Saturday 28 June 2014

Sex and Intimacy (feat. When Women Were Warriors)

I am forever intrigued by the different storytelling purposes that various authors (myself included, these days) use sex scenes for. It's one of the cornerstones of writing fleshed out romance/erotica, but every sex scene should always have a place and purpose within the story, and this most often relates to how sex lets us explore, understand, and progress the characters involved. Just like any other scene in a good novel, what happens in the bedroom is an opportunity for characterisation and plot progression, and it's often a fantastic opportunity to get to know characters in a brand new light.

There are many different tenets to this, but one that I've begun to appreciate a lot more over the past few months is the capacity for a sex scene to explore the theme of intimacy. It should be a no-brainer, I mean, duh, obviously a sex scene should be intimate, but there's a level of intimacy that goes beyond the norm, I feel.

I've recently been reading the series When Women Were Warriors by Catherine M. Wilson, and it's a fantastic example of an author using sex in a very specific and meaningful way to feed us information about the characters, specifically related to the idea of intimacy. I haven't finished the final book yet, but so far there have been various sex scenes which all focus very firmly on the theme of intimacy and the bonds it creates (or questions) between characters.

The earlier examples deal with the protagonist growing closer to one of her friends as she is introduced to sex for the first time, establishing a trust and understanding between the pair which is, interestingly, largely divorced from the ideas of romance and partnership. One of the things that makes me love the way Wilson treats sex so much is that these early scenes take place between friends rather than lovers, which beautifully illustrates the idea of intimacy as being separate from both superficial lust and deeply meaningful romance.

This ties in later to the themes of trust and vulnerability, and the pivotal sex scene at the climax of the second book (this time between the protagonist and the person she truly loves) allows the characters to be completely exposed and honest with one another, baring their souls so completely that we see them in a very different light for a brief moment in time.

Funnily enough, this scene was a large part of the inspiration for the big love scene in my most recent instalment of Broken Moon, in which the hero coaxes the heroine to finally let go of all her worries and doubts, allowing the pair of them to be completely free with their emotions for the first (and perhaps the last..?) time.

This type of intimacy is an emotional state that I think lends itself incredibly well to being explored via sex in literature. It holds so many visual, emotional, and social connotations to the act of sex that's it's hard to think of a different type of scene that illustrates the same themes on such a universal level.

Equally, the lack of such intimacy in a sex scene is an incredibly powerful storytelling technique as well. It can reveal hidden depths to a character and barriers that their partner, the audience, and perhaps even they themselves never knew existed.

I have always tried to make my pivotal "they're in love" sex scenes revolve around this idea of complete openness and honesty, where two characters bare their souls to one another and reach a new level of trust and understanding in their relationship, but at the same time sex can be used to explore very different types of intimacy, such as the bonds of friendship, which is something that I'm hoping to touch on in my next planned serial.

So if you're looking for a way to explore the theme of intimacy in your writing, why not try throwing a good sex scene in there!

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