Sex is a part of life, that much is undeniable, and whether you like to read about it or not it does happen. And that's why over innocent heroines in young adult books actually kind of annoy me. It's not *that* long since I was 16-18 (Ok its been 4-6 years depending on which age you pick) but I remember that most of my friends were already discovering sex at that age, and even if they weren't actively having it then they knew about it. So why do a lot of young adult heroines seem completely clueless? Or why have they never got carried away with the male lead? It frustrates me at times. You can have a young adult book without actually showing sex on page, I can think of a couple of examples where authors have made it clear that the characters are having sex but have never actually described it (The Bionics by Alicia Micheals, though I can't remember exactly which book in the series it is that it happens in, and Stormfront by K R Conway being too examples from the top of my head.) I want believable characters!
The phrase 'Making Love'
This is definitely a personal thing, and I've never penalised a book for it but I absolutely hate the phrase 'making love'. I can't really explain why, despite having to try and explain it in a 'real life' conversation. I especially hate it when characters say it's 'making love' really early on, and without feelings even being involved, it's probably along the same lines as me hating characters saying 'I love you' too early. It just grates on me!
I won't lie, I'm definitely not a prude after all, I kind of have a love-hate relationship with erotica. Sometimes all I want to read is something where the heat levels and chemistry are through the roof and the characters can barely keep their hands off each other. Problem is I don't like it if that's all there is to the story (double standard I know). Also sometimes the language that authors use can be a bit of a turn off, though again I know that's a personal issue that I have. If the erotica doesn't have a point then I'm not going to be happy about it. However if it's teamed with a strong story then no problem...I've found some great books that way!
Since Fifty Shades of Grey (which I have read) and Mummy porn in general it has been more widely accepted that people have some different tastes. I've actually read a fair few BDSM books, partly curiosity and partly to find out if Fifty Shades was actually worth it (I've decided that it wasn't too bad but there's better out there) and there's one thing I've learnt about this genre; they range from terrible to brilliant. On the good side there's the Sugarhouse novellas by Pavarti K Tyler (Sugar & Salt, Protecting Portia and Dual Domination - the third of which I've yet to read) which have a good story throughout the individual books and a higher story arc, and there's more focus on the characters. Then on the really bad side there was Daddy Morebucks by Normandie Alleman and Office Toy by Cleo Peitsche, both of which were short (hence why I finished them) and made me go a bit WTF. Sure some people are into these things but I don't think they promoted it in the right way.
A series that's definitely worth a mention, both for erotica and kinky sex is Wicked Play by Lynda Aicher (I've read Bonds of Need, Bonds of Hope and Bonds of Courage so far and loved all three of them). The reason I enjoyed them was that, though there were scenes where the characters had sex, and in this case participated in BDSM Scenes, there was much more to all three stories. For a start the distinction between sex and scenes was made clear, and the characters were equals outside of scenes as well, meaning that their relationships progressed naturally. Not only that but the characters had friendships with other people and didn't have an unhealthy obssession with each other. Basically what I'm saying is that these were well rounded books.
In Other Genres
I've read books that are paranormal, sci-fi, historical, fantasy, dystopia and many other genres which have sex in as well as the story. Sometimes I've found that it feels like the sex was just thrown in there for the sake of it, for example The Mermaid's Sanctuary by Charlie Daye was a decent book but didn't need the sex to work, nor did it flow too well with it in, and that just makes me question why it is there. Sometimes I've found that sex is the natural progression for characters and so feels right to be placed where it is, for example in The Star Thief and the sequel Athena's Ashes by Jamie Grey. And then there's the books whose whole plotline revolves around sex for the paranormal/sci-fi/other genre bit to work, one example being a book that actually kind of disturbed me, Womb of the New World by Mira Noire. Sex in other genres can work in all three situations, though I prefer it to be the second and to feel organic for the characters!
I see a lot of people complain about characters not using condoms or just taking each other's word for it that they're clean. On the condom front I'm of two minds, yes promoting safe sex is a good idea but ultimately it can ruin the moment, so I actually find that I don't mind if an author just skims over a character using a condom (though I did like the mentions in the ES Siren series of a medical implant that protected against disease and pregnancy for both men and women, in sci-fi that is definitely allowed). But the whole 'I'm clean-you're clean' conversation does actually annoy me a bit. If it's after a couple of weeks then yes fine go for it, but if not then you really shouldn't be having that conversation! Authors make sure your characters are safe!
Yep you read that right! Often in books you find that characters have amazing sex without even trying. They don't have any sex accidents and just seem to be fine. And most of the time I'm fine with that, reading is an escape after all! But sometimes I come across characters that have clumsy sex, they walk into doors or fall off the bed and actually I think that's just as good if a relationship is building, because that is the kind of thing that would happen, and the kind of thing that you could laugh about and help build a relationship on. So not all the time, but sometimes a bit of clumsiness is a good thing!
So there we are...some of my thoughts on sex in books (though not all! After all I haven't even touched on Virgin sex goddesses - they'll probably get a post of their own at some point!) What about you? What do you think about sex being included in books? Should it be or should it all be left to the imagination?