Sunday, August 21, 2011

What's Wrong With Sex?

In the majority of my novels and stories, sex happens off the page. When my hero, Jack Daniels, got laid, it was a fade to black and go to commercial moment.

Not that I had any fear or aversion to writing a sex scene. But it was never needed within the story.

I'm a firm believer that every scene, every sentence, every word in a story should be to move it forward. Anything extraneous, including sex, should be cut.

I wrote my first big sex scene (several of them, in fact) in Cherry Bomb. These scenes were integral to the story, revealing both plot and character.

There's a story I tell about one scene in particular, when Jack finally gets laid. Since I was writing from a woman's POV, I wanted to make sure it worked, so I let me wife read it. She came back to me, looking angry.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"This sex scene was four pages long."

"So?"

"So, you've never gone four pages with me!"

Fiction, hon. It's fiction.

But I learned something important writing Cherry Bomb. I learned I liked writing sex scenes. They were fun, but they also allowed me to show a human, emotional, vulnerable side to my characters.

When I wrote Timecaster, I knew I wanted to have several sex scenes in it. I knew they would be explicit, and would be funny, and would show what type of person the hero was.

Color me surprised when I began getting bad reviews and hate mail for daring to put explicit sex in a sci-fi novel.

WTF? I thought everyone liked sex.

Next, I wrote Flee with Ann Voss Peterson, and that has a whopper of a sex scene in it. Again, it was essential to the story, revealing a very important aspect of the main character.

More bad reviews and hate mail, calling the book porn.

Huh? Five pages out of three hundred have an erotic element to them, and the book is porn?

What amazes me even more than that is the fact that my books have so much violence in them. Apparently I can stab someone fifty times and feed them to the crows while they're still alive (Serial Killers Uncut, which also has a sex scene), and that's okay as long as there are no blowjobs.

Now, I know the US is behind much of the world when it comes to being open about sexuality. But the repression goes so deep that people feel the need to tell me how perverted I am?

No one would be here without sex. It's a natural, essential part of life. Everybody thinks about it. Everybody masturbates. (Do you remember, you married guys, watching your wife-to-be walk down the aisle and thinking how nice it will be that you'll never have to jerk off again? How'd that work out for you?)

So what's the problem here? I thought people liked well-written sex. I thought erotica was a huge seller. I thought sex could make a story more interesting, more compelling, and more fun.

Am I missing something?

Do you like sex in fiction? Why or why not?

248 comments:

«Oldest   ‹Older   201 – 248 of 248
Marie Simas said...

it was the YA or the non-fiction. I say that because unlike the porn you wrote

I don't write porn. I don't even write erotica. I write humor essays (among other things). Mostly events that have happened in my own life (like Sedaris-- not comparing myself to him, just using him as an example).

There's a lot of sexual content, foul language, and other things that are distasteful to some. Even though I have a warning in the description, people still download, because they're curious. Then they leave a bad review because of the language or sexual content.

Here's the deal-- I'm not going to stop. Not ever. I'm going to write what I want. People buy it, and I make great money. I'm hitting a nerve, and a lot of people e-mail me and tell me they've gone through the same shit.

Some people are going to hate it. But they can fuck themselves. I'm not doing this for them.

I'm doing it for me.

JA Konrath said...

But they can fuck themselves.

If they did, they probably wouldn't have the hang ups. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with your statements above Selena. In fact, not only do I aree with you, but I feel sex in novels and erotica may actually be beneficial in a relationship because they get the blood pumping and can often times get one "in the mood." In fact, I read a study recently (don't have time to look it up) that showed that women who read romance novels (most of which have sex throughout) had higher libidos and, thus, possibly better sex lives.

Kathleen Dienne said...

@W.Dean:

Your dinner party examples don't make sense. One type of anecdote is personal, one is not.

If your dog story was about YOU killing the dog, in detail, you'd be asked to leave just as quickly as you would be for talking about what you did to (with?) your wife.

That element of the personal is one of the many reasons those of us who write smut usually use pen names. People read our stories and often assume we're talking about our real selves, or describing things we actually do.

Our genial host probably doesn't get asked how often he kills people, but writers of smut have been asked all kinds of crazy things.

Unknown said...

I have exactly the same issue in my scifi thriller. The negative reviews all mention sex as gratuitous or unnecessary. None mention the violence. Interestingly, nearly all the negative comments come from British reviewers ("No sex please, we're British...").
Everyone's entitled to their own opinion of course, however each of those scenes I felt either moved plot/character forward or explained the "world" a bit more.
Because it is "sex" reviewers seem to assume it is there for the sake of sex; where in fact it was written to enhance the story.
Not a big deal - but I think people reading sex assume it is written for the shock or "porn" value, first; and once having made that assumption ignore the idea that it might just have something to do with the story - even if they have not figured out what.
An example of this: In the story, (set 98 years in our future 2109) a man goes down on a transgendered woman. She makes a comment about his face being covered in her juices. (This scene in particular seems to upset people) - the point of the scene is to demonstrate that technology has advanced to the point where a transgendered person's vagina can lubricate... but none of the negative comments come close to commenting on that aspect.

Overall I think it is a sad comment on the human state that people get upset by a bit of sex and breeze by a lot of violence.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering just what books some of you are reading if you don't read books containing sex scenes. Books with teen-age vampires looking longingly at human teen-age girls? LOL.

Seriously, someone was buying Patterson's Kiss the Girls in 1995 and it was a mystery/thriller with some very explicit sex scenes. It also was a best seller.

And please don't trot out that tired Stephen King quote about Patterson. I enjoy King's books, but Steinbeck he isn't.

People have genitalia, no matter how much some people would like to pretend they don't.

T. Roger Thomas said...

"Apparently I can stab someone fifty times and feed them to the crows while they're still alive (Serial Killers Uncut, which also has a sex scene), and that's okay as long as there are no blowjobs."

First, I think the passage above is very well said.

Second, I had a professor that taught a course on Chaucer who argued that Chaucer has been unfairly labeled as "dirty" because of the sexual content of the Canterbury Tales. The professor pointed out that research indicates that humans have a sexual thought roughly every x number of seconds (I can't remember how often off the top of my head... something like every 15-120 seconds or so) and that given that fact Chaucer's small percentage of sexual content in the overall work is well below what is normal for humans.

Inara Stone said...

I love sex. I love writing erotica. I love reading well-written, adult sex scenes in novels. As long as the scene fits the story, I don't understand the problem.

Renee Porter said...

"Second, I had a professor that taught a course on Chaucer who argued that Chaucer has been unfairly labeled as "dirty" because of the sexual content of the Canterbury Tales." T. Roger Thomas

I taught university literature and you are absolutely right about this. Had Chaucer not been both a weathly wool merchant and a favorite poet of the richest family in England, he might have been burned at the stake. Luckily for him and those of use who enjoy great literature, he escaped such a fate.

As an aside, the fact that he chose to write in the English vernacular (what is now called Early Modern English) and not Norman French or Latin was a sea change in the history of English literature. And all because of sex.

Anonymous said...

I won't go into the cultural fear of sex. My rule is no matter how well it's written if the scene makes the writer hard (or wet) it's bad writing. Not sure why that is but it's true.

puravida said...

I dont' mind sex in books, however, it depends if the author is male or female. I find that male authors will, obviously, write from the view of a guy, and at times that can be just icky.

I remember reading Hemingway and an emotional love scene just didn't resonate with me since he couldn't bring out those emotins that are so inherent in women.

So if the scene can be balanced, with a sense of vulnerability and passion, it works.

Or if you are just a gross guy out banging some chick...that's when I put the book down.

Happier Than A Billionaire

Mo James (UK) said...

What an interesting post, and interesting comments too! I recently published a short story for Kindle which was about 50% graphic sex, and all I've had back feedback wise has been really positive. I'm guessing that could be because it's wholly relevent to the story (it's about abuse.)

Perhaps it is when the reader hasn't been warned that offence can be taken at what is written?

W. Dean said...

Selena,

“…mystery is mystery and YA is YA…They all have their own particularities.”

YA writers have obsessive fans who buy the endless supply of merchandise churned out by their publishers…and you have stalkers. I guess you could call those two things the “peculiarities” of each genre, though I thought euphemism was out.

“But NONE of them, including porn, ‘make’ people do anything.”

You’re conflating the effect of literature with the culpability of an author in a reader’s behavior. No one (including me) would hold you legally responsible for what someone claimed to have done as a result of reading your books, but that’s only because no one would accept the “porn made me do it” defense from the perpetrator. So, in that sense, porn doesn’t ‘make’ people do things.

But that’s not the same as saying the books have no effect on readers. Your books must arouse people, if they’re selling. Yet you can’t control who’s cranked and who isn’t any more than you can predict how they will react to the stimulus. Now, I’m not going to say whether the effect is good or bad.

All the same, it strikes me as willful blindness to claim that the effect on the reader of living vicariously through Harry Potter or Horny Porker is equally innocuous. Even the most liberated of us doesn’t object when a neighbor tells him about riding the Ferris wheel, but he does when he tells him about riding his secretary—that alone should suggest that sex is different.

“The only reason anyone restricts sexually explicit material is because, as a culture, we have hangups.”

“Hang-up” is one of my favorite hippy-words, because it’s a moral judgment dressed up as an accusation of a mild mental disorder. The slang helps soften the blow: “Next to me, you’re emotionally retarded” doesn’t have the same playful ring as “hang-up,” even if the two have the same meaning.

My semantic arousal aside, isn’t it worth considering whether other people’s hang-ups might actually represent more than an emotional disorder? I say this because every culture at every time has had the same hang-ups about sex. Yet you believe they’re the ones with the disorder. Remember what they say about people who think everyone else is crazy?

W. Dean said...

Marie Simas,

I’ll take your omission as an admission. Though I was sure your stalkers were somehow motivated by tomato-related misinformation.

“But they can fuck themselves. I'm not doing this for them. I'm doing it for me.”

What can I say but congratulations on your unwavering devotion to yourself, it’s so rare these days.

Kathleen Dienne,

“Your dinner party examples don't make sense. One type of anecdote is personal, one is not.”

You’re right the dog example was bad. No one likes dog-killing stories, even in self-defense (an audience of cats notwithstanding), so suppose it was a rabid coyote with a crazed glint in his eye.

Whatever the case, both stories were personal since both happened to the storyteller and both were told as first person experiences. Unless, of course, by “personal” you mean “things that should be private.” If that’s the case, you’re essentially admitting the point that there’s something different about sex-talk. Which is why I think your next observation is quite astute:

“People read our stories and often assume we're talking about our real selves…”

That’s the crazy thing about smut. It has all sorts of strange and strong effects on people that other writing does not—or at least not to the same extent. I wouldn’t think of trying to list the effects, let alone to explain them, or try, as some have, to explain them away as the isolated reactions of crazies. All I’m concerned with the admission that it is different and that your own experience suggests as much.

I also find it strange that almost every reader here has admitted that there’s a difference (even the one’s who like it), but every writer is hesitant or feigns shock at this fact.

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

I write erotic thrillers, Joe. I think that the way someone makes love reveals a lot about them. Therefore, I use them and I like them. I like reading well written sex scenes as well.

CC MacKenzie said...

@ Puravida.

I agree completely and hope the guys won't spank us for it! I've also noticed how most sex scenes - whether written by a male or female - are written from the male protagonist's deep inner point of view.

I write an intimate scene from the hero and heroine's ipov, without head hopping. Nothing like a challenge.

Anonymous said...

I love a well-written sex scene in my non-erotica reads. I enjoy mysteries and thrillers, and find that my favorites, the ones that I re-read, have a hot scene or two in them.

Selena Kitt said...

@W Dean

It’s interesting to see you keep harping on this when it’s clear that not only readers, but erotica writers as well, have acknowledged that writing porn IS DIFFERENT. There, I put it in all caps so you could see it. It’s different – it’s particular. (Not peculiar, by the way – particular. ;)

What you fail to understand is that they are ALL different. Sexual stories aren't MORE different than any other writing.

Where our viewpoints diverge is that you have decided, along with the majority of our culture, that keeping sex behind closed doors is the "correct" or "right" way to live. I don’t happen to believe that.

That might make me "crazy" as you've defined it, because I have a divergent view from the mainstream culture. But I also have a degree in clinical psychology, and having read the DSM practically front to back, I can tell you that the definition of "crazy" is fluid in our culture. Homosexuality used to be defined as pathological. And hey, before we had a big book defining "crazy," we used to drown women to see if they were witches.

The clinical word for "crazy" is "pathological” (or psychopathology). But whether the culture or DSM define something as pathological isn't relevant to whether something is ACTUALLY pathological or not. You can't define true pathology by what the culture says. You have to define psychopathology by the suffering and problems in the life of the person dealing with the pathology.

You want erotic writers to acknowledge that writing porn is “different” – done. But what you’re REALLY saying is that you want them to acknowledge that it’s wrong. That it’s behind closed doors for a damned good reason. And that sane and sensible people understand that.

But you’re conflating absolutes with cultural values, and you can’t mistake cultural values for what's right or wrong in an absolute way. The elephant in the room here is that what you’re really talking about is morality - what people should or shouldn’t do. (i.e. they shouldn’t talk about sex with their neighbor but it’s okay to talk about killing a wild dog…) Those are absolutes. (And good luck with that, because it’s more taboo to talk about morality than it is to talk about pornography!)

But cultural values are not morals. They’re spelled different for a reason. :) Values are a rational way to prioritize what’s important. They’re the majority rule. But they’re not about judgment. Morality, on the other hand, is very much about judgment. Morals are rules designed to tell people how to live. Morality is a response to cultural values. Or, perhaps… a reaction to them.

Sane and sensible people are the majority and they say porn should be behind closed doors. That’s a cultural value. But saying that porn should be behind closed doors because it’s wrong or bad? That’s a moral judgment.

And hey - I might be crazy. But the cultural values which have defined “crazy” are not what crazy actually is. It’s actually the person or culture defining "crazy" that’s the problem – not the people we decide to paste the label on, be they porn writers, homosexuals...or witches. ;)

Linda Hawley, Author said...

I like those "fade to black" moments in both literature and movies. I love the old Hitchcock movies where he gave you hints of things. I have a pretty wild sexual imagination, and I don't think any author could outdo what I could imagine. In my novels, I fade to black when things get heated up, which so far my reviewers really like. I get to that edge of the cliff with sexual tension, give them a peek of what's possible, then fade to black. Since I'm writing dystopian paranormal thrillers, it works for my audience.
Your devoted weekly reader,
Linda Hawley
Author of The Prophecies Trilogy

W. Dean said...

Selena,

Let me say first—and I mean this sincerely—that I admire the fact that you’ve stayed cool and collected. I recognize that it’s easier for me to debate this than you, because it’s not my livelihood.

Anyway, there’s different like Granny Smith and Macintosh and there’s different like apples and oranges. I’m talking different like apples and oranges; you’re talking different like apples and apples.

I went out of my way to avoid moral judgments, because there’s nothing to debate there: yer fer it, er agin’ it. Instead, I’m talking about two perennial facts about the human condition, which I think your experience shows but your words deny.

The first fact is that sexual desire is one of our prime motivators. It’s involved in (or shapes) much of what we do. (You covered Freud right?) You don’t need the DSM to prove that, but it’s no coincidence that sex is to psychopathology what drug abuse is to crime.

Many or most of our problems are sex-related. And sex and its connection to our sense of self is strange and mostly mysterious. People kill over sexual jealously, for example, but they don’t over sports car jealousy, or job envy or penis envy.

The second is that sex stories affect people in a deeper and a more unpredictable way than other stories because of the first fact. Pushing on, say, Joe Konrath’s desire to go to Hogwarts is different like apples to oranges from pushing on his desire to shag the (female half of the) world.

It’s funny, though, that where you thought I was moralizing, I thought my approach was too clinical and statistical. I’m just saying that when you tell a million people a story about a boy wizard, you get a thousand pieces of fan-fiction; tell a million people a sex story, and you get a thousand people who confuse you and the characters and themselves and their neighbors and real and the fictional world. Why? Because that’s the nature of the beast.

(I’ll skip the culture versus morality stuff because it’s too complicated.)

WDGagliani said...

It's actually amazing to me that this is such a debate. The solutions are simple. Don't like sex? Don't write about it, and don't read about it. Drop the book you're reading, leave the theater before the movie is on, switch off the Skinemax, and so on. Like sex? Write, read, watch away! And enjoy.

I'm being facetious, but I guess the point is that the debate is a microcosm of how screwed up we are over it in the first place. As long as no one's holding a gun to your head, making you write it, or read it, then... who cares?

As has been pointed out numerous times, violence doesn't really inflame passions nearly as much. We are strange animals, aren't we?

Joe, keep adding the sex if you feel the story needs it. Or heck, even if it doesn't. If all artists self-censored, there'd never be any seriously challenging art. Personally, I prefer complex to simple. And I'll continue to attempt to write stories and plots that appeal to my interest in challenging the reader somewhat. Ultimately it will be a personal decision by all artists, writers, readers, movie watchers, etc.

Interesting stuff, but at some point the arguments simply become redundant and personal taste/upbringing/preference will take over.

I've stopped reading a book that overused exclamation marks. Made me feel all declarative, and I couldn't stand the embarrassment... :-)

Brendan said...

W. Dean

Mate, you really crack me up!

when you tell a million people a story about a boy wizard, you get a thousand pieces of fan-fiction

I think HP FF proves Selena's point more than yours, or haven't you ever heard of "slash" FF?

Sex writing doesn't kill people, guns kill people(to mangle an oft quoted line)

Kathleen Dienne said...

Wow.

My rule is no matter how well it's written if the scene makes the writer hard (or wet) it's bad writing. Not sure why that is but it's true.

It is not true. Try this simple exercise:

"No matter how well it's written, if the scene makes the writer cry, it's bad."

"No matter how well it's written, if the scene makes the writer laugh, it's bad."

I can't even think of how you arrived at a point where you think a writer being affected by his own work is indicative of bad writing.

If you misspoke, and meant "reader," you're even more fundamentally wrong. The entire point of literature is to tell a story that engages the reader. If the writer achieved the intended effect, the writer won.

If you meant that sexual arousal is somehow "different" from any other emotional effect, you have the same problem as W.Dean, which is attempting to say that the writing and reading of sexual content is in some way bad.

It's not.

Alastair Mayer said...

The story does not need 399,994 of those words because it could be stated simply as I came, I saw, I conquered. However, that story has already been told, and without a sex scene.

Well yeah. With a sex scene those words would be in a different order, with the first phrase last.

Christopher Marcus said...

I would love more sex in fiction - but like you said, only if it serves the plot.

Well, to a degree ... one might also want to show some explicit sex just to set a certain mood that matches the type of story or genre, or make the relationship between two characters seem more real or whatever. But I guess in those examples sex serves a story-related purpose, too - and is not just 'sex for the sake of sex'.

Apropos: I wish there'd be real sex in mainstream movies. Then porn would probably be reduced to a niche for the more, ahem, extreme preferences. But that's probably a long, long way off.

Just like with (your) books, it seems people are more comfortable with watching people being stabbed, shot, tortured, etc., than people fucking for love or just pleasure.

Or so they say... I wonder how many of those people have *never* EVER watched porn, then - esp. on the net? I probably won't exhaust myself counting ...

But in any case: As long as this set of priorities prevails - 'showing killing OK' - 'showing fucking NOT OK' - it's gonna be very difficult to have a more peaceful world...

Selena Kitt said...

The first fact is that sexual desire is one of our prime motivators. It’s involved in (or shapes) much of what we do. (You covered Freud right?)

Ah this is where we really differ. I'm far more Jungian-leaning. ;)

As for this:

"Sex is to psychopathology what drug abuse is to crime."

No. Sex is to SEXUAL psychopathology what drug abuse is to crime. Maybe. Sometimes.

All pathology does not have its roots in sex. Freud was wrong too.

I imagine he had a tiny little penis... and a very ugly mother.

But I will give you this:

...sex stories affect people in a deeper and a more unpredictable way than other stories...

Indeed they do - just not for the reason you stated. The reasons are numerous and they aren't so simple. Neither is the world. And we could debate that forever. But I've got boxes to unpack and a novel to finish...

Thanks for the brief diversion though! ;)

Unknown said...

I like it when it works and is part of the story. Recently read the Nights Dawn trilogy and some scenes fit right in and a few others felt sort of forced.

Overall though, it worked.

Kiara said...

Joe, its not so much people dont like it in fiction, as its jarring I think to people that read sci-fi or fantasy. Its not a stable of the genre, more off the page as you mentioned in your post. I admit I'm always surprised when I read fantasy and the character uses a real curse word. Because I'm not used to seeing it. It seem odd for an elf to use the F bomb, lol.

Stanfield Major said...

I have a bit different take on the pseudonym for sex writing discussion.

I've published all my porn, er, "erotica" under my own name (except for when I was writing on Literotica). But my sales have been less than spectacular.

The thing is I feel that I'm writing for women. Many of my stories are told from a woman's point of view. In reading puravida's comment I realized where my marketing problem might be.

Perhaps I need to publish under a female pseudonym because women don't expect a mere man, especially one with a hoity toity name like "Stanfield Major", to be capable of writing from their point of view.

Werner said...

A lot of people seem to be having trouble adapting to the fact that self-publishing ebooks changes publishing social norms.

How many times have I read in various articles and blogs where with self-publishing, "We can write about whatever the hell we want." Then some of those same people seem surprised when someone actually does.

All new genres and sub-genres will be created and will find a following. Change is hard, but you gotta embrace it!

Unknown said...

That's pretty wild. I would guess readers who are familiar with your work must have expected a fade-black scene and were jarred when it never faded? Unless the sex was horribly violent or something, I don't understand adults having a problem with it.

I have one 'sex' scene in my first book. It is very tame and fades to black, and yet I still had someone complaining about it. It was a head-scratcher for me, because when I mentioned the review to some friends who'd read the book, they were like, "What sex scene? You mean there was a sex scene?"

I guess there will always be people who have issues with anything beyond a chaste kiss.

asrai said...

I got emails from total strangers asking if they could see my private parts. Hello, what? I guess it can't hurt to ask right?

W. Dean, okay so I'm at the dinner party with a bunch of people who like to share explicit stories of sexual conquest. Your experiment fails in this case. They are waiting to hear more.

In most cases where all the gathering folk are adults, sex will come up. Now I'm not going to tell most people in "polite" adult company how my husband likes to give it to me in whatever manner works for us, but where consenting adults are sex is a topic. In some circumstances in people's lives, they might give the down and dirty details.

There are some "liberated" people who love to tell stories of their sexual conquests. Hell, sitcoms these days make major characters out of just these types. ie. Barney from How I Met Your Mother or Charlie from Two and a Half Men.

My rule is no matter how well it's written if the scene makes the writer hard (or wet) it's bad writing. Not sure why that is but it's true.

How do you know that a certain passage turned a writer on? How does the writer know that it will turn the reader on? Some people can read a rape scene and get turned on. Did the writer mean it that way? Probably not, but if there is something you've fantasized about, someone wrote fiction about it online.

I love writing sex. I have a shit load of hang-ups about sex. When you have adults interacting, you have sex.

Anonymous said...

As a Paranormal Romance writer, I routinely have multiple explicit sex scenes in my books. My sex scenes all serve a purpose - to advance the plot, or show something about the character that can't be shown another way. Contrary to popular belief, sex scenes can't be just plugged in wherever in good Romance novels. They have to be fully integrated into the plot and character development.

I recently wrote a blog post about writing sex scenes for a Romance author's point of view. http://wp.me/p1w1MU-2e It isn't uncommon for Romance novels with explicit sex scenes to be called porn and the author accused of bad writing for including sex.

W. Dean said...

“…dinner party with a bunch of people who like to share explicit stories…”

I didn’t claim that no one has parties where it’s appropriate. I was observing that no one, at any party (whether it includes sex or not) will object to, say, a rollercoaster-ridding story. Sure, it might bore people. But no one will kick you out because they think it’s inappropriate (unless, for example, someone close just died on one, which is the exception that proves the rule).

On the other hand, the only place you can talk explicit sex is on occasions where it’s explicitly invited. My point was that this fact (call it a taboo) should tell all of us that we all recognize that there’s something different about sex.

Angie said...

which is the exception that proves the rule

Exceptions don't prove rules. Exceptions demonstrate that the rule is wrong, or at least that it needs to be modified in a non-trivial way.

Angie

W. Dean said...

That’s a good logical eye you have, Angie, and I commend you. I always wonder when someone will bring this up. But it’s actually an ancient idiomatic expression that has a slightly different meaning. There’s a decent explanation of it here:

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/exception-that-proves-the-rule.html

In the context of my remark, the “exception” to talking about roller-coasters is another profoundly emotional thing (like sex), the immediate death of a loved-one. So the point is, simply, that what appears to be an exception isn’t one at all, which is what proves the rule.

LK Watts said...

Even though sex in books is popular, I think there will always be a certain level of stigma attached to it. My book isn't as popular in the States as it is over here in the U.K. where people are more open about sexual content.

Ruth Ann Nordin said...

Sex scenes are great. I say bring them on. When I get hate mail for writing sex scenes, I kindly suggest the reader find an author who doesn't write sex into their books.

That all being said, I have written three books with no sex scenes in them, but it wasn't because someone told me to leave the sex out.

jt Harding said...

Great post. I write erotica, so you'd expect people to know what they are getting, but I had a bad review that said although the story was good and the characters realistic, the book was "just one sex scene after another".

And the point is? :-)

I agree with you that as a society we are more than willing to accept a level of violence and brutality that is unbelievable, but if one of our characters shows their genitals then god help us all.

Stephen Dean said...

I have no problem with sex (explicit or implied) if it moves the story along. If it's just there on the off chance that it might sell a few more copies then I'm bugged by that. Not the sex itself, but the manipulative nature behind just writing it to sell. Like everything else in a novel, it should be important to the story.

It's kinda like the old joke about 24. When does Jack Bauer go to the bathroom? Such a scene if not moving the plot forward would be a nuisance to the reader/viewer. So, bring on the sex scene if it moves the plot forward.

Amazing a hold such an opinion and yet, I'm one of those crazy, radical, born again, evangelical Christians. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

i love sex in any shape or form :)

D.C.Gallin said...

Sex should be treated as an essential part of life and relationships in fiction. Skipping it is prudish, I think.
Over detailed and mechanical it can become tedious like any other 'over description'.

Amy said...

Joe:
The reason your readers got angry is that you broke faith with them. Now, you're not a "safe buy" anymore. Those who prefer the bedroom door closed won't be able to buy your books, feeling secure in the knowledge that you won't go all erotica on them.

At this point, all your readers are going to be nervous about buying you. Your original fans won't know if the next book spends pages on erotic material or not. They'll have to start reading all the comments to try to determine that, especially if they dislike open bedroom doors.

You'll get new readers, but the same goes for them. They like the bedroom door open and expect it. If they try to read your older books, they'll be disappointed. So you won't be a "safe buy" for them, either, because they'll be constantly disappointed.

For me, I definitely prefer the bedroom door closed. I'll make everyone angry, but the truth of the matter is that there is nothing done in a sex scene that can't be done with the bedroom door closed, or done with the scene whittled down to a sentence or two.

And frankly, sex ruins the sexual tension because it releases it. Then, you have to work even harder to get that tension back up again. And because of that, it has a tendency of slowing down/diverting the plot because the author spends all his time: building up to the sex scene; having the sex scene; recovering from the sex scene; rebuilding tension.

You only have so many pages. If the book's major thrust (excuse the pun) is sex, e.g. erotica, then that's fine. If it's something else, then...well, that's the problem, isn't it? How many pages are you willing to waste just to get characters into bed and recover from it? Just to give the reader some tidbit of info or show some character development that could have been done in a few paragraphs without the sex scene?

Then there's the whole "yuck" issue and personal preferences. What is erotic to one reader is just plain "gross" to another.

As I always say, if I'd rather have sex (with my husband) than read about it.

But there you are. That's why your readers got upset. They can't just do an auto-buy you anymore.

Oh, well. Sorry, didn't mean to write a dissertation here. LOL

Amy Corwin
http://www.amycorwin.com

Angie said...

Amy -- you're certainly entitled to your opinion and it's valid for you, but when you use phrases like "all your readers," you're speaking for me (and everyone else) as well. Please don't do that.

Angie

Cyn Bagley said...

Personally, I skip over sex scenes unless they are essential for the story-line. One writer that gets me interested in sex scenes is JD Robb (Nora Roberts) with her sci-fi homicide detective.

Otherwise if I want to read erotica, I'll go and get it. One sex scene does not ruin a book in my opinion if there is a lot of cuddling. ;-)

BUT when there are four, five, or six scenes, I draw the line. And yes, that might impact my ability to buy another book from that author.

Cyn

Tracey H. Kitts said...

I feel your pain, Joe. I write erotic romance. Out of a 292 page novel I had 4 sex scenes, the longest of which was 2 pages. The rest of the book was solid plot and a great big heaping of violence (because my stories involve werewolves). No one complained about the violence, but I have a neighbor who thinks I'm the devil. She goes around telling everyone I write "GD-porn." I kid you not. I think it's ridiculous. There's nothing wrong with sex as long as the scene moves the story forward. I plan to keep on writing "GD-porn." I love what I do.

Tracey H. Kitts said...

I feel your pain, Joe. I write erotic romance. Here's an example of what happens frequently with me. Out of a 292 page novel I have 4 sex scenes, the longest of which is 2 pages. The rest of the pages are filled with a solid plot, including a good heaping of violence. (Because this story involves werewolves.)No one complained about the violence, but I've got a neighbor who thinks I'm the devil. She goes around telling everyone I write "GD-porn." (Her words, not mine. I prefer not to abreviate.) I kid you not. I think it's ridiculous. There's nothing wrong with sex as long as it moves the story forward and is well-written. I plan to keep on writing "GD-porn." I love what I do.

D.C.Gallin said...

What we are dealing with is age old churchy indoctrination where sex is seen as shameful, dirty, hidden! We live in a world where the taking of a life on TV can be watched by a small child, but the making of a life is seen as obscene. Where people suffer from porn addiction because they never see a naked person. A world where half the population is trying to lose weight while the other half is starving. There is absolutely nothing wrong with including sex in a story, as we've all come into this world like that, if conceived naturally. Whoever has a problem with a well written sensual scene has a problem with life. Can we move on the discussion please: What's your favourite sensual scene? AnaƮs Nin anybody? Henry Miller? One of your own, Mr Konrath?

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