Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sexy is as Sexy Does?

Er… Or not. I have very definite opinions about sex in literature, and oddly, they are more conservative than my opinions about sex in film. I can watch Eyes Wide Shut, or even Caligula, and feel rather hot and bothered (Dick of Death not so much, pornography still needs a plot). But the point of reading, in my opinion, is to let the imagination take some of the slack. I’ve been trying to analyze this… Why would a tart be annoyed with sex in literature? The analysis leads me to the conclusion that I am not offended by sex. (Seriously, how could I be? Without sex, there goes the human race.) I just usually find it fairly ridiculous when the details are put into words. Further circumspection reminds me that at age 15 the love scenes in Princess Daisy were very gratifying. Romance novels offered a taste of what I had yet to experience for myself. Now however, I just find such scenes laughable. Why? The eye of experience? I haven’t tried everything (rumors to the contrary notwithstanding) so even a very descriptive scene, if truly unique (think the Clockworks in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues--Yam oil--an email heading a likeminded twisted freak once sent with nothing in the body… yeah… I can get worked up if you truly appeal to something that has never occurred to me before). In fact Tom Robbins nearly always arouses me in ways the romances don’t. Why? Because he writes sex so fabulous it sends a stick, an old sock, and a can of beans on a transcendental journey. Who has sex that great? I know I’d like to. There are some song-writers who get it. Red Hot Chili Peppers and Cherry Poppin' Daddies both have songs that hit it right. Sir Psycho Sexy and Dirty Mother Fuzz are my favorite examples. In fact just this morning I heard Chad Kroeger from Nickelback singing, "I'd like to cover you with jello in the tub, and roll around for hours like we're never coming up." Now that is hot. (Then again Chad Kroeger could probably say 'I'd like to watch you folding laundry, scrubbing floors and pulling weeds' and I would get hot and bothered. Still. It's a good line) The point is, it is the outrageousness that crosses the act from ‘been there, so what?’ to ‘oh my god, I need to shower.’ Most sex, even with a glorious, hunky stranger, is just sex, as adults have had sex. My other issue is typically parts. Is there a word for penis that isn’t more funny than sexy? Tell me ‘throbbing member’ doesn’t make you laugh. You can’t can you? How about a ‘sizable shaft’? Are you giggling? These are words that distract from what it is they are meant to display (pun probably appropriate, if not intended). I would rather experience a sex scene from an emotional perception level of one of the parties (I could feel his eyes undressing me from across the room), or occasionally from a physiological perception level, but not from a bird’s eye view. And honestly… it still needs to move the plot forward. Oddly, in fantasy I often like sex because it is associated with some magic or atrocity or spell. Dark fantasy in particular I seem able to overlook all but the most ridiculous descriptions. But again, it is the fact that there is some component that makes it unreal. My mind even goes there inappropriately (am I the only one to wonder what the Imperious Curse was REALLY used for?) My conclusion is that sex in fact is a rather silly, ridiculous thing, unless we are in fact one of the participants, or it is written to appeal to a very personal angle. It involves unattractive parts and awkward movements that require high levels of hormones to overlook. It isn’t like what is written, though it is close enough to what is written to remind anyone who has been there that it is in fact impossible to get from point A to point B without adjusting ones self in an embarrassing way. In twenty-five years I’ve had maybe a dozen sexual experiences that would make somebody ELSE hot to read about were I to write them play-by-play (and I’m not sharing)--and those mostly because of scene or situation. Mostly it is only because we are in the moment ourselves, and not thinking about them, but rather experiencing them, that we enjoy it so much. I know a great many people disagree. The romance genre is very popular, so perhaps I’m the freak. I just prefer to be entertained with outrageous details, or given an idea that has never once occurred to me, or else invested in the emotions of the moment. I’m not interested in heaving bosoms or electrified loins. I mean, seriously? If it is just normal sex, I will be far more aroused if my own imagination can fill in the blanks.


Kevin Morgan said...

I tend to agree. I find textual intercourse to be both bland and obtrusive -- most of the time. There are a few rare instances that haven't caused my eyes to perform a 100-yard dash over the offending literature. (Some George R.R. Martin depictions, though some of his are overblown too)

It's not that I'm prude, not in any evend could THAT be considered a reality. I am, in fact, quite overly flirtatious and open to the point of fault. It's just that most writers seem to lose their ability to write well when the topic turns to sex. Some internal literary checkmark becomes unticked and the writer regresses to "The Sexual Silliness Zone" (TSSZ).

Some writers in TSSZ try to maintain their composure by covering up their embarassment with Tolkein-esque like descriptions, describing each pubic hair and rigid thrust with almost religious fervor. While others use strange almost alien terminology: "He slid his pulsing skin sword into my pink sheath." WTF?

I cast no dispersions, no word-coated stones, at people who enjoy this thing. People will have their preferences and that is fine. I just firmly believe that the way it is handled in many books causes harm to the plot itself. Merely because, in my eyes, the world must feel consistent to a degree, and the authors talent is the glue that holds it all together.

Kevin Morgan said...

(btw) Sorry for the unfinished thought of the last paragraph. Big boss walked over and I posted without thought. My point should be understood well enough without rephrasing though :o)

Watery Tart said...

TSSZ... Now THAT is a concept I can get behind! And why I like Tom Robbins in particular... he is SO bizarre and out there that you can just giggle and enjoy it.

And I agree that to get into minutae or to completely go metaphor both fall flat. It is just such an individualized thing.

And thank you for reading!

Anonymous said...

One way to get around mention of body parts is to stick to the emotion of the scene. How the characters are feeling, how they are emotionally connectd or disconnected. And of course, how it advances the plot. Without being connected to the story in a basic way, sex scenes really are a bit silly.

Terry Odell said...

It HAS to be about the emotion, or it's just a sex scene, which tend to be clinical and boring. (You neglected "manroot". And there has to be a connection to the characters, as I discovered when I tried to write a "Sex Scene" instead of a "Love Scene." I'd include the link, but your comments won't let me copy and paste, and I'm too lazy to type out the direct link URL. But if you search my blog using "sex scenes" it should pop up. Jan. 11, 2008 was the posting date.