Subtlety, sex and erotic fiction

I’m procrastinating while I write this, so expect it to be the best thing i’ve ever written.

I will admit (I hate that word, let’s start again…)

I will PROUDLY PROCLAIM that I read erotic fiction and watch porn. Yeah, how fucking new age liberated woman am I!

But yeah. I watch it. I read it. I occasionally get off on it. The fact that I have to be defensive about it bother me, but hey, I’m a human being and I have needs!

But the thing that bothers me about most erotic fiction and porn in general, is the fact that in all actuality, it’s just not that sexy. There’s a lot of sex, I’ll grant ye that, but as for actually intimacy and sexiness, we’re going for nil.
I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason sexy content is very rarely sexy, is because there is no subtlety whatsoever.

I’m not talking subtlety as in discretion, locked doors and muffled voices. I’m talking subtlety as in intensity, passion, and a feeling that grows. I’m talking about how in real life, when you feel something so intensely and strongly it’s almost something to be afraid of. I’m talking about the way people actually behave around each other. We’re not so animalistic that we feel the need to rip each others clothes off at the slightest hint of desire. Humans are sophisticated beings. I think that pornographic content completely fails to realise how sexy sophistication and tension can be.

So what got me to thinking about all this stuff?

Well generally speaking, I avoid reading romance stories. Why? Because it’s often a cliché riddled mess that leaves me feeling a bit icky and very lonely. Romance, unfortunately, is often not that well written, in my opinion anyway. I feel like romance is like it’s own sub genre of fantasy: a lot of what you read has absolutely no basis in reality. It’s all about appealing to a persons imagination, those day dreams you have while killing time or when you spot an attractive person.
So romance stories usually annoy me, so I usually avoid them.
But yesterday I was at the library and thought, fuck it. Let’s pick a love story. Reasons for this may or may not have anything to do with a guy I may or may not have met during my online dating escapades (teaser much!) but I was feeling a bit soppy and decided I was right in the mood for a romance.

So I chose this book and started reading it last night, and to my great astonishment, it’s actually really good. Like, really good. That’s not my rose coloured glasses talking, in terms of literary value I am blown away.
But what I love the most, is the narrative arc. The building of sexual tension between the two main characters was so perfectly handled, so gradual and creepy uppy. And I loved that these two characters managed to be so honest with each other all throughout. I hate nothing more in a love story when characters feel the need to lie to each other and sneak around. That’s not love, that’s selfishness. But not in this book. Even with all the cards on the table, the tension just grew and grew so perfectly, and so playfully. When the story hit it’s climax (forgive the pun) and the two characters finally made love, it was, for lack of a better words, just utterly delicious. 

That’s sexy. That’s romantic. That feels more real than any love story I have ever read or seen on TV.

The problem with books like 50 Shades Of Grey or it’s predecessor, Twilight, are that they leave no room for subtlety, for playfulness. They take themselves so damn seriously, that any feeling of love or intimacy gets lost is a swirling sea of rushed and awkward encounters that feel forced and lack any kind of real raw passion and desire. It feels like the characters care more about satisfying their own lust then genuinely giving a shit about their partners.

The problem I have with erotic literature and pornographic content, is that it loses much of it’s sexiness through the simple fact of failing to embrace that hand in hand with intimacy, comes love. Maybe not true love that will last a lifetime, but a kind of love. Intimacy, trust, closeness.  It’s almost like there’s so much guilt and shame tied up in the thought of sex that something beautiful and sweet like love must be kept at arms length. But why? Sex doesn’t ruin love, and love only heightens sex.

I was listening recently to a talk about women and the way women have viewed sex over the past fifty, sixty odd years. It’s fascinating, that a recurring theme was women fantasising about sex being something beyond their control. Like, the husband comes home and the women’s duty is the pleasure him, as opposed to it being something she wants. Or, during war times, women would fantasise about being taken away to have sex with the leaders of their country, because their country was relying on them. Again, not because she necessarily wanted it, or had a choice in the matter. Go back to 50 Shades of Grey, the woman in that story is submissive to her lover and often not in a legitimate, mutually respective submissive/Dominant relationship, but in acts that  border on rape and psychological abuse. In Twilight, Edward has total control of his and Bella’s sex life, he calls all the shots regardless of what she wants. And yet, these stories are so incredibly popular. Again, it’s pure fantasy, with no basis in reality. But the point is, that somehow taking the control away from a sexual situation (in a PURELY fantasy sense, I think rapists are the scum of the earth) it makes it okay. It makes sex, this traditionally ‘dirty’ act, this guilty thing, into something you can justify because  it was “out of your hands”. There is no shame, because there is no guilty mind.
But this is tying up so many negative emotions with sex, something that should be about love and raw instinct and desire. Sex should be empowering, not buried in shame. And it’s fascinating how porn and erotica manage to almost heighten this shame, by removing any kind of love or intimacy and turning it into this cold, empty, animalistic act where very often there is a lack of control or choice for at least one of the participants, and the people involved are primarily fixated on their own pleasure, not the act of intimacy with another person.

I’m sure sex with a committed partner would be amazing, but I don’t think the existence of monogamous love makes the alternative any less okay. On that point, why is there so much shame and secrecy around sex? Back to the start of my blog post, why did I feel like I had to be defensive about the fact that I watch porn, that I read erotic literature, that I have sexual feelings and think about sex?

I had a point to begin with but I think I’ve kind of reeled off course.

Anyway, ultimately what I think is that love and sex going hand in hand are what make sexual encounters sexy, should that be eternal love or just a kind of love and desire that may not extend any further then a single evening, but is still just as perfect.
I think that people need to get over the stigma that even today in the 21st century, still hangs around sex. In porn and erotica, and in boring romance stories, there needs to be a happy balance of the two. And thats what real sexy is.

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2 thoughts on “Subtlety, sex and erotic fiction

  1. thelastjeanie says:

    damn right!

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