Apparently, it’s “Let’s talk about sex scenes in fiction” week at the Telegraph, for there are no less than four current articles about literary sex.
First of all, Julian Barnes, poor dear, laments that modern authors are feeling the commercial obligation to write about sex. And the culprit is… no, not Fifty Shades of Grey but Lady Chatterly’s Lover – you know, the novel which was the subject of an obscenity trial in 1960 and has puzzled subsequent generations trying to figure out just what was supposed to be so damn shocking about it. Methinks Mr. Barnes is a tad behind the times.
Also at the Telegraph, Rowan Pelland, former editor of The Erotic Review, responds to Julian Barnes and complains that there is not a whole lot of sex in British fiction and that very little of it is good. Though Ms. Pelland agrees with Julian Barnes that erotic writing was better pre Lady Chatterly’s Lover, when it was still potentially illegal, and claims that erotica rarely flies off the shelves anymore. Uhm, Ms. Pelland must have missed the past year then, let alone the erotic romance boom of the past approx. eight years.
Jon Stock, writer of spy novels, also responds to Julian Barnes and focuses on a particular point, namely that plenty of people tend to assume that all sex scenes are autobiographic. Of course, no one ever assumes that crime writers have actual experience with killing people (except Richard Castle, of course, but then Castle is fiction), just as no one assumes that writers of epic fantasy have actual swordfighting experience (though some of them do) and that writers of grimdark fantasy have personally tried all the torture and execution techniques so lovingly described in their novels.
Katy Brand also responds to Julian Barnes and says that the French still writer better sex scenes than the British. I can’t speak for literature, but I generally prefer sex scenes in British films and TV shows to those in French films.
Finally, the Telegraph also gives us the top ten worst sex scenes in modern literature.