View Full Version : To sex or not to sex (gore too), that is the question?
July 1st, 2005, 04:06 PM
After following the Paris Hilton http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10768&highlight=Paris+Hilton and Don't You think of Anything But Sex? http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9742 threads started by Gary Wassner, I decided to create a thread which would require the SFF community to look at the issues raised by these threads in the context of SFF published works.
As an avid reader of SFF, I have read up and down the spectrum, which exposed me to many situations I felt were unnecessary and not understandable for the same reason as Paris Hilton makes no sense. I am hoping to creat a forum where the community can discuss the pros and cons of the industry as it is.
Let me throw out the first pitch. I am a big Fan of both Anne McCaffrey and Larry Niven, but I have often found myself questioning their need to include sexaully charged situations into their stories. Is it really needed? Can the characters love for each other be expressed without the heavy suggestions of sex?
In reality I view these uses of sexual innuendo as nothing more than sales crutches. A large part of the SFF community is made up of teenage males just learning the searing heat of the fires down below and older males. The purpose of these ploys is the same as Hollywood teen movies where young girls sleep around. Pure titillation. I'll admit I was guilty of enjoying this pleasure.
Also, in recent years I have come across several books I actually put down because of the excessive need to portray graphic violence (Tad William's "City of Golden Shadow") which featured a woman being virtually torn to peices. I am a fan of his, but I stopped reading the series there. Stephen R. Donaldson's "Reave the Just and Other Tales" left a very bad taste in my mouth. I liked some of the stories but found others repulsive.
My aim is not to advocate censorship, but to open a dialog where people can express their feelings about the nature of the community at large and hopefully their ideas on where they would like to see it go. As I stated in my post to the Paris Hilton thread, I consciously chose to minimize the violence in my stories. I feel there is a market out there that is not being tapped. The same market which is reaching out for Nick at Night and TV land. I am hoping that maybe some publishing brass might see this thread and maybe take a look at their own publishing choices.
July 1st, 2005, 04:42 PM
Well I am in no way an advocate of censorship (I hate it) but I do feel that a lot of the use of sex and gore (and profanity) is just thrown in sometimes.
Now that being said, there is a time and place for everything. If you want to portray sex as nothing more than the physical act of sex for the purpose of physical gratification, you are saying something about that character, conversely, tender lovemaking says something about the character too.
Gore is just used on the repulse factor. If you want the reader to think, "ewww" you can throw lots of it in, but if you have something really horrible happen to a character and you want it to seem horrible, well used gore will make a reader say, "Oh my god that is horrible." Of course in order to do something like this you can't be throwing gore left and right zombie style...
Profanity is my favorite... It is also the most misunderstood. My parents used to lecture me on why I should never use profanity in my writing (It's a sign of low education etc etc) but the point is that profanity conveys a sense of realism, and when used properly, increases the degree of a statement. I can tell you to give me the remote all I want and in any tone, but it comes across MUCH differently when you throw in a certain four letter word.
I think you get what I am trying to say with all of these.
July 1st, 2005, 06:49 PM
I could tell you that Dick loves Jane. Simple, straight to the point, boring.
Dick loves Jane.
Or I could show you....
Dick caught up to Jane in the barn, wrapping his arms around her tight.
"Hmmm," Jane breathed, feeling the warmth of his body. "Missed you all day. You ready to go inside?"
"Actually," Dick smiled, glancing up at the hayloft, "I thought we might stay out here for a while.
She followed his gaze and with a giggle, leaned back against him.
"I think you read my mind," she muttered, then broke away with a giggle for the ladder.
Or I could show you...
Dick peered around the corner and caught sight of Jane at her locker. He watched feverishly as she pulled out her book for her next class, then hurried raised his camera and took several pictures as she closed her locker, picked up her bag and started off for her class.
"Oh Jane," he whispered with a slight smirk as he watched her go down the hall, "One day you will be mine. You will."
By showing some of it, you express more. It seems more real. Which would you rather read?
July 1st, 2005, 07:52 PM
Expendable, your examples play more into the point I am trying to get across. You were able to give some idea of intent without going, shall we say, all the way. I may just be trying to see if there are others out there that think like me and are tired of the increasing amount of hard core sex and violence in the main stream. Also, my examples of Niven and McCaffrey were not the best because they are very mild by today's standards, but I do feel that the Dragonriders of Pern Stories and Ringworld could have done just as well without the sex. Larry Niven's Intergal Trees was a stunning feat of world building which I would have loved just as much without the strong hints of sex. On the side, Niven has an unusal need to throw meaningless sex into almost all of his novels. The world was so amazing that I felt it could have held up fine without the adolecent fluff.
The point I am trying to get across, which much of America is struggling with, is do we need to add sex and violence to everything to hype it or sell it or beleive it? Have we gotten so lazy that it is easier to toss in cheap sex and blood-lusting violence instead really creating a deeply profound character, relationship, struggle? We see enough of this in our daily lives. Were't books and tv to be our escape from the real world? Today, we seem to need to bring the ugliness of the real world into every aspect of our lives. What happened to the good stuff? The magic, the wonder, the liberating ideas.
It just seems that the scale has tipped to the left (sex and violence) and has gotten stuck by rusty parts into that position. Beleive me, I will be the first one to barf when everything goes to far to the right (sickening sweet, overly good to the point of coming off fake). What I want to do is prove to people that there is another way and that good seriously challenging stories can be written without the need for extremes in sex or violence. I firmly beleive there is a market out there.
I get discussed by family films like Spy Kids which are corny and poorly written. I beleive people can create engaging non violent stories which the whole family can enjoy. Mom and Dad don't have to watch or read a hopelessly corn ball kids product just so the kids aren't exposed to objectionable material. Also, I beleive that you don't have to write down to kids to get their interest. Challenge them and help them grow.
July 1st, 2005, 08:59 PM
Well some of it is jsut going to depend on what you are writing, plain and simple.
No, you don't have to write down to kids, but if you have in mind that you are going to be writing for kids, maybe that story about the serial killer isn't the best plotline to try to clean up...
Some subjects will jsut contain more sex and violence. Some stories will have it thrown in, and I understand what you mean, but it's the choice of the author and you can really just choose not to read their work, like you can choose not to watch movies with gratuitous sex...
July 1st, 2005, 09:18 PM
It really depends on what the writer is trying to express in their story. Best advice I ever got about writing sex was to be suggestive and let the reader fill in the blanks.
July 1st, 2005, 11:33 PM
I think sex and violence should be placed into a story if they fit. Sometimes, a beautiful scene must be described in intricate detail. Sometimes, deep introspection on a character's motives are needed. Sometimes, technical discussion of a particularly complicated technological device is needed.
Just as well, it is sometimes necessary for the details of violence and sex to be included in a story in order for it to work.
Violence and sex are taboo in our society, and because of this the inclusion of these things is often done merely for the sake of having them there. But I am of the opinion that this taboo should not be, and that violence and sex, being as how they are integral to human nature, should be discussed in a natural and productive manner. If a story needs these elements, they should not be excluded merely because their inclusion would break a social moor.
Too great detail into any subject can ruin a story. But the opposite is true as well; not enough attention given to important aspects can cause the same ruination.
July 1st, 2005, 11:47 PM
Sex and violence are like salt and pepper. It's just seasoning, you don't want the solid stuff. It no longer has impact or relevance if you put too much in.
And, as has already been said, it has to add to the story, which it can, sometimes. I just kind of skip over the sex parts in Niven, I learned how to do that with Heinlein, until his last few stories.
July 2nd, 2005, 01:43 AM
I think I said all I wanted too in one of the threads quoted but I will add a few bits here.
Yes I write about sex, violence and my characters swear, though rarely the "f" word. I prefer the good old working class English ;)
Sex; the reaction of characters, the manner in which it happens reasons for (not always love) can show your reader a lot about your world/characters/society. To what depth you go and in the manner you write depends on a number of things. Will it further the story in the direction you wish it to go? Will it show your reader a side of a character/characters you wish them to see?
Violence; this is not always slashing some one open with a sword. It can be emotional cruelty and the verbal abuse of one character by another. It can be simple every day actions preformed in such a manner that they upset/cause pain to an individual. Conflict is a prime driving force in a story. To remove all types of "violence" would make, in my opinion, a story very flat, if nonexistent. How you use violence in a story is up to you, but it is best used in a manner where it has consequences for the characters, never lets kill to day, but forget about it tomorrow. I find Janny Wurt’s work superb in this respect, she does not pull her punches, but the characters actions have repercussions both on them and their society.
As for swearing; horses for courses A plain private soldier in the field would not say “Oh dear me” same goes for a working man in a male working environment. Same could be said for females as well, people tailor their speech patterns to the society/ elements they are in, also they react to situations. A well placed swear word can heighten the affect of a scene you are writing.
This type of language can also be used to illuminative a character. Example; in a work I now have with an agent, there is a character who is for his society an educated man; he is a member of the ruling class, a military engineer of some note. Yet he swears like one of his sappers. Partly out of habit, but mostly because it throws people off, it is not expected of him to express himself in that manner and in some ways they underestimate him because of that and maybe the character likes that.
As to society, children and the affect of. Yes TV, books, music etc have an influence, so does the level of education and where a child lives. Equally so does home life and more importantly the morals/reaction to and type of life that is lived by those close to them i.e. parents. A lot of people now negate the influence for good or bad the actions of the parents have on the children, passing the buck to school, TV, films etc… They shouldn’t they are as much if not more responsible.
Children are sponges, they soak up information even when we,(adults) think they are just playing. Playing is expressing their view of the world around them in words and actions. To them it is deadly serious and should never be shrugged off as “just playing”. Interaction, sharing and respecting your child’s point of view goes a lot further to creating a balanced human being than just giving them a £10 to keep out of your hair. You make mistakes, get things wrong, often everything backfires, but by being there, even for the crap is part of being a parent, one you can’t walk out on. Things are never good all the time and if you are writing you should show this, also show how the actions of one person can affect another years after.
July 2nd, 2005, 03:21 AM
There are two things at issue here:
Inclusion of sex and gore, and presentation of sex and violence.
If you have a love story and don't include sex you'd better explain it ("they're both married, bored by their love life, but they're also very moral and very disciplined"). If you have a crime/war/hunting/adventure story without gore you have to explain that, too.
However, how you present this is another matter altogether. Respective sex, you may well "close the curtains" before anything happens. You're narrator can be polite or a tease or a prude or...
Respective gore, well the ugly things should be ugly. I tend to be more put off by sanitized Disney violence than by splatter gore. I got physically sick when reading Haruki Murakami's description of a man being skinned alive in The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. That's not cool, that's disgusting. And that's the point. It always depends on how it's done.
On the other hand, when I read lots of Stephen King as a teen, the gore got old pretty quickly. I'd read a scene that was brilliant up until it got graphic. After a few books of his, I started to wonder, if sometimes less wouldn't have been more.
I've read quite a lot of Pern books, and I must say that the sex scenes didn't really stand out for me. Actually, I now think (but it's been a while since I read the books and memories can be treacherous) that they served as a kind of counter-weight to the relationship of Dragon <-> Rider. If you remove them, wouldn't you shift the "sensual centre" of the novels too much towards the dragons? Just a theory, as I can't really remember well enough to make a point.
Also, I've just finished Ian McDonald's River of Gods, which contained some sex scenes which I found utterly unarousing, but entirely fascinating in terms of characterisation. Sex scenes don't always have to be about sex... (There were non-sex-scenes in the book which I found a lot more sexy.)
Mr.BF1V3, sometimes sex and violence are salt and pepper. Sometimes they're meat and potatoes. And sometimes the dish isn't meant to please the palate.
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