Let’s Talk About Sex

Those of you who’ve happened upon this post looking for something, well, dirty… Move along pervs. We’re talking books here.

My favorite cynic said, “Everything in life is about sex. Except sex. Sex is about power.”

Its true. Or, at least, we perceive this statement to be true because of that incessant mind-fucker, Freud. In 1900, he published The Interpretations of Dreams, in which he tore open the human subconcious and showed us the ugly truth; everything, subconciously or not is about sex. Tall buildings? Male sexuality. Hills? Female sexuality. Stairs? Doing the nasty. Falling down stairs? Gatos…

What does this have to do with fiction? Everything. Thanks to Freud’s symbols, writers (like myself) who find it difficut and awkward to write full on moaning and pounding sex scenes can slather on the tension using just about anything other than sex. In this century, everything is a euphemism. Food, in my opinion, is used most often. Or rather, the act of eating food. To write sexual tension into a meal is to take what is probably the most boring act in the world of fiction an turn it into something that will make the reader sweat.

Say what?

Here’s an example:
In Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749), the title character and a woman, Ms. Waters, sit down to a meal of fried chicken. B-O-R-I-N-G on the surface. But in the description of the meal, Fielding skillfully draws out the sucking, gnawing, groaning, and licking of bones and fingers that go into the consummation of the meal. Yes, I chose that word on purpose. Jones and Waters weren’t comsuming chicken; they were consuming each other – their desire for each other. Read it, and you’ll never eat KFC the same way again.

“Sex is about power.”

Consider the manatee. The female will remain in heat for a month. The male will spend the entire month smashing heads with other males as he tries to get to the female. The winning male (essentially the one with the hardest head) does the nasty with the female, then loses interest. Its a conquest. Winning the female equates power and dominance over the other males. Not unlike the human. Just saying.

Again, what does this have to do with fiction? Most sex scenes (Harlequin excluded. Ick.) have nothing to do, on a deeper level, with the physical act of getting down. Lets use a really sick example for this:

In Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, the fifteen year old protagonist rapes several girls (some prepubescent) throughout the book, referring to it as “the old in-and-out.” These rapes are narrated, straightforward, instert tab A into slot B sex scenes; but are told in such a way that the sexual particulars aren’t important. What is important is the nonchalance with which the protagonist approaches the acts – how normal the violence is. The sex isn’t about sex. Its about power, violence, and dominance. Its used as a tool to show how truly fucked up this character is.

So, to recap: Everything is sex. Sex isn’t sex. Frustrated aren’t you? Good. We writers love that. Happy Reading.

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4 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Sex

  1. Ooooh! Quoting Mr. Wilde, are you? Way to hook a reader on your post. That's one of my favorite quotes ever. And you mention good old Freud too! I am squeaking out loud in pleasure. Yes, symbols are everything in writing. It's often the case that, the more symbols in the scene, the more you talk to the reader's subconscious, the more poignant the scene is. In my opinion, writing about eating fried chicken beats knowing who put what where. Although…Just like your second example. It depends on where you, the author, want to put the focus. Writing is all smoke and mirrors most of the time. Our goal is to evoke emotion, and to that end we must consider every approach we've so that we pick the one that best serves our purpose. My friend, you've left me speechless. That doesn't happen often to writers, you know?

  2. You quoted my favorite. Mr. Wilde says the most wonderful things. Awesome post Katrina. I have tried to explain this very thing to people. I'm pointing them here from now on. It doesn't have to be a full on blow-by-blow (pun intended) of every single action and groan and noise and…never mind, the point is that a sex scene can be about so much more than just sex and should be. PS They're my favorite scenes to write. Just ask Henry about Whitney. There's a girl you'd like too.

  3. Wilde is by far my favorite person to quote. I left you speechless, Henry? Gatos… That leaves ME speechless. So glad you enjoyed the post, guys. 🙂

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