I have not written about sex. There, I said it. I have written three novels and not one of them recounts a sexual encounter in any detail. It is not that I have lacked the opportunity, rather that I just that I did not take it, so to speak, when it arose in the story.
I am not, I think, a prude. I like women very much, especially the one I am married too. I like sex as well, I just have not written about it in my work. I suppose that I am not sure what role sex should play in the telling of a story.
In respect of a book like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ I can understand it, after all sexual relationships is the main theme of the book. It would make a pretty boring read without any reference at all to its chief subject matter, but what about other books?
Recently I read a thriller in which a sexual episode was referred to between the two principal characters. To be honest the event was well signposted, almost the point of being a cliché, and I found the actual description somewhat clumsy; I wanted to skip past it. In my opinion this section added nothing to the story. It revealed nothing of the two characters, it was already obvious that they liked each other, but it did suggest that the writer did not know how to work the piece effectively as well. To my mind it would have been left as something to be assumed by the reader.
There are some events in books that are indeed better left to the reader’s imagination. With regards to horror they often say that the terror imagined is far more frightening than the terror realised. It is a subtle point dependent upon the author’s ability to suggest rather than paint the thing that is supposed to inspire fear, or the film-maker’s for that matter. Indeed, directors will often use simple imagery to suggest what is about to happen between two characters in a sexual clinch without having to go to full frontal nudity, although that seems to be a subtlety that is being ignored lately. Anyway, my point is, if you are not writing about sex does a graphic portrayal of a sex act actually add anything of value to the text? Is it just there to titillate the reader? Is it cheating in fact?
In some respects I can see how sex might be used to better define a character, in either a good or bad way. That would be a legitimate use of sex within the narrative I would argue. However, sex between two consenting adults in a moment of natural development in their relationship within the confines of the story, does that really need a graphic description? When that story is a historical fiction novel concerning violent events like a battle between Saxons and Vikings, I favour a more emotional flavour to the text. I imagine that most people who read this kind of literature are adult and have had sexual experiences of their own on which they can call to add further detail to the suggested scene if they wish. After all, with erotica being a valid and freely available genre of literature why would anyone turn to historical fiction to satisfy their sexual longing?
Within the right context sex is valid because it is natural, a human activity, and the reason why we are all here. The same can be said for breathing, if we do not do it we die, but an in depth description of the act of breathing is only likely to interest a reader when it occurs in an appropriate context, otherwise it just seems unnecessary. I see writing about sex in the same way, it is all about context. Also, I am not so sure that I would be very good at it, writing about sex I mean, and I think it is a good idea to avoid revealing your limitations as an author to your readers. I do not know. Perhaps there is some subtle form of aversion going on her; perhaps I am being somewhat prudish. I do not think so. I believe that if I get round to creating either a character or a story that requires descriptions of sex to progress then I might find that I am up to the task. Curiously it is not something that I feel a need to explore, at least not right now.
It would be interesting to know what anyone who has read any of my books might think.