lisa valdez's essays

IT'S NEVER "JUST SEX"

Sex gets a bad wrap in our country. Besides the often-bemoaned admission that "sex sells," it is rarely spoken of in polite company, it is barely taught outside the obligatory "health" class, and it most definitely is not encouraged or promoted within the context of "moral" dialogue. Mostly, sex is relegated to the realm of whispers, embarrassed titters, and mysterious closed doors that only leave us wondering at what could possibly be going on behind them. Or conversely, disconnected simulations of sex are thrown before us by those who seek to shock or to be shocking, but who only succeed in proving that they've entirely missed the point.

But there is one place where sex is actually depicted/explored not only as an important component of an adult relationship and a full life, but as an exalted and transformative force that has the power to sew the seeds of love. That place is within the genre of erotic historical romance. In other words—and I'll just speak for myself here—when it comes to a Lisa Valdez erotic historical, it's never "just sex."

But, Lisa, you may protest: In your book, PASSION, Mark and Passion didn't even know one another when they slipped behind the screen at the Crystal Palace. How could their encounter be anything more than "just sex?"

Good question! The answer lies within the historical framework of the genre and, more importantly, within the characters themselves. But let us begin with the former. Today, it is easier for people who are so inclined to engage in "just sex." But as recently as the first half of the last century, there were still serious repercussions for those who risked sex before/outside of marriage. Therefore, any historical character that gives in to her passions, is automatically in a position of having to seriously consider what she is doing and why. In other words, she must have extreme motivation. And extreme motivation means the sex isn't "just sex."

Motivation moves us to character. In my book, PATIENCE, Patience starts out as an emotionally walled-up young woman who believes she doesn't need anyone. But when she meets Matthew, she is immediately attracted to his dominant personality. And she is drawn even more to his promise that he knows what she needs. Will she walk away, or will she take a chance on something she may never otherwise experience. Ultimately, she makes a conditional decision—a decision that she would not have made under any other circumstances or with any other man. But Matthew has what she needs, and the unspoken reciprocal is that she has what Matthew needs. Their sexual encounter is not "just sex." Rather, it is a deep, personal fulfillment for both characters—one that must be further explored.

In my novels, each sensual encounter escalates—both circumstantially and emotionally—pushing the characters to face their demons and to be transformed, even as they are pulled closer and closer together. They bond and learn about one another with every sensual experience. And every encounter also escalates the conflict of the story. For as the relationship deepens, the story elements grow tighter, putting the relationship at ever greater risk. Again, the sex is not "just sex." It is now personal redemption, blossoming love and also desperation as the growing conflict casts its shadow over the hero and heroine.

Finally, we come full circle, as the conflict explodes and our historical characters face the consequences of their original decision to engage in a sexual relationship. Again, in our modern day, the consequences would not be so, well, consequential. But for the historical character, personal ruination can accompany emotional devastation when everything appears to be collapsing in the dark moment. Here we see the possible price our characters may pay—a price that isn't for "just sex." Rather we see two characters that have been forever changed by their sexual relationship. We see two characters that have fallen completely and passionately in love with one another. And we cheer when the conflict is overcome and they have their sensual happily-ever-after.

So if you ever pick up one of my erotic historicals and think to yourself: well, I'll just skip all the sex—I mean, it's just sex… think again. Because if you don't experience what the characters experience, it will be difficult to understand or fully appreciate their transformation. Rather, indulge with them in something primal and eternal. Let your inhibitions fall away. Feel what they feel, and breathe their passion. Sense the risk they take to be together. Sense the growing love. Let it fill your heart. And let it whisk you away to a place where love is born from physical giving, rather than physical giving being born from love. It's a far more vulnerable place, but I think you'll find it a place of beauty and depth—a place where the sex is never "just sex."



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