I want to talk about sex today. In my debut novel, The Bomber, my main character Joseph Starling, has a sexual encounter with a woman. I did not add this just because I thought ‘some sex would be good.’ I added it because I want my characters to be fully rounded human beings who experience human emotions and desires.
Serious literary erotica and writing about sex is a very hard thing to do. There is a need to balance the exciting sensual aspect of sex with good readable fiction. Too far one way and it can be sleazy, too far the other and it can become boring. People like Anais Nin and D. H. Lawrence were masters of the erotic in literature.
Recently a friend of mine caught her daughter sending nude pictures to a boy on the internet and this was of course very distressing to her. She wanted to express to her daughter that doing such a thing is wrong for a girl of her age, and that it is necessary to wait until she was older and in a serious relationship before considering doing that sort of sexual activity. She spoke to me and she said she wanted to sit her daughter down and discuss the issue but that it was a very distressing and difficult thing to discuss. She went on to tell me a week had past so the yelling and crying stage was ending but there still needed some discussion about why the activity was wrong.
She ran past me a few things she wanted to say to her daughter. One of the things she said was, “I want to let her know how valuable she is. I want her to have enough self esteem to value herself so that other people value her as well. She is like a Ferrari I want to tell her, there are a lot of men who would love to take the Ferrari out for a test drive but there are not many who can afford and look after such a sports car. Her body is like a Ferrari and she must not let people take her for test drives, but wait for someone who will appreciate what a wonderful person she is.”
I had no idea what to say in response and I told her so. I do not know if that is a good thing to say to a young teenage girl or if it is not. I do not have children and find it hard to give advice to people about them. What I can say though is I found the simile enlightening and illuminating.
I think it is a great simile to use for serious erotic writing. You have to create characters like any other work of fiction. The reader has to understand them as people before you throw them into sexual situations. If you want to create a serious work that deals with sex, it can’t be a pornography of words. Build the characters as humans, sex is a part of life and a part of literature. Because it is a real issue it must be approached with respect and not as something that may create a cheap thrill or your work of fiction may not be respected in the morning.
Following I have two excerpts from “The Delta of Venus” by Anais Nin. I have no problem with the extremely detailed and explicit sex scenes because to me Nin has such a literary talent and to me, literary talent is everything.
“Her two hands were as active as her mouth. The titillation almost deprived each man of his senses. The elasticity of her hands; the variety of rhythms; the change from a hand grip of the entire penis to the lightest touch of the tip of it, from firm kneading of all the parts to the lightest teasing of the hair around it-all this by an exceptionally beautiful and voluptuous woman while the attention of the public was turned towards the stage. Seeing the penis go into her magnificent mouth between her flashing teeth, while her breasts heaved, gave men a pleasure for which they paid generously”
Here we read an explicit sex scene. Shocking and exciting. Alone its value is low. Alone it wold be nothing more than a thrill but when the piece is built with a writers skill it becomes a story that has great value. Below is the beginning to this erotic story and it creates the life, the value of such writing.
“There was a Hungarian adventurer who had astonishing beauty, infallible charm, grace, the powers of a trained actor, culture, knowledge of many tongues, aristocratic manners. Beneath all this was a genius for intrigue, for slipping out of difficulties, for moving smoothly in and out of countries. He traveled in grandiose style, with fifteen trunks of the finest clothes, with two great Danes. His air of authority had earned him the nickname the Baron. The Baron was seen in the most luxurious hotels, at watering places and horse races, on world tours, excursions to Egypt, trips through the desert, into Africa. Everywhere he became the center of attraction for women. Like the most versatile of actors, he passed from one role to another to please the taste of each of them. He was the most elegant dancer, the most vivacious dinner partner, the most decadent of entertainers in tête-à-têtes; he could sail a boat, ride, drive. He knew each city as though he had lived there all his life. He knew everyone in society. He was indispensable. When he needed money he married a rich woman, plundered her and left for another country. Most of the time the women did not rebel or complain to the police. The few weeks or months they had enjoyed him as a husband left a sensation that was stronger than the shock of losing their money. For a moment they had known what it was to live with strong wings, to fly above the heads of mediocrity.”