Smarter Smut: Well Written Sex Scenes in Literature

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Smarter Smut: Well Written Sex Scenes in Literature

Via The Houston Press:

In the wake of certain literary trends, humping in literature seems to be at the top of the charts—which is awesome. Anything that helps melt the residual Christian/Conservative amber our culture is trapped in is great when it comes to the world of books. The main problem: the most popular sex lit these days is couched in absolutely cring-worthy writing. I'm all for makin' the sexy times with the written word, but for Christ sakes, don't use the expression "triple crap" and describe losing one's lady flower as a "strange pinching sensation."

Thankfully, the good folks over in Houston have complied a few of the hottest sex scenes in literature, giving the sexually liberated book-reading public something to sink their teeth into. Best of all, none of these are categorized as erotica; instead, they picked horror stories like House Of Leaves and classics like The Godfather. Are there any sexy stunners that didn't make the cut?

You can check out the entire list here.

Image of House of Leaves
Author: Mark Z. Danielewski
Price: $14.13
Publisher: Pantheon (2000)
Binding: Paperback, 709 pages
Image of The Godfather
Author: Mario Puzo
Price: $10.78
Publisher: NAL Trade (2002)
Binding: Paperback, 448 pages

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Comments

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne August 9, 2012 - 3:28pm

Yes, because clearly sex scenes in books are somehow going to dissolve religious and political views you happen to disagree with. What? I couldn't even get past that.

Reznik's picture
Reznik from Syracuse, NY is reading H.S. Thompson, Bukowski, Clive Barker, S. King August 9, 2012 - 3:43pm

Mike Riser.   Yes.  Books like 50 Shades, though crappy, serve to publically slap the traditional message supporting a status quo via religious influences & conservative political influences.  How do you think evangelists and white, male, priviledged, repeblicans will publically handle the fact that 50 shades is now the best selling book of all time.  Unless they already happen to accept all forms of blatant (female) sexuality, which they dont, then they will have to either argue with stone cold fact.   or renig their previous statements.   it seems likely they will simply argue that the truth is not in fact the truth.   to anyone watching such a debacle it would become clear that their preconceived notions of society, sexuality, etc... are outdated, and thus the system is shaken.  

 

And the article's author didn't come rt out and say he disagrees with any of those alleged religious/political conceptions.  I'm sure he happens to disagree with them yeah but thats beside the point.  Of course it won't change how people think/act immediately.  In the case power-wielding social/religious conservatives, they might never change their views on homosexuality, race, or gender bias.  I think the author meant more along the lines of society in general as a whole.   And popular books in media are, of course, historically huge catalysts for such events.

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne August 9, 2012 - 5:31pm

Any current popularity of 50Shits is a non-issue. Romance novels have sold like hotcakes for ages, regardless of whether or not everyone happened to jump on the bandwagon of one single series all at once. Those books won't change anything. They certainly aren't doing anything for women, the books feature a chick that's borderline retarded and they've got a sociopathic, misogynist male meal lead.

Regardless, my point was the rest of it. Sticking sex scenes into The Godfather and House of Leaves isn't going to melt any so-called "Christian/conservative amber" any more than a bunch of people buying a crummy romance novel. I'm a Christian, I read and write sex scenes all the time. I fail to see what that has to do with anything. Everybody fucks, and everybody loves fucking. This isn't news.

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy August 9, 2012 - 4:35pm

It's news to me that I am supposed to feel bad about seeing Jennifer Connelly go butt to butt in Requiem for a Dream.

j/k

This sort of thing will not have much of an effect on the extreme Christian right. They simply see it as confirmation that their beliefs are true and that failing to follow them leads to moral downfall. It's the same reason that the Phelps's really aren't bothered by gay people making out in front of them. They see it as confirmation of what they have been saying.

I'm not saying these things don't have an effect on society as a whole, but I think its effects are overrated. 50 Shades of Grey will probably cause more people to go to the ER for sex-related injuries. I'm not sure it will manage much else.

Dave Reuss's picture
Dave Reuss from Bozeman is reading Now is the Hour August 9, 2012 - 5:09pm

Thanks Reznik.

Mike, I'm arguing that our culture's sexual paradigms are largely crafted by our nation's Puritanical upbringing—i.e. sex/masterbation is shameful, the naked body is shameful, women are property, don't touch that or you'll go to hell, etc.

If we can't discuss sexuality openly in our culture, we'll never change. Historically, the more we see and discuss mores built by religion, the more likely we are to change them for the better (see also women's rights, minority rights... and, god willing, same-sex rights). If you paint the elephant 50 shades of grey, now everyone can see it and we'll have to talk about it.

The more we can show how normal and healthy expressing our sexuality is now, the more likely future generations will view it as normal and healthy as well. A wider acceptance and readership of sex in literature may only be baby steps, but baby steps in the right direction nonetheless.

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks August 9, 2012 - 5:15pm

If you paint the elephant 50 shades of grey, now everyone can see it and we'll have to talk about it.

Best line I've read in weeks.

The important thing isn't the sex scene, it's the message the sex scene conveys. Although I'll argue that 50Shades is a misogynistic, conservative novel because of the relationship it admires, I'll admit that none of the misogynistic, conservative politicians are aware of that because it's a book about sex, so they hate it anyway.

Really, if people don't realize how sexist the novel is, it's probably a good thing because it makes them recognize sexuality as a powerful force and something that will exist no matter what. So keep selling 50Shades and keep making women horny. We might actually get something done.

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy August 9, 2012 - 5:31pm

Actually, 50 Shades of Grey makes me fear for women as a gender. I've spent my life trying to be a caring, respectful, compassionate guy, and they are swooning over a misogynistic sociopath. It's like high school all over again. The reviews on amazon and goodreads from women who fantasize about it are appalling.

Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne August 9, 2012 - 6:09pm

I guess I just don't think the sex scene is as powerful as you guys do. I don't really feel like we're anywhere new now versus wherever we were before, and I don't think some sex scenes or even collections of popular smut are going to melt anything. And honestly, I think 50 Shades is doing more harm than good on most levels. Who doesn't recognize sexuality as a powerful force? It's making women horny for the wrong reasons and seems defeatist, doing nothing but reinforcing negative stereotypes. Especially when you see those women who worship it as literature, as something with cultural or philosophical merit. I just can't view that as healthy.

SammyB's picture
SammyB from Las Vegas is reading terribly written student essays August 10, 2012 - 1:17am

I find that a lot of fiction contains sex, even if it is not the main focus. It used to shock me when I first began reading, because I always thought sex was only in romance and erotica, but that is because the books we read in high school either had it edited out or didn't have it explicitly on the page at all. Part of the issue with America's conservative views of sexuality is that we do have the influence of our Puritanical roots. People enjoy reading about sex and watching it, but they mostly shy away from openly talking about it. There does seem to be a shift though. Especially with the release and success of 50 Shades of Grey. People are openly talking about sex and sexuality because of its popularity.  

Unfortunately, it seems that female sexuality still makes a lot of people uncomfortable (men and women). I understand that the book is poorly written and has a horrible message, but it started a conversation. The thing that bothers me most is that most of the conversation has taken on a tone of mocking. Women are mocked for reading it and are treated like they are lonely, horny housewives who have nothing better to do. These women are also talked about as if they were doing something dirty by reading it and enjoying the sexual content. Do I like the book? Absolutely not! But I like that women are openly admitting that they enjoy reading about and having sex as much as their husbands/boyfriends enjoy having sex and wanking to porn. We still have a very long road to travel in regard to being more open about sexuality. Once people mature enough to talk about it in an "everybody does it eventually" type conversation, then we will be better off.

Though, I was at a party with colleagues recently and we were having a conversation about female orgasms and how complex they are. I guess it mostly depends on who is taking part in the conversation. I am also a Christian and grew up in a very conservative Baptist household, but studying English and Film really brought me out of my shell and gave me the words to intelligently discuss sex and sexuality. It helped that most of the books I read in college dealt with sexuality in one context or other.

Sorry for the lengthy reply. This was my main focus in my BA program. Literature and sex go hand in hand for me :)

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words August 10, 2012 - 10:15am

They totally missed Robert Coover's A Night at the Movies, or You Must Remember This. In the last short story in the collection, he inserts (ahem) the sex scenes between Rick & Ilsa that were hinted at in Casablanca. The scenes are lusciously written.

What about the coprophilia & dominatrix in Gravity's Rainbow?

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books August 11, 2012 - 12:32am

I guess I just don't think the sex scene is as powerful as you guys do. I don't really feel like we're anywhere new now versus wherever we were before, and I don't think some sex scenes or even collections of popular smut are going to melt anything.

Before what? We are leap years ahead of where we were re: sexuality in our culture even 50 years ago. If you mean "Before 50 Shades Of Grey", well...duh. Even if one crappy series of books by itself could change something, it surely wouldn't happen overnight. BUT if a book that deals with (gasp) traditionally deviant sex can become a best seller, then people talk about the book. In turn, they talk about sex. I am sure I don't have to map out the rest of the journey for you.

I think Dave makes good points. Our country's puritanical values are more than apparent on a daily basis, but when people take the time to challenge those beliefs in ways that are not so easy to blow off, things change. Will we change the super-conservative Religious Right? Probably not on an individual level, no. But changing the perceptions of certain issues, removing taboos, and making them into conversation pieces definitely removes the mystique and allows for forward movement.

 

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books August 11, 2012 - 12:39am

Regardless, my point was the rest of it. Sticking sex scenes into The Godfather and House of Leaves isn't going to melt any so-called "Christian/conservative amber" any more than a bunch of people buying a crummy romance novel. I'm a Christian, I read and write sex scenes all the time. I fail to see what that has to do with anything. Everybody fucks, and everybody loves fucking. This isn't news.

Sorry, I hope it doesn't seem like I am picking on you. Those scenes weren't "stuck in", they are already there. 

And secondly, no...not everybody "loves fucking". Or...they do, but they don't agree that everyone else does. Take a look at any debate about government assistance, abortion, or birth control. Take a look at how women are still called "sluts" for being promiscious, but men do not face the same ridicule. The overwhelming number of people who truly believe that wearing certain clothes or being promiscuous puts you at risk for, and gives you some reposnibility for, being raped.

The fact is, our culture does NOT talk about sex openly and honestly. We talk around it. We find ways of quantifying it (sex in marriage=good. College student on birth control =slut, etc) but we do not openly and honestly discuss the complexity of it. I am in no way trying to defend 50 Shades, but we cannot deny that it has brought sex to every place from Fox News to ladies' book clubs.