Jasmine Guillory's Women's History Month Essay on Lust
Jasmine Guillory Likes Writing Books About Women Who Have Sex — and Like It
New York Times bestselling author Jasmine Guillory has written seven romance novels, including "The Wedding Date," "The Proposal," and the upcoming "By The Book."
I started writing romance because I loved reading it. Romance novels are exactly what I need during a really hard time in my life: a good, engaging story; a fun read; and a happy ending. Don't we all need that sometimes? And it's a joy to read and write about people having good relationships — and good sex!
The first time I read a romance novel was when I went off to summer camp one year, and my roommate brought a whole bunch of them. I was a really well-behaved, nerdy kid, so I just learned a lot from books. It was fun to see the ways in which you learn about relationships and characters and how different people act in relationships. I stopped reading romance for years, and then I came back to it as an adult, and it was so much fun to dive back in.
You see the double standards of romance and sex in the publishing industry all the time.
Going to a women's college was really revolutionary in helping me embrace my sexuality. So many conversations that had been secret were just things that people talked about. Even things like women's bodies and sexuality were open and discussed in ways that I'd never experienced before and, in some cases, since then. You didn't have to feel ashamed to ask questions. Because why are you embarrassed to ask about your period or why your body looks a certain way? So often, we're trained to think your body is supposed to look like these people in magazines or on TV. But when you start to see women in so many different bodies, you realize, "Oh, there's nothing wrong with me."
Growing up in America, where you're almost trained to think of something like sexuality as embarrassing, it still tends to take a while to get rid of that mentality. I always knew I was supposed to be ashamed of my body, but writing my books and creating characters who are less ashamed of their bodies has certainly helped me feel that way.
For so long, people have acted like there's something wrong with women for wanting sex and liking it.
I was a lawyer before I was an author. When I got my first book deal, I knew that people would have strong opinions when I told them I wrote a romance novel. You see the double standards of romance and sex in the publishing industry all the time. Men write books that have lots of sex in them, and they're literary. Women write books with lots of sex in them, and they're not. People will say, "Oh, this should have been a romance novel," as an insult, or the reviews will say, "Oh, she's clearly writing about herself." People don't give women authors the same respect. But I loved my book, and I loved writing romance, so I didn't care all that much about other people's opinions.
For so long, people have acted like there's something wrong with women for wanting sex and liking it. It's really natural for me to write books about women whose sexualities are a natural part of them and who are in relationships where that works well for the two of them. There's a whole range of ways people write about sex, and I think it's great to have more of it. Reading books is how I learned about so many different kinds of sexualities, about people of different genders having relationships and having sex.
And romance novels are a great way for people to learn about relationships, and sex, and consent, and to learn how to have open and honest conversations about all of the above. I once went to a friend's book club, and a bunch of moms who had relatively young kids were there. One person told me, "When my daughter starts reading about sex, I would like her to read books like yours because of the ways that you talk about sex as something that is for them, as opposed to just for the other person, and because of the ways that the characters talk about consent." I just loved that. I think reading is a great way to start exploring your own sexuality and learning what is fun for you to read about and what isn't — and either is OK.
Sex is often a big, serious topic that you want to talk about with a partner. And sure, that can be true . . . but it can also be really fun. That's why people like to have it. Some of my favorite sex scenes I've written are the ones where you learn things about the characters, they learn about each other, and they're having fun. They're people who have fun together when they're not having sex — and when they are.
Writing romance novels is a joy for me, and I hope readers — whether they're new to romance or have been reading it for many years — get that same joy from my books.