Sexuality in Fiction
Some quick thoughts on Sexuality in Fiction
One of the hurdles I’m facing in starting to write works of fiction concerns something that, divorced from our strange and crazy society, should be a fairly straightforward affair.
How far do I want to go in describing sexuality and sexual acts?
Given that my aim is to write speculative fiction, with rounded characters, it seems necessary, at some point, that these characters will engage in sexual acts. How do I present them? I suppose it’ll just be whatever the situation calls for.
It’s certainly not that I’m a prude – if you’ve had the good fortune to come across a copy of Alan Moore’s 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom, it gives a good synopsis, aside from some questionable anthropological claims, of where I stand on the matter (and if you haven’t, there seem to be torrents available, though it is worth it to get yourself a hard copy). Despite that, I’m still the product of the society I’ve grown up in – Anglo-Saxon, predominantly Christian – which leaves me feeling, if only slightly, a bit reticent about the whole matter. I’m certainly on-board with the effort to “reclaim” erotica – prescriptivist though I might be when it comes to the written word, I think the realm of the censor is vanishingly small in any properly free and democratic society – but I am left with the question of how and when to engage in it. Ideally, should all adult fiction, where it is not egregiously inappropriate, include a modicum of the erotic in the future? Should it be relegated to those works that have as their main focus the erotic? Is the sexual meant only to titillate, or, should we instead seek to normalise it, and return it once-more to the common place position it seems to have held for our ancient forebears?
Back to the question of execution – I don’t imagine I’d trip up so thoroughly as to write something “porny,” as, of course, that’s not really my intention. While it might be nice to one day be mentioned in the Literary Review, I’ll aim clear of their Bad Sex in Fiction award. I am concerned about essentialising my characters, though. One of my hopes is to be able to write with a wider character palette than just the normal hetero/white set you see in sci-fi and fantasy of the past, but, by the same token, I don’t want it to come off as some ham-fisted affirmative action effort, either. I don’t want to have gay characters, for example, simply be an otherwise-blank canvas dominated by their sexuality. These concerns, of course, extend beyond orientation and cover aspects like race and creed, too. But sexuality, unlike race or (non)religious affiliation, is something a great deal more fundamental to who we are as humans. If I’m going to achieve anything by way of what I write, I don’t want this to slip by the way-side.
As I said earlier, I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out!