by Michael Dymmoch
I saw my first porn film way before I’d ever considered film as anything but entertainment. My brother loaned me an 8 mm movie because I’d never seen one, and he wanted to “educate” me. (Actually he was just showing off how much more he knew about porn.) It was entertaining until the novelty wore off—about two minutes in. Without plot, characterization, or suspense, it only had the improbable anatomies of its “actors” to hold my attention. And any appreciation of those was interrupted by observations like “she must get terrible backaches carrying all that weight up front.”
Since then, I’ve learned a little about movies, story and entertainment. And discovered some of the incredible variety in the ways Nature’s come up with for getting male and female together, as well as some of the other ingenious uses She’s devised for “sexual” behavior. For me, graphic sex, like baseball, is more fun to do than watch or read about. It’s not that I don’t appreciate a well written sex scene (or a well written any kind of scene), and I have stopped to reread a few that were particularly good. But that’s my point. I stopped. Unless the scene has a point beyond proving the writer can write it, it doesn’t add to the novel. It stops the reading dead while the reader appreciates the sex.
My second sex-in-“lit”- education lesson came from a copy of Playgirl Magazine. Curiosity compelled me to take it home. After I’d studied the pictures, I checked out the text—material I suppose was intended to be erotic. I nearly fell off the couch laughing. It was just too graphic. As much of a turn-on as watching cattle breed. And the idea that the behavior described would turn on an observer was hilarious.
When any animals get it on, Nature provides hormones and pheromones to facilitate the process. Really graphic sexual material (or for many humans, romantic descriptions) may stir the gonads and stimulate the hormones, but great description can also turn off those whose tastes differ.
I recall graphic sex scenes from several mystery novels—don’t remember the plots or how the stories came out—but I remember that the sex stood out. (Having said that, I’ll admit to putting fairly graphic foreplay in my upcoming novel, M.I.A. --April, St Martin’s Press--which I hope doesn’t stop the action. ) Mary Stewart’s romances don’t involve graphic sex, but they all left me wishing I had some. (And I’m not the only one—they were best sellers.) There was nudity in the Goodman’s last performance of Lear, but I didn’t walk out of the theater feeling sexually aroused. That performance—the rage, the fear, the love and loss and conflict—left me feeling like I’d been flattened by a bus.
I can envision stories in which graphic descriptions of kinky or unusual sex might delineate character, heighten suspense, or constitute an important plot element. (In Basic Instinct, graphic sex was the plot.) But now that it’s been done so well, how do you top it? (The sequel tanked.) One man’s turn on may be gross or hysterically funny to someone else. And if it’s really good, it stops the action.
That’s my take. What’s yours?