Let’s talk about sex (in books)

sex artI’m reading Hyperion by Dan Simmons, and so far I’ve encountered two sex scenes: one I liked and one I absolutely hated.

I’ll be talking about them in my review, but I’m curious. What makes a written sex scene good, and what about them turns you off?

Let me go first: “Yes, yes, yes” is a big “no, no, no”!

This article on The Millions lists a few other don’ts, including “beware of sensory descriptions which include food analogies” and “avoid spiritual-religious metaphors – ‘salvation’ (Chuck Palahniuk), ‘rapture’ (Ayn Rand),” and so on.

As for the dos? Choose the right words: “All the same rules apply to sexually-charged words as apply to words about gardening or kite flying or race car driving. You can make a sentence about planting tomatoes better by making sure that it has good rhythm and pacing and correct grammar. The same is true for a sentence about kissing.”

Does sex even belong in novels? Author Philip Pullman suggested that “books were likely to deal with sex in a more sensitive way than the Internet,” according to The Telegraph. And Malorie Blackman, the newly appointed children’s laureate, said that reading about sex is safer than β€œinnuendo and porn,” which can be damaging to how youths learn about the activity.

For the adult crowd, authors sound off on who does sex well and why in this article on the Guardian. Howard Jacobson argues that “the best sex is the most implicit” — like in Jane Austen’s Persuasion: “There is no overt sexuality, no titillatory play with power and dependence … Wentworth’s hands have been on [Anne’s] body, and we never doubt that it’s her body that receives the shock of the contact as much as her mind.”

Photo credit: Flickriver