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Sex in books too much or not enough?

A place to debate issues or to rant about what's on your mind. In addition to discussions about historical fiction, books, the publishing industry, and history, discussions about current political, social, and religious issues and other topics are allowed, so those who are easily offended by certain topics may want to avoid such threads. Members are expected to keep the discussions friendly and polite and to avoid personal attacks on other members. The moderators reserve the right to shut down a thread without warning if they believe it necessary.
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wendallpauls
Scribbler
Location: Kansas

Postby wendallpauls » Sun September 7th, 2008, 6:23 am

I've read a few posts on this topic repeating the common refrain of "sex sells". Well, yes - it does; but the response I have to that is precisely who is buying? If authors think they have to include steamy sexual liasons between their characters to sell their book, they obviously don't hold much confidence in their ability to spin a successful narrative or a compelling plot. And as far as romance goes - though I might get chided for this comment - what does sex have to do with romance? Is not romance the chemistry that results between a male and female character when there is an unexplainable attraction between the two that is conflicted by their obvious differences?

Sex has its place in books, just as sex has its place in real life. Without it, after all, none of us would be here to talk about what place sex has in the books we read. But if it merely something used to titilate a bored reader into paying attention, it defeats the whole purpose of any creative soul taking up pen to paper and laying down the words that would become the story that grabs the hearts and minds.

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wendallpauls
Scribbler
Location: Kansas

Postby wendallpauls » Sun September 7th, 2008, 6:32 am

I forgot to add in my previous post - the book I am currently reading, Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight", some 250 pages into it I have been very impressed by the lack of sexual encroachment between the two main characters, where other stories would most certainly have these two teenagers in bed together already. It creates more of a romance between the two because they can't really touch each other as readily as two normal teenage kids might.

Of course, I might be sticking my foot in my mouth here, not knowing if this respect and restrain both are showing for the other is done away with by a sexual liason somewhere past page 250, but upto this point in the tale it has been a treasure to read of a romantic relationship between two characters based upon actual attraction to the people these two are, rather than the physical personas they show in the presence.

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EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
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Postby EC2 » Sun September 7th, 2008, 9:40 am

As always it's a matter of balance and the sex being appropriate to the book in question. In a historical, I expect the characters to be aware of the social mores and taboos of their time and to behave within those expectations (one of the reasons I sometimes have problems with romances - although not all of the time. It depends on the author). I prefer the bedroom door not to be shut in my face; I like to see some intimacy between the characters because the way they act and react in bed will point up aspects of their personality and their relationship with each other, It's also a form of closure on what has gone before.
Distilling all this, I am fine with the door being closed. I prefer it being left open, but the scene needs to be well written and of relevance to the novel. Gratuitous, anachronistic sex/attitudes to sex, will lead to a wall bang.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Postby EC2 » Sun September 7th, 2008, 9:45 am

"wendallpauls" wrote:I forgot to add in my previous post - the book I am currently reading, Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight", some 250 pages into it I have been very impressed by the lack of sexual encroachment between the two main characters, where other stories would most certainly have these two teenagers in bed together already. It creates more of a romance between the two because they can't really touch each other as readily as two normal teenage kids might.



Absolutely. This is one of the most powerful books I have read re the build up of sexual tension and with nothing going on below the neck! It captures those first hormonal, swimmy feelings of adolescence perfectly. Whatever one's overall opinion of Stephenie Meyers (and I like her material a lot) I think that authors can learn a massive amount from the way she builds that tension into the novel and readers seem to appreciate it.
Les proz e les vassals

Souvent entre piez de chevals

Kar ja li coard n’I chasront



'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'


Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal



www.elizabethchadwick.com

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Leyland
Bibliophile
Location: Travelers Rest SC

Postby Leyland » Sun September 7th, 2008, 1:27 pm

I'd like to read a range from a few paragraphs up to two pages describing tender foreplay and distinct sexual tension between the two characters that clearly tells me what is going to happen once the door closes. I'll understand their relationship well enough without further dissertation! I don't want minute details regarding intercourse that go on for pages.

I'd also rather not read much at all if the female character is being raped. Simply setting the scene by describing the assailant's violent intentions and the victim's terror is enough. I don't need a graphic image in my mind of the act itself.
We are the music makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams ~ Arthur O'Shaughnessy, Ode

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Sun September 7th, 2008, 1:44 pm

"Leyland" wrote:I'd like to read a range from a few paragraphs up to two pages describing tender foreplay and distinct sexual tension between the two characters that clearly tells me what is going to happen once the door closes. I'll understand their relationship well enough without further dissertation! I don't want minute details regarding intercourse that go on for pages.

I'd also rather not read much at all if the female character is being raped. Simply setting the scene by describing the assailant's violent intentions and the victim's terror is enough. I don't need a graphic image in my mind of the act itself.



Perfectly said. I don't mind some tension and lead up to the bedroom door but I don't want all the details either. I'm currently reading one that while classified in the romance genre it too well written with good historical details that it saddens me she has to throwing too much sexual detail into it. She's established several couples as happily married with a good sex life. Do I really need to read that she's grabbing his you-know-what over and over? In those instances less is more. Oh well, to each their own.

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Sun September 7th, 2008, 1:48 pm

"wendallpauls" wrote:But if it merely something used to titilate a bored reader into paying attention, it defeats the whole purpose of any creative soul taking up pen to paper and laying down the words that would become the story that grabs the hearts and minds.



Well said WP. I know some of you here don't read romance books because of that but there really is a difference between a well written book leading up to the tension between two characters and those written solely for the purpose of constant sex to titillate the reader. I prefer the former, they can be good entertaining reads when one can find them.

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Spitfire
Reader
Location: Canada

Postby Spitfire » Sun September 7th, 2008, 4:03 pm

[QUOTE=Misfit;3169]Well said WP. I know some of you here don't read romance books because of that but there really is a difference between a well written book leading up to the tension between two characters and those written solely for the purpose of constant sex to titillate the reader. QUOTE]

That hit's the nail on the head you two! That's right, what does sex have to do with romance! I would much prefer to have a well written book developing a keen emotional tension between a couple, to a book that is just throwing sex in there for the titilation factor. Now, like EC says, if the bedroom door is left open (in a well written book), you can learn alot about the characters by how they respond to each other sexually. But these scenes should be appropriate to the story plot and written with the characters personalities in mind. Some books I've read, you can almost predict how the sex scene is going to play out...like they just cookie cuttered the sex scenes and dispersed them liberally throughout the novel. Ugh! :(
Only the pure of heart can make good soup. - Beethoven

Ash
Bibliomaniac
Location: Arizona, USA

Postby Ash » Sun September 7th, 2008, 4:09 pm

"Spitfire" wrote:[QUOTE=Misfit;3169]
That hit's the nail on the head you two! That's right, what does sex have to do with romance! I would much prefer to have a well written book developing a keen emotional tension between a couple, to a book that is just throwing sex in there for the titilation factor. Now, like EC says, if the bedroom door is left open (in a well written book), you can learn alot about the characters by how they respond to each other sexually. But these scenes should be appropriate to the story plot and written with the characters personalities in mind. Some books I've read, you can almost predict how the sex scene is going to play out...like they just cookie cuttered the sex scenes and dispersed them liberally throughout the novel. Ugh! :(


Couldn't have said it better myself, yes! (btw Misfit, the reason I don't read Romance novels is not so much the sex scenes tho thats part of it. Its that they either don't have an interesting story, or the writing is horrid. But if you could give me a few examples of ones that would change my mind, Im all ears. BTW the best Historical Romance in my opinion is Far Pavillions. Little sex beyond kissing, but the tension and chemistry was awesome

BTW I think the above quote goes for violence in books. I can handle Penman and Cornwell's details of violence in battle or real life because it fits the story. I can't handle violence for its own sake, esp torture when there is no reason to include it.

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Sun September 7th, 2008, 5:42 pm

"Ash" wrote:[QUOTE=Spitfire;3199]

Couldn't have said it better myself, yes! (btw Misfit, the reason I don't read Romance novels is not so much the sex scenes tho thats part of it. Its that they either don't have an interesting story, or the writing is horrid. But if you could give me a few examples of ones that would change my mind, Im all ears. BTW the best Historical Romance in my opinion is Far Pavillions. Little sex beyond kissing, but the tension and chemistry was awesome

BTW I think the above quote goes for violence in books. I can handle Penman and Cornwell's details of violence in battle or real life because it fits the story. I can't handle violence for its own sake, esp torture when there is no reason to include it.


Ash, I so agree with you about The Far Pavilions. Ash and Juli just smoked off the pages and I just cried at Ash's pain when he had to watch Juli be married, let alone the whole suttee thing. It doesn't get better than that.

As for romance, when I'm in the mood I do not go for the currently printed stuff. Might be good, but I'm not willing to risk it. Here's a list I did on Amazon of romances that stretch the genre, you might find some there.

I would highly recommend Olivia and Jai (you do like stories in India I know that much). Roberta Gellis' Roselynde series is good and a recent find of mine is an author called Celeste De Blasis. She packs a lot of historical detail into her books, and though the sex at times is a bit over the top IMO (just skip past it) it's worth the effort. Take a look at The Tiger's Woman and The Proud Breed. I've got TPB on my pile, it's set in old California.


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