Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I Hate Sex

Okay, how many of you saw this yesterday and said, "Huh?" I hit the wrong key and bam, it published. Simple fix of course -- tip for you -- before you do any writing on your post, fix the date on your post options and you won't have the problem of being totally embarrassed like I was.

Back to the real post.

I hate sex... in books. There, I've said it. And I know I've pontificated (Hi Donna *waves*) on this subject before, but I have to rant today.

I've been working on my Regency romance. As you may, or may not know, I don't write sex in my books.** I have sexual TENSION. I have tons of angst. I have passion filled kisses. I do not have sex. Not that I have anything against the act itself, I just don't want to write it, or read it for that matter. (And just so you know, I CAN write it, I HAVE written it, I have three sex scenes in my files just in case I ever did want to put it in my books.)

I recently acquired three new (pubbed in 2010) Regency romances. Two by NYT best-selling authors, one from a debut. The books were fantastic, (especially the debut -- soooo jealous), I read them in a day. (One a day.) The plots were great, the characters were great, the writing was great. Until I got to the sex.

The first book hit me with a sex scene on page 27 (which is kind of quick), and had four more sex scenes as well. And I'm not talking about regular missionary position kind of sex, I'm talking wild screaming monkey sex. Do I really want to read that?


The other books weren't too bad, the sex scenes were the "usual" and there were only two per book. However, each of them were between 5 and 7 pages long. WHY?

Because the authors described each and every little thing that happened. BORING!

To me, reading 7 pages of sex is like reading 7 pages of narrative on the correct way to wash dishes. Good Lord, we all know how to wash dishes and I'm presuming (as we're all consenting adults) we all know how to have sex. If you need to learn how to have wild screaming monkey sex, then go find a copy of the Karma Sutra.

As writers we're told to cut the crap out of our manuscripts, we're told to polish polish polish, make it shiny. So why the hell do we need to have 7 pages of sex? Wouldn't 3 have been enough? Do we really need to know ALL the details? Why are publishers publishing this?

Because sex sells.

Okay, call me a prude, call me a Puritan (I am orginally from New England), call me whatever you want, I don't care. I just don't see the need for sex scenes just to sell a book. Give me a great plot, give me characters who are real, give me some angst that doesn't involve heaving bosoms and eyes that bore into my soul.

I once queried an agent who said, "If you have an historical romance, can it stand by itself without the sex? If you took out the sex, would you still have a good book? If so, then you don't need the sex."

So why is there so much out there? Are readers in the Regency niche market not getting any? Are the ladies reading my genre all voyeurs because that's what it amounts to in my mind. I wouldn't like someone peeking in my bedroom window watching me do the horizontal shag. Which is why I don't read it. I'm not a perv.

And I can hear you all -- It's just a book, they're not real people. I know, I know. But still. Sex to me is a private act between the two people doing it. And you know what -- It's all the same. Pick up any two historical romances from any year, or different years for that matter, read the sex scenes, they're pretty much the same. You can only do it so many ways. (again Karma Sutra). And after awhile, it just gets boring. Like ham on rye with mustard.

Why does sex have to infiltrate such a sweet genre like Regency romance? Has anyone read Georgette Heyer? For God's sake, Jane Austen was a TRUE Regency romance writer and I don't think there is even a KISS in Pride and Prejudice. And you CANNOT tell me, THAT wasn't a GREAT book.

Question -- How many of you skip the sex scenes in the books you read? If you do write romance, do you write sex?

**To clarify -- I don't write sex in my Regencies. I write sex in my contemporary romances but even that (I think) is tasteful and most of it happens behind closed doors anyway. I like to leave some things to the imagination. Which, I think, is the real reason I don't write it.


Bish Denham said...

I'm with you Anne!

I haven't read a book with a sex scene in it in a long time, unless those half page (or lease) scenes in Carl Hiaacin's books are considered sex scenes. HA! :O

Matthew Rush said...

I completely agree. Reading about sex just bores me for some reason.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

LOL. I'm taking a writing course on how to write love scenes. In my YA books, there are no descriptions of the act. Oh wait! None of my mcs so far have gone all the way . . . yet. I'm into reading sexy romances (either erotic romance or stories that a few hot love scenes). I enjoy the sex when it's done well. As I'm discovering, I'm not alone. But for people who hate sex scenes, there should be some sort of warning so you don't have a heart attack or something. And if you don't like writing sex, don't. It will come off sounding awful and contrived, and no one wants to read that.

Anne Gallagher said...

Bish and Matthew -- Oh, thank you. I'm so glad I'm not the only one. I was beginning to think I was frigid.

Anne Gallagher said...

Stina -- In today's market, I think between the vamps and the weres having sex, or trying to, the industry has misconstrued the value of ROMANCE in the romance industry. I'd rather read about the LONGING instead of the GETTING.

Laura Pauling said...

I don't mind. I'll read it. But the books I read usually don't have it, or it's done very tastefully. I personally like the fade out. I've never written a sex scene b/c I've only written for kids! Though I love sweet kissing scenes.

Francine Howarth said...


No, I don't mind reading the sex scenes so long as they have purpose (not slotted in for effect), but then, I cut my published writing teeth on erotic romance novels.

In my latest historical the heroine is partial seduced, and pleasures of the flesh stir all manner of mixed emotions and sense of confusion!

Later, there's a near rape scene: it doesn't happen, but feminine wile and knowledge of men's inner desires (previously unknown before introduction to sex) sees dexterity of hand save the heroine's viginity for another day and the man she truly loves.

On the otherhand, the hero and heroine do get down and dirty, but he's been gone two years and well, what better way to celebrate his homecoming?

I don't see reading sex scenes as being voyeuristic in a romance novel, if befitting the moment!

Re Jane Austen, whom never had a lover let alone a full-blown one (and other spinster novelists who never experienced an orgasm), she shied away from sex the same as she shied away from the complications that make up the aristocracy and correct address' required in the company of such. She sensibly stuck with her own social standing and below, and to some extent so should many historical novelists of today, for far too many have characters adressing the aristocracy quite wrong and, openly present them wrongly within text. Correct usage and terminology in aristocratic circles is a etiquette minefield for the unwary. ;)

I've heard writers say they won't write sex scenes because readers might rate their skills in the love stakes on how steamy the scene is. If I'm rated a Shameless Harlot, so be it.


Anne Gallagher said...

Laura -- Yes, tastefully. That's the key. And it's what I don't see very often.

Francine -- Yes, as long as they have purpose. I'm sick of seeing the man as a predator and the woman as prey. Re: Jane Austen -- That's why I love her so much. She stayed within her class and didn't try to mix. Love can be found anywhere.

Correct usage and terminology in aristocratic circles is what research is for and I've done quite a bit so I feel good about my writing.

jbchicoine said...

I’d rather read 100 pages of sexual tension and omit the sex scenes altogether. I agree that it’s a private thing and I don’t need to read about it. I'd much rather spend my time reading/writing a well developed plot and interesting characters.
Very well stated post! Thanks for the refreshing, if not unconventional viewpoint!

Tracy said...

Depends on the book. Sex doesn't bother me at all. I don't mind the more erotic sexy romances, so long as I know that's what they are ahead of time.

Personally, I think it's hard to write any kind of romance without having some sort of reference to sex...since that's what people DO. But, sometimes a mention is all that's needed. I agree, most non-erotic romance stories don't need to go into a blow by blow account.

Linda G. said...

Um...I like sex. :) I think it's an integral part of life, and thus just as appropriate to write about as any other aspect of a character's life.

That said, I totally believe in different strokes for different folks (no sexual innuendo intended). If someone prefers not to read it (or write it), that's perfectly fine. Diversity in all things, including taste. :)

Christi Goddard said...

My first MS has a sex scene. It's a paragraph long. My other three stories have no sex at all. I do tend to skip sex scenes in books I read. I'm just not into reading about it.

Summer Frey said...

I like to read about sex, but I've actually only included one sex scene in each of my books--and one of those is mostly just the buildup (coitus interruptus). The sexual act has deep emotional impact on the main character, so I'm definitely more in their head then in their pants, you know? And even then, they're not more than a paragraph or three long.

But yeah, the tension is always better than the outcome, though I certainly enjoy reading my fair share of outcomes.

Anne Gallagher said...

jb -- Thanks for stopping by. Yeah, 100 pages of sexual tension, THAT's what makes a good romance.

Tracy -- It is what people DO, I agree, but I think less is more in most cases.

Linda -- Don't get me wrong, I like sex too, love it as a matter of fact. I think it's one of the funnest things people can do with one another. Diverity makes the world go round.

Christi -- See now, a paragraph would be okay to me. 7 pages is too much.

Summer -- I think if the sex moves the story along and isn't just there to be gratuitious (ie.sell books) then it's useful.

Lydia K said...

I can't write sex scenes either. It's just not my cup of tea. I don't mind reading the scenes, but I don't go out of my way to buy a book for that. I 'm much more interested in the story itself.

Damyanti said...

I don't mind a well written sex scene, but more often than not, I find myself blushing for the writer and his/her skills, not due to the lovemaking in progress.

As a literary writer, sex scenes are not my forte and I haven't written much of it. I can imagine it would be a challenge.

As to liking or disliking sex scenes in reading or writing, everyone has their personal tastes, and if you'd much rather not, don't read or write it :)

Justine Dell said...

Oh, what an intersting topic. As a romance writer (and one who dabbles in erotica), I must say this topics hits home.

I do write sex scenes. I read them. I love a good, trashy romance/erotic story every once in a awhile. For me, it nevers gets old. But sex has its place. Sex scenes that are just thrown in for the sake of it are tasteless. Sex, in romance AND erotica, needs to have a point. It needs to be a defining moment. It needs to pull the story forward. If it doesn't, then meh ...

I don't mind the details. I don't mind short and sweet. I don't mind hard and fast.

The reason for a sex scene is to bring the H/H closer together. Do it behind closed doors if you wish, but if you write romance--you've got to do it.

Excellent post!


Susan R. Mills said...

I couldn't agree with you more! Gratuitous sex scenes seem like such a waste in any genre, including Romance. I almost always skip the sex scenes.

Bossy Betty said...

I think when it's done well, it seems natural. It's the books that prepare me about five pages in advance and then launch the sex scene that bug me. It's like, OK, now let's get back to the story.

Anne Gallagher said...

Lydia -- That's what I'm saying. The story comes first.

Damyanti -- but more often than not, I find myself blushing for the writer and his/her skills, not due to the lovemaking in progress.

another reason why I generally don't read them.

Justine -- EXACTLY!!! Sex needs to have a point. A defining moment, which it is at some point in our real lives, why can't they do that in books too.

Susan -- Welcome to the club.

Anne Gallagher said...

Betty -- Yes, I agree, let's get back to the story. Enough canoodling.

VR Barkowski said...

Excellent post, Anne. First off, seven pages is not a sex scene, it's an anatomy lesson. If there is a sex scene, it should involve conflict, move the story forward and/or reveal something about character that can't be better revealed in another way. I don't write romance, but I have written a couple of intense sex scenes. The longest was one page, and the scenes were *never* about the sex.

Like any scene, sex scenes without conflict are tedious and boring, often no more than a litany of body parts. Mention more than two body parts and I'm going to skip over the scene.

Em-Musing said...

A great post!!! LOL! When I pitched at RWA Nationls in Orland, the agent kept asking, "There's no sex?" "No," I said, "these characters just met. The second book has sex." "But there's no sex in the first book?" she kept asking. Alas, she rejected my manuscript.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i like to read sex scenes. They're fun. But just like every other scene in the book, it needs to have a purpose and preferably relate to the conflict. Whether it's a sex scene or a conversation between two people at a coffee shop, if the book reads the same without them, then they need to go.
But, that said, i'd say a lot of romance readers pick up romance books for the sex. It's part of the genre. It's like saying you want to read a dystopian without the darkness. Also, though, i was surprised to hear how much sex was in those regency romances you read.

Anne Gallagher said...

VR -- Excellent comment!

Leigh -- Shudder at the thought she rejected you for not having sex -- in the book. What a goob! Good thing she rejected you.

Sarah -- See, that's what I'm saying. If I ever decided to really come up with a number of pages per sex scene the first book had it would probably be around 50. Why do I want to read 50 pages of sex? I could just watch a porn flick and be done with it.

But also, the name of the genre is romance and I know that some romance involves sex but...isn't romance about finding love? And not necessarily sex. I've loved men without having sex with them. Deeply loved.

Hannah Kincade said...

I love a good sex scene but I agree that it does need to flow just like any other scene. Although who's to say that sex can't be romantic? Romance is about love and sex. You can have both it's not one or the other to me thas why if I pick up a romance book I expect some sex. Not every other chapter, which happened in a book I read once, but through the natural course of things? Sure, why not? If it makes sense to the characters and the book the author is trying to write, so be it. To each their own. I would put down a book for having too much or too little of sex as along as it made sense.

Patti said...

Seven Pages???? That's way too much, maybe a page at the most.

What's funny is I can read a sex scene, although not my favorite, but when I listen to a book on CD, I often skip over those sections.

I like what that agent said, if you take the sex out do you still have a story, that's a great guideline.

Jamie D. said...

Seven pages of sex would bore the crap out of me...I'd be skimming after the first couple, and I'd get bored writing it too.

I do write sex, and I like reading it as well, if it's there for a purpose. In my romantic suspense books, the sex scenes are graphic, but always short (I don't think I ever have one longer than 2 pages - and rarely more than three per book, if that)...because it's not *really* about the sex, but rather about acting on tension that's been building and the emotion that happens during the act, and then the ramifications of those actions (often more conflict). The graphic nature of my scenes is to intentionally cause an emotional response in the reader - I want the reader to confront the same high emotional tension as my characters in that moment, so they can understand and be right there with the characters for what comes next. The emotional impact to the reader wouldn't be the same without the sex, IMO.

I've put down books for too much sex, and I've eschewed authors for no sex when I thought it would have been better to have it (after reading one or two books). A lot depends on genre too - I'm writing a thriller at the moment that probably won't have any sex, and if it does, it will be vague and non-graphic.

But to each his/her own - I do have a warning on my books so that those who prefer not to read sex don't mistakenly wade into mine. :-)

Anne Gallagher said...

Hannah -- Yes, I agree, if it makes sense to the characters. But most of what I've read recently has been just sex for sex sake, just to sell the book. Hate that.

Patti -- I couldn't even imagine listening to it on audio tape.

Jamie -- it's not *really* about the sex, but rather about acting on tension that's been building

Yes, that's what I mean I guess. If it's the natural progression for the characters, then fine. But just to throw it in the book so it could sell. No.

And I don't mind reading it, if it's tastefully done, but like VR commented, most of what I've read lately is just an anatomy lesson.

Shannon said...

Seven pages? That's way too much! I'd skip it.

Personally I don't mind reading it if the scene is needed and it's tasteful and doesn't go into great detail. I'm the same way with movies - I don't need to see it all for it to be enticing.

Melissa Gill said...

Gosh, I can't remember the last time I read a book with a sex scene in it. Probably because I write MG and YA and read mostly books in those genre. I don't mind them, but I don't dog ear the pages like I used to in eighth grade either.

I wonder if people are so drawn to YA these days because while there is sex allowed to some degree, it's necessarily toned down. All the tension without the anatomy. Who knows.

I would like to read a good Regency Romance, can you recommend any?

Cheree said...

7 pages of a sex scene, now that's a bit too much information. I thought I would mind reading these scenes, but the ones that I've come across handles it smoothly and it doesn't bother me. But, I still can't imagine me writing a scene like that, I guess I'll have to wait and see if that situation comes up at any point.

Stephanie said...

To each their own. That's the great thing about our country..everyone is free to do what they want, read what they want, write what they want.

I don't particularly like drag on sex scenes or books with scene after scene after scene. Or sex scenes that are pretty much impossible and cause me to roll my eyes. But I do enjoy the sizzling stuff! Not because I need a sex manual. Most romance novels feature individuals who have never been together...a new romance. It's exciting...reminds us of those flutters in the beginning of our own relationships!

Anne Gallagher said...

Shannon -- My point -- tasteful. There was none of that.

Melissa -- I'll send you mine. Just joking. Let me see what I can dig up and I'll email you.

Cheree -- thanks for stopping by. And if you should ever find one, let me know what you think.

Stephanie -- I meant no disrespect, I know that's what you write. And I didn't mean to imply that everyone needs a sex manual. I'm just frustrated by the best-selling authors out there who have sold out to the market and don't care what they write anymore.

Yes, a new romance is exciting. Romance always is. However, when characters just jump into bed with each other for the sake of the book, without any proper feeling, especially in Regency romance, well, then I become offended.

G.~ said...

I have to agree that 7 pages is too much. I don't mind a sex scene as long as it's well done.

I haven't written any myself, but that's because there's been no purpose for it in my ms.

Great post.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't like to read sex in a book either. (And the genres I read usually don't have any.) I certainly couldn't ever write it. Hey, I'm a married man - why read what I can just go do?
And "wild screaming monkey sex" is going to stay with me for a very long time. In a humorous way, of course!

Theresa Milstein said...

It's like movies, they throw it in because it's expected. And it's never quite like real life.

I wrote in a sex scene for one YA, which has very little detail. It made sense for the characters. I didn't want to fade to black, but I didn't want to go overboard. I think I struck a good balance.

notesfromnadir said...

To me it depends on the type of book. I've read some romance books that were overloaded w/ it & others where it was implied. I think the latter was better as everything is hinted at.

Most of my books don't have it. But when I wrote those books about a narcissist, sex was necessary as the guy's basically a sex addict. It wouldn't be honest to not write about this guy's #1 habit!

MB Dabney said...

Oh good heavans, Anne. I wish I had seen this post earlier today -- or what you had yesterday.
Sex gets people's attention. It did with me with this post. Would it have been a good post without being about sex? Yes. But would as many people have read and commented, may not.
As to the particulars, my personal policy regarding sex is pretty much the same as with violence or offensive words. If it fits the situation and the character, it stays. If not, it goes.
In my current novel, I have one sex scene -- less than a page long -- and it may be a little racy, though the women I have asked to read it say it isn't. I always let a woman be the judge on such scenes.
Again, great post. It's a worthwhile discussion topic.

Stephen Tremp said...

Maybe I'm a fuddy duddy but I don't like reading about sex in books. I have one two-page sex scene in my book, but its quick and I use this as an opportunity for a beautiful female assassin to try and kill the protagonist.

Francine Howarth said...


Me again.

I can't remember if you're a pubbed writer or not: if the latter, then this publisher would be a good bet for you:

Avalon will not publish books that have gratuitous sex or profanity of any kind. When they say gratuitous they mean anything beyond a kiss and hint at more, and please skip the details of what occurs. Basically breathless blissful kiss beforehand, and rearrangement of clothing post-coital pleasure. :o

They do publish lovely romance books. ;)


Jayne said...

Seven pages?!! Oh my. I think VR above sums that up nicely!

It really all depends on the story and how skilfully the scene is written - tension and longing can be more of a thrill when reading, and whether the sex scene moves a story along, or is just, well, plonked in for no good reason!

Anne Gallagher said...

G~ -- Thanks for stopping by. Yes, 7 pages is just too much.

Alex -- Well I'm glad I gave you something to think about for a while. (The wild screaming monkeys.)

Theresa -- Yes, exactly, when it makes sense. Don't just throw it in there just because the guy's randy.

Lisa -- That's the way I like to read too, when it's hinted at.

Michael -- Thank you. And I agree. It is a topic that should be discussed.

Stephen -- Hey that's cool, sex and murder. I like that. I might even read it.

Francine -- My #1 pub house that I will request when I get an agent.

Jayne -- Didn't VR do a nice job? tension and longing -- my two key words when I write.

Paul C said...

Teens and young adults may be curious and want their horizons extended, and maybe they already know more than we ever knew at that age...I'm with you about exploring the tension in as many (narrative) angles as possible.

Elle Strauss said...

I skip the sex scenes. I'm quite happy with my sex life, I don't need to live vicariously through fictional characters. And I agree with you, sex is a private matter between two people--it's not supposed to have an audience, which is why I dislike it in movies as well.

Saumya said...

I agree!! I don't think I have ever read a book or watched a movie where a sex scene did much. Sometimes the indication of one leaves more to the imagination!

Shelley Sly said...

I rarely read genres that have actual sex scenes in them (just sex implied or the "fade to black" kind of deal) but when I do, I tend to skip over them. Nothing against sex itself, but the reason I'm reading is not to envision a sex scene, but to enjoy a story. There's not usually much story during sex, anyway.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

You've written an intriguing post, Anne. I think it is perhaps a sign of how publishers think we think. Passion over compassion. Lust over love.

Can there be love without sex? Your example of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is a great one. Many of the most heart-wrenching YA romances have nary a sex scene in them.

I have of the dumbing down of America. Now, perhaps it is the hollowing out the heart of America?

Great post. Roland

February Grace said...

okay- so weird, I did get this the first time (it wasn't there when I clicked) but when you put it up later dashboard didn't register it! *waves fist* curse, you Blogger!

I was anxious to read it because having talked with you about this before (when we first 'met' in fact...) I knew how you felt about it and sister, you're preaching to the choir here.

I TRIED to buy a couple historical fiction books last year- just to get the feeling of if I'd ever try to write one, and the ones I picked up off the shelf had me blushing beet red before I left the store- and I had just opened to random pages. Not only was there sex or near-sex very often (Yawn...) but it was, well, so badly written it was actually embarrassing.

This is one reason I may never get published even if I had the desire to try for it anymore (still really considering that) because I just don't write that way.

I know I've heard Anne Allen say similar things about that kind of writing, and how she too wanted witty women's fiction- it can't just be the three of us, can it? There have to be more of us.

It's a shame that witty, smart writing isn't considered enough. It would be enough to get the money out of my wallet- when I walked out of the bookstore empty handed after the books I looked at.

Nobody made any money off of me that day, and it wasn't an exceptional day, it's become the rule.


ali said...

Girl, you can be my BFF. We're like THIS on the sex scenes thing. I love Nora Roberts. Sometimes. I love the sexual tension, the romance, all the "getting there" and then I have to go *flip*flip*flip* through all the pages of sex that isn't even the point of the story. The point of the story is all the stuff that happens around or instead of the sex. Leave it to my imagination and I guarantee, I'll like it better than whatever you tell me about it!

Go you!

The Words Crafter said...

This was great! I'm still wearing a big fat grin on my face. The 'screaming monkey sex' quip made me laugh out loud!

I totally agree with what you said. It's been so over done, it's a cliche. I don't like to read it, and I won't write it. However, I did just remember that my antagonist has a couple scenes that are disturbing....but I promise there's a reason. And, I haven't edited it yet. I'd like to find a way to convey the same ickyness of his nature and the why, without having it in there...

This is likely one of my favorite posts, ever!