So…Are Your Characters Ever Going To Fuck?

So…Are Your Characters Ever Going To Fuck?

It seems to always come down to this question for me. In Adult Fiction, but especially in Young Adult fiction.

Are you, the author, brave enough to let your characters have sex? On the page? With physical details? A negotiated, real-time occurrence? No fade-out, no dreamy ‘crest the heavens’ emotionality?

I don’t need to know the exact nature of fluid exchange or the blow-by-blow (thrust by thrust?) account of the sexual adventure. (I mean, feel free to do that, if you want.) But if you don’t go there at all, I think you are kind of a pussy.

Well, maybe not. Maybe that’s too mean.

Okay. Here’s a nicer way of saying it. By not having any sexual scenes in your book, I think you are missing a big opportunity to say something about sex that is unique to you.

Could you write something about sex that will make others nod their heads? Maybe normalize the whole act into something that actually HAPPENS? Not something that could happen (porn, advertising) but something real. Something maybe only you have the guts (the balls?) to mention? Maybe even something only you – YES, YOU, YOU FICTION-WRITING SEX-HAVER! – have noticed or performed or experienced?

So, bring it to light. Have some bravery. Even though there will be people who might say you are masturbatory or prurient or just plain sleazy. Those people are fucking wankers and babies and probably not brave at all. They are the nightgown-lifters writing fiction with the lights off, eyes squeezed shut and thinking of England.

Well, maybe that’s harsh, too. The nicer version? Not having your characters fuck is boring. And bullshit.

But, hey! you might say. My story is not about sex. It’s not even about love or romance! I don’t have that as part of the plot! My main characters are small children!

Fine. I’m not saying every book MUST have sex in it (though I usually prefer ones that do). But if your characters are of the age where sexual experimentation and questioning is happening, I encourage you to explore that at as an aspect in your story.

Put your characters in a sexual situation, early in a draft. See what happens. It doesn’t have to go in the final draft. It doesn’t even have to see the light of day. But just TRY IT. See where your imagination will take you. It’s probably to a place where porn doesn’t go very often.

(NOT SAYING PORN IS BAD! IT’S NOT! BUT PORN SHOULDN’T BE THE SOLE INFORMATIONAL CLEARINGHOUSE OF SEXUAL BEHAVIOR!)

For me, writing about sex is a public service. Something I must do For The Children. Something I owe readers, especially young adult readers. I think I owe them sexual truths, however small and low-decibel they seem next to the roar of context-free porn and commercial titillation in our culture. They deserve reality and imagination, something they make in their own heads. Something more vivid and complex than porn. Awkwardness and grace and practicality and discomfort and humor and confusion and emotion -all the juiciness that sex evokes.

So, I implore you, Writers. See if you can make your characters fuck.

Have them Do It…For The Children.

4 Comments

  • Carrie Mesrobian on May 16, 2013 Reply

    I think you are right. I think most people aren’t ready to write/discuss sex between consenting adults, so never mind teenagers.

    There are so many mistakes we get away with in this life. So many errors we make for which they are no consequences. Why should sex be any different?

    It’s funny; the notion of teenagers having sex or learning about their sexuality or whatever is less upsetting to me personally than all the bullshit notions about love and romance our culture jams down our throats. If we tell girls that the first person they Do It with must be someone the LOOOOOOVE and who LOOOOOOOOVES them back and it must be “forever” and “true” and whatever, what are we saying? That they should marry the first person they fuck? In HIGH SCHOOL? Are we not setting them up for disappointment when we imply that? Why do we not blink when boys ‘lose’ their virginity but for girls whip it up into this big meringue of bullshit expectations? I think many YA books reflect this message and I’m frankly tired of it.

    So I don’t think you sound awful and your comment makes loads of sense to me.

    Which Characters Are You Going To Fuck – now that’s an excellent topic for another post… Jonah Griggs, #1 spot, then Owen Armstrong…

  • Racquel (A Book Barbie) on May 16, 2013 Reply

    I read the title as “So…Which Characters Are You Going To Fuck?” and I already got a WHOLE list ready from the time I clicked the link on your tweet and started the article. But what this article actually is also rocks!

    I guess not ALL YA books have to have sex in them because plain & simple, not all 100% of teens are having sex but that doesn’t mean all teens are NOT having sex.

    As a teen in HS, I just find the whole thing funny, to be honest. I get to sit back and see all these adults make a Big Deal about it while teens are off having wild sex. All these arguments and posts and going back and forth while pretty much most of the teens don’t care. I would trust the sex in your book because I think you understand teens have sex. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be world-ending great, it doesn’t have to suck, you don’t have to get pregnant, you don’t have to catch an STD, consequences are not necessary most of the time. “Awkwardness and grace and practicality and discomfort and humor and confusion and emotion” will work just fine instead.

    This might sound awful, but I think most YA writers & readers who speak about the subject are sooooo far removed from actual reality. I mean, if ONLY they know .01% of what actually happens. And I don’t think they’ll like it either. They just turned the whole thing to something it’s not and ugh, does this comment even make sense???

  • Carrie on Aug 20, 2012 Reply

    You and me both, lady!

  • Syntax and Salt on Aug 20, 2012 Reply

    Yet another post that makes me anxious for your debut novel 😀

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