Modern authors feel ‘commercial obligation’ to write about sex?

Modern authors feel ‘commercial obligation’ to write about sex, Julian Barnes says – Telegraph.

This is one subject which always baffles me. How much detail do I need to write about my character’s intimate lives in?

Having read the article above, I realised that I fall on the prim side of the sex scene bandwagon. In fact, one of the reasons I am so comfortable writing Young Adult Fiction is that having detailed sex scenes is frowned upon for YA… it makes it easier for me personally.

This doesn’t say anything about my personal life by the way… no matter what the reader / critic might think. The reason that I have trouble with them is that…

…I find writing sex scenes difficult. How much detail do I go into? What language do I use? If I use the medical terms, it sounds too dry; if I use erotica phrasing , I can’t write for laughing and if I try to use the kind of language that appears in soft porn magazines, it comes out stilted and useless.

I’ve attempted to write erotica. I hit all the wrong buttons every single time.

I’ve tried very hard in The Tower and The Eye (it might be sword and sorcery, but the characters demanded intimacy!) series to write any scenes like that in a tastefully raunchy fashion… I’m not sure if I managed it, but I’m sure I’ll get told if it doesn’t work – that’s what 1 & 2 star reviews are for after all!

It’s a sad fact that I’m more comfortable with battle and horror scenes than I am with the sex scenes. *sighs*

What about you? What are your thoughts on this subject? Comment below and maybe I’ll feel better about it!

4 thoughts on “Modern authors feel ‘commercial obligation’ to write about sex?

  1. I am with you. I dislike reading romance anyway but erotica leaves me cold in more ways than one.
    Sex is a primal force that drives human society but we all know what goes where, so perhaps it’s just unneccessary to over-egg the pudding with detailed descriptions. For me it is. My most recent release The Bet could have easily been overwhelmed by erotic scenes since a powerful theme is sexual obsession, but it’s not the insert tab A into slot B side of it that drove me to write it, so slots and tabs are kept to the barest minimum.
    If scenes of a sexual nature are crucial to the actual story, fair enough, but even then, I can’t help feeling that too much is very much about consciously or unconsciously pandering to fashion.

    • Exactly – since 50SoG came out, I’ve had people asking me “Why don’t you write a book like that? You could make lots of money…” as if writing is just about money!

      Sex is a part of human nature and it’s one of those things that makes teenagers giggle and surreptitiously read books with sex scenes in corners of the library, but I’m not going to put a sex scene into a YA book unless it’s pertinent to the story…

      • I think a lot of people who don’t write (and many that do) have little understanding of that subtle thing called artistic integrity. Choosing to write in a genre or a manner that is not true to your self or true to the vision for a particular story is really asking for trouble.

  2. Personally, I’ve never even tried to write a sex scene. I’m sure I could, but I wouldn’t want to. The line between erotica and porn is a very fuzzy one – some would say that it doesn’t even exist! – and therefore I couldn’t go near it. And I don’t feel any commercial obligation to write anything – my woeful number of actual sales is evidence of that!

    Of course, I can still write about love and romance. I half expect someone to accuse be of false advertising when they read ‘The Empress’s Lover’, since it sounds like it might be a bit raunchy, but in fact it’s about a love affair with no sex at all!

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