How Much is Too Much (Part One)

I don’t consider myself a prude. I, perhaps, grew up a little sheltered, but I think that is actually a good thing in our modern world where kids (and I only know this because I am a teacher) are exposed to things—sex, violence, language, sexuality, relationships, etc.—at younger and younger ages. A little sheltering may not be such a bad thing. But certainly, I don’t have any issues with violence in books or movies. I have no real issues with bad language. I personally struggle with my language. For those of you that know me, you probably know I can have a potty mouth and it is something I have really been trying to work on.  I don’t have any issues with sex scenes in movies and literature. I would prefer not watch a sex scene with my mom in the room (I think we have all had that awkward moment where we’re watching that HBO or Showtime special that’s supposed to be amazing, life changing, world altering and Wham some steamy sex scene pops up and you’re thrown into an awkwardness that might possibly haunt your dreams for the rest of your life). And yet, I feel I have a cap, a red line for lack of better terms. There comes a point when too much violence, too much language, too much sex is, well, too much.

I figured I would start with sex in literature, since this seems to be the one out of the big three—sex, violence, and language—that gets to me the most. What is the limit in terms of sex in literature? Certainly certain genres exist that are going to have more sex than other genres. Romance is a perfect example. I am not knocking romance in any way, shape, or form, but let’s face it, if you pick up a typical romance novel, you expect to read about some funny business in the bedroom. And some of the stuff I have seen and read about lately (I don’t read romance mind you) is pretty steamy stuff. So, is that what people want? Do they want an almost pornographic novel with a little bit of plot, a little bit of storyline sprinkled in here and there? Well, some might say, just don’t read romance novels then. Ok. But a reader can’t really escape it anymore, regardless of genre. Look at Fifty Shades of Grey. This is a book that is considered main stream, literary fiction.

So, I am a fantasy novelist, and to be honest, fantasy to me has always been one of those genres where I never really expected to read about sex. I don’t know why. But then I read Game of Thrones, the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. Wow. Now, let just say I really like Martin’s series. I love the job HBO has done with turning it into a television series, even if it is slightly different from the novels. But . . . wow. I’m good with sexuality. I’m good with the hinting of sex. I’m even good with a well-written PG-13 bedroom scene. But . . . wow.

Again, I have nothing against sex. I am married with two kids. I don’t think we should demonize sex. As a Christian, I think sex is an extremely important part of a healthy marriage. If it serves a purpose, if it lends to a story, ok. But I have seen a rise in sex and sexuality in literature, and it doesn’t seem to lend to the story. I don’t need to see, read, or listen to a graphic sex scene (especially read by an older man with a British accent . . . creepy) expertly detailed. Before I move forward, I am not picking on George Martin. He’s not the only author whose books are highly sexualized. I certainly don’t need to read about sex and sexual violence towards minors. I know, as well as most people, that—especially in a medieval-like world, these were/are common occurrences. Do we really need to see them? And, of course, many people will say, well, just don’t read them then. All right. You have a point. But is there a point where readers in general shouldn’t accept a certain level of sexuality, or a point when a book needs to carry a parental advisory? Because I had freshmen students who had gotten their hands on Fifty Shades of Grey. Is there a point where a book simply becomes pornography as opposed to literature?

I have to say, Brent Weeks, the author of the Night Angel Trilogy, did a really good job of expressing sexuality in what I thought was a classy way. His whole trilogy was about an assassin and his prostitute love interest. So one might pick that book up and think they’re going to get hit with another highly sexualized, graphic book, but it wasn’t. I thought the trilogy was average, in terms of writing, but in regards to his handling of sex, especially in a situation where he could have gone wild, he did a great job.

Ok, so this next paragraph might lose some people, but in addition to just simple social concerns in regards to highly sexualize literature, what impacts it might have on kids, etc. as a Christian and as an author who is a Christian and whose faith influences his writing, how much sex should I be ok with. Again, I think it’s the wrong approach to demonize sex. But at the same time, for those of us who are Christian, we are called to a higher standard. I mean, should I even read A Song of Ice and Fire? For me, that is the hardest question. Even with my own writing, if I throw in a bad word, a violent scene, the suggestion of sex, when have I crossed the line? I suppose that is a personal issue or test, perhaps a question that should be offered up through prayer, but still a legitimate question. I have seen some “Christian” fiction lately in which I seriously said to myself, “This is Christian? Really?”

So, please feel free to comment and leave your thoughts. Thanks and continue to check out A Chance Beginning: Book One of the Shadow’s Fire Trilogy for both paperback and kindle.