I can't believe there's been a thread about sex for almost a week and I didn't know. That shows me what a hectic week I've had. (And thanks, Nathan, for listing it in your This Week in Books Post so I didn't miss it entirely!)
So now, about the sex...
I'm going to agree with what seems to be the common opinion listed here so far---I'm okay with pretty much any heat level as long as the sex scene serves a purpose other than just being "the sex scene." Ideally a sex scene should add a level of intimacy not only between the characters, but between the reader and the characters. It should showcase personalities, emotions, relationship dynamics, etc. as much as (or more than) other scenes.
How graphic/explicit it gets is another matter. I've read and loved books that range from sweet to eye-popping---as long as it suits the rest of the story I'm usually fine with it. Usually. That said, one of my biggest pet peeves is books that go through mind-boggling detail bringing you through all the stages of courtship/yearning/lust, letting you feel every moment of sexual tension and build-up, draw you right to the moment when the characters finally.... And then suddenly it's the next morning and all you got was the insinuation. Or worse yet, an interjection of some lame comment like "people always try to describe how wonderful it is when it finally happens and all I can say is IT WAS."
I HATE THAT. Hate it. Despise it. Loathe it. Me no likey.
I understand that some authors are not comfortable writing sex scenes. I get that. (I'm not one of those authors, but I get it.) But I don't understand bringing people to the agonizing brink and then leaving them hanging. And, for those who will argue that that happens a lot in YA books, but it's "good" when it happens there, I'll even take issue with that. First of all, I grew up reading Judy Blume books. Hell, I learned about sex from them. And that was a long time ago. There's no way that today's kids are less ready for or less in need of frank, realistic mention of sex in their reading material.
The beauty of the Blume stuff was that sometimes I didn't understand what she was talking about the first time I read it, or I didn't notice it, but when it became more relevant (to me, or I was ready to "see" it) it suddenly made sense in retrospect. I don't think YA should serve as a how-to guide, but I think it can have a really negative impact on young readers to take them through an accurate, angsty, love story/courtship then have a fade to black right when they get to the important part.
The same way kids learn about dealing with divorce, or dealing with a friend's suicide, or handling any other YA issues from reading YA lit I think it's important that the entire sex experience be dealt with in their books. When real life kids are making out in the back of a car they don't just wake up the next morning with a fond or not so fond memory---the stuff between the OMG-this-is-gonna-happen moment and the next morning is important and relevant if it's a story that addresses sex and the lead up to sex. IMO.
I just need to add that it was a discussion about sex in fiction, in particular the topic of how to warn your betas that your WIP contains sex scenes, which was started on these very forum pages, that led me to my fantabulous critique partner a year ago. Although we write at slightly different heat levels, our views on sex in fiction are extremely compatible and that has worked out wonderfully in terms of our working together as writers. It's also good because we're never, ever offended by each other's pervy sense of humor, which is really just a perk. :)
So proud of myself for making it through this entire post with no intentional or noted double entendres and not a single "that's what she said." I think I deserve a cookie.
Passionate Plume 1st Place Winner 2012 - ALWAYS YOU
Published with Ellora's Cave, Turquoise Morning Press & Samhain Publishing