Where do you stand on the topic of literary sex scenes? Some readers avoid it like a dread disease while others run towards it with wild abandon. Most readers are somewhere in the great in-between, a pinch of spice at the appropriate time makes for a well-rounded story, but it’s not the whole story.
I engaged in a very long internal debate about adding sex scenes to my novel, The Last Prospector. There were some strict mandates I needed to follow, self-imposed mandates all. But I set out to write a story that would satisfy me as a reader, so one of those mandates was every word, every scene had to propel the story. For the most part, sex in books is just scenery, it rarely moves the story forward and this was a problem.
Erotic fiction is everywhere lately, courtesy of Fifty Shades of Grey. (I haven’t read 50SOG and don’t intend to. It’s not a judgment of sex or kinky sex, I’m just plain old not interested). Since publishing isn’t afraid to ride a trend to the bitter end, now there are a plethora of sexually themed stories out there. However, what about novels that aren’t technically about sex?
Whether or not to include sex scenes in a novel is a personal choice. This is the story of why I chose to do so. Being born in the early ‘60s put me in a position to watch the birth of the sexual revolution. Over the decades, it seems we keep coming back to square one. It’s an ongoing struggle and all so unnecessary. If we could all just get over ourselves and realize there is no “stronger” sex, no “superior” gender, we could stop expending vital energy on futility.
So when I set out to create my own world, I eliminated the futility. Women and men of Solstice have equal rights to everything, from owning property to soldiering, gender is rarely considered a factor in worthiness. Being a hard core pragmatist, I understand the financial value of sex. To that end, the Daggered Rose, the whore’s guild, was conceived and became a major player in the Song of Solstice. Not only is it the most powerful guild in the
, it’s run entirely by women. Men are not allowed to profit from the sexual acts of professional whores. land of Solstice
Since some of the main characters in the series belong to the Daggered Rose, I started wondering if there should be sex scenes in the novel. At first, sex was just alluded to in the story primarily because of the above mentioned mandate. But it was one of those lingering, nagging questions. Was it hypocritical to have an abundance of prostitutes but no sex?
In the end, the decision was yes. If my characters were to come alive as fully realized people, every once in a while there should be a little nooky. Writing sex scenes wasn’t titillating or exciting for me, it was actually kind of stressful. Finding the balance between too little and too much combined with the need to make those scenes propel the story took all the romance out of the endeavor.
It took me some time to realize that I shouldn’t approach the sex scenes as being about sex, but rather relationships. Not necessarily long term, committed relationships, but the relationship between two people in that moment. Those small, intimate moments do propel the story because they inform the characters, give them context and provide more storytelling possibilities down the road.
Having said all that, I still don’t think every adult story needs to include sex for sex’s sake. One of my favorite authors ever was James Michener and his works rarely referenced physical passion. What matters is context–does sex belong in the story?
I’d like to know what you think, both the readers and writers. When does a story call for sex and when does sex in a story turn you off?
|Cairn Rodrigues is a former professional chef who found that keyboards offer fewer cuts and burns, so she turned to writing. You can connect with her on Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, GoodReads, and at her blog.|