Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sex in Literary Fiction 4

Here's my last example for this discussion:

"Have you been good?" she asked me.
I nodded. This would help. "I've been very good," I answered chastely.
She smiled and shrugged out of her utilitarian underwear. For some reason, when making love to my wife, I liked to retreat to a little boy persona and often came within ten seconds whenever she started cooing that I was a "good boy." "Good boy," she would whisper, as I thrust and pumped on top of her (or behind her, or underneath; Elaine was as cheerful as a cheerleader about assuming whatever position I wanted). 'Good boy," she would murmur into my hair. "Good boy." And she would sigh and draw a finger down my back.
"I want to be a good boy, I want to be a good boy. Which was true, which was all I'd ever wanted.
"Help me to be good," I would beg her. "Please, please, help me-" And then blast; it was over.
But tonight, after she'd sat astride me for all of five minutes, I considered attempting to fake it- did she really have to know?- and then to my surprise I sputtered out a small orgasm; satisfied, my wife climbed off me. She and I made love like the sexual revolution had never happened; my satisfaction supported her sense of herself as a woman, and even if only one of us came (that would be me), we could usually both go to sleep content. 
That's a scene from Laura Grodstein's A Friend of the Family. I'm impressed that a woman can so believably write this scene as a male narrator. I think this scene is great for the added dimension it gives of this control-freak narrator and the submissive dynamic he plays in bed which is the opposite of how his relationship with his wife plays out through the rest of the book. It's telling too, that his wife gets reassurance from his climax and neither one of them is concerned about hers. This is reflective of his character, and foreboding for their marriage.

The thing about each of these scenes that separates them from erotica is that they're not designed to titillate. It's fine if they do, but that isn't their purpose. Whatever graphic details exist are there for believability. These scenes give us a deeper understanding of who these characters are, and when a novel's main focus is the romantic relationship between two people, the sex is an essential part.

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