Erections, as written by women

As varied as the romance genre is, there are a couple things most romance novels have in common.

1. They are mostly written and read by women.

2. There is usually some description of arousal, both female and male.

Reading over and over how women describe the sensations men experience has made me wonder whether readers accept some cliches because we think they’re sexy, or whether we just don’t know any better. After all, I’ll never have an erection.

There’s one erection myth perpetuated in romance novels that really annoys me as a reader.

Let me preface this by saying that the romance genre is not about recreating real life exactly as it is. Although I love my novels to be realistic, real life isn’t always sexy and romance novels should be – at least, the ones I want to read will be. So I’m not asking for romance writers to be faithful to reality when writing about arousal – just to think beyond cliches and find a more interesting way to describe our heroes.

So what’s the erection myth that bugs me like no other?

He gets an erection every time he sees, hears or smells a woman. Or, more specifically, his heroine.

This is what I think of as ‘hyperection’ – a penis that jumps up so often it may as well be a basketball player. It’s often described with this sentence: “And just like that, he got hard.”

I swear, if I had a penny for every time I’ve read that…

This is common with heroes written by inexperienced writers, probably because it seems like an easy way to increase sensual tension. Unfortunately, it’s not all that sexy and it distracts from the fact that tension between a hero and heroine should come from who they are as people instead of what they look like, or how often they’re erect.

I’m as guilty as anyone of writing the pogo-penis. The hero of my first novel suffered this worse than any 15-year-old boy.

Are there any erection cliches that annoy you in novels? Go on – be brave and share!


  1. “I’m as guilty as anyone of writing the pogo-penis. The hero of my first novel suffered this worse than any 15-year-old boy.”
    OMG, Kat – I almost lost my coffee!

    I’m with you on the over active-erection thing, especially when he practices the utmost control over himself and his body’s natural responses when they’re actually having intercourse.

    Arousal is so much sexier when it affects more than just the sex organ. If the body’s only response to stimulation happens “down there”, it makes me wonder how good the sex could really be. Or how focused they’ll be on EACH OTHER’s pleasure…

    Great post – Happy Writing!

    1. Oh no! Not your coffee! That’d be terrible!

      And yes! You’re right that it’s especially annoying when he’s so controlled during sex. Like his erection pops up all the time but he can last hours before…um…getting rid of it.

      Glad you liked the post, Ava!

  2. Your blog makes most interesting reading and you have won a follower in me.

    First of all, a disclaimer: I have never read a romance novel in my near thirty years of existence.

    My humble contribution is that those assertions by many a romance writer making characters with pog stick dongs, are well placed actually. They seem to have accurately done their research, much as it sound like a cliche.

    Us men, in our healthy times, do get a stiffy just like that when we hear off, smell or see that special lady.

    1. My dear friend, I’ve often compared you to a 15-year-old boy. This just proves me right.
      Again. πŸ˜‰

  3. Awww Kat.
    Why do you have only the nicest things to say about me. Thanks anyway.
    I work it when I’m gonna be 80, I’ll probably have the zest of a forty-year-old.
    The balancing formula to good romance in my book is youthful vitality plus cultivated maturity.

  4. i’ve never commented here before but i had to say this had me smiling. can’t remember how many novels i’ve read where the guy is pogo-ing. the thing that bugs me in sex scenes is where the two partners are having a conversation. guys aren’t really doing their best thinking when they’re having sex.

    1. I’m glad the post convinced you to comment, Michelle! And a big oh-yeah to the sexy conversation – especially if it’s not sexy talk. I read one once where they started discussing problems with the heroine’s family. If bringing up your mother while you’re nekkid isn’t an immediate mood killer, then I think you need to take a long hard look at your relationship. Or at your partner’s relationship with your mother.

  5. You know, I know I do it, but I remember reading through my manuscript and thinking. Holy ****. He’s supposed to think she’s hot and he never gets a hard-on. I’ve got to fix that. So… where’s the line???

    1. Good question! I guess the line depends on a couple of things, like the sensuality of the line you’re targeting. If you’re writing erotica, it’d be very very odd for your hero never to get an erection. If you’re writing inspirational romance, you’d probably need to focus on other reactions to show his desire for her (at least, that’s what I remember from when I used to read inspie). If your writing falls somewhere in the middle, think about using a mixture of descriptions to show his attraction, including but not limited to erections. And definitely don’t give the impression his penis is on a hair-trigger spring. Crank up the heat and emotion first. That’s what I try to do, anyway. Hope it makes sense!

  6. Yeah, I’m kind of writing in the middle . I just think there’s LOTS of ways to show that someone excites you. Well, your character. But an erection has to be present, at least occasionally, or there’s a problem.

    I love this post, its such a good point.

  7. OMG. the pgo penis thing had me laughing so hard. Those things really turn me on. I agree with you Kat, Men often find those things sexy, when they’re only half-sexy. Sure, getting boners are fun, but they add little value to the bedroom. Even if the blood flows “down there” and it becomes big, its value is teeny tiny.

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