Saturday, 23 May 2009

Sex again, I'm afraid

Yes, once more I am addressing the tricky problem of sex in fiction. (Well, more trifling with it, really, running a finger down its silken skin, feeling a warm, pulsing... Stop! That'll do, thank you.)

In my novels I am a follower of the less is more method; on the theory that most of us have been there, done that, and know the geography. What is going through the character's mind is usually more enlightening and more interesting. Also, it's frighteningly easy to make the reader cringe or roar with laughter.

I've been on writers' forums long enough to see the same topics rotate like medieval crops, and one perennial is Post your sex scenes here. There is no shortage of writers eager to do this. Okay, so they are taken out of context, and one has to make allowances, but if I could quote some of them without hurting feelings I think you'd agree with me that the cringe/laugh factor is way higher than the wow/amazing factor.

Sandie Dent spoke for me when she said, 'Most of us like eating, most of us like sex - but if a writer described a character eating a meal in the sort of detail that most sex scenes employ... well, you can imagine...

He lifted the fork, shiny and smooth, held it tenderly in one hand. It felt good. His other hand moved rapidly towards the knife, grasping it firmly, feeling its weight. His plate was waiting.

"Christ, I love roast potatoes," he growled.

... and so on. I can't type anymore because I'm laughing too much.'


  1. Dining and sex are very closely relatated. Tony Richardson proved it with that wonderful scene in "Tom Jones".

  2. Just so. The case rests, m'lud.

  3. And as it is with many meals, not to mention holidays, birthdays, and bachelor parties, the anticipation is often the high point of the proceedings.

  4. Aha, this is just one of the occasions when fiction has the edge on real life.

    When hero finally gets it together with heroine, the results are entirely satisfactory to both parties. At least in the sort of feelgood novels I enjoy and write. I leave closing chapters filled with angst and disappointment to others.

  5. It must be a British thing then, cos the French love to describe all things gustatory (and sexual too).

    Chocolat, Tampopo (admittedly Japanese), Babette's Feast and of course the daddy of them all La Grande Bouffe.

    In England we have Peter Greenaway's rather sordid (both culinary and sexually) The Cook, The Thief, The wife and Her Lover". Says it all really.

    I do write about cutting into a coq au vin, by an MC with the surgical precision she demonstrates in using a hypodermic needle to chastise the flesh of those she judges to be morally tarnished ...

  6. That'll be it, Sulci - I'm not French!

    Though there is a big worldwide market for erotic fiction, I believe. And cook books, too...

    No one's mentioned Nigella Lawson yet. I wonder why not?

  7. I think in most men's minds, Nigella is a fantasy figure, not a meat on the bones sexual being as it were ...

    Delia Smith likes football, yet she is still too homely to ascend to fantasy status I guess.

  8. I never watch cookery programmes myself; I wonder how many men do these days?

    (For the recipes, I mean, not to watch Nigella in close-up, eyes half shut, caressing a morsel with her full, red lips...)