SEX IN LITERATURE
"They thought novels were vulgar and immoral. And in a way they were, and that was what was great about them: they shocked and seduced people into new ways of thinking." -- Andrea Sachs
On occasion sex appears in my writing because I portray journeys—adult journeys where indicated. And a large majority of adults have, you guessed it, sex. So why isn’t it included in all adult journeys? My guess is, the literary industry likes to call it trashy. So what is that saying about the sex we have in our lives?
My sex is neither formulaic nor gratuitous. It’s not always flowery and not always romantic and sometimes it’s a fumbling learning experience. But that’s how real sex is. I’d dance around the intimate part of each character’s arc but then how would I show the impact these moments have on the plot? The moment sex enters our realities it changes who we are so I say include it. And someday, somebody will agree with me.
Wait. Somebody has?
Way back in January, 2009, on Time.com, Andrea Sachs wrote: “(The novel is) about to renew itself again, into something cheaper, wilder, trashier, more democratic and more deliriously fertile than ever...” Then she qualified by adding: “The books of the future may not meet all the conventional criteria for literary value that we have today, or any of them. But if that sounds alarming or tragic, go back and sample the righteous zeal with which people despised novels when they first arose. They thought novels were vulgar and immoral. And in a way they were, and that was what was great about them: they shocked and seduced people into new ways of thinking. These books will too.”
I couldn’t have said it better. Thanks, Andrea.
On Justine Musk's site Tribal Writer, she posted a blog in February, 2013 called, storytelling, soul + the power of the erotic (and yes, she's not a fan of caps). She expands on my idea reiterating the five techniques for spicing up your writing by online blogger-god, Jon Morrow: "Our job as writers is to say the things other people are unable or unwilling to say. Sometimes that means being brutally honest, but more often, it means touching the taboo – subjects like cowardice, greed, jealousy, hate, and yes, sex.
Instead of running away from all those scary feelings inside, cuddle up next to them and say howdy. Get to know them. Learn how they work. See them for what they are rather than what you feared they would be.
Yes, it’s hard, but this is what we do, people. We speak the unspeakable. If you flinch at the idea of writing a steamy sex scene, how will you ever find the courage to address topics like suicide, double standards, and legacy? Those are the really tough topics, and the truth is, you’ll never be able to learn how to handle them with grace until you can feel something scary and not go running for cover. In my opinion, sex is a good place to start, because while it’s dangerous, it’s also fun. Writing a steamy sex scene can and should be a helluva good time.”
There are books, like Robert Goolrick’s A Reliable Wife, where sex is a common factor but it isn't what the story is about. Although Mr. Goolrick’s style differs from mine, that’s the best way I can describe my writing. So if you’re someone who believes sex belongs behind closed doors, more power to you. But I’ve written entire character arcs about the dangers of family secrets.
Read about one of them in my novel, The Revolution of Charlotte Smith (formerly published under the title The Aliquot Sum). (Like that segue?) I write about sex because they have it. But it’s not all-encompassing. The truth is almost all of us have sex but we don’t talk about it. I simply include what we don’t talk about in my work.
For more essays, click here.