Sure, Sex Sells but for the Love of F*ck not a the Expense of Story

Sex sells, there can be no denying that fact, otherwise we wouldn’t see (semi) naked men and women selling everything from deodorant to cars and groceries. At least I hope not.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not against sex… at ALL, but I always struggle to understand why, in this modern world, we still all feel the need to revert to sex as a means to express emotion.

The change first happened in film, where every movie, or so it felt to me, a man who in my younger years would watch between three and five movies a day, that every movie had to have a sex scene in it. Not just the allusion to one, but the whole thing needed to be played out in all its hyped up, romanticized glory. Why? Because all relationships are bonded by sex. It is what ultimately drives us as humans (as some would say), and I can accept that, but why the details?  Surely seeing the couple walk into the bedroom at the end of one shot, and lying beside each other with the sun streaming through the windows in the next is enough. Right?

We are a society that reveres sex in so many different ways, it is used as a tool to convey so many different things, from love and affection, to hate, to cover up problems, to show a character getting over a problem, beating their past by moving on… and into bed with their ‘hero’.

This movie trend is now spreading into the fiction I have been reading, with sex scenes being added not only as plot devices, but, it would seem, simply because the author felt slightly horny at the time of writing it. I mean sometimes, yes, I can understand using a sex scene, (and have included some in my most recent novel) even if it is just for the fun of writing (and or filming) it, but to throw it into the mix in a time and place that just makes no sense is stupid. Even if you can keep the pace going, make it dangerous or passionate to fit with their circumstances, as was the most recent case I can recall, there still remains the small burning question in the reader’s mind… WHY?

We have placed sex on a pedestal in our lives, we look up to it, we look down upon it, and until we can change our own view-point and stop seeing it as a naughty / disgusting / dirty little secret / perfect end to a perfect day sort of event, and just allow it to be present in our lives, things will never change. I don’t mean we should become strict schedule sex times beings, far from it, but as a collective, we need to stop viewing sex as the ultimate make or break life act.

Relationships can and do develop outside of sex, both before and after, so use a sex scene, but you don’t need one every time the sun goes down, a couple in love, seen having sex once in the book or film, it is fair to assume the audience knows what they are doing in the dark.

We may live in a world where romance is (sad to say) for the large part, dead. We decide to start a relationship based upon that first sexual encounter, and for many youngsters today that encounter comes before all other forms of relationship building. Romance can develop in other ways, it can be based around other things, and if you incorporate that into your writing. Allow your characters the chance to develop a proper, deep and meaningful relationship, then their bond with each other, and with the readers, will be that much stronger.

Please don’t misinterpret me, I am not saying this from any religious viewpoint or in any kind of no sex before marriage, wait for Mr. Right (or Mrs. Right), kind of way. The first point alone would mean my first two children should not be here. I am simply saying that, as writers, it is our job to create wonderful characters, that people remember, that they care about, and feel for, and to do that takes more than just throwing a couple into the sack and saying, there you go, they are an item.

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3 thoughts on “Sure, Sex Sells but for the Love of F*ck not a the Expense of Story

  1. Part of the problem is that in some cultures, sex is seen, even in this day and age, as taboo. it’s something that shouldn’t be discussed, so there’s some kind of thrill in pushing the envelope to see how far one can go before they get their hands slapped. With that said, sex in fiction isn’t always about building a relationship between the characters. So much of it depends on the genre. Sex in horror, which I loathe because it’s always at the most inopportune time (oh, the monster is breaking down the door, let’s have sex; there’s a maniac killing off our friends, let’s have sex; you get the idea), it is also a way to catch the characters with their pants down, so to speak. It is when they are at their weakest, their most vulnerable.

    I used to be so opposed to sex in horror, but lately, it seems to be coming into my writing more and more. One of the projects I’m working on, sex is crucial to the plot. Hell, there’s a brutal gang rape in the prologue. The rest? It’s not about building healthy relationships, that’s for sure. Another project I have on the back burner is that same way, sex is crucial to the story line. You can’t have an incubus or a succubus involved without it. I start every project with a general concept, bare bones and innocent. I don’t outline, so it’s not like I plan ahead that there’s going to be a sex scene here or he/she is gonna end up in bed with so and so. I prefer the freedom of flying by the seat of my pants. I’m the vessel through which the characters are telling their story, so if they want to screw around, then they get to screw around.

    1. I agree with you Michael, sex is a taboo and until that changes we will always look to push things.

      I have sex scenes in my writing, but they always have a point behind them, never, as is the case with so much I have been reading recently, just for the hell of it. As you said mentioned with horror moments, there is this thinking it would seem that says ‘well, it’s evening, I know let’s make them have sex. That will be good for a few more pages.

      The novel I am currently editing as several sex scenes in it, some positive, some negative, some filled with rage, and others as a result of love, and each ones moves the plot, and develops the character further. He comes from a troubled and abusive background. I would never however, throw a sex scene in for the hell of it. Relationships develop with sex as part of them, not based on that one act alone, and that is what bothers me the most.

      Thanks for the great comment.

  2. When I first glanced at this post Alex, I cringed. The issue of sex in novels has been at the forefront of my mind throughout my writing process. My Redcliffe novels do have sex scenes. They are most certainly not gratuitous. They demonstrate the depth of emotion and the passionate nature of my characters, and I don’t give all the gory details. But I still worry whether they are too heavy or unnecessary. That said, there is a lot more sex between my Redcliffe characters that doesn’t get written into the books!

    Yes of course we are familiar with the concept that sex sells. It is the motto of our generation I think. But I also appreciate that sex is central to everyone, whether they like to talk about it or not. I often talk about sex with my friends. We openly admit when we have needs and compulsions. I see it portrayed in gritty true-life drama programmes on TV (Shameless being a prime example). I find it fascinating. We seem so accepting of violence and destruction, and yet we cannot accept sex. We have to turn it into something dirty, degrading and painful. Why is that? What does that say about our society, and our cultures around the world?

    I have yet to figure that out…

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