Let’s Talk About Sex – A Roundtable Discussion (With Giveaway)
I was asked by my friend and fellow author, Larry Benjamin, to participate in a discussion about sex in MM Fiction. The other authors taking part are WS Long and Hans Hirschi. Debbie McGowan, author, editor and publisher of Beaten Track Publishing agree to act as a moderator. Below is a snippet from the conversation, but be sure to click on the link to Larry’s site and enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post. We’re giving away 5 ebooks and a $30.00 Amazon gift card.
DM: In your books, do you have on/off page sex? Why?
WSL: In my book, Love and Murder, and, in another work in progress, the sex is on the page. I don’t think gay men should be ashamed to have sex explored on page as long as, in my opinion, the sex adds to the story and sex depicted involves consenting men. If the book is coming of age, or coming out, then it’s probably more age appropriate not to depict sex on the page. It really depends on the target audience your book or story is designed.
HH: Yes, there are sex scenes in all my books, some more detailed than others. I add them where I deem they are necessary to carry the story forward. It’s not a topic I shy away from, but it’s also not something I specifically add to attract a certain clientèle of readers who look for M/M romance novels.
AQG: For the most part, any sex in my stories is off page. And even the on page ‘scenes’ are rarely explicit. Hardly more than letting the reader know the characters are naked and aroused.
There are two basic reasons for this approach. The first is very personal – as in specific to my situation, not private. As a parent, and a gay parent with a husband, I know that at some point my daughter is going to read my work. Unlike a female writer who has kids, detailed sex scenes could never plant the – “I wonder if that is what my parents do in private” question in their child’s mind. Perhaps it’s silly on my part, but I do not want my daughter to read a detailed sex scene I’ve written and wonder if that is what her parents do/did. There isn’t enough bleach in the world to erase that image from her mind.
The other reason is also specific to me, but this is a personal preference. I don’t really enjoy on page sex scenes when I read. They are rarely arousing and often seem gratuitous. I’m happy to imagine what happens after we fade to black. Keeping the sex off page gives a bit more license for a reader to connect to the characters by placing them in whatever ‘roles’ or situations the reader wants. That might just be me again, but I write the way I like to read.
LB: It depends on the book, on the story; I’ve done both. In What Binds Us, there isn’t a lot of sex that plays out in the pages. It’s certainly implied and led up to but not actually described. That was a conscious decision on my part because I wanted that book to focus on the emotional side of the characters’ romance. In Damaged Angels, it varied – I discovered it was hard to have a hustler as a main character and not describe the sex. Unbroken probably has the most explicit sex I have written so far. Again that was a conscious decision on my part. It is part coming of age novel, part romance so it wouldn’t have been authentic not to describe Lincoln’s sex life as he grew into manhood.
HH: I’m not surprised to read Andy’s point of view, even though I don’t share it. In fact, being a father myself, it never even struck me that our son (or anyone else who knows us for that matter) would picture me and my husband in any of those scenes, not even my autobiographically inspired novel. Besides, I think it’s great if children get a bit of extra sexual education from books, saves me the explanation. The real point though is that unless you write explicit M/M romance/erotica, the sex isn’t about arousal, it’s about moving the story forward, and unless it serves that purpose it’s as unnecessary as a car chase or a walk in the park…
DM: I find Andy’s point about keeping the sex ‘off-page’ really interesting. Readers tend to look for the author within their work. It’s quite a paradox really, as writing intimate, moving sex scenes does seem to necessitate having some notion of how these things work. So I have to ask each of you, how much of yourself is in your writing? Do your characters share your traits?
AQG: I think every character – even the ‘evil’ ones – have some whiff of me in them. Be it a stray thought, a like, a dislike, a mannerism. Some have more than others. But overall, I have a lot of me in my writing because I try to write what I know, and that by necessity means I’ve used more a than just a bit of me in my work.
LB: Like Andy, I think there’s at least a little of me most of my character. Certainly Lincoln in Unbroken is a lot like me—well he’s a lot better looking but personality wise he’s very much me. Further, I think there’s me in the characters who are not at all like me because they are often based on peole I’ve met or know. My mother certainly appears a lot.