I’LL HAVE WHAT SHE’S HAVING…
I love that moment in a chick lit book when the hero and heroine have worked out their differences and sorted out their misunderstandings. They know they want each other. All that angst and unresolved sexual tension is finally going to be resolved, and you’re right there with them, tingling with anticipation of what’s about to happen, feeling the thrill of that first kiss, the excitement as they head towards the bedroom. And then …
Cut to next scene.
Aaargh! Don’t you hate it when you’re just getting into it, and then – nothing? I certainly do. It’s frustrating. After all that build-up, I want the payoff. I want more. Sex scenes don’t have to be graphic or long or even include much of the sex act itself, but they should be enough. They should leave the reader feeling satisfied. Just like sex, really.
I don’t want to get all worked up just to have the bedroom door shut in my face, and if it is, I feel cheated. After all, sex is an important part of modern relationships, so I expect it to be included in a contemporary love story. Besides, I like a bit of raunch. One of the most enjoyable things about this genre of fiction is that you identify with the heroine – live her life, experience her emotions, walk in her shoes – and I like my vicarious fictional life to include lovely food, big drinks, and a nice fat dollop of really good sex.
Granted, writing about sex is notoriously difficult. There’s the naming of parts and the tricky issue of what words to use – the ‘ick’ factor is potentially very high. You must steer a course between coy and crude, between gross graphic detail and ludicrous emotional hyperbole – all of which can leave the writer avoiding it like the stereotypical 1950s housewife avoiding … well, sex.
However, I think it is something that chick lit writers do particularly well, and some of the best examples of good sex writing are to be found in this genre – because sex in chick lit is rooted in reality. It’s not idealised like in some romance novels, but neither is it as grim as it is depicted by those literary contenders for the Bad Sex Awards.
The characters in chick lit are real people with inhibitions and hang-ups, concerns about their wobbly bits and insecurities about their performance. They don’t suddenly turn into sex gods and goddesses when they get into bed, and sex doesn’t take place on some higher plane – it’s earthy and real. It can be awkward, embarrassing, funny, fantastic, routine, messy, plain awful, and even transcendental – and when it’s good it can be seriously hot.
When I did a quick survey among my friends about sex in chick lit, I was inundated with suggestions, both of memorable scenes and of writers who consistently nail it (pardon the pun) when writing about sex – among them Jennifer Crusie, Anna Maxted, Louise Bagshaw, Fiona Walker, Sophie Kinsella (the raspberry picking scene in The Undomestic Goddess), Freya North (the food seduction in Sally), and Katie Fforde (more food and sex in Flora’s Lot). Personally, I think Sarra Manning writes brilliantly about sex, and though it is a very long time since I first read Jilly Cooper’s Riders, that scene with Billy and Janey and the dock leaves is still vivid in my mind.
So here’s to sex in chick lit! Keep it coming (as it were)!
What are your favourite sex scenes? And do you feel cheated if the bedroom door is closed, or do you prefer it left to your imagination?
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