In fiction, I mean. In real life I think I’ve figured out most of the basics.
However, I have been thinking about sex scenes in books and movies and TV shows, and I have been wondering what purpose, in a narrative sense, sex scenes have.
Granted, part of this is my own personal tastes–as I have stated elsewhere, I really don’t care for such scenes. I can understand when a work is largely intended to arouse the reader, and I think that’s a perfectly valid use of media. There are some very fine writers who create Erotic Romance novels and a strong market for them.
However, when I am reading a thriller or a science fiction novel and the characters start ditching their clothes, my first reaction is that of the kid in The Princess Bride–“Wait! Is this a kissing book?”
It seems to me that sometimes the author is using sex as a shorthand for an emotional connection between characters–since the renegade spy and the laser scientist had sex in chapter two, that explains why they risk their lives for each other in chapter eight. I don’t know, maybe I just don’t have enough experience having sex with virtual strangers in cheap hotel rooms while government agents are trying to kill me to relate.
It just seems to me that there are better and less cliched ways to involve the reader in the emotional connection between characters than by describing them rubbing naughty bits. I can honestly say that I haven’t watched any of the couples I know doing the nasty, but I still know that they care for each other.
In Catskinner’s Book, I do include what one of my reviewers called “strange sex-like moments” (one of my favorite phrases from a review, actually). There’s the scene where James and Godiva are alone in a motel room and she comes to him, and then the scene the next day where he sees her naked in the shower and first learns that she’s not an ordinary girl. No actual sex takes place in either scene, and my intent was not to arouse the reader, but to show different facets of just how different James and Godiva are from other people.
For me, the scene that builds an emotional connection between James and Godiva is when the two of them meet Alice in the coffee shop and she accepts them as a couple, and it’s far more important to James psychologically than what happens behind closed doors.
I don’t know if any of this makes sense–maybe I’m just a prude. I honestly believe, though, that even in a sexual relationship what is vital is not the (relatively) short periods of time when the characters are putting this into that and moving it about, but the way the characters see each other and react to each other when that isn’t happening.
True, that’s a lot harder to write, which is part of my objection to sex scenes–they strike me as lazy. As I said above, it’s a shorthand, and I think it’s become the 21st Century equivalent of “meet cute”. It doesn’t really tell me anything about why the people, as people, care about each other beyond a passing interest in a taut torso and big blue eyes.
My thoughts on the matter.
In other news, this weekend I intend to write up my guest posts for Dave Higgins, Robin Tidwell, and Michelle Proulx and have them sent out. I’ve also been working on ideas for my signed book giveaway–I think I’m going to print out the names of everyone who enters and give the paper to my cats–the last five names to remain legible will receive the copies. Stay tuned for more information.