How much sex do you need?
In your reading?
I just finished reading book 279 in The Trailsman series, which is an example of an “Adult Western.” There are, or have been, several such series, including an even longer running one called “Longarm.” These types of books appeared as a subgenre in the 1970s, and though they’re pretty standard western stories in most ways, they always contain a few scenes of explicit sex. They generally have a somewhat higher level of violence than the westerns of earlier days, as well. The sex, in particular, is actually required by the series guidelines. If you don’t put it in, you don’t write for the series. The sex is also much more of a male oriented sexual fantasy than the female oriented one you find in romance and urban fantasy.
I’ve only read one Longarm, years ago, and a couple of the Trailsmen books more recently, the latter because they were written by friends of mine. Depending on the skill level of the writer, and both my friends are very fine writers, these books can be excellent examples of the western genre. I almost said a “rousing” adventure, but that skates the pun line a bit too close.
Now, I like westerns and have read a lot of them in my day, but I started wondering why I’ve read so few of the Adult Westerns, despite the fact that many are available. I realized that the explicit sex actually detracts from the story for me. (I found the same thing when I tried to read one of the later books in Laurell K. Hamilton’s series, although at least there has been something ‘more’ than sex in the Adult Westerns I’ve read.)
What happens is that I get involved in the adventure and the suspense of a “story,” then the characters go hopping into bed. I’ve got to page through to get back to the story line. And it’s not because I’m a prude. I don’t flinch at the explicitness of the sex; I don’t screw my lips up in a faint moue of disgust. I just don’t really want to experience “Story Interruptus.”
There is certainly a place for sex, even explicit sex, in fiction. I had a fairly explicit sex scene in Cold in the Light. I’ve also enjoyed some sexually explicit books where the story itself revolved around sex. But when I read fiction I’m reading for the story first. Usually, for me, sex is a garnish where fiction is concerned. And I hardly ever eat the garnish when I order a meal at a fine restaurant.
So, how much sex do you need…in your reading?