The Telegraph on Sex

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.

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4 Responses to The Telegraph on Sex

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  2. M T McGuire says:

    I agree that I prefer British sex scenes but I do think that they are incredibly hard (scuse the pun) to do and no writer without the knack to do them well should feel forced to include the details or you get things like that dreadful line in the worst 10 that you linked to, you know, the one about the Bugatti, blimey! He’s published. By a real publisher. How did he get away with such a gob-smackingly awful line? I know it’s out of context but… hmm….

    Personally, I find the erotic bit is the build up. It maybe that I’ve never read a good sex scene. Who knows but if the writer leaves the characters obviously about to get busy, people can fantasise about their own perfect bonk, which is so much better. 😉



    • Cora says:

      I completely agree that sex scenes are difficult to do well. And for some reason, sex scenes in literary fiction tend to use the most ridiculous metaphors. There is a sex scene in a literary novel by a famous German writer, wherein the pasty skin and varicose veins on the legs of the male protagonist, a sixty-something banker, are described in loving detail and compared to blue cheese. His female partner is a hot twenty-something actress, who in a shocking twist turns out to have been only after his money.

      And yes, this stuff gets published.

      • Daniela says:

        Maybe the higher meaning of this “literay novel” escapes us and describing the pasty skin and veins was a kind of metaphor for something entirely else.. ;-). You never know with those literary types ;-D.

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