thinks he is teaching the heroine a lesson. A lesson he can only instill with forcible big O’s, or forcible sex, whether it’s by the hero’s own hand or his magic.

I think what has surprised me is not that this makes it into books now and then, but that it seems to be coming a trend. Heroes overstep the bounds of good alpha male behavior, becoming bullies, and they force the heroine to accept them using either physical or magical strength. Oddly enough, a true alpha male never bullies, he never forces his females. A true alpha male coaxes his female to accept him, showing his strength in other ways – never against her. Ok, maybe he does, but not “Teaching her a lesson” using sex.   What ultimately happens in the bedroom is always the female’s choice. So if that’s the case, why are these books so popular?


True alpha behavior: A hero might tie up his female, and while she may be uncomfortable, she trusts him enough to allow this activity, though she may struggle just a little.

Borderline behavior:  A hero and heroine may fight, using their magic, and it turns into a sexual pleasure.  Both are in on the “game” and enjoy themselves.

Bully behavior: A long drawn out struggle between the hero and heroine in which he “teaches her a lesson” in who’s in charge. She is actively fighting him and is scared as much as she is turned out. While the big O may be mind blowing, the fight to get there was not.

One of my favorite authors tends toward the bully behavior, or did when she first started out, and I think that’s where the trend began. Interestingly, I always skipped the scenes related to such bully behavior, as they always felt out of place in her books. Now, she has drawn back from such behavior and is as popular as ever.

Maybe it’s just that I don’t think these heroes, or even human males, are sexy when they want to “teach a lesson”. It comes too close to what is true rape. If I needed a lesson taught to me, I sure wouldn’t want it done while I fought against it in the bedroom. This is not a fantasy of mine I want to live vicariously through books. Yet I don’t have a problem with the H/h showing their strength in an argument. Just not during sex. At least, not forcibly.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not prudish enough to believe that fight sex isn’t hot. Sure it is. But teaching a lesson is not.

So what do you think? Which is it?  A bully or Strong alpha hero who teaches his heroine a “lesson” using sex?

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21 Responses to “Is it good, hard sex? Or is it something else?”

  • Teresa, that’s part of why your alphas are so well written and well loved. You understand alpha male and better yet, alpha female behavior and how in the animal world they truly act and mate. This is a huge strength you have over many other writers! I’m in total agreement with you. And when you’ve been overpowered by a man before and know the fear, it’s a total turn-off. Normally I throw the book (or close my kindle). Some people are into it, I’m not. Thank you for sharing this thoughtful entry.

    Love and Light and Steamy Nights! ;)


  • Viki S. says:

    I agree with you. I get so fed up with this behavior by the hero. I even get sick of the hard sex. There is something to be said for kind, gentle and loving.

  • Roni Loren says:

    I don’t write paranormal but I am always hyper aware of this line because I write BDSM stories. I want to make sure nothing comes across as non-consensual. It’s a non-negotiable rule for me. If the heroine says no (or in the case of BDSM, her safe word), everything stops immediately. No questions asked.

    I’m all about the strong, dominant hero, but a rape-y one will make me close the book.

  • I see where you’re coming from, and I do agree, no mean no. It’s a touchy subject and it makes people feel different ways. If you’ve been raped before, the scene may come off as disturbing and gut wrenching rather than sexy. I think some authors don’t know how to differentiate hard, dirty sex and downright rape. In paranormal romance, I get it that the animal and/or vampire in the alpha hero take over and the need for sex over rules reason and humanity. That’s a very thin line to cross and you have to be careful. I have written hard sex scenes where it borders rape, but in my scenes the heroine is just as rough as the hero. :o) It’s a give and take, a monstrous desire. The word NO shouldn’t take place in the scene or it definitely becomes a rape scene.

  • Bonni Sansom says:

    I think you have it right. I think they’re bullies and rapists. If the woman says no for any reason it means stop and back the eff off. He to me is not a hero he’s an asshole.

  • Erika says:

    No means No. Period.

    Being a shifter or vampire or two-cocked demon does not mean you can force yourself on a woman. Period.

    Angry sex is cool with me. Saying No and having it ignored? is not cool. It steps over the line of what in my mind is acceptable.

    Alpha’s don’t have to be rapists. Alpha’s take care of their partner.

  • Thanks ladies. It’s odd to me that this is showing up so often in NY print. In each of these cases I read – they were all NY published, and available in print and ebook. Now we all know that ebook authors tend to push the boundaries a bit more than in NY, but I’ve never read a predominately epub who didn’t at least warn if something like that was in the book, so you could be prepared. Last year I read two books in a row by major authors that had scenes like that. They weren’t published at the same time, just I happened to get to them at the same time. And then it’s happened again, in another author’s book that I really like and have met. It kind of made me wonder what people are thinking.

  • Cristina C. says:

    Reminds me of one of my favorite historical romance authors who I adore. I read one of her older books. I had to put it down when it got to the sex scene it was very much a rape. I still haven’t finished it and glare at it when I see it. Shocked me since I haven’t read any of her other books like that and the book was published in the late eighties or early nineties (can’t remember when exactly). :cwy:

  • Antonio Angelo

    I think you have an idealized version of Alpha Male that may be different from others views. Alpha Males in nature take what they want, kill or chase off rivals and are basically selfish misogynistic bastards who are rewarded with loyalty because they provide some protection from things even worse than themselves.

    I am not advocating bad behavior among males alphas or otherwise, in fact i think its disgusting, but people draw on knowledge of animal behavior especially in paranormal books.

    this is not a new phenomena or limited to paranormal, there are a couple Clint Eastwood movies where he as the hero forcibly takes women and brings them around to just how special he is. Coogan’s bluff and high plains drifter.

    a common theme in stories is the younger more idealistic up and coming alpha male supplanting the older crueler alpha male often by force. i think this is a great and satisfying theme even though its been done a million times.

  • teresa

    Antonio, You’re right in much of what you say. But in the Animal world, a true alpha male – let’s say wolf – will never ever hurt his female. It’s all about her. She makes the choice. He’ll do anything for her. I once saw a photo of an alpha pair while she was in heat. She’s sitting on his head while she eats. He’s not fighting. He’s docily laying with her sitting on his head. In the wild, the wolf alpha male rules the pack, but the alpha female, especially when heat, rules him. If he truly wants to mate with her, he has to do what she wants, or she’ll chose another (It’s a misnomer that wolves mate for life – the female typically chooses the strongest male, which of course is the alpha male).

    Another alpha pair video showed the male hunting and giving all his food to the female and pups. He nearly starved to death that winter. So it isn’t so much idealized as it is the true alpha behavior.

    The Eastwood movies, and the books that I’m referring to, as well as the old “bodice ripper” books are not the same thing. They are force, plain and simple, and force is a human trait, not animal. In the paranormal books, in all cases, the hero is not human. He is something “other”.

    Remember, until 1984 it was legal for a man to rape his wife, so these were considered almost legal for him to rape back then – cuz well, the law didn’t acknowledge that women of all ages have choice. We’ve moved on from that. I’m sure you realize in the 1700′s, in the state of Virginia they said if a girl was a virgin by the age of 16 it was because she could run faster than her uncle. It was accepted then for a family member to “take” the teenage girl. We’re smarter than that now and understand it for what it is.

    Taking by force is wrong, no matter what. Taking my force/mutual consent is different. But the books I read were leaning much heavier toward rape and “Teaching a lesson” than they were “angry sex” where an argument pushes them to the limit of control, and both are doing the same.

    Someone said if you’re in the heroine’s view point, you can see the difference. But that’s what makes me call these rape. They ARE in the heroine’s viewpoint – every one of them, and she’s fighting to stop them, and feels fear. Sure, it’s hot and everything, but she’s not trying to stop him because she’s making a point. And she’s not saying “Release me” because she wants to rip his clothes off. She wants it to stop.

    But let me make it clear, I’ve not been raped, and I’m not above some hot “angry” sex. :D These particular books struck me as wrong because they went over that “fine line” that changes how I felt.

  • Laura says:

    I haven’t read any paranormal romances, but if many of them have rape scenes, I’ll stay away. I like a good sensual scene, and reading about rough sex doesn’t bother me, if they BOTH want it rough. But rape? ugh. I’m extra sensitive to this because a man tried to force me into sex once (I fought him off, thankfully.) But “Teaching a woman a lesson?” NO THANKS. I can’t imagine finding this a turn on even if I didn’t have that experience.

  • teresa

    Laura, don’t get me wrong, it’s not in all of them. I’ve read it in 4 books in the last year – and I read alot of books. But for me, 4 books is too many. In each situation, the couple is already entrenched in a relationship, so this is closer to husband/wife rape, rather than anything else, but I don’t like the “Teaching a lesson” concept. The first author who I read it made it as a “prerequisite” in all her books, and it was one scene that always seemed “forced in”, and I could skip it and the book went right on fine without it. In fact, the more recent books are the same way – I can skip the scenes and the book does just fine without them.

    So don’t let that turn you off paranormal, cuz there’s tons of great books without that type of scene in it.

    I think it’s interesting, because for me, an Alpha male is one who will protect his heroine from everyone – including himself. It just surprises me and turns me off to see them doing the opposite.

  • teresa

    This is from Antonio, but the blog wouldn’t let him post it:

    I tried to post this as a reply in our discussion about your hard sex post. but your blog said it was spam, your spam filter may be a bit to draconian. ha ha ha. or maybe my post was just way to long. ha ha ha.

    the line between sexual tension building into consensual sex, and consensual play evolving into rape is a difficult one for many authors to pull off. If you leave the reader feeling that your heroin was raped and that somehow that evolved into a healthy loving relationship you have failed the modern reader.

    The reality is that dominant pushy men who force themselves on women do not suddenly change into edward cullen. They continue to take and harm and belittle the women in their lives. Can people change, but it is in no way normal in today’s world for healthy relationships to begin with rape.

    I would contend though that in the past where women were denied their sexual feelings that passion and even love could grow out of forced intercourse. A decent woman was not supposed to consent to sex, and hence the rape fantasy was born. By using alpha rape the author is allowing the reader and heroin to experience guilt free sex forced upon them through no fault of their own. From this guilt free passion the heroin and reader are then lead into discovering the virtues of companionship and the desire having been awakened is now free to manifest itself in the woman.

    I am not advocating this antiquated way of interpreting a “rape” and I don’t think the formula works for today’s reader. I am simply trying to demonstrate why something that is seen as horrific in the eyes of today’s reader was a little more acceptable not to long ago.

  • teresa

    Antonio, You know I blocked you, right? LOL Just kidding.

    I agree with you – And I think what’s happening is they are trying to do the “hot angry sex” and it’s turning more into rape. For me it’s the “Teach you a lesson” part that makes it into rape. Maybe it’s my military background that tells me if a man can teach me a lesson, then I should be able to teach him a lesson just as much. Somehow I don’t think the men would like that. But you’re right. In the time of the bodice rippers, that was common. And in the case of a historical it wouldn’t bother me as much, as that was standard for that time. But these are all contemporary time frame, and that is not as acceptable.

  • TeresaR

    This is a test – to see if it tries to block me. Weird thing that it is.

  • Scott R

    Hot angry sex or “hate fuck” as it could be called is good. When it crosses that line….it’s a deal breaker for me.

  • Scott R

    I like some BDSM, but as said above, has to be agreed upon. (sorry, accidentally hit the post button before i was done)

  • twimom227

    Interesting topic… I know exactly what you mean, and this line in the sand is one that shifts with the wind. Of course, each reader is also going to be different with how they perceive the situation as well.

    Lora Leigh’s breed series is a guilty pleasure of mine. This is also a series that used to really be borderline. I say used to b/c the newer releases haven’t had as much forced consent/non-consent sex. It’s a shaky line. For some, the heroes have most certainly raped the heroines. For others, it’s a fantasy come true. I know several women that enjoy the roll play of nonconsensual sex, especially submissive women who enjoy a true D/s relationship.

    I think that the bottom line is if a reader doesn’t enjoy the angry sex scenes or the forced non/consent sex, then close the book, return it or write to the publisher, and move on to a better suited book. Authors won’t get the message that you didn’t enjoy the scene unless it impacts their sales or work. But unfortunately in today’s era of immense risk-taking and living on the edge, I think that “angry sex” is here to stay.

    (and now I have the theme to angry birds in my head!)

  • Laura O'Brien says:

    In the past I have made comments about particular books on the author’s site but in every instance though it was fobbed off with “Well I’m sorry you feel that way”. A few courageous souls put in their 2 cents worth but in general no real discussion.

    ‘Teach a lesson’ sex is RAPE, except in a BDSM scenario between consenting adults.

  • Twimom, you’re right. There was alot of that behavior in Lora Leigh’s first books. I usually skipped those scenes, because they didn’t really seem to have a place in the book. My favorite of hers, with Dash, that scene is so much “Not needed” it appears forced (no pun intended). I’m glad she’s tapered off there, because I do love her books otherwise. It’s not the type of sex she uses there (and if you’ve read Lora Leigh, you know what I mean), but the actual “I’m going to teach her a lesson she’ll never forget” type of behavior that bothered me about it. And Laura, Scott, that’s exactly my point. :) If it’s in BDSM, there are “rules” both parties are aware of, where if the boundaries are pushed too far, there is a way out.

    My real frustration is that I dont’ know when this is going to show up in a book, so as not to buy it. In one case, the author is a well known – been around for a long time author. (I’m giving no names because my point is not to author bash) She writes both historical and paranormal, and while the scene from her book might have fit for historical, it definitely didn’t for paranormal. The one I read most recently was a paranormal from a rather new author – this was her 2nd book out. While on average I liked book 2 better than book 1, that one scene needed to go – or be written where the issue was resolved BEFORE sex started so it was less like rape and more like a “You dont’ know me as well as you think” type scene, which kind of was the point behind her scene.

    I don’t know, I guess I’m sensitive to this point – it’s why I quit reading romances back in the 80′s. I used to devour historicals, and while in historical it probably has more of a place than anything else, I just didn’t like it. Alas, such is life. I shall learn to deal, but don’t worry, there won’t be any rape or near rape scenes in my books. And since everyone’s taste is different, that’s okay.

  • Laura O'Brien says:

    I read a LOT and I’m sorry to say that it’s way more common than the 4 you have come across Teresa.

    The attitude in general is that sexual arousal makes it all okay. The brain or circumstances play no part. Once that attitude is accepted then the ‘scent’ thing in paranormals is the single driving force.

    Just because I see someone I think is delicious doesn’t mean that I have the right to jump their bones, in fact I find it downright rude when I see other people acting that way.

    In some cultures it can get you killed.

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