Is there such a thing as too much sex? Not in real life, obviously, that would be a stupid assertion. I’m talking about in fiction and in particular in erotic novels. Is it possible for a novel which bills itself as ‘erotic’, to have too much sex in it at the expense of plot and character development?
This is a question I posed in 2009 in this blog post. The general gist of that post was that at the time I’d read a few novel length stories that had so much sex in them, I found myself scanning the sex scenes rather than reading them properly.
To quote from the post…
…I’ve found myself scanning the sex scenes rather than reading every word. I’m looking to see if the scene in question is significant to the story, or just there for the sake of having a sex scene.
…sometimes the sex seems to have been ‘tacked on’ to the story, possibly because author feels it’s been a while since we had a sex scene and this is a sex story, after all.
I then compared how I felt about these novels with two of my own, Kissed by a Rose and Eternally & Evermore, pointing out that those two only had, in my opinion, sex scenes that served the plot.
So, why am I approaching this subject again? Have I been reading more stories that I think have got too much sex in them and want to once again re-iterate (brag?) that I think my work is not like that?
Actually, no. It’s worse than that.
I think that the book I’m currently writing, The Lies We Lead, may be veering in the direction of having too much sex in it. And that worries me.
Now, confession, since I’m still writing the book, I haven’t yet read it through from the beginning in one go, so this is all based on my feelings about the book at this point. And I’ll admit that I’m notoriously paranoid when writing a book—I am constantly questioning everything about it from the characterisation, to the plot, to if it makes sense or not, everything really. So it’s no real surprise that I’m now questioning if there is too much sex in the book, given that the particular subject matter of this book is related to the pornography industry.
I’ll tell you what triggered this sudden crisis of confidence over this issue. I wrote a scene last night in chapter 18, some 52,000 words into the story. It was scene in which the narrator wakes up to find a beautiful woman performing a sex act on him. And he notes that this is the fifth morning in a row he’s been awoken in such a manner and by the fourth different woman.
And as if that wasn’t enough, I realised after the… er… climax… of the first portion of this scene that given who had woken him up on this day, he really needed to return the favour.
And it got me wondering if these two scenes served a purpose, or if they were there just for the sake of being there. Then that got me thinking if any of the other sex scenes are there for the sake of being there or if they served a purpose.
Much like the pictures in this post, really.
Now, I need to point out that I haven’t gone through and ‘counted’ the sex scenes, but as I’m writing the book, it does feel as if I’ve written more in this book that I have in my other most recent books.
But just because there are a lot of sex scenes, that doesn’t mean there are too many, as long as each one has a good reason for being there.
Considering the scene (it is really one scene with two sex acts in it, not two scenes) that got me thinking this way, I think it does serve a purpose. From memory (remember, I haven’t read over the whole thing yet, I’m focused on finishing the first draft first) I’ve now described four of the five wake-up scenes in any detail, the fifth I glossed over somewhat because it was with a woman described in one of the earlier scenes—so what I’m saying is that I’ve described the wake-up scenes with four different women, and in doing so it is my hope that it gives the reader something of an insight into the different characteristics and attitudes of those four women. If it does then all four scenes have justified their inclusion in the text.
Of course, all this is speculation on my part and probably a huge chunk of paranoia too. In due course, I’ll read through the text as a single piece of work, and then I’ll began the tortuous process of hacking it to death to make a more coherent (hopefully) second draft before subjecting it to a line-edit to catch all the silly errors.
At least… That’s the plan.
My beta-reader, who’s following the story as I write it via a Google Docs share, keeps telling me to trust my instincts. And since she’s a pretty good judge of a good book, I guess I should listen to her.
Anyway, what do you think? Leave a comment below and tell me if you think a novel can have too much sex in it.