Thoughts About Love and Sex in Storytelling

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Yes, it’s that time of the year where it serves as the ultimate field day(s) for Hallmark, flower shops and jewelry stores all over the place. I was at my local Safeway just yesterday where I saw heart-shaped balloons beyond the size of my head, looming overhead. A few days ago, my high school-aged brother recounted on how a couple of his friends are freaking out over what to give the girls they have their eyes on for Valentine’s Day, acting as if they’re planning to propose to them instead. One could call it commercialism at its finest, whereas a communication scholar could call it somewhere along the lines of “hegemonic romance” (and yes, I just made up that term).

Because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about, right? It’s about showing your loved one- in particular, those who are in a romantic relationship of a sort- how much you love and care for them. Not that it can’t be done any other day, but this day in particular is just all about that.

No, this post is not about my position as a member of the singles club on Valentine’s Day. This is a blog about writing and storytelling. I want to redirect the attention to something that are quite thematic to this day on the Gregorian calendar: love and sex in storytelling. Now understand that I know how to differentiate the two without getting them confused. You can be in love with someone without having sex, and vice versa; you can have sex with someone without being in love. So for the sake of making that distinction very clear, the following thoughts will be divided into two parts: one of them about love, the other about sex.

Sex

Let’s start off with sex. It seems like an especially hot topic this year, especially with the recent release of the film adaptation of E.L. James’ erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. Unless if you slept through your junior high sex ed class or you completely zoned out the minute one of your parents told you “it’s time we had ‘the talk’,” then I can definitely spare the energy of explaining what I mean by sex in this case scenario. As I mentioned in the past, the first book I read with sexual content in it was when I was 13 and I read Memoirs of a Geisha; and since then, I’ve read many books, and seen plenty of TV shows and movies, where there have been a number of sexual encounters of varying degrees.

Even at my age, there are still times where I get a little uncomfortable reading/watching scenes of these sorts. Maybe it’s just the side of me that still very much naive to seeing these experiences play out before me. Nevertheless, I have certainly gotten used to seeing such content in various mediums of storytelling, so much as to where I was okay with sitting with my mom as we watched the two main characters basically have sex on stage in a small scale production of “Spring Awakening” we saw last summer.

However, as a writer and storyteller, I always strive to find meaning in even the smallest of actions performed, which is why I cannot help but find 90% of sex scenes I’ve seen or read seem completely random. Honestly, I cannot tell you how many of them can be classified as “one night stands,” how many of them was to prove some sort of point, and how many of them were forced (in other words, molestation and/or rape). Really only the remaining 10% have been out of genuine love for one another and wanting to do something special with each other.

But the thing is, the 90% of “random” sex scenes were not just of my general opinion of them; I saw right through the intent. They were supposed to be random. They were to depict human nature, when a tight embrace or a deep kiss isn’t enough when it comes to the very human desire for physical closeness, but without any emotional attachment. Sometimes, as the saying goes, there are those who need to get “down and dirty.”

But at the same time, that’s what I also find off-putting about random sex scenes. The 90% that I’ve read/seen are depictions of people, willingly and likely without much thought, throwing themselves at people, some of whom they may never see again, and completely expose themselves in a way as to where they can never go back after. I desire to see something genuine and from the innocent yet powerful feeling of a little thing called love- as corny as that may sound.

Love

It’s with that that I now approach the second part. Love can be easy enough to understand, but emotionally difficult to grasp when faced head on with the feeling itself. It makes us nostalgic for a face that ignites possibly something bigger than the two people combined. Love is about coming across someone you care more for than yourself. At least, that’s what I’ve been able to get from the romances I’ve read or seen.

There’s something about love in fiction that, while I cannot help but admire over the genuine feeling that’s there, there’s always been something about it that I never could fully grasp. Maybe its the cheesy, often recycled lines that can be heard recited so many times. Perhaps it’s the overdone, long kiss that somehow serves as the cherry on top of some sort of foundation. I’ve even thought about maybe it’s a subconscious frustration I have over the lack of creativity of expressing love. Why does bluntly saying “I love you” or (again) a kiss have to be the predominant ways to prove a love’s authenticity?

Cliches, cliches, cliches. That’s what I find most discouraging when watching a love unfold in a story. But then again, going back on what I said about random sex scenes earlier, it may just be another case of the human condition; to be blunt and cheesy and hopelessly romantic, no matter how many times it’s been done before, by many other people.

But then again, from a storyteller’s point of view, it’s these very human cliches that can also hurt a romance-based story. When the audience is not hearing something new, it’s a sure sign that there may be some escaped juice, or perhaps very little to begin with. I remember this one time where a friend of mine loaned me a Nicholas Sparks novel she had read previously. As much as I tried reading through it, I couldn’t get myself to finish it, because the cliched dialogue just got to be too much of a distraction after a while. I’m all for mixing it up! Take Disney’s adaptation of “Tarzan” for instance (a bit random, I know, but bear with me for a second). Tarzan and Jane only kissed once throughout the entire film, and yet their love can just as well be expressed through pressing the palms of their hands together, indicating how they’re both human.

Love and sex. They’re more than just storytelling genres; they’re expressions of the human condition, no matter how flawed or cliche they may seem. While neither of them may be my cup of tea, I know that they are for other people, and that’s completely okay. This was my take on the subject matter, and Valentine’s Day appeared to be a wise day to do so, for thematic purposes.

A Moment’s Worth is now available through the following venues: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, iTunes. Please leave a review if you can, for my goal is to get a total of at least 20 reviews on all venues (so far, I’ve gotten 5 reviews so I’m already a quarter of a way to my goal).

Check out its Goodreads page, which includes two trivia quizzes for all who’ve completed reading it already.

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