The Elephant (Of Sex) In Your Novel

So I’ve been learning to read again.

I used to read books by the wagonload. Then, as my life got *interesting*, I gradually stopped reading.

The dry spell lasted for so long that I wasn’t sure if I would ever start reading books again. Maybe, I thought, I would only write books.

Anyway, after much slogging and internal action, I’ve started to read again. It’s been kind of like going back and learning to drive stick, after driving automatic for many years.

Gosh, guys, the sex. I mean, the lack of it. And the simultaneous overabundance of it.

Long ago, I read Anna Karenina. I have never forgotten the way Tolstoy handles Anna’s fall from virtue. The book was seamy after that; it turned moldy, and mealy, as if the social fabric had been consumed with small white worms.

The writing was remarkably accurate. The scene itself was so judiciously spare that, had I been younger, I would not have known that sex had occurred.

And Henry Fielding. I miss the bawdy prudishness of yester-yore. At the same time, I find myself annoyed with authors who dangle the pheromones and then make their characters sit around looking at each other tensely.

Gosh, it’s irritating.

When your characters are falling into sexy-time-mode, please know that your readers are waiting for the massive elephant to be dealt with. You know, the elephant of sex. The elephant who stands in the middle of your third chapter and says, “Dude, look at me! I’m a Sex Elephant, and your characters want to take their clothes off!”

Failing to address the inevitability of sex is not a mark of delicacy, or subtlety. It’s annoying. Jane Austen addresses all the sex in her books, and no one is naked. If Jane Austen can address the enormous elephant of sex in a drawing room full of rigidly polite acquaintances, you can figure out how to address said sex elephant in your novel.

Just do it. Please. Take your authorial pen, and point straight at the elephant of sex, and say to the reader: “Behold! These characters desire sex! Now let us see what they do next!”

Note: Even Chekhov addresses the sex elephant, and his characters (in the plays) are so violently repressed that they are reduced to shooting birds and writing horrible poetry, instead of saying outright, “I would like to take your clothes off, etc.” The sex elephant does not have to be consumed, metaphorically, but it does need to be addressed.

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