Sex is boring

It is. Not in the actuality, but in its hopelessly inept renderings in literature. Very few authors ever get it right, so why do they bother?

Sometimes the problem is simply tweeness. The prosecution calls David Herbert Richard Lawrence to the stand. Really, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Infuriatingly bad portrayals of sex. Just horribly twee. All that twining flowers nonsense. Yikes! It may be what floats your boat, and I freely admit to having done a few twee things in my time, but I have the decency and self respect not to write about them. DHL’s stuff is made worse because it’s compounded by the old ‘she fancied a bit of rough’ cliché. Dire.

Some verges on the pornographic. The prosecution calls Erika Leonard James. I’m not a prude by any means, and if people want to indulge in a bit of S&M behind closed doors, let them get on with it. Don’t write about it. The Marquis de Sade set this ball rolling, and by now someone should have had the sense to bat it out of play.

Some is just plain bad. The Literary Review’s Bad Sex In Fiction award has some really big hitters in its list of alumni; Melvyn Bragg, AA Gill, Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer (no big surprise there). There’s better to be read in the letters pages of any half decent topshelf magazine.

But one of the big problems is that writers often fail to capture how funny sex is. I myself like sex, and when it goes right it’s an almost transcendental experience. Sometimes it’s just OK, and other times it’s not even OK. Anyone who’s ever had sex can tell you that. But it is funny. An immensely pleasurable and rewarding pastime, but it’s is funny. So many authors simply miss that.

Lastly, nobody believes anyone else has sex; they don’t. They know others must do, hence the number of babies that come into this world, but really they don’t believe it. So any description must, by its very nature, be a hiding to nothing. Nobody believes it.

Last line of argument. Sex is private. Whether it’s good, or indifferent, or bad, it’s private. I’ve never discussed my sex life with anyone but my partners, and I certainly wouldn’t do so in print.

So, my remedy? Don’t write about sex in graphic detail. It happens, so tell the reader it has, and leave it to the imagination. They always say the best sex is in the mind.

24 thoughts on “Sex is boring”

  1. NRM,

    The few surfaces I initially scratched with you pretty much told me all I needed to know………would we just pass out leaning against ourselves without hitting the floor?


  2. unfetteredbs said:

    it would be funny if someone were truly honest about writing the “normalness” in which we mate.. eh?

  3. No offense but your obviously doing something rong if you find sex funny. At least that has not been my experience!

  4. JT Devine said:

    You’re priceless! “Lastly, nobody believes anyone else has sex; they don’t. They know others must do, hence the number of babies that come into this world, but really they don’t believe it.”

    I was just reading an article the other day in which a married man in his forties said he and his wife have sex 3-4 times a week and couldn’t help thinking: BULLSHIT!


    • Glad you liked it. I thought it was funny.
      I have to say I’m inclined to believe the guy. I was married for 18 years and even when things were really rocky towards the end it was a rare day when we didn’t. But I just don’t tell anyone what we got up to.

  5. Great post and some fascinating comments too. I agree that it’s pretty ridiculous. I seem to recall reading about a hypnotist that used to hypnotise people, implant into their minds that they had done something bizarre (perhaps stolen a hippopotamus or something) and then when they had “woken up” their minds would generate the most incredible logic chains to justify why they had stolen a hippo. I sometimes wonder if our minds are doing a similar thing to justify the activities related to and involved within this particular intimacy!

  6. I wrote about this topic here:

    I think you’ll find the comments interesting.

    There are some pretty good, honest descriptions of sex within modern literature. I think Zadie Smith does it wonderfully within her novels.

    Sex is an important part of our lives, and I agree that the more underwhelming kinds of it are often ignored in literature, but they do exist in some places, and that’s no reason not to attempt to write about it if you feel the need to.

    • I agree that sex is imp[ortant, but I also think it’s very private. There’s a lot oe sex in quite a lot of my writing, but it’s implicit, not explicit.

      • I think it’s important to talk about sex openly, the act, emotions during. Sometimes it’s the specifics that can influence your emotions or cause you to have certain thoughts or ideas. For one kiss in the wrong place, or something just done a little too roughly can change how the character feels about the act, and therefore the person they are doing it with.

        Some really good examples of this are in Tom Vowler’s “What Lies Within.”

  7. I agree it’s private…only thing anyone knows about my sex life is I must have had it at least 3 times over the course of my 25 year marriage, since we have 3 kids. That’s all anyone needs to know.

  8. More sex please! We are desirous of titillation.

  9. Hurray! for like-minded sharers here on this topic. As, after more than two decades of marriage, I (we) osmosed into our own worlds as regards intercourse. We had many, many years of dizzyingly fantastic sex, prior. The departure didn’t come with friction, instead realizing a new, arguably higher level of intimacy taking the forefront. With regards to the thread, and : “the giddiness of the act,” when we knew quite well we were no longer acting out the desire to procreate, nor acting on, as (mostly) men do in later years, the chronic indulgence of our loins is or has once again become (as before we met) now, agreeably private.

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