I’m taking an online class, via UCLA Extension, called Writing Sex. It’s interesting. So far, I’ve learned that good sex writing revolves around good character development, and bad sex writing relies too much on cliches and the actual sex act.
Does sex writing matter? Well, yes. Just like any other type of writing, it is used to convey a deeper meaning. Can it be thoughtful? Absolutely. Some of the best sex stories examine bigger ideas, such as “Community Service,” by Kerry Cohen, or “No Strings,” by Joan Rogers. Sex writing also signals coming-of-age, such as in “Cock,” by Erin Lyndal Martin. Or it can be experimental, such as the story in Nerve’s “I Did it For Science” section, and it can be about gender bending, like Dorla Moorhouse’s “I Degender Bawdily.” The point is, it’s not always like the erotic romance novels. It can be deeper and much more meaningful, but just like any other type of writing, or any art for that matter, it takes practice.
Every year, Literary Review gives out a Bad Sex in Fiction Award for the worst sex writing of the year. If you have a chance, you should check it out–it’s pretty funny. Surprisingly, this year the winner was Jonathan Franzen with his newest novel, Freedom. That should prove how sex writing is a separate art: even one of the “great American novelists” apparently can’t write sex scenes well.