Apr 28, 2011

X is for X-Rated

Just something which I thought of while trying to work out what to write about for X (damn that letter!).

I'm not a romance writer, and my book isn't about sex, but I do think sexuality is an important part of a character. So, I make reference to, and give very mild descriptions of, sex, at a couple of points in the novel. These scenes are important, but far from graphic. I've read several YA novels with more detailed descriptions than I used.

At what point does content become considered "x-rated?" And how should sex be used in fiction?

There's a trend in urban fantasy to use sex as part of magical ritual. There are times when a character must have sex with a supernatural creature to gain more power themselves. It's an interesting choice for a writer.

I think my book might be different, though. It's not detailed in Locked Within, but if the book sells well and I'm able to continue the series, I will expand on how people in this supernatural society live their lives. That will include differences in day to day life, including sex.

In this world, sex is a very human thing. It's an expression of love between two mortals. Other creatures might try to replicate it, seeking to understand the intimacy that can exist between two souls, but they can't truly feel it. These creatures may use it to seek power, dominance, create offspring, or to try and understand the connection humans can have with one another, but with so many stories out there where humans are lesser beings, unaware of the pleasures enjoyed by powerful beings, I want to tell a story where mortals have something that immortal beings can never have. I want their impermanence, their very nature as limited beings, to be what gives them the strength of will and love to bond with one another.


  1. As a reader, I am uncomfortable when confronted with graphic sex in a novel. Or on film for that matter. I prefer subtle. I prefer the older films when it was hinted at and my imagination could take over. But as a writer, I have had to write a rape scene and it was the most difficult thing I've ever written. How much, how little to say. This is a thought-provoking post

  2. Having read your ms, and being opposed to graphic sex and erotica in movies and books, I can say that your treatment of it was fully within the bounds of good taste. Yes, there was some sexual content but it was there as part of the plot development and was done in a way that even I, Miss Prude, did not object to.

  3. Karen Walker: Oh, subtle is always better. I don't find it uncomfortable if something is more overt, but I sometimes find myself wondering what the writer/director is trying to achieve, and how I would have done things myself.

    KarenG: That's really good to know. They're the kinds of scenes I have the least experience writing, because for a long time I wasn't certain I had the maturity as a writer to handle the matter tastefully. I'm glad that their relevance to the story is clear.

  4. I love your distinction between human love/sex and supernatural beings, and the fact that you consider humans to be unique. Very interesting post, Paul.

  5. I don't know if sex in this world is always used as a love connection, in fact I know it always isn't. Though that was what God originally intended it for, it's become a bit...hmml..skewed is the word. Sex is used to sell milk these days. I mean, I ask you??

    The global problem with human trafficking for instnce. This is where women and young boys are used. and in this case sex is a weapon, a definie negative thing where it was intended to be a gift.

    As for graphic sex in YA novels, well that's just sad. and we need to be mindful of what we're putting out there. Sex in adult novels, however, is fine. Like you said, it has to be tasteful and relevant to the plot of the story.

  6. I think it's subject to interpretation but a novel can include sex without being X-Rated. It's all in the delivery.

    My topic of the day for the A to Z Challenge is "X-Rated" as well but it has nothing to do with writing or novels so I like how we're all so different in the way that we use certain words and subjects.

    The Madlab Post

  7. Paula: Humans are unique and special. We're awesome when we want to be, and capable of so much beauty. I think it's a shame that so much fantasy fiction relegates humanity to a lesser status.

    D.U. Okonkwo: Skewed is a good word for it, I think. I'm going to be a parent in a couple of months, and I would hope I can raise my child with a mature understanding of sex.

    Nicole: Delivery is definitely vital. Even the most clear and direct love scenes can be beautiful without being graphic.

    On the note of what you've said about us being different, I have to say I love that we can all have such differing feelings on important topics, yet we're able to discuss them objectively and with maturity. I've seen a lot of online communities, and writers are the most open and accepting of differing opinion I've seen.