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Friday, February 11, 2011

Sex in Novels

I remember reading novels up in an attic with a friend of mine looking for the dirty passages. His parents had tossed tons of paperbacks in a large box and Tommy and I rooted through them in the dim light of the attic looking for every explicit scene we could find. Mostly we looked for trigger words, throbbing, member, ecstasy, moaning, pleasure, orgasm, groping, hotly, lustily, hungered... and then we read in the dim light until his mother asked what the hell we were doing up there.

Now of course novels have taken a back seat to cinema and television and everything else that puts sex front and center and yet novels can still get steamy in their muted pulp and print fashion or the more esoteric e reader. I have been reading Jonathan Troppers novel This is Where I Leave You and it is amazing but he crams sex into every other page. I don't mean a little sex but a lot and graphic. Take this scene. A man having sex with the main characters wife with her hand up her lovers ass. Our hero discovers the fornication couple and he shoves a birthday cake (meant for his wife) up the ass of the male lover who already has a hand up there. The candles ignite the lovers scrotum because he used lube.

That's in the first ten pages. Now even for people who the sexually jaded this scene is pretty loaded. But the book doesn't give us a breath as people fornicate in basements, apartments, groping, sucking, tonguing in graphic descriptions leaving just about nothing to the imagination. This book is not pornography but mainstream fiction. Which brings along an interesting question...how much sex is too much sex in a novel. For Tropper a little doesn't go a long way.

I remember a friend of mine had some actual pornography. The books were small and thin with silly titles and covers. And they were all sex. No plot. Just sex upon sex. I ran a writing group once where a man brought in very pornographic chapters from his novel in progress. He would read the excerpts and the woman in the group tried to climb under their chairs as the lovemaking went on for pages and pages. The men in the group cheered for more. When the critique started we had to address the sex scenes that basically were pornography. But the question is where is that line? Taste? Intent? Terminology?

I suppose all novels eventually make it into the sex box as Tommy and I used to call it. If I had gotten hold of a Tropper novel I would have felt like a miner hitting the mother lode. If I had gotten hold of real pornography I would have thrown Tropper aside. I guess it is all the lines we draw or don't draw.

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Books by William Hazelgrove