Monday, July 11, 2011

Topic: "The Relevance of Sex In Literature in 2011" my guest, author Eden Baylee.

Topic: "The Relevance of Sex In Literature in 2011"

Please welcome my guest today: Author of "Fall Into Winter"

Eden Baylee.

Is sexual content relevant in literature in 2011?

As sex exists today as it has since the beginning of time, I’d say it’s absolutely relevant in literature. If I didn’t think it was, I wouldn’t be writing contemporary erotica.

We all know that sex sells, but even in the genre I write, more sex does not necessarily make the story better. Given this, I’d like to approach the question a bit differently and ask “To what extent should sexual content be included in literature?”

What guides me in answering this question is simple. Does sex contribute to the story? If it’s included to develop the characters, then it’s relevant. If it’s a gratuitous scene that adds nothing to advance the plot, then it should be edited out. Sex without context is meaningless. Not only does it detract from the story, but it could also turn the reader off. Why? Readers are not fools, and they don’t like to be treated as such.

I’ll illustrate this point by using the medium of film.

Let’s start with car chases as representative of sex in literature.

Everyone loves a good car chase scene. It’s exciting, gets your heart racing, and should move the plot forward (even if only metaphorically). Some of the best car chases I’ve seen are from movies such as: Ronin; The Bourne Identity; The French Connection; and the classic—Bullitt.

Why did I like these films? Because they had a plot and characters I cared about. There was an intricate storyline that involved more than just a speeding car, but when the car chase did happen, it was integral to the plot. I didn’t feel as if the director added it as an afterthought or filler to make the movie more “saleable.”

That’s exactly how I view sex in literature. Page after page of sex is like watching a two-hour car chase on the big screen. Though it may be exciting for a little while, it quickly becomes tedious if you can’t answer some basic questions: Who are these people? What have they done? Why are they being chased?

In a well-made film, the requirement for car chases is balanced with the need to advance the story. This is the same balance needed for sex within literature. If you can’t answer the questions: Who are these people? Why are they having sex? Why are they having this type of sex? Then my prediction is you really won’t give a damn why they’re having sex at all.

The second point is realism. Any work of fiction is only successful to the extent that the audience can willfully suspend their disbelief. When the filmmaker pushes too far, the work fails—the same goes for authors, especially when it comes to writing sex. Most adults have experienced sex. For this reason alone, it’s essential to keep it real. The challenge is to write it in a way that is creative and yet sensual. Maintaining believability means characters are not engaging in acrobatic moves that even a contortionist could not muster. It’s sex, not gymnastics! Unless your writing involves the paranormal or shape-shifters, characters should not possess superhuman powers when having sex. That includes the frequency, type, and amount of sex they have.

The third comparison to film is genre. If you watch a comedy, you expect to laugh. If you watch a horror movie, you expect to be scared. The same expectations are inherent in literature. No matter what genre you write in, there is opportunity to include sex in your story—if it’s appropriate. Expanding on the car chase analogy, inclusion of one in a “heist” film would be expected, but not so for a mystery or science fiction film unless it makes sense to the story.

Erotica is a genre that obviously contains sexual content. Often misunderstood, some equate it to pornography, thereby discrediting it as nothing more than “just” sex. Because of this negative association, some writers of erotica have taken to calling themselves romance or erotica/romance authors—myself included. It’s not that I think romance is more credible or respected as a genre, but it does give me a wider audience. Some readers want more sex than is provided in the “happily ever after” romance novels. Good erotica delivers more sex—along with a strong storyline, riveting plot, and interesting characters.

It’s important to know what you’re getting when you buy something, and perhaps that’s the main reason to define the genres. At the heart of it though, does it matter if you call yourself a romance author, erotica author, or author of fiction who writes with strong erotic elements? I think not. Call yourself what you like, but if you are writing sex in literature today—do it for the right reasons: To draw your readers into the plot of the story; to arouse them to connect to your characters; and finally, to have them fully commit to your book, awaiting the next one with bated breath.

Eden Bio:

Eden Baylee remembers hiding under the blankets with a flashlight and reading an erotic novel. It was past her bedtime; she was eleven.

Since then, she has continued to read and write erotica. Equipped with an active imagination, few inhibitions, and a passion for words, she is fortunate to have experienced much of what she writes about, and she integrates many of her favorite things into her stories.

Fall into Winter is Eden's first book and is now available as listed here.

Connect with Eden on her Website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Please join in the discussion in the comments section below.


  1. Eden, I agree entirely. I think I might have mentioned car chases in my post, it's certainly an analogy I often use. For a car chase to keep us on the edge of our seats for any amount of time we have to care about the outcome--usually the characters--and it's the same for sex, surely?

  2. Eden, this is a great post! Not a word amiss here and as you are an expert on the topic, your voice has authority and convinces. Really curious to read one of your books now. Will do soon. Thanks for this clarity.

  3. Excellent post, Eden. Erotica needs story to move it along. It enhances the next erotic scene by building anticipation of what is to come. Without story, erotica is merely porn.


  4. JD, Yes, I remember you made the analogy as well, and at the time, I thought..."great minds think alike..." (hehe)

    Agree, fast speeding cars can only hold my attention for so long if I don't care about the people in the chase.


  5. Hannah, thanks for your kind comment. I really appreciate it. As for reading my book, connect with me directly. I am part of a tour where you can get my ebook for free later this month.


  6. Hi Blaze, thanks for your comment. I find myself often explaining the difference of porn and erotica to people.

    It's a misunderstanding that has lumped even some of the classic erotic writers like Henry Miller, Anais Nin, and John Fowles under the "porn" category. I don't mind discussing it with people, as painting all erotic sexual literature as porn is such a simplification. The more I talk about it, the more I realize it's usually out of ignorance, and not derision that perpetuate these views.

    Thanks for your succinct way of putting it.


  7. fabulous

    Of course there are exceptions :) - I can't help thinking of Taxi and Duel, for example, and the opening chase sequence of Mute Witness.

    I wonder if what you say is more applicable in certain kinds of fiction - some stories that are sex-heavy don't look for suspsnesion of disbelief - they might seek specifically to jar the reader, and sex might be an important way of doing that. So I'm not sure I agree with what you're saying about sex in general - but for a certain kind of sex (in particular sex that's intended to be erotic), absolutely

    I also wonder if the rush to distance erotica from porn mightn't be doing a disservice to the latter in terms of art and complexity - but I'm sure other articles will look into that.

  8. Hello Dan, I knew I could count on you to point out the exceptions ;)

    I suppose I don't seek to jar the reader with erotica as the intention is to arouse, not to sensationalize. I don't write to shock with sex, but to incorporate the scenes into the story in a way that is sensual.

    I can write graphic sex if I wanted to, removing it from any semblance of a storyline, however, to me that would be similar to another analogy - that of a good comedian vs. a bad one.

    A good one can use obscenity within the comic storytelling and make us laugh. The swearing is a part of the routine.

    Compare this with a comic who says "Fuck, cunt, cock, shit, etc" every second word to shock the audience, but his material has no substance. Is he funny? I think not.

    It's like comparing George Carlin or Lenny Bruce to Andrew Dice Clay...I digress.

    If it appears there is a rush to distance porn from erotica, it was not intentional on my part. I was merely pointing out the difference between the two. I have nothing against porn as there is an audience for it, as there is for erotica. It's important to know the difference if you are spending money on it.

    Now I have to check out those movies you mentioned, thanks for your comment,


  9. I'm just glad that there are very intelligent people out there who are not afraid to talk about sex, pornography and erotica.

    These are "symptoms" on the Human Condition and should not be lightly cast aside.

    I haven't seen this movie, but I know it was controversial and on-topic here.

    "Klute", where Jane Fonda plays a prostitute. I suspect it's strongly related to your conversation.

  10. Hi Daniel Dragon Films, lovely of you to comment, and thank you.

    It seems sex will always be a taboo subject and thus worthy of discussion. I saw Klute many years ago, and though I don't remember all the details, I recall it as a good film about the darker side of sexuality - the life of prostitution and all it encompasses.

    It's a topic that hasn't been touched on here as yet, but the month is still young...


  11. I think you're right that it has to be both natural and appropriate.

    After reading Fall into Winter, I was tempted to experiment with erotica myself, by putting a sex scene into a true-life story I posted on my own blog - "Sheep. Boy. Love." - but I pulled it out at the last minute.

  12. Oops - apologies for being an awkward bugger :)

    Absolutely I wasn't suggesting you should write in any other way - I was just concerned that the points about suspension of disbelief didn't become general points about sex in fiction (or about anything else in fiction) because not all fiction is about keeping us in the narrative and the world the writer is creating. I think jarring is slightly different from shocking - I was thinking of it more like a musical dissonance (such as you get in the Nine Inch Nails version of Hurt) or Dali/Magritte - something that's "wrong" or unexpected (not shocking) for a narrative can make us ask all kinds of interesting questions about that narrative.

  13. Les, thrilled to see you here and thank you for commenting. I've read your post "Sheep.Boy.Love." It was a really sweet blog post and I'm sure if you wanted to include a sex scene —it would have been appropriate.


  14. Dan,
    No worries, I didn't think what you said was awkward at all.

    I see what you mean about jarring vs. shocking now that you mention NIN...I'm a huge jazz lover, but a friend of mine absolutely hates it because she finds the dissonance unbearable...You're right, it makes us react and think when something jumps out at you. I suppose in erotica, I don't want the reader to think "That was idiotic, made no sense, is completely improbable," and then put down the book never to open it again.

    For me, it's about the balance of sex and story, so as I mature as a writer, I may have more confidence to insert these "jarring" scenes into narrative.


  15. Very interesting observations, Eden. Keeping it real is particularly difficult in erotica where, to succeed, you also have to thrill. Real sex is not always thrilling and sometimes is not even pleasant. I have noticed a trend in so-called mainstream literary novels to be much more explicit sexually these days (for example the very shocking Kelly and Victor by Welsh writer Niall Griffiths) and for so-called contemporary erotica to be much more searching emotionally (for example Asking For Trouble by Brighton-based Kristina Lloyd) so it is getting more and more difficult to distinguish between them. I'm looking forward to reading your book, which promises to be far more pleasant than either of those two I mentioned.

    – Vanessa.

  16. Hi Vanessa, wow, that is high praise indeed, and I hope the book lives up to your expectations, or is at least enjoyable (now, I'm nervous!).

    I don't read much contemporary erotica and have not heard of the 2 books you've mentioned, but they intrigue me, and I must check them out. It's always interesting to learn what readers like and don't like.

    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, very much appreciate it.


  17. Eden another great blog...I've read Eden's book and it is amazing...She knows what she is talking about..

  18. Savannah, thank you for your wonderful comment. Truly appreciate you stopping by to support Soooz' great series.


  19. Great post Eden. Sorry I'm so late coming in.

    I think many adult authors - those who write for adult readers - fear being cast as "Adult" writers. They fear simply including a sex scene, even though it adds to the story, will brand their work as Erotica or even Porn.

    Erotica is a very specific genre. As the main element in scifi is the fantastic so the main element in erotica is sex. As Horror attempts to frighten, Erotica attempts to arrouse. But a scifi novel can have a murder without becoming a mystery and sex without becoming erotica.

    I write Speculative Romance. The two main driving factors in my stories are speculative (scifi/fantasy)and character driven romance. That often leads to sex, but it is not the defining element. What many call Erotica is actually Romance with a lot of sex. Though erotica can easily be sex without romance. Sex is the defining element.

    There is a stigma that any sexual content immediately consigns a book to the "Adult" aka "Porn" section. But life is sex - sex is basic to our existence, it informs every other part of life. Serious literature should include at least the acknowledgement that it exists without everyone getting embarrassed by it.

  20. Max, no worries, I waited for you. ;)

    I agree with your points, particularly that erotica can be sex without romance, and perhaps this is where the lines get blurred, even for publishers who sell romance/erotica.

    Romance is defined as happily ever after or HEA - it's very formulaic and it obviously sells. The readers want it and expect it, and that's what the publishers will give them.

    If I have a good story with sex in it, but there isn't a HEA ending, then it isn't considered romance anymore, thus I call it erotica. I do hate labels, but it seems we need it for the reasons I mentioned.

    "Serious literature should include at least the acknowledgment that sex exists without everyone getting embarrassed by it" -> Couldn't agree with you more.

    Thanks for your comment Max.



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