Not Your Good Girl

All my life people have been telling me no…

Don’t wear that skirt.

Don’t be a tease.

Don’t tell anyone.

Everything was a negative. I only heard the term sex positive for the first time a few years ago. Did it even exist when we were teenagers? Well I hadn’t heard of it, and I wasn’t mature enough to conceptualize it on my own.

Back then, sex was something we did if we liked a guy and thought he was cute. But hopefully no one found out because then we were awful. And it wasn’t something we necessarily had to enjoy.

The “sex talk” that my dad had with me was mildly sex positive. He specifically brought up these nonfiction books, something about his pleasure and her pleasure. (Otherwise known as THE AWKWARDEST TEN MINUTES OF MY LIFE.)

But it was the first time I’d ever heard it spelled out that a woman can or should expect her own pleasure from the experience. Of course he also implied that condoms were not that great and other weirdness, so I can’t call the entire thing a win.

* * *

I grew up. Worked some stuff out. And now I write about sex.

A lot of sex.

If you asked me whether my books are message books or issue books, I’d say no. But my books do have an ethos, one I can’t escape from, one I wouldn’t want to. My core ideals will show up in my books, repeatedly. Like being sex positive.

Being sex positive is about embracing sexuality, about health and experimentation and pleasure. It’s basically the opposite of how I grew up thinking about sex, but it’s how I think of it now. So, what does that mean in the context of my writing?

What does sex positivity look like in a romance novel?

It looks like a strong woman, who’s not afraid to ask for what she wants. It looks like a woman who can take charge of the situation, and her orgasms, and a man. It looks like a powerful woman.

Those are things I’ve heard before, and they’re true.

It looks like a woman who can be submissive to a man, if that’s what she wants to do. I’ve heard that before, and it’s true too. It looks like passionate sex and mindblowing orgasms. Yes and yes! Those things are true… but they’re not the whole truth.

Because it also looks like a woman not having an orgasm, but choosing to have the orgasmless sex anyway. Because it feels good. Or because she just wants to. Because it’s her choice, and that’s fucking sex positive.

What does sex positivity look like in a romance novel?

It’s bumping heads and getting your hair stuck under someone’s elbow and laughing because this is silly. It’s having sex that’s fun… OR having sex that’s serious or distracting or just plain sad. It’s doing things that are scary and embarrassing, things that are a bad idea but seemed okay at the time.

It’s fucking up and figuring things out.

Including those experiences in books is one of the most sex positive things I can do, because it tells the people living them that they are not alone. We look for ourselves in books, and each and every one of us deserves to find ourselves.

I can’t write every experience, none of us can. But the sum total of our words, when given free rein and all our love, can write a whole lot of them. Sex positive books are diverse—in race, in orientation, in background. In experience. Sex positive books can represent ME and YOU and that guy over there and anyone else, even if that makes some people uncomfortable.

* * *

All my life people have been telling me no…

Don’t read that book.

Don’t use that word.

And for God’s sake, don’t write a heroine who does all the dirty shit you weren’t supposed to do all along!

There are people who tell me NO NO NO, as if I am a dog and there is a rolled up newspaper in their hand. And look, people don’t have to read my books and they don’t have to like my books. But the only person who gets to send me to bed without supper for being a bad girl is me.

The only person who gets to decide what I won’t write or read or think is me.

There are people who tell me how to be an author. How to be a professional woman. Be sexy, but not too sexy. Write about sex, but don’t talk about having it. Do exactly as I say if you want my respect. But I can be an author without their approval. I can be a professional and a woman.

There are people who expect me to obey them and get offended when I don’t. I’m just trying to help… All my life people have been trying to help. Don’t talk too loud. Don’t say what you think. Don’t be different. But I don’t need that kind of help. I’m not sure anyone does.

Because I can’t write a book in someone else’s voice.

I can’t live someone else’s life.

I can’t pretend to be sorry for that.

Even when it makes some people uncomfortable.

About Amber Lin

Amber Lin writes sexy romance about messed up people, because everyone deserves a happy ending. Find her books or sign up for the newsletter at her website
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3 Responses to Not Your Good Girl

  1. “It’s doing things that are scary and embarrassing, things that are a bad idea but seemed okay at the time.
    It’s fucking up and figuring things out.”

    I could not love this more!! And I love your view of what it is to be sex positive, about how it encompasses so much. Thanks for this!!

  2. Jackie Horne says:

    Love this post, Amber. Resisting the repressive messages is hard, and even harder when the repression is packaged in a “I’m only looking out for your interests” do-goodism. I admire your willingness to be yourself, in spite of others’ discomfort.

  3. Zoe says:

    This is such an awesome post, Amber.

    I sincerely appreciate that you – and other authors – are opening the doors to greater exploration of sexual realities in romance novels. I’m dismayed that much of the sex in romance is painfully idealized no matter how close to “real life” the other aspects of the characters or their stories are.

    Real sex is often imperfect – it’s sometimes messy and awkward and unsatisfying and hilarious – but it’s so rarely presented that way in romance. And, when sex is actually presented as less-than-perfect, it’s usually to demonstrate that one of the characters is bad, frigid, virginal, damaged, or in need of repair/redemption. Boring!

    I’d love to read more about couples who deal with the weirdness of sex in a non-demonizing way. Sex-positive, for me, is sex-real.