Um, Yeah, Romance Novelists Know What Fisting Is

Let's just get something straightened out: The average romance novelist probably has some sense of what fisting is. Also, generally, they know plenty about The Sex. More than the average layperson, even!

Vice has pubbed a piece razzing romance novelists for their frequent use of "fist," rather than "grab." As in, "he fisted her hair," "he fisted his kilt," or "he fisted his dick." It's true that this particular stylistic tic is hilariously overused in romance, like the ol' velvety hardness. Though, to be fair, you need some verb for when a dude wraps his hand around his junk and gives it the old heave-ho, and "to fist" really evokes sexy man-hands nicely. (If you don't have the hero grabbing his own dick at least once, well, I'm not sure I want to read your sweet inspirational romance, thanks.)

But let's be real, here: The whole joke is that, tee-hee, romance novelists don't know about hardcore sex things! The headline:

Um, Yeah, Romance Novelists Know What Fisting Is

"Romance authors know exactly what they're doing when it comes to hair tugging and florid descriptions of the first moments of old-fashioned, penis-in-vagina fucking. However, they have a serious blind spot where fisting is concerned," the article says, and suggests that, "This is probably because a lot of writers of romance don't watch much porn." Uh, you wanna put money on that?

So, some context: There was a time when romances were packed with euphemisms, fades to black, and vague mentions of earthquakes. That time is over. Things got especially raunchy after a bunch of digital publishing companies sprang up in the mid 2000s, led by Ellora's Cave, and demonstrated that the erotic romance subgenre could generate big, big bucks. These days, the romance aisle is a veritable rainforest of erect dicks. You can still find relatively chaste reads, but they're in the minority.

Seriously, we are talking explicit. Here is a scene from The Devil in Winter, a Lisa Kleypas classic I randomly selected from my Kindle. Our protagonists are in a billiard room when things take a turn for the non-billiard:

Evie made a low keening sound as he parted the private curls between her thighs. The two fingers he slipped inside her were immediately clasped and caressed, her inner muscles working as if to draw him deeper. Evie's eyes half closed, and a passion-blush swept over her body in uneven drifts of pink. "Sebastian."

"Shhh... His fingers pushed higher, and his mouth nudged past the swollen folds of her sex.

The hero proceeds to rather dramatically eat the heroine out. Did I mention that oral sex is basically table stakes at this point? And those are the relatively mainstream books. If you know where to look, you can find plenty of novels with nice, romantic anal sex, for instance.

In fact, I literally read an indie BDSM romance with a fisting scene just this weekend. (There's a whole world of offerings beyond Fifty Shades of Grey, folks.) (Shout out to my mother and mother-in-law, who probably just closed this tab like it was radioactive.) Sure, it's not particularly common in the genre, but it's not exactly a wildly common sexual practice, either.

This is a great example of the weirdly bifurcated way people (ahem, men) react to romance novels. On the one hand, you get the Fifty Shades of Grey-type freakouts, where America is suddenly confronted with evidence that women enjoy reading books that incorporate sex in a significant way and huge swaths of the population panic about the fact that, horror of horrors, maybe their moms like doin' it. On the other, you get this assumption that romance novels don't really ~get~ sex, because ladies want love and dudes want to fuck and run. It's all just silly, fluffy stuff about sticking a scrunchie on your man's wang right? RIGHT?? Oh God don't tell me that women are complicated and to pleasure a partner I'm going to have to find out what she specifically likes?????

If you stopped literally every woman walking into the Romance Writers of America conference, you'd probably find plenty who were unclear on the term's precise definition. Nor do I want to give the impression that romance writers are universally sex-crazed.

It's simply that this genre takes relationships as its primary concern, and for most couples, sex is an important aspect of their relationship. These books take the desire to find a partner who meets your needs sexually as well as emotionally really, really seriously. The way they grapple with sex (how do I get it? what do I do with it?) from a female perspective is, frankly, totally under-appreciated. If you can't imagine your Prince Charming wouldn't stick his whole hand up your vagina once a month, well, most romance novelists would be nothing but supportive and might ask you a few blunt questions about how that works, just for future reference.

Anyway, don't make the mistake of teasing a romance novelist about sex things because she'll likely turn your face beet red with her casual knowledge of cunnilingus and frankly you'll deserve it.

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