Discussion → So, yeah, sex sells, but that's not why!

  • Fictionaut.thumb
    Meg Pokrass
    Sep 06, 03:19pm

    any thoughts? People think i write stories about sex because it gets published, it "sells" and blah blah blah. I know that i write stories because they interest me, and i just ignore them.

    Any one want to start a conversation about the pros and cons of writing and publishing stories that others consider "erotic"?

  • Tux.thumb
    Gary Percesepe
    Sep 06, 05:59pm

    dunno, meg.

    what i know is this: when i had to write an extended sex scene for my novel (feeling it was necessary to the character arc, plot, etc), i found it terrifying to do. mostly because there are so many ways to go wrong, to fail, utterly.

    do i think the big sex scene will get read, will help sell some books? um, yeah--

    but that's not why i wrote it.

    then again, who knows why i write anything, really?

    interested in other folks chiming in here--

    one other thing--as hard as it was to write a bog sex scene it the novel, editing the sex scenes that others write is no fun, either. it can be as embarassing to write as it is to edit, or more so--at least for me....

  • Tux.thumb
    Gary Percesepe
    Sep 06, 06:35pm

    "bog sex scene," on reflection, seems interesting to me--

  • Rg.thumb
    Roxane Gay
    Sep 06, 07:18pm

    Anytime you write about sex someone is going to get uncomfortable and make ridiculous assumptions about your motives as if sex isn't a fundamental aspect of the human condition.

    When people say "sex sells," they are often being dismissive and that really gets under my skin. It is so easy and simplistic to say sex sells and it is so disheartening that in this day and age, we still have to worry and fret about writing sex into our stories.

    Admittedly, I have a real bias on this subject because I've been writing and publishing erotic fiction for the past five years. It was the erotica community that embraced my writing when the literary publishing community would not.

    A great many of my stories are sexually explicit. I recently had a story rejected from an editor who said he enjoyed the story but didn't want his magazine to publish work that explicit. And that's totally fine. But it really amplified, for me, the reality that any time you write a literary treatment of sex, people see the sex more than they do the words detailing the sex. I've never thought about writing sex because it sells. I write about relationships more than anything and as I tend to be more grounded in realism than anything else, people in relationships generally have sex. I don't want to dance around the subject or be coy about it.

    Gary, I definitely agree that many things can go wrong when writing sex. There's nothing more uncomfortable than a badly written sex scene save for, perhaps, having bad sex.

  • Clapper.thumb
    Dave Clapper
    Sep 08, 11:23pm

    When I spoke to high school students a while back, I generated a laugh by pulling out various print mags I'd been in, and then tossing each aside with a comment about the kind of sex that was in the story I'd written, and that while they could certainly handle hearing those stories, their parents might not have been too happy to have had them hear the stories. So I read other stuff that was more "suitable" to high school students.

    But one of the kids, during the Q&A, asked why I wrote so much about sex (they'd been encouraged before I came to google me and read what they could find, and several did). I said that sex makes for some of the best conflict in fiction. One kid later came up and seemed shocked by this: "What kind of conflict can there possibly be in sex?" He was clearly a virgin.

    I can't think of a single sex scene I've written that isn't dense with conflict, whether it's good sex, bad sex, or something in between. It's intimate, raw, and, at least at one particular moment, leaves characters more exposed and honest than in any other activity.

    How can any evolved writer NOT write about sex?

  • Me2.thumb
    Elizabeth Hegwood
    Sep 29, 01:17pm

    I joined this group so I could be part of this discussion, since it's been on my mind lately. Writing sex scenes, that is. Which is, as Gary said, just about the hardest damdest scene to write. For me, anyway.

    Meg, I think you're right to ignore those complaints. Because the question is really: the work is sold to whom? read by whom? published by whom? And if the work was just a piece of junk with good sex in it, only junky places would be interested, which clearly isn't the case.

    Same with anything, really. I guess you could apply the same question to writers who incorporate genre elements into their writing, and I've known some very talented writers to do this and it works in a way straight-up "genre" doesn't.

  • Stephen_stark_web2.thumb
    Stephen Stark
    Oct 03, 02:04pm

    I think Dave is titally hard on—I mean totally right on—when he says "I can't think of a single sex scene I've written that isn't dense with conflict." Bad sex scenes are usually bad because they're superfluous to the story. It's hard to imagine that sex really does sell just because it's sex these days when there is such a proliferation of freely available porn, and probably way more explicit and freaky than anything in your average steamy novel. But then I may not get out that much.

    I've been accused of writing a decent sex scene, and I've barred my children from reading that novel until they're 18, but it'd probably gross them out anyway. The thing is, these scenes are really not about people in 'nice' places in their lives, clear on their motives, etc. I can't think of that many memorable sex scenes, and those I can remember, the way I might remember some other fictional moment, tend not to be dense with conflict.

    If I could write erotica, then I probably would. What kind of conflict could there be in sex? Wow. Wow. Wow.

  • Hedge.thumb
    Oct 06, 03:38pm

    The thing about sex scenes, is that they tend not to be about sex at all - it's the other stuff, that's happening at the same time, that tends to be more important. It's kind of like writing good dialogue - the real important things are buried in pleasantries, disjointed conversations.

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