The Value of Sex

Sex is a part of life. Most of us are the product of a sexual encounter and most of us will have a sexual encounter or two in our lives, and yet we rarely get to read about sex in literature. In fact, books that focus explicitly on sex are often marginalised as ‘erotica’ or ‘bodice-rippers’. There have been some lorded writers who write explicitly about sex in their work, but most of these are men (Henry Miller, Ian McEwan, Philip Roth). Women or non-binary folk who write about sex are often relocated to our special place in the basement of the literary world. It is a strange way to treat an act that engages almost all of us at one time or another in our lives. Perhaps it is a throwback to religious morality that keeps us away from an exploration of one of the fundamental human practices, perhaps it is a repetition of historical understandings of shame, but whatever the reason for it, I have set out to reclaim sex for literature and there are many other writers who are doing the same.

Sex is an important part of our lives.

Exploring the sexual connection between characters is a way of learning something hidden about the characters.

Exploring the sexual desires of a character gives us an insight into their most secret inner-life.

Sex is a valuable subject in its own right. It should be a part of general literary fiction as well as standing proudly in the genre of erotica.

Sex can be a way of changing and challenging society. What we ban, hide, and are wary of can tell us so much about the history and values of that society. Changing our society's relationship to women’s sexuality for example will change our relationship to women. Changing our societal relationship to gender and sexual preference can fundamentally change our society. 

Sex is a powerful tool for change in the hands of the right writer.

Sex is also a way a writer can play and flirt with a reader. A writer can literally seduce a reader into a closer and more intimate reading of a book using the lure of sex.

For all these reasons and more, sex is a very useful tool in a writer’s arsenal and if you use it wisely your work will be all the more powerful for it.

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