Seriously: I Could Do Without the Sex Scenes

Seriously: I Could Do Without the Sex Scenes

Seriously: I Could Do Without the Sex Scenes

This is possibly a weird topic to discuss on the blog, but I keep having issues with it lately, so I need to talk about it. Suddenly, I was in the midst of two books that kept throwing sex scenes at me, and I kept, just — not expecting them.

Culprit #1: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A book of thorns and SEXY TIMES!

Now, if you read my review for this book, you’ll know that I was a bit blindsided by the fact that this sits firmly in the NA category instead of the YA category. It’s not as if this book was full of sex scenes, and it was certainly tastefully done. BUT… I don’t know, each time a thought or feeling went through Feyre that was decidedly… adult… it threw me off balance and took me out of the story.

Look, I swear I’m not a prude or anything. I mean, I’m not big on romance novels, but I generally enjoy the romance that’s present in the books I read. Kissing scenes are fine. Sweet little romantic scenes are also fine. But for some reason, I just really don’t want to know about much more than that, y’know? Close the curtains and end the scene early, as far as I’m concerned.

That being said…

Since I’m already invested in this series, I do plan to read the rest of it. But I also think that this series will be my one and only NA experience, because it’s obviously just not my thing.

Culprit #2: The Entire All Souls Trilogy

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of VAMPIRE WANG

Oh. My. Goat Gods. This series. I’ve already told you about the scenes that made me cringe (and therefore possibly have an accident while driving), but I haven’t told you about the sex scenes yet.

First of all, they are legion. Okay, maybe not legion, but there are many, many effing sex scenes in these books. You’d think that at least by the third book, when there’s plenty of urgent ISSUES to resolve, that we’d be spared… No. NO.

Secondly, they are very long and very descriptive. As I’ve already mentioned (somewhere), Harkness is very good at the description. But like… EEK! It just goes into wayyyyy more detail than I’d care for, or would even be curious about. And the best part is that — if you’ll recall — I listened to these on audio. In my car. While driving. Next to other cars and pedestrians.

Have you ever noticed that you can hear what’s going on in other people’s vehicles, when you’re stopped next to them in traffic? BECAUSE YOU CAN. So, once again, I was forced to turn the volume down LOW, so as to save myself not only from the ickiness, but also from the embarrassment. O_O

I can’t be the only one bothered by these scenes.

Please, tell me. Am I alone in this? Do you think I’m a total weirdo? Do you enjoy sex scenes in non-erotica novels? Tell me your thoughts!


Read 38 comments

  1. I haven’t read ACOTAR but I do agree with you that if a YA book has too much sex scenes or too detail, it should be categorized as NA.

    And I strongly agree with you on A Discovery of Witches. Everything is so descriptive. If I wandered my mind off when I read the book I might thought I was reading an erotica novel.

    Of course you’re not a weirdo in this case. We are entitled to our own feeling and opinion when we read a book. Some might enjoy reading the sex scenes in a book but some don’t.

  2. HAHAHA this made me laugh out loud, Kelley! :D I remember reading your earlier post about A Discovery of Witches and having a laugh too.

    And no, you’re not alone in feeling uncomfortable with sex scenes. I do understand why they’re there and how they add to the story, but that doesn’t make it any easier for me to read them.

    Lol this brings back memories of the first time I read a book that had a sex scene. It was a book I’d borrowed from the school library, and I had no idea it was going to be all adult-ish. I was reading under a tree when a teacher walked up and asked to see what I was reading. She flipped through the pages for a bit and then gave me a look and asked me what grade I was in (I was in 7th at the time). Then she gave me this weird look like ‘okay-I-thought-you-were-a-goody-two-shoes-guess-i-was-wrong’ kind of look and walked away. It was only later that I figured out what she must’ve stumbled upon! It was so embarrassing!

    Nowadays I tend to skim over the sex scenes until I get to something more PG. But it still can be very embarrassing when I’m reading in public and someone looks over my shoulder :D

  3. I agree, and generally, 99.9% of the time, the scenes aren’t necessary. If a sex scene adds something to a book–to the story, then fine, but sex is rarely used like that. I feel the same about film and TV. When sex scenes get started and then… go on, and on… and i’m sitting there cringing and thinking, “I get it; just fade to black!”

  4. Naturally, you’re free to have your own opinion and feelings about a book. But personally I’d have to disagree. Since I actually find erotica novels boring, because the plots are so freaking shallow, I’d much rather have a few sex scenes in my regular novels. It’s sort of like my stance on romance as well. I don’t want to read romance novels, but I don’t mind having some romance IN my novels, as long as it’s good. At least then I know I’ll be engaged with the characters and story, and if they happen to have a little fun then, hey, why not? I will say I wouldn’t want it to get crazy-go-nuts and have the author breaking us out of the story every five minutes so the characters can get it on, so obviously the place and time needs to be appropriate. It sounds like A Discovery of Witches was maybe a little on the excessive side of things, though I’ve never ready it.

  5. Ha, you’re definitely not alone, Kelley! I was actually thinking about this very thing recently. I don’t *mind* sex scenes in novels, necessarily, but I find them very. . . unoriginal? They all tend to be written similarly & I generally skim them(though listening to explicit scenes via audiobook would probably make me uncomfortable). However, I don’t think sex scenes are unnecessary, even when they don’t seem to add to the plot(well, okay, multiple scenes that go nowhere might be), if only because most of the time in NA/upper YA/PNR/romance books, the book is told from the women’s perspective. . . which means the sex scenes are too, and it’s often one of the only times in pop culture you ever get scenes from that perspective(think of TV/movie sex scenes, especially–they’re almost always filmed the same way from the guy’s perspective). So. . . I guess I often don’t personally enjoy them in the least, but sometimes I’m glad they exist? It has a lot of different factors to think about. I also *hate* reading sex scenes early in the story–I’d rather if there were going to be explicit scenes they start out non-explicit & get more explicit to the end–but that’s a character quirk of mine too, because I feel the same way about TV shows(which is really unfortunate, since there’s that whole thing about how sex scenes in pilot episodes get more people to watch, yada yada yada) I just like to “know” the characters before I see any of their physical intimacy in great detail.

  6. I don’t mind sex scenes too much if they are relevant to the plot, but my problem with them is that more often than not they are terribly written, and that’s when they just make me cringe! A lot of authors seem to try too hard to make them either really romantic or really steamy, and it usually just ends up being cliched or just plain awkward.

  7. It’s not just you! I feel the same way. I also don’t think I’m a prude, and I’m comfortable talking about sex in real life, but I don’t enjoy reading explicit sex scenes. Part of my brain is always wondering “WHAT IF YOUR GRANDMA WERE READING THIS?” (To be honest, mine wouldn’t be phased, but you get the point.) I love swooning and kissing in books, but I really don’t want graphic details of characters’ sex lives. I was expecting some pretty steamy scenes in ACOTAR because of Twitter, but they were still awkward to read.
    I also struggle with the terminology so often used in sex scenes. Think about the “quivering membrane” scene in 10 Things I Hate About You. I know that’s exaggerated for comedic effect, but it’s actually pretty accurate.
    A friend of mine self-published a book dealing with rape culture in college, and there were many graphic, violent sex scenes in it. I can’t even tell you how uncomfortable it made me. Actually knowing the person writing those scenes was just too weird. I felt as though I were reading about HIS sex life.
    Needless to say, romance novels are not my thing. Give me plot! Give me well-developed characters! Give me swoon-y kissing scenes!

  8. I don’t mind it. Sex happens in real life too, so when it is described in YA I think it’s only natural :) but at the same time I can definitely understand why you don’t like it! I also don’t think the emphasis should be on, but a little sexy times in a book is something I do appreciate every now and then!

  9. I don’t have a problem with them – heck, I even stayed up extra late to read a certain sex scene in Outlander once, haha! But I do prefer them to serve a purpose, or if they don’t then there shouldn’t be TOO many. Using Outlander as an example, it shows how Claire is falling for Jamie and how she is accepting her new 18th century life. My main issue is often HOW the scenes are written – I swear, some of the slang used just makes things sound really horrible…

    I have the All Souls trilogy, and didn’t realise it was like that!

  10. I am so freaking glad you posted something about this… I do read some romance and stuff and how the author handles the sex scenes is super important to me… I feel like I beat the subject matter into the ground. I do not like gross sex scenes… I like tasteful sex scenes where you know what’s going on but it’s like a 1950 show where the characters fall behind the couch or the scene blacks out…. I am glad I’m not the only one that struggles with this.

  11. It seems like NA and FSOG sex scenes have become a Must have. Even though people are not able to write them properly, are not able to integrate them in the story so they matter – a good book, a popular book, needs to have at least one sex scene. I most of the time never come across a sex scene which is actually good. Most of the time I actually started to skim those parts, not because they make me cringe but because they are so damn boring. They are just there, without a purpose :/

  12. I think I have yet to read a drawn out sex scene, just because I haven’t read NA yet, so I wonder how I’ll feel about it. But woah I didn’t know ACOTAR was NA! That is pretty surprising. I just assumed it was YA like every other of her books

  13. Honestly the sex scenes did NOTHING for me in ACOTAR. I didn’t get “hot” like some others. I just read it and went… oh. okay. I’m not a prude either and I’d like to think that I’m sort of mature for my age [as in, i didn’t giggle. #win] but it just didn’t really do anything. I was reading it for the story and I liked what I got. To some, the sex scenes were a bonus but for me, they were just another aspect to heighten Tamlin and Feyre’s relationship [which, IMO, did move a little fast…]

  14. this is a great discussion post! Honestly, if a book has sexy times I feel like it has to be relevant to the plot or the growth of the character. When YA books do sex scenes, it MUST abide by those rules, if it doesn’t, I count that as erotica. In my opinion ACOTAR did not bother me at all… I actually found it refreshing because it was done very very tastefully. I will say that I’m surprised that it was published by the Bloomsbury Children’s imprint instead of Bloomsbury, but whatever, I would have still read it anyway as would every other SJM fan. But ACOTAR isn’t the only one that has had major descriptive sexy times. Anyone remember that one scene in A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray? That was pretty descriptive (not erotica descriptive, but pretty dang close), and what about Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi? Can anyone forget about that swoony coupling? Anyways, I realize that all of those books are tastefully written and go to further the plot and the characters, so I actually end up appreciating it much more than I would your run of the mill paperback erotica. :)

  15. I don’t actually mind reading sexytimes in books. I’ve read my fair share of NA and Adult Erotica/Romance so I guess I’m just used to it by now. I think that having the scenes in YA can make it a lot more realistic (I’m all about the positive/REAL messages being sent out to teens about relationships) and make people realise that it’s not a taboo subject and that teenagers do have sex and it’s OKAY TO TALK ABOUT IT. I’m of the opinion that if we don’t talk about sex in books/tv shows/movies etc then it can be a lot more damaging that exposing teenagers to it (for example: they might grow to be uncomfortable talking about it or it grows to be something they’re ashamed of).

  16. I understand your reaction. It’d be mine, too. I don’t mind if the characters get into bed and snuggle or kiss a little, but after that I’m all for curtains blowing in the wind or the candle on the nightstand flickering out. Something like that. We all know what happens. I don’t think there’s really a need to go into a whole lot of detail.

  17. Ha, no you are not the only one. (I actually had another post about sex in books go live on my Adult blog today)

    However, I don’t think Erotica novels are the ONLY novels with sex. Just look at any adult romance, New adult, urban fantasy. Especially these days.

  18. I totally agree with you. It’s so awkward to read and I can only imagine if it was an audiobook. EW. I find it sexier if the author doesn’t share the sex scenes. The kissing, the buildup, then end scene. Let the imagination take over. Ending a chapter on that note would drive the reader forward.
    I’d still like to petition for a NA book that doesn’t have sex in it. Or let’s quit calling it New Adult and just label it as a younger erotica subgenre

  19. This totally cracked me up! I didn’t realize that A Discovery was adult, so I’m glad to be warned! I remember when I first accidentally read a few books with sex scenes and I have to admit that I was a bit mortified. But now – well, I guess I’ve gotten used to them. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not. LOL! Oh, but sex scenes on audio? – yeah, no. I don’t think so.

  20. I’m with you! If I read an adult or NA book, I know what I”m getting myself into (that’s why I don’t read erotica). However, if I’m reading a YA book, I don’t want to be bother=ed with sex scenes. Don’t get me wrong, they can have sex, experiment, kiss and such and it can be done in a tasteful way that doesn’t make me cringe.

  21. Haha this is great :) I don’t mind sex scenes, I read loads of romances – but I get what you’re saying. In ACOTAR, especially, I felt the sex scene came out of the blue, there was very little buildup and it smelled like insta-love to me.
    I just wrote a post about safe sex in books!
    Oh and on the topic of other people seeing/hearing what you’re reading: I translate books for a living and I’ve done several romances, some of which included pretty graphic sex scenes (idealized, as is common in romances, but there was still LOTS of… umm… displaying of body parts and such) and I used to do most of my work at a public library because I liked the atmosphere; however I was always worried someone would see what I was typing! That would have been awkward :)

  22. I don’t mind sex scenes in general, but they can definitely be overdone, whether there are too many, they’re too long, or if they distract from the plot instead of advancing the story. I’m also more likely to dislike them if I’m surprised by them the way you were in the first case. I typically like books to be what I expect :)

  23. In general, I don’t care for them either. But I don’t remember being bothered by them in the All Souls trilogy, so I guess it depends on how much I’m enjoying the book and how invested I am in the characters.

  24. Hey Kelley!! No, you are not weird at all! I actually do not prefer sex scenes in my books as well! I just really get squirmy and unsettled, and I don’t care for them at all! I feel like it really breaks up the flow of a novel.

  25. Yes, yes, yes! I absolutely feel the same way. I’m genuinely not a prude, but I just don’t feel the need to constantly read about funny feelings in your nether regions whenever you gaze upon his abs. Or whatever. I read because I want to get to know characters and live through stories, not because I want them to get naked. Fade to black, thanks.

  26. I’m not surprised if I come across sex scenes in adult books. I’m not necessarily a fan, but I’m not surprised. YA, on the other hand…while I understand the perspective of readers who want explicit portrayals of sex in YA, I don’t expect to find explicit sex in YA and am usually surprised and/or jarred out of the narrative when I do. I think “fade to black” is probably a better option for YA in general. Great post!

  27. Like Val, I’ve never read a real drawn-out sex scene before, but it’s because I specifically avoid them. Like you, it just makes me uncomfortable because I don’t feel I need to know all that about someone else’s private life, even in a book. This is why I wish, especially for YA, they would do some sort of rating system or some sort of content guide in the book that gives readers an idea of what to expect.

  28. Ahh I tend to agree about this, it’s kind of the reason I don’t read a lot of adult books, the sex scenes put me right off. I just want to read a story, not how the two characters go at it like rabbits… The sex scenes make me awkward too so I stop enjoying the story at that point.


  29. I encounter awkward sex scenes more frequently than I would like, too. It’s one thing if I’m reading a contemporary fic or historical fic, but with fantasy and sci-fi I can’t help but feel that the stakes ride (or should ride) a little higher than two (or more?) characters having sex. I get that it’s a basic need, but the need for survival should override the need for sex? (I’m using survival as an example because that seems to be a hugely common theme in SFF.)

  30. Oh no! I’m going to read A Court of Thorns and Roses for a read-along soon! Didn’t know it had sex scenes in it. I’m a little prude when it comes to that, honestly, but also they just BORE me. I want to hear about amazing characters doing amazing things in a plot; not interested in two gorillas giving away to primal feelings. No thank you.

  31. You’re definitely not alone. I’m with you – fade to black. The sex can be important to the plot or have a cataclysmic change in the character, that’s fine. But most books don’t use it strategically. It becomes a lazy sort of writing where you only need half a plot as long as there’s sex or allusions to it along the way. I’m just not interested in reading that – I want more from the characters in a book and plots and other drama that is so much more interesting to me.

  32. I tend to be more forgiving of sex scenes in books because if I think it’s too much I either skip the page or skim. But I do consider that a failure on the part of the writer if anything in a book takes me out of it. I’m not being a prude here, either. My favorite books include works by William S. Burroughs and Robert Anton Wilson that contain sexual content that probably makes every example given here look like A Sesame Street Reader by comparison. I do think too many writers feel obligated to incorporate more sex into their works because somehow they think it makes them seem more relevant to today’s readers, especially in the YA genre. And much of Kelley’s argument is also applicable to film and TV. It really does seem that unless a show is made specifically for children, or is something like a superhero movie (and even then there are exceptions) there is an obligation now to include sex scenes. I was very happy to see Game of Throne’s Emilia Clarke taking a stand against them earlier this week (even though her show actually scaled back the sex scenes over the most recent season). Of course there will always be examples where sex scenes in print or on film are necessary (for example, the TV series Masters of Sex would be pointless without them), I honestly get the feeling too many young actors are being forced to do them, and too many writers (established and new) are being forced to write them, out of some notion that in order for you to receive acclaim and awards you have to do the full monty or write about bodily functions as explicitly as possible. Look at the TV shows up for Emmys this year, nearly every one of the major nominees is sexually explicit. Benedict Cumberbatch starred in a major exception in movies – The Imitation Game – which received Oscar nominations despite not having any major sexual content; and incredibly a few months ago he actually had to defend the film for not having explicit gay sex scenes because, of course, the character he played was gay but audiences I guess are too stupid to get the picture unless he was shown engaged in coitus? I’m not turned off by most sex scenes in film or TV or on the printed page; most of the time I actually find myself rather insulted by them because it suggests that as a reader I don’t know how babies are made.

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