6 Comments on Sex!

Well, that got your attention, didn’t it?

So, what do you think of it? Personally, I’m all for it, but there’s a time and a place for everything.

This post, however, is going to be entirely devoted to sex in novels.

You’ve probably figured out by now that fantasy is my favourite genre, particularly urban fantasy. I do like a good romance, too (and yes, I believe in love at first sight – well, first decent conversation anyway – and in the existence of Mr or Miss Right). However, one can get rather sick of sex being inserted into a book in the following way:

Plotplotplotplot – STOP!!! [Insert sex scene here] GO! Plotplotplotplot….

Why is it, too, that urban fantasy heroines seem to either have no self-respect, appalling taste in men, or an inability to do the decent thing and pick the one they like and let the other one down gently – or all of the above?

It would be a pleasant change to read an urban fantasy novel with a heroine who isn’t a complete idiot where the opposite sex are concerned. Or one where she’s able to get on with her life without angsting over the lack of a man.

However, I’m certainly not against a love interest. I’d just like it to be a bit more complicated. I mean, when it gets to the point where you can identify the man the heroine is going to end up in bed with before you start reading, and, indeed, two-thirds of the way through the book, yep, sure enough, there’s the creak of bedsprings…. well, it’s a bit predictable.

Where’s the development of an actual relationship (guys, a relationship is about more than sexual attraction)? Where’s the development of sexual tension? Where’s the anticipation? Where’s the will-they-won’t-they?

Examples of ‘good practice’, for me, are Kim Harrison’s Hollows series; although the heroine, Rachel, can be irritating at times, Harrison has actually managed to keep the sexual tension between Rachel and one of the male characters ratcheting up throughout the series – and so far, they haven’t even kissed (although I haven’t read the latest book, so I don’t know what happens in that). Surely they’re going to end up together? You can see the relationship between them changing – come to think of it, there’s something almost Pride and Prejudice about the way they each have to acknowledge their own prejudices and re-evaluate their impressions and opinions of the other. And we still don’t know whether they’re going to get together.

Another is K. E. Stewart’s Jesse Dawson series that starts with A Devil in the Details. Astonishingly, Stewart has done something almost unknown in urban fantasy novels – his hero (male!) is actually happily married with a daughter. This gives the books an interesting extra dimension, as Jesse has the additional worries of supporting his family – he’s not the usual single guy/girl with no dependants.

Oh, yeah, and I may have mentioned before – please don’t assume that all your readers have the same turn-ons as you, the author, do. Laurell Hamilton, for example, is obviously turned on by men with long hair and thigh-high boots. While these two attributes are OK (although I do not admire long hair on men in general) it is possible to get tired of them really quite quickly when every allegedly-sexy male character in the book displays them. Let’s have a bit of variety, please!

For me, the following points are important:

  • There has to be some kind of development of a relationship that’s not just about sex – you know, romance like in Georgette Heyer.
  • It must not be obvious from page 1 (or before) who the main character is going to hook up with.
  • The two characters must actually be suited – it’s not satisfying if it’s obvious that shelf-life of the relationship is (as someone has said before me) somewhere between milk and yoghurt.
  • It’s OK for the course of true love not to run smoothly (obviously) or even for the two characters to look like they might not do well together – but we, the readers, should be able to see – not necessarily immediately – that in the end it’s all going to work out right.
  • And, of course, a love interest as a major plotline isn’t actually essential at all. Don’t try to shoehorn one in where there truly isn’t space. It only bends the whole plot out of shape and makes it look awkward.
  • OK, rant over. Well, that’s my opinion as a reader. What do you think?

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    6 thoughts on “Sex!

    1. lovesandhatesofagrumpyyoungwoman

      I am all for sex scenes in books… when there is actually a reason for one. I hate it when relationships aren’t formed properly too (I don’t get the whole men with long hair thing either) and there is just too much emphasis on sex in books, I prefer a simmering under current anyway. Erotic books are the only exception and that’s because sex is what they are there for.

      1. theophaniaelliott

        I agree. Sometimes, one definitely gets the feeling that the reason for the sex scene is “My publisher said I needed a sex scene in chapter 6, so I put one in…”

        I have been known to just skip over that type, grumbling all the time about the percentage of the price of the book that I have thereby wasted…

    2. Zen

      Personally I prefer to avoid sex scenes in books, or else I try to imply that sex was had without going into all the details. Personally it irks me when the characters keep jumping in bed every few pages, when that does nothing to improve the plot. If the author was determined to include a sex scene, they could simply do it once and just imply it later on, no?

      I’ll take a sweet, fluffy romance over a raunchy sex ride any time.

      1. theophaniaelliott

        I agree. Unless – as has been pointed out above – it’s an erotic novel, does the scene actually serve a plot-related purpose? If not, do we need to know about all the sticky bits?

        Also, good sex is really hard to write! That happy medium between medical detail and eumphemism-laden purple prose. There’s even the ‘bad sex’ awards for the people who got it wrong. One does tend to think that, if you don’t think you can do it really well, leave it out. And, as you say, imply it.

        Another thing… I’m not going to get into the sex-before-marriage-yes-or-no question, but is there maybe an expectation that characters MUST have sex, otherwise they’re not ‘doing it right’? That societally, we expect them to leap into bed (or wherever) at every opportunity, and if the don’t, they are either boring or frigid?

        1. Zen

          You know, I never got that either. Why do characters have to have sex when it does nothing to the plot? Why can’t we have a nice book that covers a plot and characters and leave it at that? It’s sad to think that people are now so bent on sex that they can’t even let a book pass without including a sex scene in it.

          1. theophaniaelliott

            Or alternatively a main character who’s always whining about how she’s not getting any sex – to the point you’d be willing to suffer an irrelevant sex scene just to shut her up.

            You feel like saying “Get some self-respect, girl – did you never hear of feminism?”

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