The Importance of Non-Sexual Intimacy in Romance Novels

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P.N. Hinton

Contributing Editor

Born into a family of readers, P.N. gained a love reading as a sort of herd mentality. This love of reading has remained a life long passion, resulting in an English Degree from The University of Houston in Houston, Texas. She normally reads three to four books at any given time, in the futile Sisyphean hope of whittling down her ever growing to be read pile of no specific genre.

When I was younger, I watched a movie called The Opposite of Sex. I don’t remember a lot about it, but one quote from has stayed with me throughout the years. Lisa Kudrow’s character had a mini-rant about the importance people place on sex and how she just doesn’t understand it:

“I would rather have a backrub, you know. It lasts longer and there’s no fluids…or a shampoo. You know, just a really great shampoo.”

I’ve always agreed with that underlying message that there has to be more to a relationship than just good sex. This is a mindset I have had for most of my adult life and recently been more vocal about it. Sex shouldn’t be the bedrock foundation that a relationship is based on: it takes more than good sexual chemistry to start and maintain a good relationship long-term. (And not all romantic relationships involve sex at all.) Consequently, it shouldn’t be the only driving force in a romance novel behind the relationship. 

That is why non-sexual intimacy in romance novels stand out to me and are so important to include: not just because they also happen in real life, but because they serve to show a deeper level of commitment between the main characters. Seeing those types of challenges that aren’t the third act break-up help me to believe that there really is a future for the main characters. Yes, it’s still fiction, but I think we can all agree when there is a thread of authenticity in them, it helps us to enjoy the HEA even more. 

Proof on Paper

That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon by Kimberly Lemming Book Cover

The interaction between Fallon and Cinnamon in That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon after the water dog’s attack is a perfect example of this. Fallon helps take down Cinnamon’s braids and clean her hair. That was so kind, intimate, and heartwarming on a level that I didn’t even know that I wanted. Even though I haven’t read it personally, I know that there is a delousing scene in Farrah Heron’s Accidentally Engaged. It can’t be argued that the act shows a depth of dedication to another adult being.

Almost the entirety of The Heart Principle is Michael and Anna learning how to love each other through more emotional situations. Anna helps Michael process life after his medically related lifestyle change. Michael helps Anna process all the changes in her life, including the death of her father. Those aspects stand out because they originally intended to only have a physical relationship.

cover of The Fastest Way To Fall Denise Williams

I reached out to some of my fellow Rioter’s for their favorite moments like this from romance novels, and I wasn’t disappointed with the results. Cassie Gutman mentions the scene in The Fastest Way to Fall where Wes rushes to sit with Britta after she falls down a stairwell until the ambulance comes to get her. Isabelle Popp mentioned the mud pie scene from Indigo, which is always a fan favorite.

Susie Dumond mentioned the baking while baked scene from Kiss Her Once For Me. Ashlie Swicker mentioned the slow dancing scene in Grin and Beard It, as did Trisha Brown. She also enjoyed the nursing back to health scene between Will and Martin in Two Rogues Make a RightJessica Pryde enjoyed the dinner with Chloe’s father in The Duke who Didn’t and Reel’s scene where Canon announces his relationship officially with Neevah.

These are just a few of these moments. What I especially enjoy about these examples are that they are all over the spectrum. They range from emotional support to just having fun and being silly. Because there also needs to be laughter.


Do I enjoy spicy scenes? Yes. But I also appreciate insight into the other aspects of the relationship. After all, those are what get you through the spaces between the spicy moments. The fact of the matter is that you’re gonna have bad days with your romantic partner. There’s going to be some unpleasant things that you go through together. Sometimes it’s beyond your control. Other times it’s just because you’re both human. This means that mistakes will be made and hurts, intentional or otherwise, will occur. Hell, there are some days when one of you just may be sad and not necessarily need cheering up; you just want a presence near you. How those work out have more of an effect on your relationship in the long run. 

Relationships aren’t always easy. But having more of these moments of intimacy showcase the importance of romance novels. It shows the good, bad, ugly, and challenging aspects of a romantic relationship and proves that it is still possible to come through all that and stay together for a happily ever after. And after all that’s what we’re all there for.