Let’s talk about sex
I know that some people speak adamantly against sex scenes in fiction, and that some believe that they should definitely be there at any given opportunity – the more graphic, the better. Join me as I ponder fictional sex in a fairly PG rated, if perhaps slightly controversial, post.
Personally, I don’t think there is an answer to the question of whether it is a good idea to write (graphic) sex scenes. It would be like asking whether it’s a good idea to describe the protagonist physically or whether it’s a good idea to reveal who the murderer is in the first chapter. It completely depends on what kind of writer you are and what you are writing.
If you are writing a children’s book, then no. If you are writing a novel in which there are detailed descriptions of everything your protagonist does and he has a sexual relationship to someone, it would seem odd to me not to mention it at all.
Some of my stories don’t have any sex. It can be because the characters in it don’t have it, or because it’s really just not relevant to the plot or the characters’ development.
Some stories have sex, but only implied, mentioned in the passing. One first person narrator commented that he and his partner “shifted to an even more intimate position”, and that is how sexually explicit that story ever gets. – It is there, but he doesn’t talk about it.
Other stories do have sex. Sometimes lots of it and explicitly. I recently wrote a story which had very much to do with sexual development and orientation, and it would have felt odd to exclude those scenes. If sex is important, I feel that I have to put it in the story. Otherwise I would feel like saying, “Right, so my protagonist has this hobby, and he goes and indulges in it several times throughout the story, but I’ll gloss it over and not mention that.” Yes, some of my protagonists undeniably have to go to the loo sometimes too, and I generally don’t write about that, but if something of significance actually happened there, I would (it has happened). If they had an epiphany while zippering up or they were particularly interested in the act of using a lavatory, I definitely would include it.
For me, it’s like with most other things in fiction: Is there a reason (plot or character development related) for including a sex scene? Then by all means, go for it. If not, then don’t. I don’t want to put in (or read) a sex scene as a filler chapter. If it’s there, I expect there is a point.
Then, of course, there’s the whole discussion of how to write sex. Some people will give you a set of rules, but I will (once more) claim that it really depends on what you want to achieve.
I’ve tried a few approaches. I’ve done the implied sort of loving sex – the “no genitals named” way. I’ve done the frank, realistic sex complete with unattractive noises or positions. I’ve even written rape. They each need to be handled in their own way. If I am writing about sexual abuse, I am not going to be flattering about it. It shouldn’t be pleasant to write or read. If I’m writing about two people who love each other, I am not going to be clinical and technical about it, but let their emotions take control of the narrative. If I’m writing a comedy, the intimate moments should probably be funny or awkward.
The bottom line is, for me, that sex scenes are like any other scenes. They need to be handled as part of the story they are in.
- Any thoughts? Do you avoid writing explicit content? Do the books you read have sex scenes? Any good (or bad) examples of adult intimacy that you have come across lately?