Gratuitous Sex

I love a good story, so when my friends talk about a new TV show that is wonderful, I listen. And when I have time, I will watch it. But I am leery because many times the show, especially on the “premium” channels, will suddenly lose the story in order to show two people having sex.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve written romances, and mine all include sex scenes. I have no problems with sex scenes…when they are appropriate to the story. But too often the scenes on the TV shows are gratuitous. They’re there for throwing sex on the screen, not for advancing the story. They’re there because sex sells, not because it helps characterization, or plot, or conflict, all of which are good reasons for sex scenes. It’s a writing issue, not a moral judgment.

I stopped watching a certain paranormal series for that reason. I was on the fence about the show, but was interested enough to continue. Then came the gratuitous sex scene. There was no reason for it except titillation. I stopped watching. It happened again yesterday. I was watching a show about colonial America, and two characters have sex. They have completed a dangerous assignment, and they are angry with each other because of how they had to behave. One of these characters has just learned her husband is dead, and the other has a wife. I get it. It’s the release, it’s the sudden revelry in success after danger, it’s a celebration of being alive. Except. Except the concept of honor and decorum which has been portrayed as huge elements of both their characters has been conveniently forgotten and thus undermined. I might have bought it if they were so caught up in the emotions of their success that they tear the clothes off each other and do the act without thinking, but it was a slow, relishing of each other. For me, it didn’t support what the writers have established.

The same is true for nudity. First of all it’s not a big deal. I have long thought we make too much of showing the human body. We all have one set of parts or another (generally speaking), and while we can enjoy those parts, parts are thrown on the screen just for the shock effect. Sorry. If I wanted to see a pair of boobs, I can look down my shirt. Does that sound hypocritical? First I say we make too much of it, then I say TV shouldn’t show parts. No, what I’m saying is that using body parts for shock effect is wrong. I believe it perpetuates the drooling culture, which should have disappeared long ago. When a show like Games of Thrones, an intricate, political, and gripping drama, can be reduced to nudity jokes by comedians, it’s a sign of gratuitous nudity.

Look, sex is boring unless you’re doing it (Of course, I have the same opinion of viewing sports). The act itself looks rather funny too. In writing there are only so many ways to describe a fairly basic act. It’s the reason I don’t read many romances any more. The sex is the least interesting part of the book and now there is an emphasis on the sex instead of the why. (That and the emotional baggage characters carry these days, so I can’t believe in a happy ending unless these people go through serous psychoanalysis.)

Maybe I’m a prude.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Harry Potter und der Orden des Phönix by JK Rowling

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Insanity…

…thy name is author. In which I look at the crazy ways being a writer is, well, nuts.

If you sit down to think about it, being a writer is truly absurd. Gone is any hope of a sensible view of the world. In which other occupation can the words “good rejection” make sense? Who else but a writer would read the names of two towns on a billboard–Sylvana and Arlington–and think, “Aha. The names of my next protagonists” ?  And whatever happened to the guilt you’re supposed to feel at eavesdropping rather than the frantic search for a scrap of paper on which to write that perfect turn of phrase  overheard in line at the supermarket or to record the plot point that jumped into your head?

Despite the turn to technology, I still have reams of paper sitting around my house, some blank, some filled with hundreds of thousands of words (that is NOT an exaggeration) that have either made me giddy or filled me with despair. I have more pens in my purse than a receptionists desk at a medical clinic, more empty journals than lifetimes to fill them. I have a huge dictionary that I keep close by my side for reference, and more bookshelves than a classroom and they are still too full to fit all the books I own, so I have huge plastic containers in the garage also filled with books.

And don’t think I’m lacking in the technology either. I have a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, a smart phone, more writing programs than fingers, an e-reader, headphones, microphone, cameras, and yet I still like doing my first drafts in long hand.

TheSeaEagleSmallEverything I watch or hear is possible source of inspiration. True story. I saw a segment on TV about a man who found an injured owl. One of the owl’s wings had to be amputated. The man cared for the owl as best he could and the owl recovered, but, of course, couldn’t fly. When the man realized that the owl missed flight, he strapped on roller blades, perched the owl on his shoulder, and skated along the lakefront in Chicago. The owl would lean into the wind and pretend he was flying again. The man lost fifty pounds too. This story became THE SEA EAGLE, except for the fifty pounds. I don’t do diet books.

FalconAndWolfLatestSmallFamily is inspiration too. Robot Guy once said, “Engineers are never heroes in romance novels. Why don’t you write one with an engineer as a hero?” So I did: THE FALCON AND THE WOLF. Okay, so there’s also magic in that story, but why quibble over the details. And having a child with special needs became the inspiration for two special characters in AS YOU WISH. That one has magic too, but, hey, I’m writing fiction, not memoir.StevensAsYouWish

Once I was out walking with Robot Guy and a plane flew overhead. I looked up and my immediate thought was, “If it blew up right now, could I run away from the debris field?” So I asked him. He just looked at me and said, “Is that really what goes through your head?”

Yup. It really is.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Still can’t tell you, but when I get back to regular reading, you’ll find my choices here.