Why always "off-screen"?

Question: First things first, your site is awesome! As a novice writer, it's been a priceless resource for me. Anyway, I love writing fantasy mostly, though I sometimes like to write other stuff (relating mostly to the supernatural), and something has been bugging me forever: What real reason is there for the "love scenes" to always take place off-screen? I mean, don't get me wrong, I write fantasy, not erotica, but I'm such a detail freak about my work that I would love to actually write out everything my characters do in their respective scenes, including what goes on "behind closed doors". I always try to be descriptive - "paint a picture in the readers' minds", you know? - but I'm obviously not writing porn. So, any advice on how, or even IF, I could actually write the sex scenes into my novel(s) and be true to their atmospheres without the editors and the proofreaders and everybody freaking out over it?


P.S. I keep hearing about writing for a particular age group or audience, but I never really thought about that. I write because I love to, and I really just give the characters a push start and... let them take the story from there, if that makes sense...

Please and thank you!

Answer: I believe the reason you seldom see graphic sex scenes in fantasy is because high fantasy was inspired in part by some very old ideas of chivalry and nobility which included the idea of "courtly love." There is some debate whether courtly love involved actual sex or was purely about mental/emotional relationships. At any rate, it was about love that was purer, almost spiritual, and far above the "sex for procreation and political alliances" that characterized marriage in the 15th century. Usually, courtly love was secret (because it was adulterous), and therefore written in code.

Sometimes courtly love writings included things like a nude embrace between lovers, but if so, presented such things as a more spiritual, idealized experience.

You may not be writing high fantasy. And even if you are, you might choose a more modern style that breaks some of these traditions. You have to decide what your style will be and write accordingly. I suspect much of high fantasy seems a little old-fashioned these days.

If you want to get a sense of the different ways you can tackle sex scenes, I suggest you look at the various Harlequin romance lines. They come in a variety, from "sweet romances" or Christian romances that have no sex to the Blaze line that is pretty close to erotica. Keep in mind that these books are written for women (it always helps to know your audience).

Maybe you're writing for an audience of people like yourself. But you should decide before you start putting too much graphic detail into a story that otherwise will mainly appeal to 12-year-olds, for example.

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