1. TimHarris
    Offline

    TimHarris Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2012
    Messages:
    176
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Oslo, Norway

    What's wrong with sex?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TimHarris, Mar 19, 2013.

    I was showing off one of my chapters yesterday to a friend to read and got a lot of negative feedback. The chapter is the first chapter that introduces one of my viewpoint characters, a master thief with a magic dagger. This character has a set of dubious morals and values, are has delusions of grandeur, thinking he is the greatest thief there is. The chapter opens up with my character talking about some robbery he did in the past, while having sex with a prostitute in a brothel. The setting of the story is medieval fantasy, and I dont want to cover up things like pillow houses and sex just because our own society think these things should be shoved under a carpet. The scene is not described in vivid detail, and I would substitute the act itself with phrasings like "She guided him inside of her and kissed him on the lips."

    Yet when my friend read this scene, I was told that I should not write about sex. I think the scene is important to the character to show that he has absolutely no respect for women at all, I dont want my readers to like him, and I want him to look like a complete douche. Yet I cant understand what is so bad about writing about it. I have a very detailed scene in the same chapter where our little rogue stab a guard through the eyeball with his dagger, slices him open, and blood and entrails end up covering the entire floor, yet I got no comments on that scene.

    Why is extreme violence and gore so acceptable to readers, while sex, even if described in little and less detail so shunned?
     
  2. Merkabah
    Offline

    Merkabah New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2013
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Somewhere in the US
    Could be your friends personal literary tastes. Or it could be his feelings about sex. Got to remember that nothing can be shunned without lots of people to do the shunning. Mabie your friend is uncomfortable with the topic.
     
  3. SwampDog
    Offline

    SwampDog Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2013
    Messages:
    409
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    Back in Blighty
    .
    Quite often, it's all to do with culture and sensibilities. You may be constrained writing about sex if you hope to be read in a culture where sex is a taboo subject, for example. So do you allow your writing to be fettered by such cultures, write it anyway, or seek alternative (problemless) markets? (I take it you're not being swayed by the comments of one friend?)
     
  4. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Your friend is wrong. Writers write about life, and and in real life, people have sex. It's a big motivator, and because of it, there are many consequences. It would be silly to ignore it.

    It is unfortunate that so many people deem violence perfectly acceptable, yet sex (in any form) is not.

    The only thing I can think of is that it may have been jarring to have it in the first chapter. But if it's not being used to show the development of a relationship, but rather as illustrating the character of your MC, it may be appropriate.

    Perhaps your friend is just not your target reader. People have differing degrees of tolerance for these types of issues -- especially since the comment was not that something in particular was off-putting, or that the scene should be later, but rather that you just should not write about sex (supposedly ever.) This is advice I'd say you should feel okay not following. (Although if many people have issues with it, maybe you need to re-examine about whether it should be placed where it is, or whether you need to tweak anything -- not necessarily, but maybe.)
     
  5. mg357
    Offline

    mg357 Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2012
    Messages:
    368
    Likes Received:
    33
    TimHarris: I say to heck with what your friend thinks! if you feel in your heart and in your soul that the story needs sex in it, then by all means put in as much or as little sex as you want to put in the story.
     
  6. iolair
    Offline

    iolair Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2009
    Messages:
    265
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Exeter, UK
    Personally, I don't think you're likely to grab readers if your introductory MC is *completely* unlikable - there needs to be something there for them to associate with in order to pull them in to the story.

    As for sex - I think it's acceptable in fiction, but if you lead in with it too much it looks like you're writing a story about sex (don't know if this is the case in your work or not), which may or may not be true.

    So ... personally ... I'd give the reader something (anything) to root for with this character (a soft spot, however insignificant, that shows there's hope for him), and make sure the chapter is about establishing the character but includes sex, instead of looking like it's about the sex. If you've done that and your friend still doesn't like it, maybe it's just not for him.
     
  7. TimHarris
    Offline

    TimHarris Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2012
    Messages:
    176
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Oslo, Norway
    I dont think it will be a problem. I have three different protagonists that all come together during the late first half of the story to become the classical warrior, thief, wizard-team. My thief is the last of these characters that I introduce, so it's not as if the book opens up with a lot of fucking and unlikable characters :)
     
  8. mbinks89
    Offline

    mbinks89 Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2012
    Messages:
    551
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Montreal
    Write about sex, who cares! Your friends sound overly prudish. That doesn't mean write porn, but don't make your book PG just because of what your friends said. Also, your book sounds interesting, I'd be willing to go over the first chapter and give you some feedback if you want :)
     
  9. TimHarris
    Offline

    TimHarris Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2012
    Messages:
    176
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Oslo, Norway
    Thank you. I might consider taking up on your offer some time :)
     
  10. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    just because it's 'shunned' by your 'reader' doesn't mean that's the norm in the literary world... were that true, many bestsellers and classics would never have been published...
     
  11. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    It might just be your friend's tastes; it might be, as someone else mentioned, that it's just too soon in the story; it might be that it was badly written. I wouldn't necessarily remove based on one person's opinion, but it never hurts to look at other possibilities and then go with your author's instinct.
     
  12. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,722
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    I think part of the reason for this is that we tend to associate some kinds of violence with heroism, in a way. There are all those war movies in which we cheer on the "good guys" for defeating the "bad guys" and Protecting Our Way Of Life, so to speak. There are all those action movies in which Bruce Willis or Sylvester Stallone or Chuck Norris or whoever use extreme violence to defeat Horribly Evil People, and we cheer them on. When violence is presented to us that way, as the only way of saving us from something even worse, we accept it, and even celebrate those violent guys who are fighting on our side. So we get used to violence, and even cheer for it.

    Sex doesn't have this heroism aspect to it. Movie heroes don't have sex to save us from bad guys. They don't have sex to Protect Our Way Of Life. They just have sex to satisfy their own urges. Instead of being heroic - placing themselves in extreme danger and risking their lives for us - they're just being selfish. So there's no reason for us to cheer them on if they're just having sex. Maybe some of us even resent them a bit for doing something so private right there on our movie screens for all to see.

    Violence is horrible, destructive, and ugly, but we can imagine situations in which it's necessary, and we can cheer on those heroes who fight for the right reasons. While sex can be wonderful when it's done right, it's only really wonderful for the people actually involved, so there's no reason for an audience to cheer for it.

    That's my best answer to your question. Maybe after a coffee or two I'll come up with a better guess. Probably not, though.
     
  13. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Perhaps it's not that you wrote about sex, but HOW you wrote about it.

    Yes, sex is a part of life. However, there is a time and place for it. And for any time and place, there are different ways to write about it. Not all of them are appropriate for a given time and place.
     
  14. matwoolf
    Offline

    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    2,294
    Likes Received:
    2,219
    Location:
    Brighton Heights
    Hi Tim,

    My first proper sex marathon was last month, lasted about about a hundred drafts on the two paragraphs. I was so exasperated by the coyness or liberal prudery about writing bad sex when the creative writing scene is wall to wall bad everything else - elves, sunsets, dire observational relationship pieces, wildlife poems. I became almost evangelical about 'why arn't we allowed to write bad sex' until the penny dropped, and I realised the internet is crammed with 'amateur sex writing' sites - which I researched.

    On the one hand is Lawrence - and daunting majesty, always appreciate the sparkling clarity, beauty of the way he writes about emotion and sex and - well I focussed on seashore metaphors, mainly anenomie, clam, scallop, squid blended epilepsy and crepitus, gradually drafting away to words sounding doris and lock. We'll see what tutor says.

    Meaning it's in the draft, I'm an old record now but you can't lose if you go out wide on the first draft and reel in with sincerity?

    Hope that helps.
     
  15. Kaidonni
    Offline

    Kaidonni Member

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2011
    Messages:
    86
    Likes Received:
    9
    Hey, even Robbie the robot went with," Crush! Kill! Destroy!"

    Somehow, I don't think," Kiss! Take Clothes of! Make Love!" has the same ring to it. Coming from a robot, it actually might be even more terrifying... :D
     
  16. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Matwoolf: I can't tell you how sorry I am to hear that your sex marathon ended up as exasperating.

    Kaidonni: You are right, I don't know about robot sex. I'm sure there are plenty of folks who would object. Perhaps the robots invent a way that it used to create new robots, thus making it acceptable in certain limited circumstances?
     
  17. NellaFantasia
    Offline

    NellaFantasia Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2013
    Messages:
    62
    Likes Received:
    0
    As someone who reads a lot of adult fantasy, it's difficult to pinpoint a book or series in which sex wasn't involved in some way. Personally, I see nothing wrong with it and I don't think you have anything to worry about. Sex is a lot more accepted in the fantasy world than your friend believes.
     
  18. matwoolf
    Offline

    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    2,294
    Likes Received:
    2,219
    Location:
    Brighton Heights
    finger slipped in dark
     
  19. live2write
    Offline

    live2write Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2012
    Messages:
    523
    Likes Received:
    53
    There are several books I read that brings up the subject on sex. Some people find it taboo because of personal preference. The time period that you do place your story in, it sounds like having sex with a prostitute is relevant because of the time period. It was not seen as prostitution but instead the girls were seen as working girls. Of course it was taboo but it is taboo today.

    I can see there is a moment where you can contrast the actions of sex and the actions of the robbery from the main character.

    Sex in stories are good when they serve a purpose to the story. Example would be if the MC would console with these women for emotional release or companionship. If it was relating to a love scenario then that would be great. Sex in stories become redundant when it feels like it is unnecessary. I would not have my characters engage in such acts unless in connects to emotional feelings or the timeline in the story.
     
  20. Fullmetal Xeno
    Offline

    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2011
    Messages:
    1,364
    Likes Received:
    141
    Location:
    Kingdom of Austniad
    If you think your culture accepts gore and not sex severely, you should live in America, because we think giving children to play Mature rated video games with body parts flying is more acceptable and appropriate but when one little reference to sex is in there all hell breaks loose. It flabbergasts me and i'm American myself!
     
  21. Jetshroom
    Offline

    Jetshroom Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2011
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Australia
    For me, violence and sex must serve a purpose in the story. Nothing brings me out of my little literary bubble than when characters spontaneously start stabbing each other, or having threesomes for no reason.
    I was talking about sex in fantasy with a friend of mine and she mentioned that she was freaked out by how much sex there was in the books that she doesn't read. (The books she does read tend to be light on sex.) I said that sex is stupidly common in fantasy. Our interests tend to skew towards children's and YA fantasy, but when it comes to general fantasy, I'm more widely read. I think sometimes 'Fantasy' is just shorthand for 'Sexual Fantasy.'
    Then of course you should look at the popularity of 50 Shades of Gray. It's quite simply porn, but it's also massively popular. People were surprised that such a book existed, but for years, you could go into an airport bookstore, pick up a paperback novel with a buxom wench and a shirtless man on the cover and be assured that you were getting some sappy erotic romance.

    As to why your reader didn't like it, they may just not be comfortable with sex. Plenty of people aren't. Could be that you're not good at writing sex yet.

    My wife recently asked me if the two characters I'm currently writing ever have sex. To which I replied, "Well, they will, but not on screen." This is a decision that I've made about my story. A sex scene would be completely out of place here. Even though it IS a part of the character's journey.

    My wife said "Ew."
     
  22. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    When people give us negative critique, it is always about our writing ability,never purely about the content. I find that a lot of writers focus on content instead on their issues with writing. You should try and figure out why you are not able to present your story or a scene in an engaging way. There could be a hundred ways a writer fails, but reader will pick up on every one.
     
  23. njslater
    Offline

    njslater Member

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2013
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    0
    This is common across all art forms especially in America where machine gunning bus queues is seen to be quite normal behaviour but sex is behind closed doors or so ludicrously unrealistic as to be commical
     
  24. tinylittlepixie
    Offline

    tinylittlepixie Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2013
    Messages:
    29
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    I'd agree with most of the others who have replied here, if it fits in terms of establishing the character, then use it. In this situation, the actual sex isn't what's important, more so the moral value that he's placing within the context.

    I reckon that your friend may just be uncomfortable with the subject.
     

Share This Page