Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Literary sex scenes



Today’s blog entry is about literary sex scenes - which writers of former times would have liked to put more sex in their books? – and appears on the Guardian books blog here.

‘No writer of fiction among us has been permitted to depict to his utmost power a MAN’ – this is WM Thackeray introducing his book Pendennis and, perhaps surprisingly, it is very clear that he means something very specific: he was upset that ‘society will not tolerate’ a truthful depiction of a young man’s sexlife. He made the complaint several times: that he was constrained by convention from being honest about what he saw as a huge and vitally important part of life. It seems clear that if he had had the chance he would have included sex scenes in his book - rueful, good-natured, non-judgemental ones, surely.

So, his fellow-writers (in the Victorian era and up to more open modern times) – did they share his wish for more honesty? It’s a complete guessing game, as respectable writers didn’t even write about the constraints, let alone try to breach them, but let’s do some guessing. Who was bothered by the conventions, who would exercise their freedom if they were writing now?

Click here to read on…




Most of the authors mentioned in the piece have entries on the blog: including Evelyn Waugh with Helena, Charlotte Bronte & Jane Eyre, Virginia Woolf – here and hereThomas Hardy, John Dickson Carr and Daphne Du Maurier.

9 comments:

  1. Lovely post, Moira!! You've really done a thorough job of this, and it gives me, as Poirot would say, furiously to think.

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    1. Make sure you share your brilliant ideas with us! Lovely Poirot quote, very evocative.

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  2. Very interesting post and thanks for pointing out the article. I liked the comments in the article on Agatha Christie and Daphne Du Maurier especially.

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    1. Thanks Tracy - I enjoyed writing it, and now keep thinking of more writers and wondering what their take would be...

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  3. I was concerned that the post would be too explicit for my sensitive self, but you've been remarkably well-restrained.
    Perhaps you should run a side blog - Sex In Books - I'm sure your Don Winslow reading would come in handy!

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    1. Glad I didn't manage to shock you. Something tells me that sex in books would get a very high hit rate...

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    2. I seem to recall hearing somewhere that there were some raspberry-type awards for the worst sex in fiction. Not sure if it was a one-off or a regular feature......avoid I reckon, even though I read all 3 of the 50 Shades books.

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  4. Enjoyed your Guardian blog post http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/sep/24/sex-scenes-in-classic-literature

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    1. Thanks Lara for the kind words, glad you enjoyed it.

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