Author Topic: Sex in SF and Literature  (Read 30154 times)

Seraphim

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on: July 12, 2010, 02:39:54 AM
Call me old fashioned, but as far as I am concerned sexual congress is one of those few things that should never be put on display. That doesn't mean it can't be talked about, insinuated, implied, referenced...but it shouldn't be shown.  Consider Gone with the Wind, an angry Rhett sweeps a petulant Scarlett off her feet and strides up the stairs to the bedroom. Cut. Next scene, Scarlett the next morning luxuriating in bed in a much better mood.  Everything good or bad that needs to be said about their physical relationship is said right there and not one moment is wasted on clothes shucking, naked tag, bouncing naughty bits, bestial moaning, or moist body noises.  Granted others may feel very differently than I do, but I've yet to encounter anything that remotely moves me to reconsider.  Indeed the older I get, the more convinced I am on this point, I'm right...and I think I'm in good company. I don't recall any such flouncing about in Lewis or Tolkien. Moreover, I've read Ursula K. LeGuin's take on someone's dehumanizing full on misery, and it was horrific enough to consider without a single bit of R language or X scene creation.  

Suffice it to say such material is a modern penchant of which I want no part either as a reader or writer. But, as I said, that's just me.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2010, 06:14:05 AM by Heradel »



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #1 on: July 12, 2010, 03:41:43 AM
Emphasis mine:

Suffice it to say such material is a modern penchant of which I want no part either as a reader or writer. But, as I said, that's just me.

I see what you did there. Very clever, my angelic friend(s). Strengthening your point by associating it with the "good old times," before all that messy modern nonsense. Very good, very good.

I'd argue that the naughty, sweaty, bestial, naughty bits are a proud part of the Western literary tradition. Let's see...
  • 1984 (1949) which includes the nonsexiest sex scene ever. But it's naked. It's explicit. And it's definitely sex. That brings to mind...
  • Brave New World (1932) which includes an orgy. Continuing back in time, we eventually come to...
  • Lady Chatterly's Lover (1928) includes sex scenes so vivid the book was banned for forty years, but that's not nearly as  dirty as...
  • Women in Love (1920) which includes one of the earliest - and completely on-stage - gay sex scenes. Penises are not mentioned, but there's naked, there's sweaty, there's grunting, and there's grabbing. But let's not forget...
  • Tess of the D'urbervilles (1891) where the sex isn't just blatantly on-screen, it's rape, blatantly on-screen!
  • Of course, we can't complete a list like this without Shakespear (1585 to 1613). Although nobody actually boned anybody on stage, the works of Shakespeare are full of extremely naughty jokes and a few, fairly vivid descriptions of sex acts. That's got to count for something.
  • And finally we have the Bible (-2000 or so). As an angel yourself, I'm sure your familiar with it. Did you know that the Song of Songs - also called the Song of Solomon - is basically a long, erotic love poem? Even if it's actually referring to the relationship between Israel and God, it's definitely not a platonic relationship, if you catch my drift. Let's just say that when God admires Israel's breasts, God pretty much just admires Israel's breasts, and when God talks about Israel's navel... that's an intentional mistranslation. The Hebrew is referring to a "fragrant"" part that's a little more... southerly. You know what I mean.

So, sir, I'm afraid that your chaste literary castle is built on sand. Sex - explicit sex - is intimately related to our literary tradition. You may well have a problem with that - I'm saying that sex firmly penetrates literature, not that you have to like it - but it's so. You don't get to wrap yourself in history on this one. You're going to actually have to tell us what you don't like about it.

Note: I'd like to give credit where it's due, to my English major fiancée, without whom I wouldn't have done nearly as good a job with this post.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2010, 04:23:09 PM by DKT »

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Seraphim

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Reply #2 on: July 12, 2010, 04:48:57 AM
At least in part you make my point.

1984: sex scene mercifully short, and not really necessary, the story point was sufficiently made without it.

Brave New World: Not so far back in time as not to be "modern" in its sensibilities. Never read it, so I don't know how explicit it is, but I did see the old movie, and have read about its place in literary history.

Lader Chatterly's Lover: as you say the book was banned at a time when public standards were a little higher than today. Never read it, never wanted to...and from what I've read about it even if all the explicit sex were not in the book would not want to...romantic story stuff bores me. Not a flicker of interest.

Tess: Saw the movie I think, hard to recall...may have read some of the book a very long time ago...if I did my memory of it is so faint is probably because it bored me and I put it down.  Given that it was written by Sir Thomas Hardy it is no wonder...the man could bore the bark off a tree. He's the only person I've ever read who literally caused me to weep his writing was so tediously boring. Had Return of the Native not been required reading for a class I would have returned his book to the soil so that it might at least do a little good as rich life giving humus.

Women in Love: Never head of it.

Shakespeare: yes he got a trifle bawdy in his references, but mercifully spared the stage their acting out so far as I know...and if he didn't...well beyond being a little surprised such things would have been allowed then, I've primarily read his plays and have only had opportunity to see a very few of them performed.

Bible, yes, I've some familiarity with it, and with the Song of Soloman...as for the supposed intentional mistranslation assertion, I'll have to have more substantive authority on that.  Still there's ample talk about kisses and breasts and the like, I'll grant you.  But such talk as there is does not descend into to anything more than the language of admiration...no "action" beyond kissing.

So I would counter while our literature does have a history of sexual reference, the more explicit and graphic literary forays have tended to be sources of long standing public disdain regardless of their other literary merits. The whole notion that art needs to shock the sensibilities or challenge tradition, or the common cultural mores never had much traction with me. I'll admit there are limited occasions when use of the arts to challenge some conventions are warranted but that would be more when dealing with some entrenched injustice like Jim Crow laws, or filthy meat packing plants, hence works like To Kill A Mocking Bird, Invisible Man, the Jungle, or the children's books Beautiful Joe.

As for what I don't like about it...its simple, it is a very private, and dare I say holy congress that is simply inappropriate to put in the public eye. Other human beings come from that act. Turning it into a mere voyeuristic entertainment trivializes it, degrades it. In short such use of it is shameful...an antiquated conceit in an age where shame is reserved for smoking, wearing fur, voting republican and eating nonorganic tofu, but there you have it.  It's not quite as bad as snuff films, but then what is?

Beyond that I really don't like foul language...to read or to hear. I will endure a very little knowing what times we live in...but only a little and it is a little that I do not like very much at all. The combination of foul language (which to me is just crude and impolite) and graphic sexual depictions is more than I am willing to endure. Others can read it if they like. I don't.

I know this view is a little narrow-minded by today's standards, but as I once heard it explained I try to treat my mind like a living room and not a junk yard. A living room is narrow minded. Some things are permitted in...if they meet a certain standard, but not just anything. The junkyard on the other hand admits anything without any discernment or discrimination.  There are images, thoughts, ideations that I simply do not want in my head. One cannot unexpose oneself to things that are inherently corrupting...sort of like pee in the pool, there's no getting it out once in. But with enough time, and chlorine, and sunshine, and great care about who you let swim in your pool...the effect of pee past can fade away....but that will never happen if you keep giving the peeers free access.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2010, 04:22:56 PM by DKT »



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Reply #3 on: July 12, 2010, 05:06:00 AM
Yes, reading a sex scene in a story specifically about the alienation of sex and how disconnected it can be from anything like a relationship is just like peeing in a pool.  Putting a sex scene in your work automatically reduces the quality and corrupts everything around it. 

What if people were saying things like, "I can't ever read a scene about eating food without feeling like it's just there to taunt me and try to make me hungry.  All that talk of smells and flavors... and the chewing!  Goodness me, what have standards come to when there's an entire story that uses eating as a metaphor and explores what it means.  Things were better in the old days.  No one talked about eating in polite company." 

Sex can be holy, but it can also be vicious and destructive, and more to the point it doesn't have any of these qualities unless we give them to it.  Without a human to perceive it, it's a mere biological process.  It's a connection, but in and of itself, stripped of a relationship with another human, all it is is... Ins and Outs.  Humans are what give it meaning and make it holy, and this is a story about that.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2010, 04:22:46 PM by DKT »



Seraphim

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Reply #4 on: July 12, 2010, 05:14:14 AM
 
Quote
Putting a sex scene in your work automatically reduces the quality and corrupts everything around it. 

Yep...pretty much. For me it does.

BTW the pee in the pool metaphor was not about sex/sex scenes per se but about exercising control...choosing what types of things you want in your mind, being a bit discriminating about what you allow to influence/inform you. 

Addendum: For those who are making inferences based on my username, just to clear things up, it is not some attempt at pretension...its just my name.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2010, 04:22:33 PM by DKT »



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #5 on: July 12, 2010, 05:42:24 AM
I sliced your comment up in order to reply to it in a way that suits my purposes more. I don't think I actually mangled your points, but I thought a disclaimer was in order.

So I would counter while our literature does have a history of sexual reference, the more explicit and graphic literary forays have tended to be sources of long standing public disdain regardless of their other literary merits.

I think you're taking a very narrow view of "long standing public disdain." Or, perhaps, a very loose view. Many of the works I listed are now viewed as great classics, taught in high schools and colleges throughout American and Europe. These are great works we're talking about. You can say you don't like them, but it's... well, it's just plain wrong to claim that they have suffered "long standing public disdain." A more accurate description might be that they suffered "short term and ultimately unsuccessful attempts to ban them." That's the history. That's what happened.

The whole notion that art needs to shock the sensibilities or challenge tradition, or the common cultural mores never had much traction with me. I'll admit there are limited occasions when use of the arts to challenge some conventions are warranted but that would be more when dealing with some entrenched injustice like Jim Crow laws, or filthy meat packing plants, hence works like To Kill A Mocking Bird, Invisible Man, the Jungle, or the children's books Beautiful Joe.

This is an interesting conceit, and I won't argue with you much here. Yes, it's true: major injustices often need to be combated with incredibly distressing art. Less striking issues don't demand the same degree of challenge. Whether or not (and to what degree) you like being shocked, appalled, and challenged by your art is a very personal choice, so here I'm satisfied if we just agree to disagree. I like it when stories throw me for a loop, distress me, and make me question my assumptions about life, even when it isn't about a "major" issue. You have an issue you don't want to be challenged on: sex. That's fine.

That brings us to your last point...

As for what I don't like about it...its simple, it is a very private, and dare I say holy congress that is simply inappropriate to put in the public eye. Other human beings come from that act. Turning it into a mere voyeuristic entertainment trivializes it, degrades it. In short such use of it is shameful...an antiquated conceit in an age where shame is reserved for smoking, wearing fur, voting republican and eating nonorganic tofu, but there you have it.  It's not quite as bad as snuff films, but then what is?

Beyond that I really don't like foul language...to read or to hear. I will endure a very little knowing what times we live in...but only a little and it is a little that I do not like very much at all. The combination of foul language (which to me is just crude and impolite) and graphic sexual depictions is more than I am willing to endure. Others can read it if they like. I don't.

I know this view is a little narrow-minded by today's standards, but as I once heard it explained I try to treat my mind like a living room and not a junk yard. A living room is narrow minded. Some things are permitted in...if they meet a certain standard, but not just anything. The junkyard on the other hand admits anything without any discernment or discrimination.  There are images, thoughts, ideations that I simply do not want in my head. One cannot unexpose oneself to things that are inherently corrupting...sort of like pee in the pool, there's no getting it out once in. But with enough time, and chlorine, and sunshine, and great care about who you let swim in your pool...the effect of pee past can fade away....but that will never happen if you keep giving the peeers free access.

I respect your opinion here. I'm going to post with my opinion, but that doesn't mean I disagree with you; how can I disagree with what you prefer?

In my mind, there is nothing dirty or bad about sex. There is also nothing holy or sacred about sex. Dirty and bad, holy and sacred - these concepts are nothing more than concepts. As far as I'm concerned, I made them up and I can do whatever I want with them. Sometimes I like my sex holy and sacred... and sometimes I like it dirty and bad. As my fiancée (the English major) just called out from across the room: "sometimes I want to be treated like a piece of meat." I think a lot of people feel that way from time to time, and there's nothing wrong with that.

So for me, tending to the living room of my mind doesn't mean keeping the sex out. I prefer a food metaphor to a living room metaphor. I feed my head a balanced diet of fiction and nonfiction, science and fantasy, brownies and salad and steak. Sometimes I want to sink my teeth into something substantial and greasy and wonderful (the Mistborn Trilogy) and sometimes I want something sparse and healthy (The Death and Life of the Great American School System) and sometimes I want to enjoy some chewing gum (I have the Collected Conan the Barbarian around here somewhere...). The sexiness of a work isn't a primary factor in whether or not I want to consume it. It's just another quality - another flavor, if you will, or perhaps a vitamin - that I enjoy.

It sounds like you've got a Madonna/whore complex about your fiction; sex is too beautiful to be degraded with actually reading about it and too degrading to expose your beautiful mind to. Well, hey... it's your life. Have fun. As long as you're not a book-banner, I don't care what you think about what's appropriate and what's not.

Before I continue, though, I'd like to point this out in bold:

You just flipped on what's old fashioned and what's new-fangled. You are neither rooted in a proud puritanical post nor reaching forward to a bold puritanical future. You're just you. That's ok - your points will stand fine on their own without making stuff up.

I'm sorry. That kind of arguing really bothers me.

At least in part you make my point.

I beg to differ, as we will see below...

1984: sex scene mercifully short, and not really necessary, the story point was sufficiently made without it.

I disagree. By showing us that the characters have lost the capacity to enjoy sex, Orwell is driving the depravity of his dystopia home. The world of 1984 is a terrible place - the party has even stolen sex from them. The characters' dry, limp, humiliating fumbling is absolutely essential to understanding the future Orwell is trying to scare us away from.

Brave New World: Not so far back in time as not to be "modern" in its sensibilities. Never read it, so I don't know how explicit it is, but I did see the old movie, and have read about its place in literary history.

Eh.. modern's a pretty flexible term, so I'll let you slide on this one. I recall the scene as quite explicit, but I could be wrong.

Lader Chatterly's Lover: as you say the book was banned at a time when public standards were a little higher than today. Never read it, never wanted to...and from what I've read about it even if all the explicit sex were not in the book would not want to...romantic story stuff bores me. Not a flicker of interest.

I think it's interesting that sex appalls you and romance bores you... but that's none of my business. I also think that public standards being "higher" is a very subjective term, and not one I'm going to let you toss out without an argument. Certainly, public standards were stricter. Whether or not that was a good thing, though... well, I already stated my opinion above, as have you. I won't reiterate our points here.

Tess: Saw the movie I think, hard to recall...may have read some of the book a very long time ago...if I did my memory of it is so faint is probably because it bored me and I put it down.  Given that it was written by Sir Thomas Hardy it is no wonder...the man could bore the bark off a tree. He's the only person I've ever read who literally caused me to weep his writing was so tediously boring. Had Return of the Native not been required reading for a class I would have returned his book to the soil so that it might at least do a little good as rich life giving humus.

I agree with you on Hardy, and Tess is awful. That doesn't change the fact that the explicit rape scene undermines your point about how prim the good old days were. I'll remind you of that and move on.

Women in Love: Never head of it.

Neither have I - my fiancée recommended it as evidence. She's smart.

Shakespeare: yes he got a trifle bawdy in his references, but mercifully spared the stage their acting out so far as I know...and if he didn't...well beyond being a little surprised such things would have been allowed then, I've primarily read his plays and have only had opportunity to see a very few of them performed.

A trifle bawdy. A trifle?

We have a fart joke in "The Tempest." In "Hamlet," two characters joke about being firmly ensconced in Lady Fortune's genitals. Speaking of "Hamlet," Hamlet himself tells Ophelia exactly where she can stick it, repeatedly, with instructions; it just sounds pretty because we don't understand it anymore. We have a half an hour tirade about a girlfriend's breasts in "Comedy of Errors." There's more, but I have to stop. The next point is my favorite:

Bible, yes, I've some familiarity with it, and with the Song of Soloman...as for the supposed intentional mistranslation assertion, I'll have to have more substantive authority on that.  Still there's ample talk about kisses and breasts and the like, I'll grant you.  But such talk as there is does not descend into to anything more than the language of admiration...no "action" beyond kissing.

Ok... *knuckle crack* my fiancée might have been an English major, but I was a Religion major, and this is going to be fun.

I'm not going to go over the Song of Songs line by line. I'm going to pick out two of my favorite parts.

First, here's the part I was referenceing before: Song of Songs 7:2-5. I'm not going to quote the whole text at you because the King James version is an awful translation of the original and it's all I can find online. I'm going to summarize it like this:

1. He praises her feet.
2. He praises her thighs.
3. He praises her navel.
4. He praises her belly.
5. He praises her breasts, neck, eyes, et...

Notice something weird? Feet, thights, belly button (?), belly, and up?

Hebrew poetry was very structured. When one started a pattern, one did not break from it. One didn't detour, and one certainly didn't repeat - even for the ancient Hebrews, "belly" and "navel" meant basically the same thing. What we're looking at here is a willing mistranslation of a word that I promise you is not navel. And what does he say about her navel?

"Your "navel" is like a round goblet/let mixed wine not be lacking!"

Sounds a little like he... well... here's the other part: Song of Songs 4:6-7

"...I will betake me to the mount of myrrh, to the hill of frankincense. Every part of you is fair, my darling, there is no blemish in you."

"Navel" like a goblet filled with "wine." Going to the "mount of myrrh?"

Not at all explicitly sexy. Nope.

* * *

Deep breaths, Paladin. Deep breaths...

I'm going to stop now because I think I'm turning into a bit of an overzealous jerk. I'd like to close with a reiteration of my most important point:

It's ok for you to feel however you like about sex and literature - I feel differently, and that's ok - but don't try to pretend that your statements are based on absolute truths. There was no golden age of sexless literature. There will be no golden future of sexless literature. Sex and literature were and will always be an important part of art. You can avoid those kinds of art that offend your sensibilities - dirty up your living room - but you aren't "right" and you aren't "wrong." You're just you. That's all any of us are.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2010, 04:22:23 PM by DKT »

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Seraphim

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Reply #6 on: July 12, 2010, 06:43:17 AM
I appreciate your efforts Paladin, but I'm not convinced; the LXX (the one that counts) still reads navel, but be that as it may that detail is ultimately irrelevant even if I accept your reading...as I stated SoS deals in the language of admiration (she's beautiful, personable, and smells nice), not graphic depictions of intercourse. And it is the graphic depictions I find extraordinarily distasteful.

As for golden puritanical eras either past or future...I'm no fan of either prospect and regard nothing concerning the Puritans to be golden except perhaps the odd coin or two.  But I am for self restraint.

Quote
I think it's interesting that sex appalls you and romance bores you
  Sex doesn't appall me...making a spectacle of it does.  And romance as a story...yeah it bores me...If I've got a choice to see Sleepless in Seattle or Saving Private Ryan... I'm not picking the one about "soul mates" finding each other via call in radio shows.

That said, at least we agree on Hardy...and that after all is something.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2010, 04:22:09 PM by DKT »



Seraphim

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Reply #7 on: July 12, 2010, 04:47:22 PM
hmmm never intended to start a whole new thread...just chiming in on why I didn't want to read or listen to Spar...or anything remotely like it.  Maybe better not to chime in on some things.

That said...
Quote
There will be no golden future of sexless literature.
Maybe not...but wouldn't it be wonderful it there were...as Hamlet might say, "a consummation devoutly to be wished." ...anybody else hear Louie Armstrong singing "what a wonderful world?" No? Must be just me then.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2010, 04:56:43 PM by Seraphim »



Talia

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Reply #8 on: July 12, 2010, 04:51:02 PM
hmmm never intended to start a whole new thread...just chiming in on why I didn't want to read or listen to Spar...or anything remotely like it.  Maybe better not to chime in on some things.

Threads get split off all the time, its only to keep the main more about the story. People were enjoying chiming in on this discussion, which is why it kinda derailed and got split.

Don't let that stop you though. :)



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Reply #9 on: July 12, 2010, 04:54:48 PM
Yes, reading a sex scene in a story specifically about the alienation of sex and how disconnected it can be from anything like a relationship is just like peeing in a pool.  Putting a sex scene in your work automatically reduces the quality and corrupts everything around it. 

I disagree strongly.

I think there can be a lot of strong writing about what happens DURING sex that, in order to write, you have to have the sex scene. Now, a lot of authors do really terrible sex scenes *coughLAURELLHAMILTONcough* but for me personally I like a good sex scene, especially when the characters really care about each other. Which wasn't happening in "Spar".

Hell, I wrote an entire novel based upon sex. I'm not saying it's great -- it's not even done being edited -- but I'd like to think, Cat, if you read it, you wouldn't hate it.

To my mind, the trick to writing a sex scene is to make it about more than just the ins and outs. And "Spar" had a lot more than just ins and outs.

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Bdoomed

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Reply #10 on: July 12, 2010, 05:06:35 PM
hmmm never intended to start a whole new thread...just chiming in on why I didn't want to read or listen to Spar...or anything remotely like it.  Maybe better not to chime in on some things.
We like chiming in on things around here.  Don't worry that it was split off, happens all the time, like Talia said.  Actually, I would be proud.  With a new thread, this topic has much more room to breathe and expand and grow.  That is, as long as it remains civil :)

Yes, reading a sex scene in a story specifically about the alienation of sex and how disconnected it can be from anything like a relationship is just like peeing in a pool.  Putting a sex scene in your work automatically reduces the quality and corrupts everything around it. 

I disagree strongly.
Hey, I could be wrong, but I read Scattercat's post as sarcastic, not serious (correct me if I'm wrong, Scattercat).


Anyways, personally, sex in literature is just fine by my standards.  Granted, I'm 19 with loose morals (much stronger morals than many of my peers, however) and I'll take my sex wherever it might come.  :P  But I remember back in 8th grade when I first began reading literature for more than simple reading comprehension, and more for analysis.  We read 1984 and Brave New World, both with sexual themes (one much more than the other).  I consider both of those novels to be cornerstones of my literary education, and Brave New World especially would not be the same without the sexual aspect.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2010, 05:10:26 PM by Bdoomed »

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


DKT

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Reply #11 on: July 12, 2010, 05:30:16 PM
First off, Seraphim, I just want to say I respect your opinion and understand where you're coming from. I probably was in a similar place ten years ago, and like many other posters have said, I'm glad you decided to speak up about it, even if I don't quite agree with your conclusions.

One thing I really appreciate about how "Spar" (in particular) was very up front about what it was about in the first sentence - you know right off the bat if this is something you want to spend 22 minutes listening to or not. And you clearly made the right choice for you.

That said, I can't agree with the suggestion that sex - more explicit than Rhett carrying Scarlett upstairs and closing the bedroom door, at least - doesn't have a place in literature.

Passion
Temptation
Despair
Loss
Betrayal
Healing
Humor
Desensitization
Holiness

You might suggest that you can get to these emotions without any description of sex, and in some cases you might be right, but as a blanket statement, I can't get behind it.

I think this is at least partially, because sex is an extremely intimate and personal experience. The relationship between a reader/listener and the text, and an author and the text is also an incredibly intimate and personal experience (albeit, very different).  So it makes sense to me, as an author, to use sex to get across some of those feelings/themes, because telling stories is a very personal thing.

Quote
There will be no golden future of sexless literature.
Maybe not...but wouldn't it be wonderful it there were...as Hamlet might say, "a consummation devoutly to be wished." ...anybody else hear Louie Armstrong singing "what a wonderful world?" No? Must be just me then.

Not for me, at least. Don't get me wrong - I don't want every story to be all about the sex, and I'm tired of stories overusing sex, but in general, I like sex in literature. It's a part of my life, and it's a very human thing to explore, and reflect upon. I'm not saying you should read stories with lots of sex, but I find the suggestion that it should just go away from literature, or that people in general shouldn't read or write about sex to be a bit off.


Listener

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Reply #12 on: July 12, 2010, 06:02:49 PM
Yes, reading a sex scene in a story specifically about the alienation of sex and how disconnected it can be from anything like a relationship is just like peeing in a pool.  Putting a sex scene in your work automatically reduces the quality and corrupts everything around it. 

I disagree strongly.
Hey, I could be wrong, but I read Scattercat's post as sarcastic, not serious (correct me if I'm wrong, Scattercat).

Upon reread, yeah, I see it as sarcastic too. Ah well. I still stand by my point and will make it to anyone who says that stuff non-sarcastically.

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ElectricPaladin

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Reply #13 on: July 12, 2010, 06:03:33 PM
...Granted, I'm 19 with loose morals (much stronger morals than many of my peers, however) and I'll take my sex wherever it might come...

Stop! Listen!

You agree with me and you're still falling into this stupid trap. This assumption promiscuous sex or desire for sex is a sign of immorality is cultural, connected to specific places and times. It's not a general assumption, it's not a universal truth. It's a cultural expectation that not everyone shares.

For me, sex is not a moral issue; war, healthcare, torture, education, and poverty are moral issues. Sex is an activity.

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Bdoomed

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Reply #14 on: July 12, 2010, 06:33:13 PM
However, there still is a large portion of sex that IS a moral issue.  In the natural sense, yes, it is an activity.  But in the societal sense, it is very much a moral decision.  The degree to which it is a moral decision varies culturally.  Religion has seen to that,  especially the Judeo-christian morality, and even more so the conservative side to it.  Promiscuity is immoral, waiting till marriage is moral, etc.  I am not saying, however, that these are the morals to live by.  But the fact of the matter is that where I live, America, sexuality and morality are connected.  There is nothing I can do about that.  If I want to have sex, I have to find someone else with the same moral standpoint as I in regards to sex.  That being, it's not a moral issue for me.  But to society as a whole, it IS a moral issue.

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
Five pounds?  Six pounds? Seven pounds?


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Reply #15 on: July 12, 2010, 07:17:11 PM
Yes, reading a sex scene in a story specifically about the alienation of sex and how disconnected it can be from anything like a relationship is just like peeing in a pool.  Putting a sex scene in your work automatically reduces the quality and corrupts everything around it. 

I disagree strongly.
Hey, I could be wrong, but I read Scattercat's post as sarcastic, not serious (correct me if I'm wrong, Scattercat).

Upon reread, yeah, I see it as sarcastic too. Ah well. I still stand by my point and will make it to anyone who says that stuff non-sarcastically.

Scattercat is prone to sarcasm, particularly when people are making rather ridiculous blanket statements i.e. that reading a sex scene will soil your mind.  "I don't like reading it because it bothers me" is fine.  Know thyself, be aware of your own stumbling blocks, etc.  "Reading that will corrupt my brain, so I choose to avoid it" is nonsensical.  It has patently failed to corrupt quite a few brains, so observational data supports the idea that it is the brains that are important rather than the content in itself.

Sex is a part of being human.  As long as that's true, literature will (and should) have sex in it to all the varying degrees of explicitness. 

Sex qua sex is not a moral issue; moral behavior comes in when relationships enter the picture.  Sex is a potent bonding tool for humans and releases all sort of fizzy little chemicals in the brain.  If you're trying to maintain a relationship of almost any kind (from friendship on up to some sort of immense polyamory), then when and how and with whom you engage in bonding activities will indeed be an important choice to make. 



ElectricPaladin

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Reply #16 on: July 12, 2010, 07:33:36 PM
However, there still is a large portion of sex that IS a moral issue.  In the natural sense, yes, it is an activity.  But in the societal sense, it is very much a moral decision.  The degree to which it is a moral decision varies culturally.  Religion has seen to that,  especially the Judeo-christian morality, and even more so the conservative side to it.  Promiscuity is immoral, waiting till marriage is moral, etc.  I am not saying, however, that these are the morals to live by.  But the fact of the matter is that where I live, America, sexuality and morality are connected.  There is nothing I can do about that.  If I want to have sex, I have to find someone else with the same moral standpoint as I in regards to sex.  That being, it's not a moral issue for me.  But to society as a whole, it IS a moral issue.

A greater man than I once said "be the change you want to see in the world."

I believe that as a Judeo-Christian myself (more specifically, a Judeo), I am as much the owner of that particular tradition as anyone else, more so when compared to the long-dead people who invented it; I'm the one who has to live in it, after all. I certainly have as much a stake in what America's culture says about sex as anyone else. Sexuality and morality are only connected because enough people agree that they are. If enough of us change our minds... why, anything is possible!

I write a lot - especially in forums - about facing the uncertainty of the world and not hiding behind hackneyed and inaccurate presentations of "history" or "truth." I (try to) apply the same standard to myself. Attitudes about sex are as ephemeral as any other human attitude. They are entirely subjective and changeable - and we can change them if we want to, are changing them every moment of every day - not "true."

Anyway, this brings me to my point about sex in literature: in my view, sex is just another part of the human experience. Certainly, it's one we don't want to plaster all over everything. Harmful to the children and all that.

My views aside, I think this discussion could actually go somewhere if we stopped assuming a sex-negative viewpoint. The assumption that sex is too bad to be talked about/too holy to be talked about produces a foregone conclusion: that literature is no place for sex. Wouldn't it be more interesting to set aside our assumptions so we can have a discussion that we don't already know the end of?

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Reply #17 on: July 12, 2010, 07:43:30 PM
To play devil's advocate for a moment, you are basically asking everyone else (i.e. those who automatically categorize sex as special among other activities) to assume their views are false and engage with your point of view on your terms.   ;) 

However, I think it's a very important point; some assumptions simply shut down discussion.  If you assume certain basic premises, then there will be some conclusions you cannot avoid.  Chief among those assumptions that most shut down discussion are variants of "God told me so," in which some outside authority decrees things to be a certain way, but there are others.  This is all rather tangential to the point of the thread.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2010, 08:02:49 PM by Scattercat »



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Reply #18 on: July 12, 2010, 07:54:51 PM
To play devil's advocate for a moment, you are basically asking everyone else (i.e. those who don't automatically categorize sex as special among other activities) to assume their views are false and engage with your point of view on your terms.   ;) 

However, I think it's a very important point; some assumptions simply shut down discussion.  If you assume certain basic premises, then there will be some conclusions you cannot avoid.  Chief among those assumptions that most shut down discussion are variants of "God told me so," in which some outside authority decrees things to be a certain way, but there are others.  This is all rather tangential to the point of the thread.

Huh, yeah. That's the problem with my "let's assume that your point of view is subjective - mine, too"  philosophy. It, itself, is a point of view, and therefore subjective! Ah! Brainsplosion!

I maintain, however - and you seem to agree - that an assumption of subjectivity is the only way to go to maintain an atmosphere of discourse is to assume some degree of subjectivity, otherwise there's no point in talking. You already know you're right and the rest of us are ignorant heathens.

As a Judeo, though, I'd like to speak up in defense of "God told me so." You know, the ancient (and modern) rabbis have this wonderful tradition of debating what, exactly, God meant when he told me so. They also believed in subjectivity enough that they preserved, forever, many records of the opinions that were rejected by the community... kind of like an online forum ;).

Ah, but I'm digressing. The point is... a good question. And that's the point.

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Reply #19 on: July 12, 2010, 09:45:27 PM
So doesn't it come pretty much full circle back to what Seraphim said in the first place?  That he didn't care to read (or listen to) predominantly sexual stories?

My stance is similar.  If the focus is sexual titillation or voyeurism, not to mention defense of less savory sexual behavior, I will generally avoid it.  Some of it nauseates me;  some of it merely frustrates me.  If I wanted to feel frustrated, I'd have stayed married. ;)

I haven't gotten around to The Spar yet.  I'll probably listen to at least part of it, to see if it really has something of substance to offer.  After all, the discussion I've seen hints at a deeper purpose than just catering to lasciviousness urges.

People vote their preferences by what the choose to turn their back on.



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Reply #20 on: July 12, 2010, 09:57:49 PM
So doesn't it come pretty much full circle back to what Seraphim said in the first place?  That he didn't care to read (or listen to) predominantly sexual stories?

That's not what he said. If that was what he said, I doubt anyone would be debating him.



DToland

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Reply #21 on: July 12, 2010, 10:05:50 PM
What he said was:
Quote
I'm glad this one had a warning. I've no interest in any of the territory this story is purported to explore. To this day I've never encountered any sex scene in any book or story that had any serious purpose beyond titillation I could discern. I found if I read them anyway I could not see what those scenes added and was generally disgusted by having let those images inside my head. Since then whenever they occur, I skip ahead and apparently miss nothing of substance to the rest of the story. So if a story such as Spar is so heavily invested in sex and blue language about sex then it is one that I might as well skip from the get go. I tried the first few lines of this story...just to be fair, but my reaction was (as expected) yuck, yuck, and yuck and that was all I could stand and I was sorry I had even bothered at all. Stories about sex, with sexually graphic scenes, with scads of obscene reference and a vocabulary seldom untethered from the scatological...just leave me reaching for a handy gallon of Purell. It grosses me out every time and not in a good way.

I summarized, but I don't think my interpretation is a gross misrepresentation.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2010, 10:07:47 PM by DToland »



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Reply #22 on: July 12, 2010, 10:16:27 PM
However, when someone says they don't want to read, say, "Spar" because *any* sex scenes in literature are inherently bad, that's a point that can be argued.  No one is arguing that Seraphim (or anyone else) should read the story if they don't want to.  However, ElectricPaladin and I are saying that one should examine one's reasons and be sure they are good ones before making sweeping assertions about what makes good writing and what does not. 

As I said, "I don't like to read sex scenes because they make me uncomfortable" is a perfectly reasonable position.  "I don't like to read sex scenes because they serve no point other than titillation" or "I don't read sex scenes because sex is sacred and should never be portrayed in art" are much broader and less defensible positions.



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Reply #23 on: July 12, 2010, 10:33:05 PM
If the focus is sexual titillation or voyeurism, not to mention defense of less savory sexual behavior, I will generally avoid it. 

I think part of what's at issue is that Seraphim has suggested sex is only used for titillation and does not serve the plot or characters; or at least, can be excluded from the plot and characters.

As I've said, I don't think anyone should have to read or listen to something they're uncomfortable with, and I suspect Seraphim made a wise choice by not finishing the story.

But I disagree that sex in literature is only used for titillation.


DToland

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Reply #24 on: July 12, 2010, 10:45:11 PM
Who are you disagreeing with?  That is not what I said.  What I said was:
Quote
If the focus is sexual titillation or voyeurism, not to mention defense of less savory sexual behavior, I will generally avoid it.

"If" is such a small word, it is easy to overlook.  But it's probably the largest concept in science fiction, so give it its due.  :)