Sex

I Read Too Much Smut & It Taught Me to Love My Body

I am constantly reading.

I love short books, long books, new books, and old books. I love realist and surrealist books. I love historical books, contemporary books, and time-hopping books. I have often bonded with fellow bookworms over the fortitude to not only bring a book in my bag wherever I go, but to have a back up book at the ready.

You know… in case I finish the first in my travels.

Ask me about what I am reading right now. I’ll tell you! I’ll go on about it! Ask for a recommendation and I will happily give you several based on your likes and dislikes. My yearly reading count hovers around the ninety to one-hundred and ten range.

Books. Per year. Yes, really.

And over the past three years, roughly 90% of those have been romance.

It’s not that I don’t read other things (I’m telling you, I read A LOT), but especially given the advent of ebooks and the corresponding lack of shame that goes along with not having to hide a particularly raunchy looking cover illustration…


The ongoing dive into the sexier side of modern literature perhaps began in protest.


I suppose it just keeps finding its way onto my phone more often than my beloved memoirs and fantasy series.

It would be, I think, far too easy to mention my long-distance relationship and the ever present need for connection without… ahem… connection. But I do honestly feel that even if we lived together, I would still have a need for the (for lack of a better term) stimulation romance novels provide.

The ongoing dive into the sexier side of modern literature perhaps began in protest. Why, yes, I have read all three books of the “Fifty Shades” series (I think I was hoping they might improve with time), and while I do appreciate the larger conversation they have started in regard to BDSM and introducing role-play in otherwise vanilla partnerships… I wasn’t impressed with the character development and I was altogether annoyed/disheartened/irate/indignant over the manipulation and abuse.

So I thereby set off on a quest to find better smut.

And boy, did I find it.


Sex being the great equalizer, there is interabled romance, racially and ethnically diverse romance, LGBTQIA+ romance.


I read Karina Halle and I read Kristen Ashley. I read Sarina Bowen and Delilah S. Dawson. (Vampires and time travel? Sign me up.) I worked up to Kit Rocha, then C.D. Reiss, then C.J. Roberts, Anna Zaires, and Pepper Winters. I read everything Christina Lauren has ever had published. From 2016 through 2018, I estimate having devoured (ha) somewhere around two-hundred and fifty books that fall into the romance and erotica genre.

Here is what I discovered.

There is plenty that blows Christian Grey out of the water, and I have zero comprehension of why those books do not get more hype.

I found infinite situations and personality traits. I found descriptions of varying body types. I found working class characters who lifted each other up as well as wealth disparities that drove a wedge.

Sex being the great equalizer, there is interabled romance, racially and ethnically diverse romance, LGBTQIA+ romance. You name it, someone somewhere has something on Wattpad, Kindle, or some other lovely corner of the internet that involves women who feed off of sexual energy and a partner of theirs who can transform into a swan at will.

Actually, come to think of it, that one was a hardcover from the library.

Don’t get me wrong, I found plenty of white, cis, heteronormative garbage in my search. So much so that I may never again venture into the land of historical romance bodice ripping tall-dark-haired-blue-eyed-overly-muscular-and-brooding. At one point, I (a self-confessed voracious bookworm) went a whole week without reading anything at all due to sheer overload of handsome-but-misunderstood-man-with-power-and-a-dark-past-corrupts-innocent-virginal-maiden.

Please.

Because there is a distinct and definite formula for quite a lot of what I found, my endeavor continued. Sick of predictability, I didn’t need or want perfectly tied up happy endings. I didn’t need or want plans for marriage and riding off into the sunset. Far more often, the books I enjoyed the most were ones that found me weeping to myself on the couch at two in the morning. (Damn you, Tiffany Reisz.)

And what I found and appreciated most were the careful and descriptive mentions of imperfections.

I’m not talking about the “oh so deeply internally flawed” heartache of whatever kilted hero.

No, I’m talking about actual bodily differences.


As my reading list grew and my desire to explore more characters of varying shapes, sizes, and abilities developed, it wasn’t just my perspective on literature that changed.


I found myself highlighting and underlining references to scars and stretch marks and evidence of broken noses. I jumped in excitement when there was honest to God appreciation of asymmetrical features or skin discoloration.

An early favorite involved two college students living in a wheelchair accessible dorm, one with a shattered leg and the other with a spinal injury. One heals while the other does not, and they don’t actually fall in love until afterwards. God bless and keep humans who understand that a disability does not make you unlovable!

A more recent favorite involved not only an alien race of warriors who find human traits disgusting, it involved an arranged interspecies marriage between one such warrior and a human, both initially repulsed by each other. It went on to include torture that lost our alien his eye, making him even more supposedly gruesome. This is not a “Beauty and the Beast” deconstruction. He does not magically become handsome by human standards at the end. He stays that way, and still she loves him.

As my reading list grew and my desire to explore more characters of varying shapes, sizes, and abilities developed, it wasn’t just my perspective on literature that changed.

I started to see myself differently, too.


It wasn’t that I didn’t care about the rolls that formed when I sat down or the dimples on my thighs that appeared when I crouched. I still saw them, but I smiled instead of grimaced.


I stopped trying to hide my stretch marks. I stopped seeing the scars and nerve damage on my knee as unsightly and in need of covering. I stopped worrying over how easily I bruise.

I didn’t stop running. I like to feel strong. I kept my diet the same because while spinach makes me feel healthy, ice cream makes me feel good. I kept pretty much everything about my routine relatively the same.

But I saw it differently. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about the rolls that formed when I sat down or the dimples on my thighs that appeared when I crouched. I still saw them, but I smiled instead of grimaced. Instead of panicking, I rejoiced.

Thinking about how and when that outlook changed, I always return to thoughts of my reading. Knowing that I have now found beloved heroines who dye away their gray hair as well as some who proudly display it, I’m not afraid of mine changing. Knowing that there are bones that creak and skin that sags amongst some characters with whom I find honest and genuine comradery, why should my eventual crow’s feet and joint pain scare me?

And I, a woman who avoided her glasses at all costs for ten years straight, who would not leave the house without her contacts firmly in place, who believed every trope every nineties movie taught me about how a girl is hotter when her glasses come off…

I bought myself a new pair, tried them on in the mirror, and actually said out loud to myself that I looked good in them.

In my search for better smut, more thorough character development, and more creative plot…

I think I found something way better.

3 comments

      1. Thank you! I fell blissfully down the romance rabbit hole and have yet to fully resurface (I’m tearing through S.J. Crusan now). Thanks so much for the read, and now I’m going to need to check out your smutreport… 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: