I usually read a lot. Several books a week along with writing but at the moment I’m working on three different projects at three different stages of the process (editing, revising and writing) so I’m so busy I’m not able to spend as much time as I like reading other people’s books.
Anyway, I’ve picked up two books recently where I’ve just had to put them down. The thing is, one person’s wallbanger is another person’s keeper. I totally believe this is true. There are books I hear folks raving about all the time but when I read them I just wasn’t engaged at all.
Here comes the part where I ramble about sex in books and a great many things I find myself annoyed by…
One thing I notice a lot is how sex is used in a book. Now not everyone writes erotica or erotic romance. Not everyone puts big sex scenes in books and that’s fine too. But one of my biggest peeves is how authors will toss in multiple, totally gratutitious sex scenes in a book. I don’t know why they do it. Perhaps it’s because sex sells and people think that more is better. I don’t know. Sometimes, more IS better. Sometimes that’s what the book calls for. Sometimes not so much.
A sex scene is like any other scene in a book. It should propel the story in some direction. If it’s just filler, it’s useless and it reads that way. Put from my perspective – it’s a wasted opportunity for great character interaction. Sex is rich with opportunity for an author! If you use it, use it wisely. If I skim past a sex scene, it’s not really motivational for the characters. Can I skip past large blocks of other scenes with the same effect? If so, same thing – you’re not utilizing your words.
There are authors who don’t have long detailed sex scenes but who understand the complexity and importance of a sex scene. It’s not the level of graphic words, it’s not page count – it’s content and purpose. Look at Nora when she writes as JD Robb – when Eve and Roarke have sex there’s a reason for it. That’s why the physical chemistry between them resonates with readers so deeply. Roberts understands how to use sex effectively even though she’s not writing 24 page sex scenes. There are authors who do write long, detailed sex scenes who DO know how to use them effectively (several of them blog right here at The Bradford Bunch) Sadly, I see a lot of stuff that mistakes quantity for quality and the use of certain words as shortcuts to try and seem sexy.
I’m not an expert more than anyone else is. I write sex. I like to write sex and so perhaps when I read, I see it differently than other readers do. I’m sure I’m far more nitpicky than some people can be. For instance – I don’t care how gargantuan his penis is, it’s not going into the heroine’s womb. The head of a penis can bump the cervix which can be painful or pleasurable depending on the woman, the time of the month and hell, the day or level of arousal. But the womb is closed, penises do not go into them. Now, there are times when a woman’s uterus contracts – often during orgasm and she feels THAT during intercourse, but that’s not a penis in her uterus.
Also – some things are just plain painful. If an author is going to use backdoor play in her story – can she please avoid scenes without lube or (cringe) double dipping? It’s not safe to have the fingers/toys or a penis go from anus to vagina.
In many scenes a little goes a long way. As in – just because you have him dangling her upside down from the side of a building, singing the national anthem with sparklers in his ears while attempting four movements from the Kama Sutra, doesn’t mean it’s “hot” – no, sometimes it makes me cock my head and wonder just how bendy any one human can be. Most people aren’t double jointed.
And I was just discussing this with someone who will remain nameless earlier today – what is with the gagging scenes during oral? I’ve noticed this as a trend in porn too. Maybe I’m alone in this feeling but it’s not sexy. First of all, have people actually gagged? Because it’s not a pleasant thing. Second of all, while I’m sure a great many people have triggered the gag reflex while giving oral sex, it’s usually not on purpose. Sounding like one is about to vomit doesn’t ring my bell and I tend to wonder about the dude whose bell it does ring. Again, this is just *my* perspective and I could totally be wrong and gagging could be the sexiest thing since Gerard Butler in a leather kilt.
Anyway, I’ve just finished a huge edit/revision so I’m braindead. The best you get from me today is a ramble. What are your pet peeves with sex in books?
BTW – I’ll take the folks who reply and toss the names into random.org and choose a winner for an ARC of Standoff – you have until 2/10 at noon pacific to reply!