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Author Topic: Sex  (Read 10610 times)

Offline Francis Knight

Sex
« on: September 28, 2011, 08:53:31 AM »
I knew that'd make you all look :D

Anyway, this cropped up somewhere else and I thought I'd get a broader opinion.

A writer said they would have to tone down their sex scenes/fade to black if they wanted a hope of getting with a big fantasy publisher.

I said:
Quote
Odd, innit, that a rape can (and often is) graphically described in loving detail, but consensual sex? Oooh matron! Fade to black...*


*Not saying this is what writers necessarily do. Maybe they are asked to tone down the smexy time. In which case why are the rapes still so graphic? Seems arse about face to me. I know which I'd rather read...

Am I seeing things skewed here? Because I'm trying to recall any consensual sex scenes that weren't fade to black in mainstream fantasy/SF (not PNR etc). Tbh, I can't think of many consensual sex scenes at all that weren't just alluded to (at least ones where there is no controversy/taboo/other 'shock' value to it) On the other hand I can name a half dozen books with graphic rape in them (by graphic, I mean, you know, we see everything, including all the implements used and other graphic details) without even stopping to think about it much.

Now, I have a few theories as to why that might be, but am I just picking up the wrong books? Or is this a trend? Anyone else got any theories?
My tongue has been in my cheek for so long, I've eroded a new mouth.


Duellists Trilogy (as Julia Knight) coming soon from Orbit!

http://www.juliaknight.co.uk/

Offline AnneLyle

Re: Sex
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2011, 09:56:26 AM »
As I posted on the other forum, it's the old puritan ethic - sex is only allowed if you don't enjoy it. Also, if the non-sexual violence in the book is also graphic, the writer may simply be taking the same tone throughout. Admittedly I tend to avoid these types of books so I have no examples to draw on. I'm pretty sure there's a whole lot of consensual sex in Jacqueline Carey's work (which is certainly not PNR), but again it's not really my thing.

There's a consensual (gay) sex scene in my forthcoming book - it's soft focus, though, rather than graphic. The point of the scene is to show the relationship between the characters in more depth, not to explain who puts what where :)

I anticipate there may be other such scenes (of whatever orientation the story requires) in later books, but again I don't think they'll be terribly graphic, because I don't find it that interesting to write.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2011, 10:06:58 AM by AnneLyle »
Elizabethan fantasy trilogy The Alchemist of SoulsThe Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies out now from Angry Robot Books!

Offline Overlord

Re: Sex
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2011, 11:11:02 AM »
It just isn't really needed in a novel... If sex is good - awesome, it usually is. If sex is bad though, why is it bad?

You should really only go into detail on things that affect your story... good sex isn't really going to do that. Yes, it brings characters closer together, but you can just fade to black and readers know. "Jazil and Aiax kissed passionately. Jazil pushed him back onto the bed in a playful and yet firm manner, laughing as she followed him down". We know they are going to have sex and we can see it is probably going to be pretty good ;) You can also do the whole 'next day' scene where they are either getting out of bed happy or just generally thinking about a 'great night'.

Now, rape. That will affect your story - greatly. If you put a rape scene in there the consequences will last a very, very long time - probably forever and completely change that character. You can't skip over the experience really... "Jazil was forced onto her back. The masked man held her down and against her will, he took her." just doesn't work... you don't have the emotional trauma or the brutality of what rape actually is... without it, you cannot convey to the reader how a character is affected.

That is my take anyway =/
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Offline Francis Knight

Re: Sex
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2011, 11:23:02 AM »
Lol, I didn't mean 'erotica' level graphicness nesc. - just on a par with the graphicness overall. Even if the focus is softer, the scene is still there, if you know what I mean?

For instance, naming no names, but the book I am reading at the moment. Fair enough the abuse is there to show what the POV character is going through. It's fairly graphic. (personally I think it would have been more effective without the graphicness, leaving the grisly details to the imagination, but hey, that's me)

Now, when she later has consensual sex, (and this is part of her character arc, coming out of the abuse she suffered, so how she experiences it would be relevant) it comes over rather coy.

It's a disparity that seems very odd to me. But it could just be me.

I haven't read Jacqueline Carey, but I understand the sex scenes aren't exactly usual.



Overlord: Well, perhaps, but do I need to see all the gory details? Just the fact of the rape might be enough in the same way knowing that two people have got it on might be enough? (Obviously depends on the story) Maybe it's because I read fantasy romance too - where the opposite is true: Rape is usually either not there or alluded to only, the consensual sex is more on screen, explicit or 'sensual', that is, no insert tab A into slot B action, but it's clear what they are doing.  

ETA: Obviously, this will depend greatly on the story. How often do we NEED to know exactly how someone was raped?Sometimes teh details of the rape might be necessary, same as details of the sex might be. But not often, in either case if you get down to it. It just seems rather prevalent and frankly it's beginning to wear a bit thin, you know? And just sometimes you get the feeling that it's a case of 'I need this guy to be evil. I know, I'll make him rape someone, that'll do it!' or 'I need this woman to have a angsty past. I know!....'

Meh, maybe I'm just grumpy today!
« Last Edit: September 28, 2011, 11:31:43 AM by Julia Knight »
My tongue has been in my cheek for so long, I've eroded a new mouth.


Duellists Trilogy (as Julia Knight) coming soon from Orbit!

http://www.juliaknight.co.uk/

Offline Overlord

Re: Sex
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2011, 11:32:09 AM »
Lol, I didn't mean 'erotica' level graphicness nesc. - just on a par with the graphicness overall. Even if the focus is softer, the scene is still there, if you know what I mean?

For instance, naming no names, but the book I am reading at the moment. Fair enough the abuse is there to show what the POV character is going through. It's fairly graphic. (personally I think it would have been more effective without the graphicness, leaving the grisly details to the imagination, but hey, that's me)

Now, when she later has consensual sex, (and this is part of her character arc, coming out of the abuse she suffered, so how she experiences it would be relevant) it comes over rather coy.

It's a disparity that seems very odd to me. But it could just be me.

I haven't read Jacqueline Carey, but I understand the sex scenes aren't exactly usual.



Overlord: Well, perhaps, but do I need to see all the gory details? Just the fact of the rape might be enough in the same way knowing that two people have got it on might be enough? (Obviously depends on the story) Maybe it's because I read fantasy romance too - where the opposite is true: Rape is usually either not there or alluded to only, the consensual sex is more on screen, explicit or 'sensual', that is, no insert tab A into slot B action, but it's clear what they are doing.  

ETA: Obviously, this will depend greatly on the story. Sometimes teh details of the rape might be necessary, same as details of the sex might be. It just seems rather prevalent and frankly it's beginning to wear a bit thin, you know? And just sometimes you get the feeling that it's a case of 'I need this guy to be evil. I know, I'll make him rape someone, that'll do it!' or 'I need this woman to have a angsty past. I know!....'

Meh, maybe I'm just grumpy today!

Haha - no, I get you. It is like, if you pick up books like True Blood or say Kelley Armstrong's work you expect sex... in-fact, your probably buy it (in part) for the sex. But, if you buy something like The Painted Man or a Traditional Fantasy book you don't really expect to find it. If I was reading Lord of the Rings and a big sex scene was sat there on the way to Mordor I would probably think it was stupid. If I was reading a book by Kelley Armstrong about a hot woman charged with a wolves heat I'd read it and be happy that it fit :) I think it all depends on the tone of the book and your intended audience :)
Founder: http://fantasy-faction.com
Editor: Fantasy-Faction Anthology (Aug 2014)
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Host: Fantasy-Faction's Grim Gathering

Offline Francis Knight

Re: Sex
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2011, 11:46:18 AM »
Oh I know target audience has a lot to do with it - I read certain things when I want hot sex lol.

My point was, why this disparity in detail? If the consensual sex is alluded to, why not the rape? If the sex doesn't need to be graphic, why does the rape need to be? For instance, while I had a lot of problems with the Painted Man, the rape happened off screen. The girl's reaction to it was the important bit, not what bit went where. The details weren't needed. The reader was aware of what a horrifying experience it was. And that's what you need to know, how it affects the person. You don;t need a blow by blow account for that (well you might on occasion, but not often)

In the same way I might just need to know that two people got jiggy and had fun and how it affects their relationship etc, then I often just need to know that someone has been raped, or the barest details. That's often, to my mind, a lot more effective*. Less is more and all that.


*One of the most horrifying (true) accounts of abuse I read gave no details of the actual acts other than : 'The monks would come into the dorm every night. We would pretend to be asleep and pray their footsteps wouldn't stop by our bed. And on a night when our prayer was answered, we would have to listen to some poor soul whose prayer had gone astray.'
My tongue has been in my cheek for so long, I've eroded a new mouth.


Duellists Trilogy (as Julia Knight) coming soon from Orbit!

http://www.juliaknight.co.uk/

Offline Overlord

Re: Sex
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2011, 12:04:00 PM »
Oh I know target audience has a lot to do with it - I read certain things when I want hot sex lol.

My point was, why this disparity in detail? If the consensual sex is alluded to, why not the rape? If the sex doesn't need to be graphic, why does the rape need to be? For instance, while I had a lot of problems with the Painted Man, the rape happened off screen. The girl's reaction to it was the important bit, not what bit went where. The details weren't needed. The reader was aware of what a horrifying experience it was. And that's what you need to know, how it affects the person. You don;t need a blow by blow account for that (well you might on occasion, but not often)

In the same way I might just need to know that two people got jiggy and had fun and how it affects their relationship etc, then I often just need to know that someone has been raped, or the barest details. That's often, to my mind, a lot more effective*. Less is more and all that.


*One of the most horrifying (true) accounts of abuse I read gave no details of the actual acts other than : 'The monks would come into the dorm every night. We would pretend to be asleep and pray their footsteps wouldn't stop by our bed. And on a night when our prayer was answered, we would have to listen to some poor soul whose prayer had gone astray.'

Very true. Perhaps then a lot of it depends on how good the author is at doing things too. If you can do a really good, really sexy scene and it works well in the novel - do it. Look at people like Brent Weeks or Peter V. Brett or James Barclay for example - they are really good at doing fight scenes so they do them blow by blow. Other authors such as Tolkien or Jordan (from what I hear) like to pan out and give the aftermath because they are not so good at writing that kind of thing. Yet, they can portray the reaction well enough after.

A good question indeed - got me thinking on it now ;)
Founder: http://fantasy-faction.com
Editor: Fantasy-Faction Anthology (Aug 2014)
Author: "Son of…" in 1853 (2013)
Host: Fantasy-Faction's Grim Gathering

Offline Overlord

Re: Sex
« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2011, 12:04:28 PM »
Oh I know target audience has a lot to do with it - I read certain things when I want hot sex lol.

P.S. I am saving this in a quote box somewhere ;)
Founder: http://fantasy-faction.com
Editor: Fantasy-Faction Anthology (Aug 2014)
Author: "Son of…" in 1853 (2013)
Host: Fantasy-Faction's Grim Gathering

Offline Cherie

Re: Sex
« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2011, 01:37:14 PM »
Julia, I have a feeling I know which book(s) you're referring to. The rape was pretty detailed and drawn out, and had a good few pages dedicated to it, but when it came to the sex, it was a bit wishy washy in comparison.

In some ways, I can see why it happened that way around: 1st person narrative, so a certain amount of detail is inevitable. Maybe the author decided that by lingering on the mechanics, the character could avoid the emotional impact. At least temporarily. I mean, how many people in a car crash can vocalise the terror of the accident, but can easily describe the crunch of metal, the shattering of the glass, the almost impartial thought of 'that's going to hit me'?

Also, if I'm correct with my assumption, the author has said that she can't write good sex scenes.

Offline AnneLyle

Re: Sex
« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2011, 01:42:45 PM »
I'm also a believer in the less-is-more school of squick. One of the most harrowing things I've ever seen is Guido Fawkes' signatures before and after he was interrogated (i.e. tortured). You don't need to see the gory details - the pitiful scrawl of a man unable to even hold a pen properly, never mind form letters, tells you everything you need to know.

I wonder, though, if it's just easier for a lot of writers to describe the physical violence rather than try and get inside the head of the victim?

ETA - cherie beat me to it, dammit!
« Last Edit: September 28, 2011, 01:44:43 PM by AnneLyle »
Elizabethan fantasy trilogy The Alchemist of SoulsThe Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies out now from Angry Robot Books!

Offline Jon Sprunk

Re: Sex
« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2011, 02:16:28 PM »
A big part of it (which I think Overlord was referring to) is that consensual sex is a release, while rape builds conflict, and modern novels live and breathe on conflict.

I don't necessarily believe it's the best practice for all stories, but it seems to be the general approach.

Offline Nighteyes

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Re: Sex
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2011, 02:18:54 PM »
I do get Overlord's point for earlier but just like the best horror films and books are the ones in which you rarely glimpse the monster, the most terrifying rape scenes are surely the ones that leave you yourself filling in the details. Nothing creeps you out more than your own imagination. And there does seem a worrying tendency for fantasy writers recently throwing in rape scenes to their novels cos it makes it more gritty and real in their opinion. Why do you need rape to make your novel more gritty?why not have your characters suffer from the horrible ailments that plagued medieval society?have them in pain every time they take a shit cos of their horrible piles, but I guess rape sells, and painful dumps dont?
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Offline Mark Lawrence

Re: Sex
« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2011, 02:33:05 PM »
GRRM puts in moderately graphic sex scenes with POV characters & whilst rape happens it is (as far as I can recall) off screen.

Whilst writers may vary, the writing process alluded to in some places in this thread is alien to me and sounds more like cookery:  Tastes stew, stirs it, tastes it again... "Hmmm, perhaps a sprinkling of sarcasm?" Reaches for the tub and shakes a light dusting into the mix. Tastes again ... "No..." Another stir. "Oh. I know. A dash of rape is what it needs." Reaches for narrow bottle, twists off cap, three drops... another for good measure. Tastes again. "Ah, that hits the spot."

Possibly some folk cook their books. Me, I'm in the moment, seeing it, dreaming it. What happens next? what happens next? Write it down. What happens next?

The idea of wooing a demographic, shocking them by numbers ... is that the way some readers envisage it, or really how some writers write? I sure don't know.

Offline AnneLyle

Re: Sex
« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2011, 02:36:40 PM »
I was going to say that there's no rape in my book, and that's technically true - but there's some in characters' backstories that I only hint at very obliquely. Sometimes people don't want to remember...
Elizabethan fantasy trilogy The Alchemist of SoulsThe Merchant of Dreams and The Prince of Lies out now from Angry Robot Books!

Offline Francis Knight

Re: Sex
« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2011, 02:37:23 PM »
Just a quickie - on phone at work. Shh lol

Not the book you're thinking of cherie - it's not in first person

and not to say I'm any less guilty either (I find it much easier to write graphic violence than sex of any sort...), but I think it's something to  consider. And gosh, consensual sex can be fraught with conflict!

Crap, look busy. Here comes the boss

ETA: to correct abysmal spelling due to new phone...

And also

Quote
Whilst writers may vary, the writing process alluded to in some places in this thread is alien to me and sounds more like cookery:  Tastes stew, stirs it, tastes it again... "Hmmm, perhaps a sprinkling of sarcasm?" Reaches for the tub and shakes a light dusting into the mix. Tastes again ... "No..." Another stir. "Oh. I know. A dash of rape is what it needs." Reaches for narrow bottle, twists off cap, three drops... another for good measure. Tastes again. "Ah, that hits the spot."

I'm the same as you - I 'discover' as I go along in teh moment, I don't plan ahead, but some writers do (and you can still tweak on subsequent drafts even so, if the story takes you a place you want to rein in)I know of one who writes a detailed outline half the length of the book before they start writing the prose and yes, they do add and take away things like that. But what I meant to say was sometimes it feels that way, if you see what I mean. The first two scenes from Bad Person POV are of them raping someone. Almost as though so we can tell they are Bad Person straight away. It's...I don't know, maybe a shortcut to actual characterisation in some occurrences. Or it feels that way. If it was a book about a serial rapist, that's different. When it isn't, it feels different. And in some cases (when handled badly I suppose, I dare say I wouldn't notice as much if it was done well) it's just gratuitous.

To me, gratuitous anything isn't good. Of course one person's view of what constitutes gratuitous will vary from the next person's. Or maybe the next person likes gratuitous...

It's a knotty problem. I just thought it'd make an interesting subject.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2011, 03:19:41 PM by Julia Knight »
My tongue has been in my cheek for so long, I've eroded a new mouth.


Duellists Trilogy (as Julia Knight) coming soon from Orbit!

http://www.juliaknight.co.uk/