Today I was supposed to put together a Stay-in-Bed Sampler, but I slept in a bit too much. Mostly because I watched a four-hour Jane Eyre miniseries the night before, and had no ambition to get out of bed to scour the interwebs. Instead of calling the day a total wash, I’ve decided to muse on a topic I’ve been thinking about since reading Outlander a few weeks ago: sex in books.
If you haven’t read Outlander, it isn’t really essential to the discussion, but if you have, you might understand why I bring it up. Outlander was a really enjoyable book for me, but also frustrating at times. I read from cover-to-cover in less than 48 hours, and the thing clocks in at more than 700 pages. But in my unscientific estimation, I’d say that 70 percent of the book focuses on someone who has just had sex, is thinking about having sex, is musing about the sex they just had, or trying to get over some really bad sex.
Of course, there is so much more to the book than that. The writing is wonderful, the characters superb. What I got a little frustrated with was the countless, pointless sex scenes. POINTLESS, I tell you.
Okay, I admit, some of those scenes were good and done well. I’m not a prude whose against reading about intercourse between consenting adults. Quite the opposite. Sex is part of being human, and not showing that side of two characters that clearly are in a relationship (where it occurs) seems odd to me. It doesn’t need to be a focal point — you can fade to black if you want. But virtually no mention of it is like saying your character is a doctor and then not showing any scenes in the hospital or where your character uses his/her skills or knowledge.
But on the other hand, I’m not a fan of erotica. Typically, I don’t care for books with plots that center solely around a relationship (why you won’t see me reading a lot of contemporary YA or romance). I like my plots to have external conflicts as well as some interpersonal or intrapersonal ones, and I tire of countless sex scenes. (How many ways can we describe getting it on? Infinitely in some books, apparently.)
If you follow the blog at all, or have seen our giveaway, you will have noticed that I really love the Kushiel’s Dart series. At this point you might call me out and say, Well, Anne — there are clearly numerous sex scenes in Kushiel’s Dart. Enough to make Christian Grey blush. But you seem to be fine with those.
Yes, dear astute reader, I am fine with those sex scenes. Our main character Phedre, in addition to being trained as a spy, is a courtesan in a society where sex isn’t considered shameful, but honors the gods. And what’s different about those scenes compared to some of the ones in Outlander (Jamie and Claire practically “stay in bed” for 48 hours straight), is that they drive plot and character development. Phedre is doing more than just getting her freak on. She’s usually uncovering something that moves the story along.
I really roll my eyes at scenes that are just thrown in books for purely voyeuristic reasons. It’s just not my thing. There are always exceptions to that rule, and sometimes I’m not so harsh on them, but really pointless loving can ruin a book for me. Just as much as over-avoidance of sex can throw me out of a story.
I know I am picky on this topic, but that’s my right as a reader. I know that some people will disagree with me wholeheartedly. And that’s cool. Different strokes for different folks. No pun intended, ;)
What’s your opinion on sex in books? Is there a thing as too much, or not enough? What are some books that portray sex well in your view?
I did mention this in our post — we are hosting a giveaway. Enter below and give Kushiel’s Dart a chance!
We are hosting our first (and international) giveaway for two of our favorite books in honor of our shared birthday.