Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sex and realism

The Word-Whores topic of the week is writing about sex, and Wednesday's post "Nobody Farts During Sex" both amused me and caused some eye-rolling.

I've written sexually explicit scenes. I've written erotica too (well, I tried at least.) My characters all know that off-stage, non-canon hijinks are encouraged and getting slashed is an occupational hazard when you're starring in one of my stories.

It's not sex that's at issue with me, in "Nobody Farts." It's the intentional avoidance of reality. Farts happen, as do wet spots, sudden muscle cramps, and discovering unfortunate patches of acne/hair/moles/birthmarks/regrettable tattoos/etc. I'm sure we all could think of situations where any of those things could be used in a sexual scene to build character, charm and amuse the reader, or deliberately derail the scene to create tension.

And if you're mentally cringing... why?

Let me step back a moment. It's not for me to tell anybody how to go about their writing. I'm sure my bias is pretty obvious to anyone who follows this blog -- I take both physical and emotional realism very seriously. I strive to include those awkward details and situations because they're true and they can be just as important to the story as anything else.

Do I throw in awkward details just for the hell of it? No. Everything has its place and every place has something.

I was influenced, in this, by John Gardner's book The Art of Fiction -- about which I will write a post for the A to Z challenge in April, so I will only mention it briefly here. In the back of the book are a list of exercises which range from challenging to massively intimidating, and the one that came to my mind immediately upon reading the "Nobody Farts" post was #24:

Without an instant's lapse of taste, describe a person (a) going to the bathroom, (b) vomiting, (c) murdering a child.

Confession: I haven't written that exercise. When I first read it (as a teen), merely thinking about it was enough to rip my horizons open rather painfully. Twenty-mumble years later, I don't doubt that I could do all three of those if (a) it's what the character did and (b) the reader needed to see it in order to understand the story.

There are big questions there about Art and What Art Means To The Artist as well as The Viewer... and again, it's not my place to tell anybody those things about their own art. I can only speak for myself. I only hope to get your brain burbling about it.

And I would not hesitate to inflict farts, wet spots, or bacne on my characters -- they knew what they signed on for. The horny little buggers deserve it, practically.

Funny how quickly one can go from "farts" to "what does it all MEAN???" isn't it. :)

See also my musings on the "why" of erotica in general.


Huntress said...

speaking from the side of the fence that has read your wip, I can say you Nailed It.

I still feel like wiping my hand off.
*ack. Hate your word verification though*

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

In porn, no one farts during sex. But porn tends to glamorize things. Everyone always looks so good.

L. said...

Does it really glamorize it, though? All those mechanical, gynecological shots...?

It's a whole different argument, but one should always bear in mind that porn is NOT an accurate representation of sexuality. IMHO, YMMV, ETC.

Another excellent post topic: the use of fiction as instructional material, especially with regards to sex. We all went through a phase of deliberately looking for explicit scenes, didn't we...? :)

L. said...

I'm glad you... here, need a kleenex...? :)

I will turn off the word verification as soon as I figure out where the setting is...

Teresa Cypher aka T K CypherBuss said...

:-) Interesting post. Loved the comments as well. The thing that always grabs me when I consider writing about sex is that it is sort of hard not to realize that sex is..well...funny... and it is hard for me to get serious about it. It really isn't glamorous or perfect at all. :-) I will be back during A to Z...

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