Illicit sex
            “He fondled her alabaster globes…”

Okay, you say, now you’ve got our attention.  But how are you going to work those three items into your blog? 

“He fondled her alabaster globes…”  If you’re thinking this phrase is the classic send off for soft and medium-core porn in our novels, you are quite right.  Do I appreciate graphic sex in the books I write or read?  No, I don’t.  Lurid, pornographic sex bores me.  Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Susann bore me.  Maybe I feel this way because as a friend of mine said, “I don’t want to read about other people doing it.  I want to do it myself.”  But whatever my motivation, I don’t appreciate descriptive sex scenes.  In fact, I most often find they are used as substitutes for characterization, plotting, narrative, and action.  Am I advocating censorship?  Of course not.  I believe in writers writing freely and readers reading freely.  I’m speaking for myself only and for my taste. 

Adultery.  Does what I’ve just written mean that I don’t like illicit sex or adultery in novels?  No.  It doesn’t mean that at all.  Sex and adultery are powerful themes and belong in our books.  They’ve always been there, and they’ll always be there.  ANNA KARENINA is saturated with adultery.  Anna and Count Vronsky spend most of the book energetically engaging in adultery.  But Tolstoy doesn’t devote large portions of his work to describing entangled arms and legs or fondled alabaster globes.  Adultery and illicit sex are central to ANNA KARENINA but pornographic sex is non-existent.
MADAME BOVARY is similar.  Flaubert has made Emma’s serial adultery a compelling central theme, but no “alabaster globes” here either—merely a solid story featuring well-drawn, imperfect beings.
And the story of King David and Bathsheba in the Bible is another example of adultery as a major legitimate theme.  We have been captivated by their story for three thousand years.

Do I appreciate pornographic sex scenes?  No.  Do I look for fondled alabaster globes? No. Do I search new books for lurid, titillating scenes that I wouldn’t allow my kids to read? No.

Do I appreciate sex in the novels I read and write?  You bet I do.


  1. Yep, Pete. Your tweet got my attention. I'm with you: when it comes to sex scenes, less is more. Wonderfully written post and examples of classics that got just the right mix. Also enjoyed your last post.

  2. Hey, I like this blog. That's one reason I like your books. They are great stories, and I don't feel I have to skim through unnecessary explicit sex scenes that I just don't enjoy. Cheers!

  3. Your friend says the same thing I have always said. I will not read a book with explicit sex...or with foul language. I have been told that "everyone reads it or expects it". I don't!

  4. I don't want to read about "alabaster globes" either, but because it's such bad writing.

    One big problem with soft- or medium-core porn is that so much of it (not that I've read a whole lot) is such BAD writing. (There are other arguments against it, too, but I won't go into them.)

    But what's wrong with reading about sex? It's a part of life, and far more common than bloody violence, which elicits far less objection. Reviewers of my book have said that kids shouldn't read it because of the sex scenes, but no one has warned children against the horrifying monsters or graphic violence. I write "nipple" once, and under-18s get warned off my book. No one complained about the character's legs dissolving.

    Why not encourage good writing about any subject. If it's done well, why would an honest, clear passage about sex be more off-putting than one about basketball?

    1. Hi Scott,
      I think we're on the same wavelength. I'm for sex in novels--if the book is done well. It's the trashy ones I don't care for. Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina will live for centuries.
      Hope you are fine and happy,
      Pete P.