Thought that would get your attention!
In college, my housemates and I read a lot. Required reading, reserve reading (okay, some of them did), newspapers, magazines, novels, essays. And then there were the white-covered Silhouette Romances, passed hand to and, the property of the house rather than any one individual. The white covers were significant because they denoted that sex would actually take place in the book, as opposed to the regular Harlequin Romances that ended with a first kiss.
The most entertaining thing about the Silhouette Romances was the contortions the writers went through to get their heroines into unconsummated marriages, so that when the inevitable happened and they and their husbands fell madly in love with each other, or succumbed to passion in unlikely spots (the desert–sandy! A vineyard in a thunderstorm–muddy and dangerous!), they were already married. Ah, the good old days, although I understand that what I think of as the Throbbing Manhood genre is still, in various forms, a thriving market.
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the blow by blow (sorry) accounts of body parts and positions, but the problem is that one person’s “woo-hoo!” is often another person’s “Eww!” (See deserts and vineyards, above.) Readers need the characters’ thoughts and emotions to figure out how we should feel about the sex in books, and it’s the author’s job then, as always, to provide that guidance. I have read plenty of sex scenes where at the end I’m left wondering, “So, um, was that supposed to be a good thing?!”
The traditional novelists’ ideas on this were often an emphatic No, or for the French writers, Non. They mostly described sex in the context of the kinds of illicit love that are bound to end badly–usually tragically. Colette’s ladies are always being discarded for younger mistresses, Emma Bovary is, if not driven mad by sex, definitely helped along that path. The tragedy is often, (although not always, see Proust) confined to the females, which I merely note in passing since this is a blog post and not a doctoral dissertation.
And finally, the worst sex scene I ever read was in that book with the desert. The heroine needed, for some reason I can’t remember, to get across a desert to help her brother, and the only possible guide was a Bedouin with an eye patch, and the only way, unlikely as it seems, that he could accompany her across the desert was if they went through one of those pro forma marriages- in-name-only that were a staple of the genre.
When the inevitable happened, and they were overwhelmed by passion in the middle of the desert, she removed his eye patch and caressed the empty socket, an image that has probably scarred me in ways I’m not even aware of. You’re welcome.
Come on, readers. What was the worst, or best ,sex scene you ever read? Thoughts? Opinions? Arguments? Diatribes? I want to hear from you.