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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sex in Fantasy Books

It seems like over the past couple of decades there has been an increase of sex in Fantasy. Sex has even shown up in Young Adult Fantasy (i.e. the third book in Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle Trilogy). The Gemma Doyle series was published for ages 12 and up; and there was a sex scene in the final book (between two older teenagers). It was brief and not too graphic, but totally unnecessary, especially for a book geared toward middle school teens (not to mention that there were other mature subject matter in the series—sexual abuse of a child and drug use). I was already shocked in book two when the main character in the trilogy was having a pretty steamy fantasy about the Indian boy she was fond of.

We all know that George R. R. Martin throws in his explicit sex/rape scenes in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. Jacqueline Carey had her Kushiel series where the main character is a prostitute; so those books are loaded with the character doing her thing. I have not touched those books since it is well advertised of what the main character is. Even Peter S. Beagle (the author of The Last Unicorn) threw some sex in his 1993 book, The Innkeeper’s Song.

There was a time when I went to the library and picked up a book by Laurell K Hamilton, not knowing that I was going to run into pornographic-like sex scenes between other-worldly creatures. I did not finish and took the book back. I should have done my research. The same thing happened when I picked up a book by Sherrilyn Kenyon from the library. Again, pages and pages of graphic sex—I should have done my research. This was at a time where I pretty much had no clue about the sub-genre that these books fell under (Paranormal Romance). I got it now; and I have learned my lesson.

As you can now tell, I’m not in to sex in Fantasy. I am in that group of people where we would like to sit down and read a good story without having to go into the “bedroom” with the character(s) and watch them go at it. There is a group of people that say that sex in Fantasy is “realistic” or “reality”, and that sex is a normal part of life, and should not be excluded, as long as it carries the story. Yes, sex is a part of life (of course), but so is going to the bathroom, but I don’t want to read about a character grunting and straining on the commode. I know…bad example. But, my point is, I don’t want to sit in a room and watch people going at it…yuck. I don’t need to read sentences, paragraphs, and pages of characters having sex to feel bonded with the character.

Karen Hancock, in my opinion, did a great job in her book, The Light of Eidon: The characters got close, there was a degree of passion where you felt the moment, and then it was the next day, and the author was able to convey the aftermath through the character, and we, as adults, were able to feel what the character felt; and later on in the book see how that night effected him. The author did not have to break it down for us in detail. We got it. I challenge authors to be creative. Produce a story that is so compelling that it is obvious that a sex scene would only disrupt and/or quench the magnitude of the story.

Patrick Rothfuss had some sex scenes in his second book, The Wise Man’s Fear, but he did not get explicit. I thought he wrote it well, without  getting x-rated on us. I could have done without it, but Mr. Rothfuss deemed it necessary to put it in his great story, but I did feel it kind of halted the story (for me).

But, I know, a lot of authors feel that they have to do this. They feel that sex will enhance their story and/or their characters. Some feel like it’s their obligation to write sex into their story and hope that their readers enjoy it. This is an instance where I kind of liken it to comedians… You have the comedians that have the foul and vulgar jokes, and that’s the only way they can do their act. It would be difficult for them if they could not produce those kind of jokes through their entire show. Then you have the comedians like Sinbad and Bill Cosby, who can get up there and have you crying in laughter without an ounce of vulgarity. In the same case, you have writer “A” who cannot convey their story without laying out the sex details; and writer “B” works to give a little more effort to be creative in their story without sticking the frank scenes in your face.

Call me dumb, but I was shocked to see how many women crave the books with the graphic sex. I should have known, since the Romance genre is huge, and primarily read by women. Also, it is women writing these pornographic scenes in their books. It is not the majority of male authors that are writing pages and pages of graphic sex, it’s the women. Look at the success of the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E L James. The sudden rave is just unreal.

Now, in my conclusion, my real point in this case is that I would like to see some kind of label of some sort on books so that there is at least a head’s up of what the book would contain. You see ratings on movies and video games. You see warning labels on CD’s with explicit lyrics. Why not something like this for the book industry? I love being able to look at a movie and say, “why is this rated R?” I flip over the Blu-ray/DVD and see what the contents of the movie are that give it the rating. Then I have a choice in whether I want to watch that movie or not. I would like to have the same option with books. Is this asking too much?


  1. I agree, Derek. Even if one wants to do their research (I found your site while trying to research the content of a book I'm considering reading) it's hard to find commentary on the adult content of a book. There are sites that rate the content of books, but I have yet to find one that even has Martin, let alone this other lesser known fantasy book that I am interested in.

    1. James, thanks for your comment. It's nice to see that someone agrees with me on that point. You're right; there's not really anything out there where you can find content ratings on the majority of fiction. Sometimes the reviewers on will mention the content within a book, but it's still a limited source.