by Lee Cross
For every good sex scene, there are a dozen bad. Yes, ok, I made up the ‘page 69’ dialogue in my earlier blog. It was my first attempt at writing a sex scene and it was crap.
That’s not unusual, too often sex scenes are crap. It’s understandable, the act itself is highly personal and not openly discussed. Don’t get me wrong, it is talked about but ask yourself how much of what you hear is b******t and bravado?
Obviously I’m a man, so I’m thinking about ‘man-chat’ (…I’ve spent a lot of time as a bartender…and women do the same after a fashion…) and so much of it is an exaggeration of actual experience or a caricature highlighting what an audience wants to hear.
That chit-chat is exactly what a bad sex scene is… it’s sensational… an exaggeration… a caricature. Put yourself into the reality of a novel, as it exists in the space behind your eyes… Breaking news – sex sometimes happens, that’s the way of things… the story starts walking through Amsterdam’s ‘Red Light District’ (…or you do, I cast no judgement, each to their own – I happen to like brown sauce over ketchup…we all have disgusting habits, right?…) and its certainly fair to expect more than a spot of chaste foreplay on the coming page(s).
I’ve no problem with that, it’s part of life, but if that open and natural style is the approach a novel takes then it has to steer true to that course and be a reflection of life.
Take my Dutch hooker example:
If you are going to bang a prostitute (…yes bang – that’s the word I’m using to describe a business transaction…) it’s going to be sleazy, dirty and about gratification. She’s not going to be, ‘the best looking woman’, he’s ever seen. ‘The depth in her eyes’, won’t be spoken of. ‘I felt myself move into her soul’, no mate – you didn’t, that was your penis moving somewhat more superficially.
‘Love making’, will not be taking place, paying for sex is about gratification – that’s what you should be reading about if the plot leads you down that alley.
That bad sex scene can go both ways, reverse the above situation… The plot of a novel moves to a wedding; odds are that there might be a little bit of love been shown in the bridle bed, it has a place in the book if the author chooses to give it one. Unless of course, the groom starts ‘throwing her over furniture’ (…I got that line from an Eminem song…) during the wedding reception, while checking the lighting so as to make sure everything looks good on the official wedding video…
There’s something worse though, much worse than completely unrealistic scenes of sexual nature… completely unnecessary ones. If there is any question in your mind, as the reader I mean, as to whether or not the position of the plot justifies/requires a sex scene, then there is no doubt – it shouldn’t be there.
I’m a FantSci fan, I love it and believe that as a genre when it gets it right – it gets it really right! But when it gets it wrong – it gets it really wrong…so the author throws in graphic sex (…violence too…) to try and get out of jail for free.
It happens in ‘straight’ lit too of course but it’s a lot more noticeable in FantSci, especially those aimed specifically at 14-24 y/o’s. One will pop up every act like clockwork, completely irrelevant and independent to the rest of the story, so much so that you could rip the pages out, pass the book on and another reader would only notice part of it was missing if they saw the stub ends on the spine.
I’m sitting here seething thinking about so many fairly good books I’ve read, which were ruined by an errant insertion or two. To my mind, it’s one thing to have a character prostituting themselves unrealistically to further a dying plot (as in my first example) but it’s a whole other bag of b******t when an author prostitutes their own writing to sell a few extra books to people who aren’t really interested in what’s written in the first place.
Right there, that’s a what a bad sex scene is – a slap in the face of a real reader.