Sex and the Shadow

hawaii3Shadows are where danger lurks. Shame is in the shadow of every single life. And sex includes shame for so many of us. Makes sense, then, that one of my problems as a writer has always been with sex. Open the door or keep it closed?

Those who throw the door wide and step right through would argue that sex is the primal urge in life and drives most of our actions most of our lives. Why not just admit it and stir sex into the mix?

Those who would rather not say hey there are other basic human bodily functions we don’t feel the need to write about so why should sex be any different?

I used to be firmly in the “keep the door shut” camp until I signed a contract that called for a consummation scene and my editor called me on it when I didn’t write one. I think now that part of my issue with writing sex was shame. I’ve got some of that, but then I think most people do, especially women, especially women who have had men take advantage of them sexually. We carry our scars and some of us think it might be our fault it happened. We bury all that and we certainly don’t want to stir it up by writing about it.

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But sex is why we are all here. Literally. We would not be walking this gorgeous earth, not one of us, if somebody didn’t have sex with somebody else, and yes, that would be our biological parents. Also sex is beautiful between loving couples (or whatever combination you are into). Orgasm is the closest we will ever get to completely letting go of our thinking mind and entering into a state of bliss on earth. So why the shame? Why the secrecy? Why the guilt heaped upon me by wrinkled noses, poked out tongues, and suggestions that I give out page numbers for sex scenes so they can be skipped over?

And that’s just my family. Also, yes someone did stick their tongue out at me when they saw the cover of my latest book and the inevitable question arose (ahem) and I answered that yes, this book had sex in it. It’s about a single mom. She falls in love with the man of her dreams. She’s not a virgin. She has two little humans walking around that are part of her deal and central to her identity who prove that. So, you know, sex is an important component of the love relationship. Sexual attraction is what, if you’re lucky, leads to love.

A rational single man, I have heard, will not want to marry a single mom. No way. Kids are baggage. The actual kind you can see and must feed and care for along with this woman. But sex is not rational and neither is love. Also, they go with one another. I can’t be “in love” with someone and not want to have sex with them. They go together like cookies and milk. So yeah, my novel is sorta The Brady Bunch meets Sex and the City. And I’m coming out of my shadow to say I like it like that. It’s supposed to be that way. That is the way the story goes.

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There’s more to love than sex. Of course there is. I once had an emotional affair. You know, that thing where you’re just friends and then one day there’s more? But you can’t have sex because the divorce isn’t final yet or the spouse just doesn’t understand? Only your “friend” who you now love beyond reason understands. There’s no sex there. Not yet. But if the emotional affair continues, there will be sex. And in my case, there was no sex, but only because we both knew the timing was wrong. We stayed friends, too, but it was difficult at first. Because emotion almost took me under. Sex is a healthy release of that emotion we call love, which is why it deserves to walk out of the shadow and onto the page.

I have admitted before that, for me, writing is therapeutic. I can say now that writing sex scenes helped me face my shadow and the shame I formerly, wrongly, sadly, associated with the most awesome act on earth.

6 Comments on “Sex and the Shadow

  1. Brave and clever.
    I find it difficult to write sex scenes as I flounder in the damp patch, trying to avoid sounding mechanical, peverse or laughable (ironic really when sex can be all 3 of those things.)
    Its worth writing it for the level of character interaction and development it can bring. In fact, that is the only reason I would write it.

    I admire anyone who comes through the horrendous adversity you speak of, and to confront it in any way, especially under the microscope of writing is amazingly brave and positive. As writers I suppose our business is confronting the demons and angels of personal experience, and all the flat grey years in between.

    It is difficult though, isn’t it? Anyway, I’m going to go back to writing about trains going into tunnels.

    Thanks for sharing.

    D

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  2. I must be a very shallow, uncaring, unloving sort of a guy. I would not have a romantic relationship with a single mom, I would not date a single mom. I have been close friends with a single mom, helped her with her car and some DIY. But, unless a guy is happy taking second / third place in a woman’s life to some other guy’s children, then single moms should stay off the agenda.

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    • Do not feel guilty about that Jack! I am so glad I didn’t know about this (I have since heard it is true for almost all single guys about almost all single moms) when I was a single mom. Didn’t have a clue! LOL. Then after we were married a few years my husband said “I only had one dating rule…no single moms.” We laughed about that, since I was a package deal. And eventually I got a book out of it, not that Luke’s #1 Rule is a true story. But the idea is the same. Anyway, hope you were being ironic as you are completely normal!! Not shallow at all from your blog posts:)

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  3. I read porn sometimes, but in other fiction I would just as soon not read much of a description. It’s not like I’m a prude or have issues with shame when it comes to sex scenes. I think what it is, is that it’s nigh impossible to make a sex scene different from other sex scenes. Most of the time I feel like they don’t add anything to the story, either. (Sometimes they do, but in my experience it’s rare.) Maybe it’s too many 19th century novels! I’ve always been a fan of understatement. Some of the most hilarious lampooning ever of sex scenes occurs in Sarah Bird’s novel “Alamo House.” “She tasted the sea . . . ” Thought I would rupture something laughing over that. Sure, sex is fair game for any writer and shouldn’t be left out for any reason other than writerly ones. Just sayin’, I’m not big on sex scenes. Unless I’m reading porn, and that’s different.

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    • Kris, you’re right about porn being different. Also I know you are not a prude:) I feel the same way about sex scenes in many of the novels I read. They’re poorly written and add nothing to the story or characters. Let me try to break my message down: I don’t like when people try to shame me because I write sex scenes. That was really it. Doesn’t mean I think my sex scenes are awesome, although I try my best. Just been working on some shame issues and noticed that’s one area where shame really lights up for me. Or used to. I’m over that now, finally.

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