Sex Please, We’re British

You’d think us Brits had only just discovered sex. But, funnily enough, we’ve been doing it for a very long time.

And as for writing about sex? We’ve been doing that for a very long time too. Think Chaucer. You don’t get much bawdier than old Geoffrey.

So why, with this long history, is there such a plethora of bad sex writing, so much so that we even have annual awards for it?  (This year won by Canadian writer Nancy Huston – so clearly this blight extends to other parts of the Commonwealth.)

Edmund White has some thoughts: ‘Everyone seems agreed that writing about sex is perilous, partly because it threatens to swamp highly individualised characters in a generic, featureless activity (much like coffee-cup dialogue, during which everyone sounds the same), and partly because it feels…tacky. Even careful writers begin to sound like porn soundtracks when they turn to sex writing.’ The Guardian , Thursday 6th December 2012

So how can you avoid these pitfalls?

A good start would be to remember that good sex and writing good sex are not the same thing.

And then consider going on Jane Holland‘s workshop on Saturday 2nd February run by CreativeWritingMatters in Exeter.

Jane Holland
Jane Holland

My favourite piece of sex writing is by Jonathan Coe in What a Carve Up! where his protagonist, a novelist, is trying to write a sex scene. If you ever get the chance to read this, then do. It’s hilarious. And one of the reasons I always leave my characters at the bedroom door. Not because I’m a prude or don’t appreciate sex, but because I don’t want to sound porny or make people ill. But I’m prepared to be persuaded otherwise. So I’m looking forward to the workshop…



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