Recreational Sex in Writing: Writer Responsibilities?


I sometimes wonder just how much responsibility to the world at large us writers have. I did a post recently concerning triggers and got much interesting feedback about that. A trigger can be anything, a taste, a touch, a scent, words read in a book. The general consensus seemed to be that it was the readers’ responsibility to watch for those things that might trigger an untoward response or memory.

As writers, we should write about whatever we want to. There should be no censorship. To rate books like movies seems ridiculous; G, PG, R, X. And who, or what organization, would govern that?

I recall a friend bringing a paperback book to junior high school.  It was Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar”. There was a passage in that book where she describes her own breast development and compares them to apricots and cantaloupes. We sat in the library and giggled over that.

With the sexual revolution of the sixties, blatant sex found its way into everything, from TV ads to movies to literature.  Not that it had not been there already…it just wasn’t so obvious. Parents protected children from it. Lucille Ball  and Desi Arnez were the first prime-time couple to share a bed on national TV…and they were married in real life and on TV.

lucy desi i love lucy

The romance genre has always been the ladies’ go-to genre for steamy passion…and sexual tensions. Erotica takes that a step further. With those two, you know what you are going to get going in. Crime novels, sci-fi, fantasy, and many other genres have their protagonists engaged in sexual behaviors, a lusty affair, a rendezvous, but most of these are “love” related. Or, at the very least, lust related.

We all know what lust feels like. We probably had our first twinges in puberty. We were taught to subdue those feelings. We had social mores and morals. There were expectations on our behaviors and we conformed.

There are distinguished groups; however, who, under the freedoms grated us in this country, practice another sexual culture. I’m not talking about religious groups who use the church to practice bigamy; I’m talking about the polyamorous and the swingers. Polyamorous possessing the capacity to love more than one, and swingers who view sexual behavior in purely recreational terms.

Recreational sex. Have you ever thought about sex in those terms?

Men have always been rewarded by other men with a slap on the back for putting another notch in their belt, but women are often called sluts and other derogatory terms for openly enjoying sex with more than one person. Maybe it has to do with maternalism. Nobody wants to THINK of their mom as enjoying sex, and Mom and Dad together, hell no!

Do I have a responsibility as a writer to guide young people toward “acceptable “and “appropriate” sexual behaviors? Both teens and young adults can potentially read my writing. Can I shatter illusions? Can I destroy the innocence of young love?

In my crime novel, a couple of swinger clubs appear as settings. These aren’t private homes but public meeting places for strangers to become more than friends…no strings attached, no commitments.

The settings provide some amusement and are necessary to the plot. Yet, I have doubt.

Speaking of doubt, Doubt the Raven got out of hand and pecked up the left side of C.S. Boyack’s brain this morning over at Entertaining Stories. Lisa, the Robot , and Craig packed him up and shipped him off to Florida. He’ll be arriving soon…about the time the rocket scientist gets deep into Naked Alliances.

You’ll hear more about Doubt later. I’m sure.

In the meanwhile, pick up a copy of one of C.S. Boyack’s books and enjoy. I don’t think he has any sex in these, but they do look entertaining.

Lisa Burton is a new kind of robot. Built in the concept lab, she will be dismantled at the end of the experiment.

Lisa is a bit naive when she starts her new life, but soon learns to fit into modern society.

She gets assigned to the Hudson Police Department to study how she reacts to pressure, stress, and the everyday world. Hudson PD assigns her to a homicide case to catch the Escort Executioner.

When the escorts start showing up dismembered, she decides not to conclude her own experiment. She takes off on her own adventure to turn the tables on her creators.


Ethan and Coop are sent to the construction zone along the Panama Canal. They have some experience with strange phenomenon, but nothing prepared them for this.

They are faced with civil war, Carlist pretenders to the thrones of France and Spain, an invading Spanish army, and another from Hell itself. They’ll be lucky to survive, let alone take care of anything while they’re down there.

This story is based upon the construction of the canal, Panamanian independence, international cooperation, and a few celebrity cameos. Even the magic takes on an international flavor.

Ghosts and Voodoo are one thing, but they have no idea what waits along the isthmus.


33 thoughts on “Recreational Sex in Writing: Writer Responsibilities?

  1. Crime novels, sci-fi, fantasy, and many other genres have their protagonists engaged in sexual behaviors,

    Sometimes the “insertion” of such events seems contrived and unlike the character – sort of thrown in there just to be there


    1. This book being about human trafficking and placed in swinger settings it seemed unavoidable, certainly not contrived. of course, some might say the entire novel seems contrived, but that’s what we do, hoping we make make unrealistic seem real. It is not a normal reality that is exposed in the novel. It is a segment of society that is outlying and rather deviant.


  2. Wow! You went all out. I need to pick up the pace. Thank you so much.

    There is a sex scene in Wild Concept. It’s pretty mild by modern standards. I needed Lisa to feel the rejection that came later.

    There’s some “end at the door” scenes in Panama too. One fun bit where Ethan messes around with Coop’s supplies and winds up the uncomfortable center of attention.


  3. I agree. i don’t need to read graphic description to enjoy a sex scene. The tension works for me and is preferable. Same with TV. Less skin and more tension and you get your point across. That’s just me.


  4. I think an author has the responsibility to tell a good story. If their goal is morals then they do have to be careful, but if it’s solely to entertain and make people enjoy the written word then not so much. I’m not saying an author should be promoting bad behavior. Yet, it’s ridiculous to leave sex out of every story since it comes into play in many real life situations. I’m always confused when people act like sex is some horrible, disgusting act when it’s the only thing keeping the human race in existence. Seriously, how far would we get if sex was made illegal or impossible? Maybe I’m looking at it too biologically.

    As for women getting bashed for having sex, I don’t know if it’s the act or how they handle it in fiction. A female character who doesn’t ‘enjoy’ sex seems to get passed over. It’s the ones that like having sex as much as the male characters or are the dominant in the relationship. I’m always surprised when those characters get insulted while their male counterparts are cheered for being the same or worse. Heck, I’ve seen a few people demand that a guy slut around because a female character enjoyed sex. It’s a ridiculous and pathetic double-standard that makes it difficult to write certain female characters.


    1. I whole heartedly agree. Very well said. We take something perfectly natural and assign to it an image of disgust. Sex is tied to emotion and in many ways that is a good thing, but I personally think it is okay for it NOT to be. There are many who would disagree and pass judgment.


  5. Writers should write the stories as they see them. They shouldn’t avoid sex, or other things readers may have problems with, if those things are an integral part of the story. Nor should they include sex just to make a story marketable. Write the story as it is in your mind. Writers are not responsible for the impact their stories may have on teenagers or young adults. Particularly where it comes to sex, they are exposed to so much so easily these days, I don’t think there is anything you could surprise them with.


    1. Truly younger people have taught me a thing or two, but I won’t get into that. There was a time in my life, long after I had been married…and divorced, that I did feel like I had lost a certain sense of innocence that I knew I would never get back. The story has already been written…now I am getting all introspective. Probably something I don’t need to do. Thanks for your support.


  6. “Do I have a responsibility as a writer to guide young people toward “acceptable “and “appropriate” sexual behaviors? ”
    No, you don’t. Sure, I wouldn’t go around saying rape is okay or to treat women like pieces of meat, but unless you’re teaching your own children or a sex ed class, that isn’t your responsibility. People outside of these positions who consider themselves teachers are the people who do more wrong than good. They say “Don’t have sex” rather than “If you do have sex, make sure you’re safe and use a condom.” It’s not your place to teach morals to young people. You have can them in your book, sure, but as your character’s view, not your own. People won’t like your book as much if they feel like they’re being preached at.
    And like you said, girls are called sluts while guys are give thumbs up for having lots of sex. This has a real root in history and there’s a reason it’s like this, but it’s time to change how we see sex. Even if you’re religious, lots of people aren’t. If I want to have sex with every guy I meet, I’m allowed to do that. If you’re concerned, throw a bag of condoms at me. Beyond that, there’s nothing you can do.


  7. Interesting post, Susan. No, you should not feel obligated to guide young people in your writing–unless you’re writing some kind of instructional guide. If you are writing a book that is marketed as YA, then what you include would have to be more muted than what would be acceptable in general fiction–even if young adults read it, too. What is acceptable in a YA novel now as far as subject matter is much different though than it used to be, but usually the sex is not graphic. If the sex–recreational or love relationships–is necessary for the story, then it should be included. If it’s just there to be gratuitous, then it should not be. I guess how graphic it should be depends on the writer, the story, and perhaps the genre.


    1. Thanks Merril. I don’t like graphic sex in reading myself. The story does have an adult theme. I am not going to worry about it. Just something that got me thinking.


  8. I think it’s important in fiction that we treat our characters honestly. If we write a character who is promiscuous, then we should write the character as honestly promiscuous. Too often, in my opinion, alternative relationships are shown as either unrealistically good or unrealistically bad.

    For example, having multiple partners in either a swinger or a polyamorous lifestyle is more complex than having a single partner, it takes more work in terms of emotional investment and juggling time obligations. I seldom see that part of those lifestyles dealt with in fiction. Usually authors tend to focus on either the highs of the sexual relationship or the lows of the emotional crash that can come afterwards. Honestly, those are more fun to write.

    But they are also a fairly small part of what it’s like to live in an alternative relationship, there’s a lot more trying to figure out when A can spend some time with B when B is so busy with C and D still wants to see A and, oh, heck, I forgot I promised to go out with the guys from work that night.


    1. LOL…true. In the book, several of the murder suspects were seeing the murder victim’s husband. They were actually all okay with it, so it seems.

      My transsexual sidekick is a bit confused by all of it, because even though she is bi, she’s a one man woman, or a one woman woman…where deeper, more meaningful relationships come into play.

      The sex scene involves a swinger’s club they have to visit looking for evidence of a another crime. I was having some feelings about shattering the innocence of young people…but who am I to decide how the moral compass should point? That is not in my scope of practice as a writer, I guess. They are just my characters in a story.


  9. I don’t write graphic sex scenes, the one I did write was kind of a fade to black type scene 😀 I think readers have enough of an imagination to figure out the rest, plus I didn’t want the emphasis to be on the sex, I wanted it to be on the characters and their relationship 🙂

    Brilliant post! 🙂


  10. I don’t think we, as writers, have the responsibility of showing “appropriate” sexual content. The very nature of the genre is Adult. If a parent ALLOWS their child to read adult novels then that child might very well come across adult content. If we writers have to worry about sex for kids, what’s next? Editing out the swear words? The protagonist in my latest novel could barely speak if that were the case. 🙂 Great post, though, I’ve honestly never thought about it before.


    1. Thanks Sue, for stopping by and ringing in. I get upset when writers, or readers, say we need to “Flag” books for triggers like rape, abortion, and such. I don’t believe we should. A trigger can be anything to anyone. The smell of carnations makes me think of my mother’s funeral some forty-five years after the fact. Should people stop writing about carnations?! HA! Then I read a post saying we had responsibility as writers. It got me thinking about that. Do I really? Or do I have a responsibility to tell the story!


  11. A very interesting piece. But you had me when I saw the word “sex” in the title. Just kidding, I enjoyed it and concur with the “notch on the belt and sluts thing. Very unfair. This is the 21st century for God’s sake.


      1. That’s fine. I go on writing binges, and don’t post for a month and then go on blogging binges and don’t write for a month or two. Nice chatting and have a good day.


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