Sex Sold Here

Friday, November 09, 2007
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Sex sells.

You see it portrayed everywhere--magazines, television, and billboard advertisements for clothing, perfume, and items like cars and hamburgers. Movies, television shows, and even children's cartoons and video games are full of sexual images and allusions. American society has more sexual references than any other country in the world, and nowhere else will you find such mixed messages.

Adult films are bad. Erotic literature is good. Exotic dancing is bad. Nude modeling for art is good. Sex with someone you love (outside of wedlock) is bad. Sex within marriage (even if you can barely tolerate your mate) is good.

How do these mixed messages affect the characters in your story and the story itself? No matter which direction you choose to go and what specific choice you make--in language, imagery, and character motivation--you are likely to offend someone's moral sensibilities.

Where does an author's responsibility lie? With the organic nature of her story and voice of her characters? Or with protecting the sensitivities of the reader?

How much, as writers, should we censor our content?


Angela Mackintosh said...

Great post Annette! I especially love how you said, "Exotic dancing is bad. Nude modeling for art is good." So true... although I do have to admit, I took life drawing for many years, and there's nothing sexy about it! The tick of the fluorescent lights on cellulite... um, yeah... And even when there was an attractive subject, there's a different mindset when drawing. Being an artist is like being a doctor. I think because you're concentrating so much on shape, form, texture, and focusing on letting your right brain take over, that it's really not sexual.

As far as the author's responsibility, I think it's to tell the story the way they see it. So what if it's shocking to some people, it still is supposed to be your story, right? The unfortunate part is that isn't the way the publishing world is set up. You can write whatever you want, but that doesn't mean someone will publish it. The writer thinks about her craft and the art of her story, but the publishers think about dollar signs. It's like anything else. When I was a full-time painter and owned my own art gallery, I thought I had it rough. Down with the system and censorship! I would do things just to get the community upset (especially if they were sponsoring me, heh). And I got flack for it then, but that was supposed to happen. When I look back at how disgruntled I was at the whole art world, it's nothing in comparison to how tough it is for a writer. I honestly thought it would be the other way around when I started! I expected my work to be loved, just like my artwork was. But there are "rules" in writing, not so much in art. I mean, you can write anything and be like Henry Miller and have your book banned for 30 years, but you'll starve. Just like he did. I wish that wasn't the case.

I still don't believe in censorship at all. If a book has its audience then let it be. I believe we've gotten way too streamlined in our thinking and it's about time someone needs to break out and do something different. Take a stand! Power to the writers!

Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now and pass it on back to you. ;-)



Sue said...

Annette, this is a thought-provoking post. At first, when I saw the words, "Don't Fornicate," I wasn't sure what I'd be reading. But it's that kind of title that gets us interested in the topic in the first place.

I think Angela covered this topic pretty thoroughly in her comments. ;-)

Anyway, I think we are an overcensored society on the one hand. But, on the other, I think some kids are exposed to too much too early, without parental guidance to support what they're learning. For example, I've educated my kids on sex already, but other parents would say "that's wrong." It's like everything--we need to balance everything out within the whole scheme of our individual worlds, allowing everyone to voice what they need to, regarding sex in books or other reading material. As long as the material isn't "in someone's face against their will," then it shouldn't matter.

It's like television--if people prefer to keep certain topics out of their home, they shouldn't tune into the shows they find inappropriate.

I don't know if I'm making my point clearly. But, anyway, good post!

Annette said...

Sue, it's funny that you commented on the pic I added to the post. I wanted to use it to point out the very obvious mixed messages in the media and society--Sex Sells, but Don't Fornicate.

The media saturates everything with sex and then turns around and tells everyone not to do it.

It's just as hypocritical as all of the right-wingers running around trying to moral-police the actions of the public and then getting caught with their pants down in public bathrooms soliciting sex or sexually harassing their pages. And don't get me started on the actions of the Catholic church!

I must admit, the reason I posted this topic is because I've gotten a little flack recently about the "pornographic" content of my book from someone who hasn't even read it yet. But I've gotten some great early reviews that call it honest, funny, insightful, and fresh.

So, I guess like any neurotic writer, I'm hearing the bad comments louder than the good ones. And I just wanted to see what other writers thought about the topic.

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