Thursday, October 16, 2008

Five oddities in sex scenes

This isn’t necessarily a list of things I don’t want to read again, but it’s definitely a list of things that confuse me just a bit.

1. Lack of thought about pregnancy

Probably the best example of this is The Thorn Birds, where Meggie and Father Ralph (a Catholic priest) finally consummate their love and spend some time on a tropical island. That was fine, but Ralph doesn’t ever consider precautions. I suppose that was in line with his religion but if he was going to break a vow of celibacy, he might as well have used some form of protection too.

Needless to say, the inevitable happened. But when he discovered, years later, that Meggie had a child, he never once stopped to do the math. I have no idea why it didn’t occur to him that he could be a Father in more ways than one. He wasn’t that innocent.

2. Religion at the bedroom door

Speaking of religion, I’ve read two romance novels which featured characters who went to church each Sunday… but who had premarital sex anyway. I know some (or many) people reconcile the two, but I would have liked to see the reasoning behind how they did so.

3. Flat male nipples

Or “hard male nubs”. I think this is due to a fear of men’s nipples appearing too feminine if they don’t have the “male” adjective attached like a warning flag.

4. Quick-wick sheets

That’s the only explanation for the lack of any damp patches. This is even more strange if the woman has lost her virginity and then gone blithely to sleep on the same damp, stained bed linens. I think a man who stripped the bed and put clean dry sheets on before bundling me back into it would be a keeper, but maybe that’s just me.

5. Prettification of oral sex

The woman’s genitalia smell or taste like something dainty and aesthetic, like flowers. Unless she’s douched recently, this doesn’t seem likely. I’ve even read about heroines who taste like apples and honey, which make it sound as though they’ve got a picnic basket down there.


Angela Ackerman said...

I’ve even read about heroines who taste like apples and honey, which make it sound as though they’ve got a picnic basket down there.

I just sprayed coffee all over my desk! You should've warned me, lolol!

Marian Perera said...

You can take it for granted that there will be at least one snarky comment in a post about sex scenes. :)

JH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JH said...

(Arg, there were a whole bunch of typos the first time I posted this!)

Neither the first nor the second item seem all that weird to me, on the general principle that horniness shuts down the brain. On the first point, why do people "forget" to use protection in real life? Because they are very excited about getting some and this short circuits critical thinking.

On the other hand, there is very often a big "oh shit" moment immediately afterwards...

As for the second point, I guess I really can't find it all that odd because I have met "good Catholic" girls with no compunctions whatsoever about pre-marital sex. They go to church every Sunday, they support the key political points, hell, they might even teach the Confirmation Prep classes. They might have some hand-wavey idea that Jesus didn't really ever talk about it and anyway, what's Confession for? But it's really not that big a deal because the rank-and-file of religious people are really just not that devout, IMO. It's not really a matter of "what their reasoning is" because reasoning never enters into it; the actual teachings of a religion are not really so important as the social connection and belonging function. That you find it odd seems like a confirmation of my long-held belief that atheists think more deeply and more often about religion than religious people. ;)

When it comes down to it, sex is something people are hard-wired to want to do, and people will find any old reason to reconcile it with restrictive religious taboos. Unless a character is particularly devout, I don't think it's something important enough for an author to dwell on. For example, you mentioned a priest, and there I can see your point, because while it does happen that priests have sex, there has to be some psychological explanation or fallout.

As for point four, eh... I kind of see that in the same light as, "Why don't authors ever describe people going to the bathroom?" It's an unavoidable, messy, routine thing that people basically just put up with and honestly isn't that interesting as a dramatic point. I'd find it weirder for an author to describe two characters in post-coital bliss trying to decide what to do about the linen.

Marian Perera said...

Hey GunnerJ,

I don't think any of the stories I've read had the "oh shit" moment. A few of them had a happy conversation along the lines of, "hey, we just had skinless sex, would you be OK with having beautiful, beloved babies together? Yay, of course you would!" None of them seemed dismayed or worried.

The second problem - religion put aside when sex beckoned - bothered me when I read Lorraine Heath's Always to Remember, because of the point you made. The hero of that novel is very devout; he even quotes Jesus at one point. Yet he doesn't refuse the heroine's offer of sex, doesn't feel guilty afterwards and even goes to church the next day so he can see the heroine there. It's as though that part of the religion didn't exist at all.

Compartmentalization at its finest, perhaps. I know people do that, but I've never really liked it. As you said, atheists think more about religion - and perhaps expect more consistency from those who believe in it. I remember when I had doubts, my mother told me to just ignore those parts of the Bible that I didn't agree with. But I couldn't do that.

Anonymous said...

Life would be extremely tedious if all we had to do was point out how people didnt live up to one aspect of their religion or another.

Like so many other once-sacred tenets of religions, pre-marital sex has lost a lot of its taboo in the age of readily available knowledge.

The Christian Bible's support for marriage is an acknowledgement of our sexual urges and an attempt to channel them into something positive.

Its a different time now, one where we recognize that plenty of people are capable of having loving, committed, sexual relationships without tying together their lives for all 'eternity'. While an extraordinarily devout Christian (or one with a particular hangup on the issue) might totally reject the concept that people can love each other physically without presenting themselves before God due to the words of the Bible, its not as if a single person has ever followed every rule set down in the Bible to the letter. Some of the stuff in there is downright frightening.
I've always found it interesting to find out which obscure and archaic biblical laws are viewed as frivolous by the same people who claim that every word in the text is a commandment directly into the soul of the reader.
Anyway. Stay protected and treat your partners well. It wont cause the end of the world.