Warning: This might not be an appropriate post for younger readers.
Lately it seems that almost every book I pick up feels the need to hit their readers over the head with graphic sexual content. These days, I’m finding that I pick up a new book with a bit of uneasiness wondering exactly how much of the book’s content I’ll be forced to skip/skim so I don’t fill my brain with inappropriate material. Whatever happened to the good old fade to black or the good taste to just not include it at all?
It used to be that you had to seek this kind of material out, with rare exception. Starting in the 20th century, this kind of material became much more prevalent. Then it seemed to become part of the formula to keep the reader’s interest through the development of the plot where less talented authors tend to bog down. An easy way to speed up the development of the book seems to be, in many author’s minds, to throw sexual content in. The reader gets a chemical rush from reading it, helping to push them forward through the rest of the book. In the 21st century, authors have now started to include a growing amount of homosexual material because the traditional doesn’t thrill and shock enough anymore. It seems that many authors have expanded to including it to any moment where the story slows for a bit must mean that erotic material is necessary.
There was a time when I read this kind of content, not realizing the damage that it was doing to me. I woke up eventually and was horrified at what I had done to myself. That kind of content is not easily forgotten, especially for those who, like me, have very active imaginations. There is a very good reason this kind of content is referred to as pornography for women or, with the advent of 50 Shades, mommy porn.
Sometimes I have to skip pages at a time!
The only way to get away from it in modern literature seems to be by skipping over the content. My method is a sort of skip/skimming where I read the first few words in each paragraph until I find that I am past that kind of material. I find myself having to skip more and more material in books simply because of the content. Being the type of person who must fill in every blank on a form and can hardly leave a book partially read, even if it is awful, this is frustrating to me. The fact that I have had to figure out a system to skip this material because of the overwhelming volume, is frustrating and disheartening. However, it is the only way for me to even attempt adult fiction anymore. I am relieved when I find the rare book that doesn’t feel the need to lean on this crutch. I also find myself gravitating more towards YA fiction because it doesn’t include this kind of graphic sexuality.
We do this for music, video games and movies. Why not books?
I really wish books would come with the kind of warning that movies do. Some kind of rating system that lets the reader know, in general if they are going to be confronted with violence, difficult subjects or sexual content, giving their readers a chance to put their guard up, instead of being blindsided by it.
I have great respect for authors who do not feel the need to fill their reader’s mind with this kind of cheap thrill. I challenge any would-be writers reading this blog to bravely skip writing this kind of content. You’ll be doing your readers a favor.