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Question re: Sex in Fanfiction
Why are people so preoccupied with reading and writing about sex in fanfiction?  (Or is this like asking why the sky's blue? *g*)

I'm questioning, not judging.  Before anyone gets offended, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with having sex, reading about sex, or writing about sex.  That would make me quite the hypocrite, given that I've done all of the above.  I do feel like there's a certain preoccupation with it in fanfic, though, and I don't know if that's simply a reflection of broader society, a result of people not having a satisfactory amount/kind of sex in their non-reading lives, a result of sex just being a powerful human drive, a side effect of the characters not knocking boots in the source material, or something else entirely. 

What's driving this?  Got a theory?  You can always comment anonymously if you're feeling shy.

*makd, my dear, have your fandom studies shed any light on this?

When I started my Underworld fanfiction, it was meant to be a smutty one-shot and that was it. I'll admit I wrote it mostly out of the pathetic horny desperation most 19-year olds have. But when I actually sat down and saw what I had created, I realized it couldn't be what it was intended, because I had made it far more romantic than pornographic.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that for a lot of people, sex in literature in general is supposed to be provocative. Romance novel-writing is highly lucrative.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Romance novel-writing is highly lucrative.

This I know. *g* I used to work for a romance novel publisher, and I've read plenty of romances, though not so many lately. It's interesting how much variation there can be in romance novels -- in terms of the presence or lack of sex scenes, the characterizations, the plots, all of it. Relationships are interesting.

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They still need to be well done, actually I have a higher bar for sex fics than any other kind.

I hear ya. It is very easy to write a sex scene that makes people cringe and/or laugh. Sex is damned hard to write well.

because fic is about writing or reading what you will never see

Hm. That's an interesting thought.

Now if someone could explain why Brennan has to get hitched and knocked up, I'll be happy.

*gags* I've got a theory on that: in many peoples' minds, those two things are still considered the norm. Some folks either have a low tolerance for deviation from the so-called norm or just lack the ability to think outside their own individual perspective.

Brennan's a woman. If she falls in love with Booth, has sex with him, etc., of course she'll want to marry him and bear his children. That's the natural order of things. Who gives a shit about characterization or showing a believable progression in a character's thinking on these types of issues?

Thanks for jumping in.

Edited at 2008-07-11 04:14 pm (UTC)

i suspect it's a combination of those things you mentioned. probably a fair amount of wanting to explore the characters we enjoy so much in a different scenario than we will ever see on the show. but sex and making love (jen will point out that they are two different things) are both such powerful, ultimately unique, and revealing experiences that i consider it a compliment to the fictional characters that we think that they will hold up in those situations.

there's also the still somewhat taboo nature of sex, and i think the curious amongst us feel a draw toward exploring those things that are hidden in society. and i personally feel that, while yes it may be making up for a lack in my personal life, reading and writing smut is a way for me to expand my horizons, my repertoire, my confidence in the anonymity of a supportive online forum.

oh, plus the dopamine hit. can't forget that.

The reason I write and post smut is easy - because I can. The anonymity of posting on line under a username gives me the freedom to publish something I would have trouble even creating otherwise. Having now written different types of smut and come up with my own 'brand' (including language choices and intensity levels), I am comfortable that I can write something which other people find intriguing and exciting.

Why do I read it? Mostly for the laughs - it is always easy to tell when a writer is cribbing from various romance writers and has little practical experience to back it up. But I love a well-written love scene - one in which you can feel your own breath shorten as you connect to the characters' experience. There are some people who write scenes I would never imagine, giving grace and strength to acts I would never commit. Like any other type of fiction, smut can broadens one's horizons in safety and comfort.

As to its prevalence in fanfic, I think it is partly a reflection of broader society (why do people CARE about the sex lives of celebrities? But they evidently do!) and partly a need to take the characters another step towards full humanity. On the shows, sex is so often badly handled - as an obstacle or as a issue to be dealt with and gotten out of he way. Most people, I hope, see sex as an important and vital part of daily life, and would like to see that reflected in the lives of characters they love.

I don’t have an answer but I can talk about the reason I write sex in fanfiction: I love the idea of the characters I’m writing about having sex. Maybe because it’s hot, because it pulls at my heartstrings, or perhaps even both. It’s usually characters who have not been explicitly shown having sex in canon, so it’s like my fic fills in the blanks. Sex is fun, so why the hell not? ;D

basically: it's hot to read. living vicariously etc. ;)

also sometimes [ok, a lot of the time] if i'm in the mood for brainless fic, smut is usually involved in copious amounts because a lot of my comfort!fics are fluffy and involve my otp-of-the-moment finally getting together etc and that usually results in sex.

a result of people not having a satisfactory amount/kind of sex in their non-reading lives... a side effect of the characters not knocking boots in the source material
i'd say yes to these too. well certainly the former in my case hell yeah. :P

I've never really thought about why other people do it in their fic but for mine, when I first started out I included it because all of the other fic that I read had it and I was imitating that, in a way. then I too a break from writing and when I came back to it, I had this whole different approach to what I wanted to write, that how I wrote came along with it. The natural progression of my newly created characters either led them to having one night stands and unexpected pregnancies, sex with the same person without a relationship and unexpected pregnancies to having that normal relationship where it's expected that there would be sex and a pregnancy may or may not result.

I have a preoccupation with sex and pregnancy and it's almost always included in what I write in some form.

An interesting question!

I would assume that most fanfic is of the romantic variety - taking two characters who aren't together on screen. And romance often leads to sex...

Plus the fact that even if those two characters get together on screen, you're unlikely to see explicit sex scenes, so that probably adds to their appeal in stories.

Oh, the cliche. Sex sells.

For seriously, I think it's because TV/film/novels/whatever take us all the way up to the point of the door shutting as the camera pulls back. It's frustrating, because you know everyhting about these characters, their habits and actions, and you know how they act around one another, but you are denied the actual payoff of two people coming together.

Weirdly, I think I would be massively disturbed if we actually could see sex on broadcast/cable TV. But I do like well-done fics that involve sex. There's something more intimate about reading the words and 'hearing' the thoughts.

I also think that shipping drives people to write fic, and sex is a part of relationships, so, sex is a part of relationship-centric fic.

In a different turn, I always wonder why we inevitably have the rape storylines in every fandom. Or the pregnancy storylines. Or the 'go on a road trip' storylines. (All of these can be well done, but you see them everywhere. Eh-vuh-ry-where. And so many poorly-written ones...thinking about it makes me cringe.)

At least in the fic I read I think it has more to do with the emotional investment we've made via the television show in the relationship, and wanting to see it evolve in ways it hasn't on the television show. I love a well crafted story exploring those relationships, and if the couple ends up in bed together so much the better.

I have a terrible time writing it, having a tendency to lead up to it, but then fade away. But my discomfort had more to due with the fact I know my 13 year old spends large amounts of time of ff.net reading Harry Potter fic, and that there are many many underage readers out there. I know there are so many other things out there exposing them to sex at a young age, but as a mom and a teacher I have trouble intellectually crossing that line to contributing to it. Never stops me from reading and enjoying it myself though.

I also abhor OOC smut, and it boggles my mind why there is so much of it is out there, and why it has so many positive reviews. (Though maybe my earlier thought about underage readers explains this.)

At least in the fic I read I think it has more to do with the emotional investment we've made via the television show in the relationship, and wanting to see it evolve in ways it hasn't on the television show.

From my writing perspective, this is it for me. I am emotionally invested in these characters. I'm also frustrated by the sense that the creators and producers have the idea that once B&B get into bed together the show is over. WHY? For all of us that are in relationships, did life end at that point? No, in many ways it gets more interesting. So that, in my mind, is a cop out. And that was why I wrote the Evolution Arc -- to take B&B, put them in a relationship and see where that goes long term. If you're creative, you can do it.

And part of any long term romantic relationship is sex. It needs to be there. Now how explicitly you write it is up to the individual author. And yes, as justice79 and lerdo said, it's very hard to write a good sex scene, especially one that stay in character. But if you can do it, or find someone who can, they are very satisfying to read. For me they fill an emotional void that the show currently isn't filling. But the bad/cheesy/tacky/OOC sex scenes? Blech... Can't stand 'em!

As a reader, I look for porn in fanfic that I can't find readily or comfortably elsewhere. I enjoy steamy erotica and porn, but Boston still retains a heart of Puritanism; for a major metroplitan city it has only two gay bookstores (for a decent selection of gay erotica) and only a handful of 'adult' bookstores, which, at least the ones I've been to, are staffed by stereotypical, drooling sleazebags.

The city even lacks a women's bookstore! Access is half my rationale for reading fanfic.

The other half is frustration -- I write what I wish someone else would. :( (That applies to Bones fandom; I haven't written much porn in the Buffyverse.) I don't write the kind of porn I enjoy, though, because I have no facility for it. More frustrating is that of a handful of writers I adore, only a couple have tried B/H -- but they don't ship them, so great B/H porn is scant at best.

Yeah, color me screwed. But that's how it works for me.

i think it's about payoff. for me its more about longer fics, where there's so much build-up to the inevitable conclusion, that to see it skimmed over rather than addressed can be quite anti-climactic, and leave me with a negative feeling about that fic. also, i think that a well-written sex scene can say so much about who the characters are, and finding those gems is always fantastic. i mean sure, you can take two characters and insert them into some pretty generic sexin', but it's when the writer takes the time to address how those particular characters would go about sex, be it physically or emotionally, that truly makes a story worthwhile.

ITA with what the others have written.

When I first started reading fanfic, back in 2003, I was shocked at the amount of sex, the variety of sex, and the ...."in your face-ness" of sex in fanfiction.

Eventually, I realized that, for the preponderancy of women who write it, it's one manifestation of liberation that is simultaneously an act of rebellion.
IOW, writing and reading sexy fanfiction is not just physically (at times) arousing, but mentally and spiritually arousing as well.

Eventually I reached a point where I found sex in fanfiction dull, boring, trite, and undesirable. I'd just read too much of it!!

Now, I am very, very, selective about the sex I read in fanfiction. I don't think I read more than one or two writers who write sex scenes. Mostly, I enjoy the subtley written scenes more.

Well, I read it when I get bored, or if I'm feeling in a squee-ish mood.

I read for two main reasons: a) to see the characters together (well, "see") and b) because I'm horny :P

Haha, blunt and honest always gets my opinion across best :)