AW Amazon Store

If this site is helpful to you,
Please consider a voluntary subscription to defray ongoing expenses.


 

Welcome to the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler! Please read The Newbie Guide To Absolute Write

Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 51

Thread: thoughts on the boundaries of sexual content in fantasy

  1. #1
    figuring it all out hereticdoll's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Posts
    78

    thoughts on the boundaries of sexual content in fantasy

    When a novel is primarily fantasy driven over romance, what is the appropriate amount of sexual content before it begins to feel like erotica? In the scenario that the sex is very emotional and does add to the character development, is it then the usage of certain words/explicit terms that might define it as erotica (if any)? If the love scenes don't detract from the main story, does it make a difference in how much sexual content there is in the fantasy? I would love to hear some opinions on this.

  2. #2
    All the nopes. lizmonster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    3,697
    Quote Originally Posted by hereticdoll View Post
    When a novel is primarily fantasy driven over romance, what is the appropriate amount of sexual content before it begins to feel like erotica? In the scenario that the sex is very emotional and does add to the character development, is it then the usage of certain words/explicit terms that might define it as erotica (if any)? If the love scenes don't detract from the main story, does it make a difference in how much sexual content there is in the fantasy? I would love to hear some opinions on this.
    As I understand it, "erotica" is a pretty specific genre term, meaning a story where the sexual encounters are the main driver of the plot.

    There's plenty of sex in fantasy. As for how explicit you get...how explicit do you need to get to make your story work?

    You also say this:

    Quote Originally Posted by hereticdoll View Post
    If the love scenes don't detract from the main story
    which makes me want to ask you why the sex scenes are in there at all. "They don't detract" isn't enough. They should contribute to the story, like every other word on the page, or they're going to feel extraneous to the reader.
    November goal: An additional 60K on WIP #2 (+55,435 : 71,723/~120,000)

    Hey, I got interviewed by AbsoluteWrite!




    Here are some books I wrote.

  3. #3
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    right here
    Posts
    28,063
    Fantasy with explicit erotic content is somewhat less common than it used to be, but in the context of romance still unremarkable. (Cough *AnitaBlake* cough). The presence of sex will not make the book genre: erotica. Even if it is genre erotica you can use fantasy as the main genre and erotica and romance as secondary.
    Emily Veinglory

  4. #4
    Assistant Deputy Backup SillyLittleTwit's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    177
    Erotica: the sex is the point of the exercise.

    If the story is using sex for some purpose other than titillation, it isn't erotica.

  5. #5
    figuring it all out hereticdoll's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Posts
    78
    Quote Originally Posted by lizmonster View Post
    which makes me want to ask you why the sex scenes are in there at all. "They don't detract" isn't enough. They should contribute to the story, like every other word on the page, or they're going to feel extraneous to the reader.
    I meant in the situation the the sex/romance isn't the core of the story, it is just necessary part of the plot.

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Posts
    325
    It doesn't sound like erotica to me.
    "Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably." - C.S. Lewis

  7. #7
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Lost in space. And meaning.
    Posts
    15,945
    Is it similar to Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart books? There's definitely sex in them, and sex plays an important role in the plot and characterization, but it's a work of genre fantasy, not genre erotica (published by Tor books).

    It;s my understanding that with works of genre erotica, the sexual journey of the protagonist is central to the plot, and it's intended to be arousing to the reader. Not to say that sex scenes can't be very arousing in other genres, depending on what floats one's boat, but the way they're portrayed and described tends to differ in erotica.

    Fantasy writers seem to run the whole spectrum, with a few who have no sex in their stories at all (though with adult fantasy that was more common in the time of Tolkien), even implied, and a number who have it happening off stage or with a build up then "fade to black" approach. Some do show it "on screen," however, though they tend to use different language or focus during such scenes than one sees in erotica.

    The approach I choose to use when writing is similar to how I decide whether to include any other scene. Does seeing it happen in "real time" as it unfolds advance the story in some way, or is it something that is better mentioned in passing (told not shown)?

    I'm guessing that some SFF publishers have "in house" rules, or norms, about how much they deem appropriate as well. Others might decide it depends on what suits the story.
    Last edited by Roxxsmom; 09-13-2017 at 02:47 AM.
    Please excuse me, I was raised by wolves.

    My twitter - My FB - My blog

  8. #8
    figuring it all out hereticdoll's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Posts
    78
    Quote Originally Posted by veinglory View Post
    Fantasy with explicit erotic content is somewhat less common than it used to be, but in the context of romance still unremarkable. (Cough *AnitaBlake* cough). The presence of sex will not make the book genre: erotica. Even if it is genre erotica you can use fantasy as the main genre and erotica and romance as secondary.
    I understand the presence of sex within the fantasy genre, but I am just trying to gauge the line of where a story basically shifts genre (by opinion). And I should clarify, I would like to avoid writing erotica, but my writing deals with a lot of bordering subject matter. For example, in one of my books there are scenes of incest, rape and even sadomasochism. The scenes are pivotal to the plot and character development, but they are not the central focus of the story. They are rather, not written with the intent of being smut, but they could be received as such. Someone suggested to me that it is explicit wording that makes the difference, and not the dark subject matter.

  9. #9
    figuring it all out hereticdoll's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Posts
    78
    Quote Originally Posted by Roxxsmom View Post
    Is it similar to Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart books? There's definitely sex in them, and sex plays an important role in the plot and characterization, but it's a work of genre fantasy, not genre erotica (published by Tor books).
    I haven't read Jacqueline Carey but I will check her out. Thank you.

  10. #10
    Preparing for winter VeryBigBeard's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Posts
    1,674
    I mean this in the nicest possible way, but how much fantasy have you read? I can think of many examples where the sex scenes are quite explicit.

    As veinglory says, there was and is plenty of sex in fantasy. Maybe less in the last 5-10 years, but certainly before that and in many of the touchstones of the genre.

    Sex scenes can be characterization, not just plot. If A and B have been romping around some dread wasteland magicking each other for 100 pages, I'd even begin to question why they weren't taking it a bit further. Which could, of course, push the plot all kinds of different ways, depending on how the characters operate within the world. If a book is set in an obviously pseudo-medieval/imperial court, I almost expect there to be sex if only because that tends to be how such courts move.

    How you handle the actual mechanics of the scene is largely up to you as author. I don't think there are any magic words that suddenly make a book "erotica"--erotic authors have a whole craft and it's about far more than the piping and terminology.

    If you haven't already, I'd give this post a read. (It used to have its own thread and probably still does but I can't for the life of me find it.) Maybe this one, too.
    Last edited by VeryBigBeard; 09-13-2017 at 03:38 AM.

  11. #11
    All the nopes. lizmonster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    3,697
    Quote Originally Posted by hereticdoll View Post
    The scenes are pivotal to the plot and character development, but they are not the central focus of the story. They are rather, not written with the intent of being smut, but they could be received as such. Someone suggested to me that it is explicit wording that makes the difference, and not the dark subject matter.
    Ah, so your explicit scenes aren't meant to be sexy? That's a different issue, then, and I think it has less to do with the explicitness of the language than making sure you're not making them sound titillating unless they're supposed to be.
    November goal: An additional 60K on WIP #2 (+55,435 : 71,723/~120,000)

    Hey, I got interviewed by AbsoluteWrite!




    Here are some books I wrote.

  12. #12
    figuring it all out hereticdoll's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Posts
    78
    Quote Originally Posted by VeryBigBeard View Post
    I mean this in the nicest possible way, but how much fantasy have you read? I can think of many examples where the sex scenes are quite explicit.

    As veinglory says, there was and is plenty of sex in fantasy. Maybe less in the last 5-10 years, but certainly before that and in many of the touchstones of the genre.

    Sex scenes can be characterization, not just plot. If A and B have been romping around some dread wasteland magicking each other for 100 pages, I'd even begin to question why they weren't taking it a bit further. Which could, of course, push the plot all kinds of different ways, depending on how the characters operate within the world. If a book is set in an obviously pseudo-medieval/imperial court, I almost expect there to be sex if only because that tends to be how such courts move.

    How you handle the actual mechanics of the scene is largely up to you as author. I don't think there are any magic words that suddenly make a book "erotica"--erotic authors have a whole craft and it's about far more than the piping and terminology.

    If you haven't already, I'd give this post a read. (It used to have its own thread and probably still does but I can't for the life of me find it.) Maybe this one, too.
    Thanks for the insight, I will check out the posts.

  13. #13
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    In the land of cheese and chocolate
    Posts
    10,548
    Quote Originally Posted by hereticdoll View Post
    For example, in one of my books there are scenes of incest, rape and even sadomasochism.... They are rather, not written with the intent of being smut, but they could be received as such.
    As far as I'm aware, the erotica genre does not treat rape and incest as acceptable subject matter for the purpose of titillation. Consensual S/M is another thing. If yours is non-consensual, then it's the same category as rape. So no one is going to mistake your story for erotica. Level of detail has nothing to do with it.
    Last edited by BethS; 09-13-2017 at 07:38 PM.

  14. #14
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    right here
    Posts
    28,063
    Whether the scenes are sexy or not, smut or not, vanilla or not, advancing the plot/characterization or not, doesn't change that the main genre is fantasy. There is fantasy on the shelves right now including all of these things.
    Emily Veinglory

  15. #15
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Lost in space. And meaning.
    Posts
    15,945
    Quote Originally Posted by VeryBigBeard View Post

    As veinglory says, there was and is plenty of sex in fantasy. Maybe less in the last 5-10 years, but certainly before that and in many of the touchstones of the genre.
    Is there less sex than there used to be? I'm trying to think about novels I've read that were published recently. Hmmm.

    Novik's Untangled has a sex scene. Carey's stuff does, obviously. Some of Jemisin's does. Abercrombie's YA trilogy does. CS Pacat's does.

    I can think of a number of newer books and authors that have no sex, or just fade to black or summarized sex, in their books too. I have no idea how the percentage stacks up. With most of these, it's either because there's no actual focus on any romantic arc in the story (or no opportunity to consummate it if there is), or because the story is told in the kind of voice where a vivid sex scene would feel out of place. For example, Kowal's books are inspired by Jane Austin, so mentioning sex would feel out of place.

    If sex is less common in fantasy lately, is it because there are more stories where sex would actually not be relevant (perhaps stories that focus on other kinds of relationships than romantic ones), or is it because publishers are less likely to accept books with sex in them, or require that such scenes be edited out or down these days?

    The only fantasy books I've read recently that I can think of where the omission of sex scenes feels a bit "off," as if they should have been included but were cut out, was in the first couple of McCullough's books (haven't read the rest yet). Not sure when that series started though.

    I can't tell how these examples compare to the overall percentage over the past several decades. It's true that sex took place in fantasy and SF novels well before the 80s. Writers like McCaffrey, McIntyre and others come to mind. I'm always surprised when people ask if it's "allowed" in SFF.

    Though the OP wasn't asking that, exactly, but how much turns a novel into erotica. My answer is that erotica isn't so much about the amount of sex, or even its explicitness, as it is about the role the sex plays in the plot and in how it's presented. Is a reader going to be looking specifically for well-written sex scenes when they pick up the book, or will they find them relevant but not a main point of the story? Of course, some readers categorically hate sex scenes, and maybe even think they're a deal breaker, no matter how well written and no matter what their role is. If sex is important in a story, it's not aimed at that readership.
    Last edited by Roxxsmom; 09-13-2017 at 10:33 PM.
    Please excuse me, I was raised by wolves.

    My twitter - My FB - My blog

  16. #16
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    In the land of cheese and chocolate
    Posts
    10,548
    Quote Originally Posted by Roxxsmom View Post

    Novik's Untangled has a sex scene.
    Is this a new book? It's not listed on her website, but then, I couldn't find any mention of Uprooted there, either. Which also had a sex scene.

  17. #17
    figuring it all out hereticdoll's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Posts
    78
    Quote Originally Posted by Roxxsmom View Post
    Is a reader going to be looking specifically for well-written sex scenes when they pick up the book, or will they find them relevant but not a main point of the story? Of course, some readers categorically hate sex scenes, and maybe even think they're a deal breaker, no matter how well written and no matter what their role is. If sex is important in a story, it's not aimed at that readership.
    That is a good point, and probably part of my concern. As relevant as the sex is, if I was to label the series as fantasy romance, readers would probably find it lacking for what they expect (if not offensive). On the other hand, those who steer from romance/erotica might feel uneasy from the sex that is present. I think it is something I need to consider further.

  18. #18
    All the nopes. lizmonster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    3,697
    Quote Originally Posted by hereticdoll View Post
    That is a good point, and probably part of my concern. As relevant as the sex is, if I was to label the series as fantasy romance, readers would probably find it lacking for what they expect (if not offensive). On the other hand, those who steer from romance/erotica might feel uneasy from the sex that is present. I think it is something I need to consider further.
    I'm still kind of stuck on the point that you keep saying "sex" and "romance" and "erotica" and what you're really talking about (based on what you've said above, anyway) are explicit descriptions of criminal sexual assault. Thus it's really readers who have a problem with violence that you might alienate.

    That said, write the book as it needs to be written. SFF has always been full of sex (and violence), including explicit sex (and violence). Word will get around, and you won't find a whole lot of readers blindsided.
    November goal: An additional 60K on WIP #2 (+55,435 : 71,723/~120,000)

    Hey, I got interviewed by AbsoluteWrite!




    Here are some books I wrote.

  19. #19
    Swooping is bad. mpack's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Canada
    Posts
    1,826
    Omitting scenes of sex and sexual violence, where in the market would your story fall? What novels would work as comp titles? This might give a better understanding of the question.

  20. #20
    Preparing for winter VeryBigBeard's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Posts
    1,674
    I was mostly deferring to veinglory's point re: the sex in recent fantasy. The books I've read definitely have sex scenes, but I can't claim to have read every book on the market the past few years.

    Quote Originally Posted by hereticdoll View Post
    That is a good point, and probably part of my concern. As relevant as the sex is, if I was to label the series as fantasy romance, readers would probably find it lacking for what they expect (if not offensive). On the other hand, those who steer from romance/erotica might feel uneasy from the sex that is present. I think it is something I need to consider further.
    Quote Originally Posted by mpack View Post
    Omitting scenes of sex and sexual violence, where in the market would your story fall? What novels would work as comp titles? This might give a better understanding of the question.
    What mpack says is a really good guide to use. Is it fantasy without the sex? If so, then it's likely fantasy with the sex, too, and you've got various readers of the genre here saying they have no problem with that and that it fits within the canon, too.

    Ultimately it's going to be up to you. Thus the second link I left, to amergina's post. Write anything well enough and you can, more or less, do whatever you want. Which means it's more of a question of what you're comfortable writing, and that's a totally legitimate concern to have but it might be the sort of thing best solved by posting the relevant scene in SYW. Sex scenes are hard at the best of times, so they're a place where crit can help.

    Don't worry too much about what "readers" will or won't accept. "Readers" are a generalization. There is no mass acceptance or rejection of books and stories. Whatever you write will find its audience.

  21. #21
    figuring it all out hereticdoll's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Posts
    78
    Quote Originally Posted by VeryBigBeard View Post
    What mpack says is a really good guide to use. Is it fantasy without the sex? If so, then it's likely fantasy with the sex, too, and you've got various readers of the genre here saying they have no problem with that and that it fits within the canon, too.

    Ultimately it's going to be up to you. Thus the second link I left, to amergina's post. Write anything well enough and you can, more or less, do whatever you want. Which means it's more of a question of what you're comfortable writing, and that's a totally legitimate concern to have but it might be the sort of thing best solved by posting the relevant scene in SYW. Sex scenes are hard at the best of times, so they're a place where crit can help.

    Don't worry too much about what "readers" will or won't accept. "Readers" are a generalization. There is no mass acceptance or rejection of books and stories. Whatever you write will find its audience.
    That is very encouraging. I will probably have a go at SYW if I can ever find the stomach for it. I am sure it will be very helpful.

  22. #22
    Preparing for winter VeryBigBeard's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Posts
    1,674
    There's no rush. If you haven't yet finished the book, then see how it looks to you a draft or two down the line, with some distance. You can always take a scene out, or rewrite it.

    Crit, by its very nature, will give you a range of response. SYW is no different. Some people will like a sex scene, some people won't. All this tells you is that different readers have different tastes in sex scenes.

    You make the final decision based, at least from where I'm standing, on whatever you as writer are comfortable with. That's how I treat it. Go for crit when you know what you want to get out of the crit--i.e., what do you need to check? The more specific, the better. If you're concerned about the word choice, for instance, crit will help with that. Believability? People have experience. Whether it jars the story? Sure. No one will say "do this, don't do that," or, if they do, that's a pretty good sign not to listen to that person, especially when it comes to sex scenes. Every one is different.

  23. #23
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Lost in space. And meaning.
    Posts
    15,945
    Quote Originally Posted by VeryBigBeard View Post
    I was mostly deferring to veinglory's point re: the sex in recent fantasy. The books I've read definitely have sex scenes, but I can't claim to have read every book on the market the past few years.
    I know what you mean. I can only read so much of what is out there, and my tastes will likely dictate the cross section I see. It may or may not be typical.

    Fantasy is such a large genre that I'm constantly running into other fans of the genre, here and on forums dedicated exclusively to fantasy, who haven't read (or heard of) any of my favorite writers from the past 10 years or so (let alone before), even ones that are fairly well known (I thought) and published by big 5 imprints. Likewise, I often hear names of books and authors that don't ring any bells for me at all.

    To the OP, there are a number of fairly popular fantasy writers that write books with very prominent romantic arcs set in secondary fantasy worlds--Maria V Snyder and Mercedes Lackey come to mind. They have sex in some of their books (even gryphon sex in a couple of Lackey's), though the scenes tend to be what I call "soft focus," meaning they mostly focus on the buildup, the emotional connection, and the languorous aftermath. These are writers (especially Lackey) who have been at it for many years now, however.
    Please excuse me, I was raised by wolves.

    My twitter - My FB - My blog

  24. #24
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    The land from whence the shadows fall
    Posts
    1,496
    When your romance aspect has more depth than your narrative plot, it crosses the line into romance for me.

    SYW is not so scary, although I'd be wary of posting anything other than an opener there--no context for readers otherwise.
    "Though one evil spirit may drive a woman out of Eden, all the devils in hell cannot drive Heaven out of a woman."

    -- George MacDonald

  25. #25
    Seashell Seller Layla Nahar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Seashore
    Posts
    5,775
    A story can rely heavily on the romantic/relationship angle but have no sex. (Trudi Canavan's 'Age of the Five' series comes to mind.)
    すべての武器を楽器に
    Of all instruments of war, make instruments of music

Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Custom Search