Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Taboo...Or Not?

Thankfully, it seems that today, many romance sub-genres are pushing the envelope when it comes to what’s “acceptable” and what’s not.

Sex between consenting, non-married adults? Acceptable. Homosexual couplings? Marginally acceptable, depending on your target markets. Menages? Ditto. Romantic encounters between humans and vampires/shape-shifters/aliens? Ditto again.

So what’s still considered taboo in the romance world? Well, most publishers include this disclaimer on their submissions page:

No depraved or illegal acts.
No bestiality.
No degradation of women (rape).
No pedophilia (sex involving underage characters).

Okay, fair enough.

So here’s my question what do you, as a writer, consider taboo--and not--when it comes to this genre? What will you read, and what will you avoid? There was a great post on Romancing the Blog a few weeks ago about adultery. Some readers don’t mind when their H/H commits it. For others, it ruins the whole book. What about you? What about bondage, or S&M?

Part of my reason for asking is selfish: I’m playing around with an idea for a new novel, but the premise centers on a 19-year old hero and a 24-year old heroine who fall in love and only after their first sexual encounter discover that they are actually student and teacher in a new school. Taboo? You tell me.

I’m curious. In your opinion, what constitutes pushing the envelope too far in romance?


See what I'm blogging about today at Allie's Musings...


Lynette said...

Interesting topic, Ally. I'm presuming the 24-year-old is the teacher?

The reason I ask is that over here, I have heard of teachers being as young as 19 if they are teaching at a local college [the PGCE course lasts just one year, so it could happen that a teacher is that age, though I guess it would be unusual]

There has been a lot in the press lately about female and male teachers having relationships with underage students, under the age of 16. Sexual consent is that age in the U.K. So of course, those particular teachers could serve a prison sentence.

So, going by the ages of your hero and heroine, I would say that is fine. But on the other hand, there should be boundaries in a student/teacher relationship. And the responsiblity falls with the teacher in my book.

So, going by that alone, I would say it's a bit of a taboo, unless the teacher were to stop teaching the student, then the ages 19 and 24 in a relationship would be okay in my eyes.

Judy said...

My major problem with your scenario would be why they would be so intimate if they didn't even know unpersonal details such as where they work/go to school. That's just me, though, and I'm sure you handle it and it makes sense in the story.

Marianne Arkins said...

If the teacher is actually teaching the student and they're not just at the same college... then, yeah... it's a problem, IMHO. I'm not big on instant intimacy with someone you know nothing about either, but that's just me...

OTOH, you're a great writer and could probably change my mind :-)

Gay said...

Sexual intimacy without first establishing a relationship is a turn-off to me, as well. While not a taboo, it is neither something I would write about, nor something I'd care to read about. On the other hand, I could imagine scenarios where a relationship could start to become serious (although unconsummated) with all sorts of sexual tension (and that can make a story all the more interesting) between two people who then find out that they have to work with each other in a situation where a relationship is not appropriate.

I know of a divorce lawyer who became involved with the wife of one of his clients. She'd started using a nickname for her first name and her maiden name for dating purposes, wasn't wearing a ring, and only said she wasn't involved... that she and her husband were long-separated and their divorce would be finalized within the year.

He told her he was an attorney and that he practiced family law. Even volunteered some free legal advice, but she said her attorney was doing a fine job--and gave him the name. He didn't blink.

They put it together when the two parties in the divorce had to meet together with their attorneys to discuss divvying up some property.

I gather it was quite a scene.

Ana Aragon said...


I would have to say it depends on the timing. If the sexual encounter is a relatively "anonymous" encounter, i.e., they are both holding back personal information for whatever reason, then find themselves in a teacher/student situation, as long as they don't have sex again until the semester is over and she gives him a "C" in the class LOL (sexual tension can be there, but no actual coupling) then I'd be okay with it.

Thirty years ago, the girl's basketball coach at the school my husband taught at was dating a high school senior at the same school (not a player, though). He was 23, she was 18, and they married shortly after she graduated. If that happened today, he'd be in prison. I dated my college Psych 101 teacher, but he asked me out after the class was over (I got an A in the class, by the way, ALL on my own!)