There’s nothing better than good sex. But bad sex? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is better than bad sex. – Billy Joel
I don’t talk about sex a lot, not unless it’s the entire point of a book. To me, the sexual content of a book is tertiary to the plot and the development of the characters—if it’s there, fine, if it’s not, I couldn’t care less. I will say, however, that when a sex scene is well written and organic to the building and growing of the relationship, especially in BDSM, it adds dimension to the story and to the physio-emotional bond between the two people involved, which, in turn, can do a lot for my emotional connection to the couple I’m learning about. But, and this is the BIG BUT in the room, the opposite of that is also true: if a sex scene is written like a technical schematics manual rather than a passionate and/or primal interlude between the two main characters (or whomever the protagonist happens to be with at the moment), it can really diminish the strength of that scene for me. I’ve never in my life lowballed a book because it didn’t contain enough sex; though I do admit that I’ve deducted points because a book contained a lot of gratuitous and meaningless sex. No, not even gratuitous and meaningless…more along the lines of elaborately and clumsily manipulated, overdone to the point of skimming; it’s ::yawn:: more sex, sex, and that’s bad sex, people. That’s peanut butter and jelly sammich time sex, and that’s not good.
There used to be a day when I would turn to Young Adult fiction when the sex started to get ho-hum-not-again, in the grownup stuff, but I’ve noticed a growing trend lately, even in the YA genre, toward a more intimate exploration of the sexual relationship between characters, albeit a far less graphic one, but still something I’m not altogether certain of my feelings on yet, knowing that sex is a part of growth and self-discovery but not really wanting to read about two teenagers doing the humpty-hump. That tows a fine line of Eek-Squick! for me, but so far, I’m remaining Switzerland on the subject. I think in that matter, tasteful should always be the primary rule of thumb—the less explicit imagery, the better, as far as I’m concerned. Really. My imagination can go places all on its onesies, with no help from the words on the page. But, as usual, I digress.
I’m not sure if you’ve been paying attention lately, or if you’ve participated in the conversation, but there’s been a fair amount of honest, not to mention articulate, debate (very recently over at The Armchair Reader) on ways to try and delineate romance and erotica in an effort to come up with a way to distinguish between these two elements so readers for whom sexual content is important, either a lot of it or none at all, can find books they can potentially enjoy, provided that all the other plot elements come together in the perfect storm for them.
Is giving “Heat Ratings” in reviews becoming a necessity, even though some publishers already provide that information? Is it helpful to note the frequency of sex in a book? I’m extremely neutral on the subject, so I honestly don’t know. I can say, with a 100% degree of accuracy, that I have no interest at all in keeping track of how often characters have sex while I’m reading about them having sex. There’s nothing that’ll ruin a scene or the flow of a story for me more than going, “Oh, wait! Sex. Put it on the board.” But I don’t mind doing “Heat Ratings”, though I still find that to be so very subjective. Someone could read a book I’ve rated low on the Heat scale and think, “Dear God, she’s a perv.” Could happen. I’ve recently become a little bit fascinated by the Marquis de Sade, so take that for what it’s worth. 🙂
So you tell me, how important is it for you to be fully informed of the amount of sexual content in a book before you dig into it, and whose responsibility do you believe it is to provide that information? Is there such a thing as too much sex in a book for you, and if there is, what’s the saturation point, the point where you’ve become so desensitized to the boinking that you want to send that booty call straight to voice mail?