Friday, September 07, 2007

Am I an emotional cripple?

(Wow, it feels odd to not be blogging about publishing on a Friday, it's been so long! The summer series is over; no more interviews, no more posts. I'm sure I'll keep blogging about it on occsion, we're just not doing it regularly anymore.)

So someone on one of the message boards I'm a member of posted a question the other day, about emotional intensity and sex scenes. The gist of it was, if a man is in a very low, unhappy place emotionally, is it taking advantage of him for the heroine to, ah, take a tip from Marvin Gaye?

I was frankly stunned that this was even an issue. perhaps if the situation had been reversed and the heroine was the one feeling terrible (you see how sexist I am) I *might* have felt a little differently. Maybe. But my response on reading it, and still is, "Huh? But getting laid makes people feel better."

This is a MAN we're talking about here. And it's not like the woman is some total stranger who got him drunk and molested him, she's his romantic interest in the story.

But everyone else seemed to think it would be better to have one or both of them stop things, and wait until they were in a more centered place, which bugged me a little because hey, emotionally traumatized sex = hot sex. I wrote a scene in the PD sequel the other day that, hopefully, will scorch your eyeballs, but without the emotional content--specifically raging, screaming fury--would be rather humdrum. It's not even a particularly long scene (although it's not short). But it allowed my heroine to explore some new depths in herself. It allowed my hero a chance to show how well he knows her and how he feels without actually having to utter any of those potentially embarrassing words he's too scared to say.

Does he take advantage of her in that scene? Well, yeah, I guess he does. He could easily have helped her by talking, or offering her a pillow to hit, or inviting her to go for a job, or even a shoulder to cry on. He didn't have to sneak up and start putting his hands all over her in ways he knows she particularly likes. Maybe a less selfish and oversexed type of man would have done any or all of those things.

But I think it would have omitted so many of the clues buried in the scene. I think it would have made him far too wholesome. He's a guy. He wants to have sex. He thinks, "Hey, she really needs to feel better right now, and I bet some sort of physical activity would help...say! I have an idea!"

Who wants to waste all that good emotional uproar on ice cream, for fuck's sake, and then have sweet, rational sex the next day? When you could have your characters brutally use each other instead? No contest, at least for me. Why have them smile when they could be devouring, why have them be tender when they could be desperate?

No, it's not right for every scene, obviously. But it seemed to me that in worrying about "taking advantage", the writer was losing an opportunity to really strip her characters to the bone. Which in large part is what sex scenes should be about. Yes, it should be hot, and not every scene needs to heal traumas or create new ones--sex for sex's sake doesn't bother me if I like the characters and they're hot together--but a chance like that doesn't come along very often.

Not to mention the fantastic opportunities for conflict represented by sex like that. Imagine that scene, where she's worrying she took advantage (silly, but whatever) and he's afraid he revealed too's the stuff dreams are made of, IMO.

But I admit it makes me wonder if I'm some sort of sociopath, in that taking advantage wasn't even on my radar here.

Monday I want to go more into this, especially relating to that ultimate taboo of taboos--hitting girls.


Anonymous said...

It seems like the perception is that if it's the "she" feeling down the "he" is taking advantage of her but if it's the "he" feeling down the "she" is providing thereapy.

Who knows? You are right, though. High emotions = high intensity = good sex -usually.


Bernita said...

What excruciating PC nit-picking is this?
The act of sex in a relationship is an act of love. He's not supposed to love her or she him?

Robyn said...

I know in the PC world this is supposed to be sexist and neanderthal, but I think you're right. It's A GUY. Guys dig sex, especially when initiated by the women they love. It's a fact. So when did being emotionally hurt equal unable to give consent? Sheesh.

And any woman who throws a punch better be prepared to be punched back.

BernardL said...

You're no sociopath, you're married with children. Emotionally perfect opportunities for sex in the afore mentioned condition are few and far between. I believe the condition married with children birthed the word 'quickie'. :)

December/Stacia said...

Well, V95, that was my insensitive and sexist perception, anyway. :-) Everyone else seemed to think it really was awful to offer a man sex when what he needed was understaaanding.

I guess because it was their first time, Bernita? Like I said, I didn't get it. It wasn't a bad question, it just knocked me for a loop. :-)

Exactly, Robyn. It wasn't like she tied him down and raped him while he cried; I mean, did Harry manipulate Sally? It seemed to me like stuff like that just happens, all the time.

Very true, Bernard, very true, lol. Parenthood isn't really conducive to hours in bed.

kirsten imma saell said...

Reminds me of the episode of ELR where Ray keeps reminding Deborah how mad she is at his mother so she'll keep wanting to have "the angry sex". In my experience, a man will take advantage of any opportunity for sex (at least with their SO) whenever it presents itself.

And I'm really interested to hear your take on hitting girls. I'll admit, all my physically tough heroines can (and usually do) take a punch, and if they hit the hero, they fully expect a bad reaction.


Pepper Espinoza said...

I agree with you so much, it hurts a little. I was really shocked by those responses. Ice cream?! ICE CREAM!? I think everybody should go ask their husbands/SOs/random man on the street if they'd rather have sex or ice cream, and see how that goes.

Gabriele C. said...

I thought if a man said he needed understanding, what he means is he needs sex. :)

Angie said...

Oh good grief. [eyeroll] Umm, yeah, overthinking the situation just a tiny bit. :P

I mean, sure, if the writer wants to set up a sex scene where one character "takes advantage" of another character who's emotionally distraught, and then show some negative consequences that the characters have to work through, that's cool and could work very well. But it's just as legitimate to have the "comforted" character (no matter which half of the couple it was) wake up the next day and say, "Oh, man, I needed that! Thanks!" and dive in for round two.

I don't consider being depressed or angry to mean "impaired," though, the same way being drunk or high or whatever means "impaired." If anything, the sexual agressor is likely to get a knee in the kidney or something if the other person really didn't want to be hassled for sex (and saw it as being hassled.)

And I guess the people in that discussion were all universally outraged by that smoking hot sex scene in A History of Violence, the sex on the stairs with Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello...? Wow, how awful. Yeah, you could tell that that was completely abusive from beginning to end. [eyeroll]

Ignore them. Do what you want. People who like it will read it and people who don't will find something else to read. That's why there are so many different writers with different styles and viewpoints -- to serve all the different kinds of readers. Doing your own thing is fine but telling other people they can't or shouldn't do theirs is massively uncool.


Ann Aguirre said...

Read Pepper's MAD WORLD if you haven't already. It's a fuck'n masterpiece, and will illuminate my feelings on this subject perfectly.

(There is a whole slew of non-PC stuff and bitch-slapping in the book. And I loved it.)

Anonymous said...

"Everyone else seemed to think it really was awful to offer a man sex when what he needed was understaaanding."

I agree with gabriele -same same. -V95

Anonymous said...

It's a thin line situation because it depends on other factors. If they haven't been intimate before that's not a good sign. but if they are established then sex is a fine distraction from turmoil and a great stress release. If a woman is down getting physical attention can make her feel better about herself (I know it does me.) It can be a closeness thing, and "Yeah that bad crap happened, but look, you're with me now, let's make something good happen."

but as a writer you have to set it up that way, and not make it seem like one person is using the other in a moment of weakness.

Camille Alexa said...

Way to go, December Quinn, for picking a topic which actually made me want to go through and read all the comments. This is one of the only blogs which consistently forces me into that situation. Brava.

McKoala said...

Shouldn't sex be all about emotions?

We've had green poo (just read your last entry); nearly had a heart attack until I remembered Grandma had been pouring green cordial down the little koalas. However, as a result of that incident, the littlest koala is obsessed with doing a pink poo. Any suggestions? Strawberries and red cordial don't work, we've tried!

Liked the cover too.

December/Stacia said...

Lol, kis, that was a great episode!

I'll be very interested to see your comments about my take on it...

I know, Pepper! ICE CREAM!? Are we writing male characters, or women in men's bodies? I thought it sounded hot as hell, personally.

That's what I thought, too, Gabriele. I know 90% of the time when the hubs talks about emotions, he's really talking about sex; every man I've ever known has done the same.

Damn, Angie, I'd forgotten about that scene, but...yeah. Whoosh. Although the first scene in that film was awfully hot too.
The girl who had this dilemma seems to be very pleased with her replanned scene, and that's great. I hope it all works out and that she finds success with it. But I was just amazed the question even came up, and wondered if I was some sort of cold freak because it never would have occurred to me. Makes me wonder what people will think of some of my scenes, lol.

I'm ashamed to say I haven't read it yet, Annie. Pepper is so awesome, too. LOVE non-PC stuff, especially non-PC sex.

December/Stacia said...

Thanks, V95, that's what I thought too!

I guess what I found surprising wasn't that the writer planned to have the woman take advantage, she was worried that readers might see it that way. Like I said, nothing against her, and she knows her story better than I do. But I never would have read a scene like that, where sex happened because someone was trying to give another person emotional support, and think she was taking advantage of him.

Thanks Camille! The comments are usually better than the posts, IMO. I have such a great bunch of buddies here.

Exactly, McKoala! And it doesn't always have to be about positive emotions, IMO.

I don't believe pink poo is possible. Apparently red coloring is absorbed into the intestines. Have you tried Google? :-)

December/Stacia said...

Okay, McKoala, I do the research so you don't have to. We're all about service on this blog.

Apparently, any of the following could cause pink poo:

pickled beets (several confirmations on that one)
pink cupcakes
Red velvet cake

kirsten imma saell said...

And a few pink crayons. Although the poo itself doesnt turn pink, it will be speckled with lovely pink flecks. Very pretty.

Oh, and if you like magenta, there's an over-the-counter de-wormer for pinworms that'll really make you look twice at your kid's diaper. Don't ask.



Angie said...

McKoala -- If we're collecting data.... :) When I was a little kid, a lady at our house was changing her baby's diaper and it was completely pink. o_O She said he'd gotten ahold of some bubble gum.

December/Stacia -- (do you have a preference BTW?) If the writer who asked the question was happy, then that's cool. I agree with you, though, that that was a weird interpretation to even come up. Different audiences.... [shrug]


kirsten imma saell said...

I didn't get the whole ice cream thing, either. I mean, a pot roast maybe, or some pizza and beer, but ice cream? What kind of comfort-seeking man goes for the triple fudge swirl?


Anonymous said...

Well, I suppose it depends if she ripped his bodice.

Unless the heroine's internal was "I want some nooky and I don't give a damn if you're not in the mood," it sounds like this whole situation is being overthought and excrutiated.

December/Stacia said...

I don't have a preference, Angie. Anything's fine with me.:-)

Hey, different strokes, eh? It struck me as odd too, but she knows her story. *shrug* I'm just glad I'm not the only one cold enough to think it was odd!

Honestly, kis? A very effeminate one. :-)

Lol Seeley! I hope she did! I agree. If her intent was mean and cold, that's one thing. But the way it was described didn't sound at all like an "advantage" situation.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'd say it's a silly issue. Sex "is" comforting, or can be. Sex is a normal behavior, not some act that is allowed only at Select perfect moments. I wouldn't see it as the woman taking advantage of the man at all.

Sam said...

It all boils down to sex. You should read some of the psychology books my son has from the university. EVERYTHING goes back to sex. It's really strange.
So sex for comfort, anger, fear, love, lust, boredom...anything goes and usually does. We just tend to think about reasons too much.

December/Stacia said...

Oh, no, Charles, no sex unless everyone is in the exact right place of soriety and mental health! Shame on you, thinking like a man! :-)

Lol, Sam, that's very true, isn't it? I don't necessarily place a lot of stock in psychiatry (although I don't NOT put stock in it either--what an irritating phrase that whole stock thing is), but it certainly is a basic human drive.