The Question of Sex and Violence in Books
I’ve read books where sex and violence have been thrown in for shock value, and nothing more. They really didn’t progress the story at all. I’ve also read stories where these same elements were pertinent to the story. In addition, there are books that contain neither one of these things and they’re as entertaining as any story can be.
Sometimes I receive emails that state an opinion, and they’re prefaced by IMHO. For those not familiar with that acronym, it means “In my humble opinion”. So I’m going to offer my thoughts here, IMHO. I believe that leaving the sexy scenes to the reader’s own imagination is much sexier than laying things out in minute detail. And I believe that the anticipation of what’s to come is also very titillating. Think about it. John Doe patted Jane Smith on the behind and followed her through a door, pulling it closed behind him. Do you want someone to tell you what happened behind that door? Or would you rather dream up your own scenario? Hmm. All kinds of possibilities there.
I have a friend whose first desire was to write contemporary romances. Well, she wrote a book and submitted it to a publisher. The publisher was interested, but only if she’d add sexual and sensuous scenes. So this friend, knowing what was wanted and what she was capable of, sat down in front of her computer and started adding sex scenes. It turned out there was a problem. She suddenly realized that as she wrote this graphic, sensuous scene, she couldn’t bring herself to look at the computer screen. She looked up, to the right, to the left, and out the window – anywhere except at the screen. She’d been asked to write something that she wasn’t comfortable doing. When she told me this story, I laughed. I could picture the whole thing in my mind. Still wanting to write romances, she changed from Contemporary to Regency romances, where she didn’t have to include anything she didn’t want to.
The thing is, when I laughed at this story and pictured it in my mind, the woman sitting in front of the computer unexpectedly turned into me. Talk about surprising yourself! I write mysteries, and the stories I write don’t involve romps in the hay or lurid sexual encounters. They involve murders and searches for the killers. They center around the characters and their growth throughout the story, and they include some humor. My logo is “a little humor, a little romance, A Little Murder!” It suits my books.
This leads me to the violence we see in so many books. That’s fine for some. If the reader enjoys reading about someone being chopped into little pieces, with all the parts described in detail, and then those pieces being buried around the county, okay. Reader’s choice. For me, I see enough violence in real life; in the newspapers and on the news, and in magazines and on television shows. I’ve mentioned before that it seems like there’s just too much drama in real life. Why would I want to read about more?
I won’t knock any author who writes graphic material, because there is a market for it – and some of it is extremely well-written. I simply prefer something entertaining and mysterious, but that’s just me. I won’t even try to change any minds here. I will say that a young woman approached me after reading one of my books and she told me two things. First she said that she never, ever reads anything that doesn’t contain graphic sex. Secondly, she said that it was two weeks after she read the book that she realized there wasn’t any sex in it. Draw your own conclusions.
Until next time, wishing you a week filled with no drama, and reading because you enjoy it – not because you need an escape.