Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sex and Violence

So this time rather than having a stunning insight for you, I have a question. I covered this a bit with my bias early on in the blog, but the basic issue is, what's with sex versus violence in writing? We can show incredible acts of violence and torture, but people get up and arms about an honest sex scene. My philosophical quandary: Why can I show someone's head being blown up when I can't show someone giving head?


  1. Maybe Alice and Cobweb, in your book WEAVER'S WEB, could cut through this tangled knot of a question.

    Is a consensual sexual act for pleasure only more "taboo" than sex that could conceivably produce a child?

    Do we need to keep "sex" this kind of vague, not-in-focus silly-putty blob, not too well defined, so it can be constantly, quickly redefined to meet society's needs and purposes?

    Do we need to keep violence right out there, constantly jamming our brains, so people accept the fact that some day, they might be required to commit it?

    Why is so much sexual activity described as painful/humiliating/destructive, not productive of character or love and/or growth or couples bonding through intimacy and/or to make better parents?


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  3. deb brought up a valid point. I put sex and violence on two ends of a scale. Unfortunately in real life as well as writing they are often the same thing. Without safe words.

    Me, I was focusing on down to earth, mutually agreed upon sex. Maybe not the great kind when you are vulnerable. But the kind where you wake up the next morning and something is slightly different, with you, with the other person, with the relationship. I posit this happens even with drunken one night stands. Character occurs there that we need in order to continue our character without a weird gap.

    This country blames the puritans a lot for how uptight we are, but looking at history, really? There weren't that many of them. How many people were there before them? How many came afterwards?

    There was one point deb came upon that fascinatingly, I had come up with the exact opposite answer. She mentioned that sex can be pushed to the back of the mind, but we had to have it beaten into us that one day we might have to commit violence.

    I would have said the opposite. I have studied fantasy's stats, and we aren't really widely read in the crews of our country who still face daily violence. That said, I think those of us who have violence in their worlds don't have to be prepared by a novel. They blip over it as obvious in a novel. The drive bys already taught them about violence.

    However, for the white bread, middle class, upper educated stat that most of us fantasy readers are, we aren't prepared for violence. A fantasy book can't do it. All the books and warnings and movies and self defense classes at the Y can't do it. Violence is all gloss and adventure when you read about it. It is far away. We don't see it as making us more violent or more prepared for violence. We go through our lives with violence as something very far away that will never affect any of us. Until it does. Then your world changes dramatically. And if it is a certain kind of violence, or maybe even a certain kind of sex scene that makes the flashbacks a little too easy, you skip that scene in the book.

    Meanwhile, we all have a sexuality. I don't care if you are the Dali Lama or the Pope. Even castrati and those who have undergone FGM have a sense of their own sex. And it is there all the time. What is that stat that all the guys quote when you are still in a dorm about how many thoughts about sex guys versus girls have in a day? I don't remember the number. I just remember answering them that I had only had one thought about sex my entire life. It started when I was born and was currently happening. Sex is here all the time and it is powerful. You can sell it--literally. You can sell it--figuratively on TV, movies and ads. Everyone's obsessed with who is having it, who isn't, who wants to, and how to do it.

    But sex is dangerous. Again, I'm not even talking torture and rape here. Sex changes how we think of ourselves. The first time we have sex makes us into adults in this culture. Marriages, mutilations, burkas, stonings, chastity belts--from forever until now, we try to control sex. It is powerful. It can cause chaos. It can mess up our supposedly well ordered lives.

    As much as we want it, it is really fricking scary. Way scarier than violence until real violence has happen to you. If you are lucky, you will never meet violence. But there is no way you can avoid sex.

    We package and repackage to make it okay, but at the end of the day, a powerful sex scene--full on, no holds barred, even without the damn euphemisms I'm told I must use, raw sex is a game changer. Whether or not you think it is hot, it is honest. The one thing we are all afraid to be about sex, in case that sets it free.