Forum: Sexuality in Middle-earth

Discussing: No sex in LOTR?

No sex in LOTR?

Content warnings - general discussion is focused on authorial considerations when writing sexual content. Please expect occasional use of both formal and slang anatomical terms to illustrate a point. I am faintly (and probably incorrectly) recalling a long ago thread on HA Yahoo, which was a report on a conference panel discussion where several modern fantasy authors & critics talked about JRRT's writing. One point of contention (on the list discussion, not on the panel) was the claim that JRRT did not address sex and sexuality in his works, particularly LOTR. To what degreee is this a valid claim? To what degree is this a reflection of a more recent sensibility that has become used to explicit treatments of this aspect of life? And, perhaps, a different question - what is the narrative dis/advantage of using or of eschewing explicit sexuality? Ang

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

Going back to create warning: yes, I use one anatomical term here. Ok, two. If that will offend, avert your eyes, please.

To what degreee is this a valid claim? To what degree is this a reflection of a more recent sensibility that has become used to explicit treatments of this aspect of life?


Given the prolific breeding that goes on in the Appendices (13 kids for Sam, 5 for Aragorn and Arwen, Faramir and Éowyn have at least one child and probably more, and I'm not sure about Merry and Pippin but both left families), given the dynastic set up that most Middle-earth societies are dealing with, I'm going to put my money on the modern sensibility option.

And, perhaps, a different question - what is the narrative dis/advantage of using or of eschewing explicit sexuality?

I haven't written a lot of graphic sex, and most of it I keep hidden on my hard drive where no one can be damaged by my fantasy life. However, in writing those scenes, I find that there are some serious difficulties that I haven't gotten around yet.

1) How long can you go on talking about the specific mechanics of bringing (or failing to bring) someone to orgasm before you get bored? About one paragraph per person has been my experience. More than that, and you have to be willing to name body parts. Leading to number two...

2) Sexual anatomy tends to provoke strong reactions in readers and writers. It may be a stupid reaction, but it is a real one, and as I've said elsewhere, how much attention are you going to be able to pay to how lovingly x is holding y when confronted with sentences like: "x stroked y's cock, rubbing gently along its length..."? And that's mild, comparatively. If there's a point to the story to be found in the act of sex itself that transcends the mere fact of the characters having sex, I usually lose sight of it once we descend to excruciating detail.

3) Circumlocution can get annoying if you pass the one paragraph limit, and even that takes a lot of cunning, I've found. If you use euphamism and circumlocution too much, it becomes ridiculous and inspires the reader to scream: "Call it what it is! It's a penis, you moron!" It's akin to the difficulty of rape scenes, I think: given the act, if you describe it at all, you can't get away with "and then he raped her" or give such a short, sparing and roundabout description that it's clear you're trying to put a veil between the reader and the ugliness.

Which brings me to the 'advantages' of explicitness. Clearly, there are points where you cannot fairly 'cut out' or pull the veil, having built the story up to the point of the characters having sex. You have to give the reader something, or you will rightly be called a tease or worse.

Hm. Upon due consideration, I don't think I can call the above an 'advantage' so much as a requirement of narrative. Adrienne's "Closer to Fine" series, for example, tells a story about prostitution in Gondor, and also the blurring of the line between courtesan and real consort. Given how the story was set up, she couldn't have refused to write the sex scenes in, and they were nicely done, IMO. I don't know, though, that I'd say she has the advantage because she wrote the scenes as explicit, only that she was under obligation to write them given her set up, and to write them well. Which she did.

Question:

Do people differentiate between the terms "explicit" and "graphic"?

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

Do people differentiate between the terms "explicit" and "graphic"?

Hmmm, after thinking about it, I do differentiate.

Graphic seems like what you alluded to above, 'then x rubbed y's z lovingly, and tab a was inserted into slot b'. Graphic can be done well, or poorly.
Implicit , you have to draw the conclusion yourself as to what happened, and someone else might not draw the same conclusion.
Explicit, it's definitely there, but may or may not be graphic.

I feel that graphic may be hardest to do well, because, as you say, there's a limit. If it's overexposed, it's boring or absurd. Many of us can probably imagine and fill in our own details better than we can write them.

But if the sex in LOTR is very suppressed, the sex in Silmarillion, Unifinished Tales, or others, is more integrated into the material. It doesn't shout at me most of the time, but it's there.

Lyllyn

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

I think the advantage/disadvantage of writing explicit sex is completely contextual. "Closer to Fine" and "To Look at You" needed explicit sex in order to credibly tell the story. "Box of Rain" on the other hand, didn't (though, let me tell you, people asked for it!). Now that I'm done writing that series, I've found myself backing away from explicit material, not because I don't like writing it, but because now that I've explored the idea of sex in Middle Earth to my own satisfaction, there are other things I'd like to write about.

Two really excellent examples of how explicit sex is an advantage and disadvantage actually occur in the same series of novels, the Earth's Children series by Jean Auel. When she initially describes sex between her two main characters, it resonates because the woman has had a difficult sexual past and her ability to actually make it through the act is a major plot point. However, Auel quickly descends into pandering to those wanting titillation by throwing random sex scenes for the rest of the series. I find myself skipping over them because there's only so many times I care to read about Jondalar's "throbbing member," thank you very much.

So I think the advantage of explicitness is directly proportional to the relevance of the sex scene to the story as a whole.

peace...adrienne

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

Do people differentiate between the terms "explicit" and "graphic"?

Not particularly. I suppose in a general sort of way I would say that "graphic" might be more tawdry in nature than "explicit," but I generally use them interchangeably.

What is the narrative dis/advantage of using or of eschewing explicit sexuality?

This, I think, depends entirely on the story in question. There are plenty of readers out there who do not like explicit treatments of sexuality, whether in the form of being a dominant theme in the work or in the form of detailed descriptions of sexual acts (the two, of course, can coincide, but need not). OTOH, there are also people who deliberately seek out works of this nature to read. My point is that choosing to use or not use explicit sexuality in a work will affect the composition of the audience that reads it.

Looking at it from the vantage point of narrative structure rather than audience, again it depends on the story. If an important theme in the story is the development of a love relationship rather than a friendship, then it may be necessary to the story to deal with sexuality as well. If the story is more focused on political themes, say, then eschewing scenes that are explicitly sexual is probably desirable in terms of narrative, since a sex scene would not materially enhance the story and might detract.

Cel

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

Starting at bottom:
Do people differentiate between the terms "explicit" and "graphic"?

Yes. To me, explicit indicates that the author is making very clear what is happening in a scene, but is not necessarily going into anatomical detail. Graphic is when you are describing what body parts are touching what body parts in no uncertain terms.

Example: In Legacy I am explicit that Frodo performs oral sex on three bullies. There is no way not to know that this happens if you have any concept of oral sex. However, the POV on the scene, Bilbo's, does not describe in blow-by-blow (sorry) terms exactly what goes on. Bilbo cannot watch, he is horrified, and so he (and the reader) drop their eyes to the ground until the sexual act is finished. So, to my mind, it is explicit, but not graphic.

1 & 2 - I tend to agree with this. Simply describing two (or more) people fornicating gets boring very fast. Long passages of mechanical description intercut with internal monologues of angsty longing and incredulity that Character A has finally bagged Character B, just do not do anything for me any more. I am in general allergic to romances, in most part because I am not in love with the characters the way that the author is, and I could not care less if the characters get it on, live happily ever after, die of unrequited love, etc.

And that is, perhaps, the crux of the issue - an erotic scene works (or fails to work) less because the sex is/isn't "hot" (or is/isn't "too hot") than because it matters to you what the outcome of the scene is for the characters involved. The degree to which you care about the characters is going to have a great deal to do with how well the author can write outside of her private fantasy of what this or that character *is* - or, conversely, is capable of making that private perspective convincing to another person. I can think of a quite a few stories here on HASA where the physical interactions of the two (or more) characters are very well done, but where the characterization is either not there, or else is so radically at odds with a general interpretation as to make me upset on the character's behalf. In a few of these cases, it is reasonably obvious that the author was simply throwing two pretty bodies together, and to hell with character, but most are that the author did not make the case for her own perspective on the character(s).

"Closer to Fine" and 'To Look at You" make you care about the four people involved long before there is any physical contact. Ninim, in particular, is a powerfully drawn character whose perspective on sex and love needs to be given a demonstration. The third story, "Box of Rain," eschews graphic scenes for a reason internal to the story itself - there is something so private, so intimate and delicate between Ninim and Faramir, that it would do violence to the characters to show their love-making, in a way that their first encounter would not have made sense without being both explicit and graphic.

Ang

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

I think the advantage/disadvantage of writing explicit sex is completely contextual. "Closer to Fine" and "To Look at You" needed explicit sex in order to credibly tell the story. "Box of Rain" on the other hand, didn't (though, let me tell you, people asked for it!). Now that I'm done writing that series, I've found myself backing away from explicit material, not because I don't like writing it, but because now that I've explored the idea of sex in Middle Earth to my own satisfaction, there are other things I'd like to write about.

So I think the advantage of explicitness is directly proportional to the relevance of the sex scene to the story as a whole.

I will second Adrienne on this one. I 'fade to black' on Heth and Elrohir's sex scenes in Captain, because other than the fact that they take place and she enjoys them, I don't think putting them in would add anything to the story. I've had several requests to do one or more of the scenes between them, but can't seem to wrap my brain around it for some reason.

"Stud Fee" on the other hand, was all about sex--what would it take to make Eomer sleep with a man or male elf, and how would he feel about it before, during and afterwards? I felt I had to be fairly explicit, because the story was all about the act. Had I not described it, it would have been a much shorter, and rather pointless story. I had some qualms about publishing it initially, but in the end compromised by putting it on slash sites where I thought it would find an appreciative audience.

"One Night" was actually written before "Stud Fee", and again, it was a story that was primarily about the sex, so the sex was explicitly described. Una and Dwim encouraged me to enter it in the Mary Sue challenge, so I polished it up a bit, and did, though I will never submit it to the main archive. This is not so much because of the explicitness as because it is an AU to Captain, and I happen to think that that is stretching things a bit, and would just confuse people. Had I continued it, and had Heth actually get Faramir, it certainly would have been a real Mary Sue.

Every so often, I get an e-mail from someone who has read "Stud Fee" and wants to know where my other slash is! I got one the other day from someone who wanted me to write a Legolas/Eomer fic because they couldn't find that pairing, and wanted to read about it. But I can't write that way--there has to be a reason for the sex above and beyond the fact that it's a pairing no one has written yet. I can only think of a couple of sex scenes in the Heth verse that I might choose to actually write out, and that is because they affect and change the characters.

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

Graphic seems like what you alluded to above, 'then x rubbed y's z lovingly, and tab a was inserted into slot b'. Graphic can be done well, or poorly.
Implicit , you have to draw the conclusion yourself as to what happened, and someone else might not draw the same conclusion.
Explicit, it's definitely there, but may or may not be graphic.


I differentiate, too, and along the same lines, but I wasn't sure if anyone else did. My first few 'explicit' slash pieces were therefore a somewhat confusing array, from "Advantages of Mortality" to a really painfully graphic Boromir/Aragorn that greatly expanded my sexual vocabulary. I'm still not sure I'm grateful....

Sex and the Silmarillion... of course, there's Túrin and his poor sister, and Miriel-Ar-Pharazon, and in UT there's the extraordinarily unhappy Erendis/Aldarion and the fall out therefrom. All very explicit without being graphic in the least bit, which, I think, lends to the power of the stories. It's not necessarily that it might not be fun to watch, as it were, what goes on behind the bedroom doors, but there's no need for it in terms of the stories' impact and the information conveyed.

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

I decided this was in the wrong discussion and moved it. It is now in "Just what *is* slash?

mk

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

I am faintly (and probably incorrectly) recalling a long ago thread on HA Yahoo, which was a report on a conference panel discussion where several modern fantasy authors & critics talked about JRRT's writing. One point of contention (on the list discussion, not on the panel) was the claim that JRRT did not address sex and sexuality in his works, particularly LOTR.

Memory has finally clicked: this was the Phillip Pulman thread, I think. Una or a few friends of hers had gone to some sort of panel discussion and returned with a report in which, among other things, I believe it was claimed that unlike Pulman and other modern fantasy writers, Tolkien's characters didn't have a sexual dimension to them, or some such things (oh yes, lovely memory).

Now, I find this fascinating, because from my above posting, this is 1) just incorrect, and, for my part, 2) I found the example of Pulman to be an unfitting one if we're looking for solid, frank, adult treatments of sex and sexuality in fantasy literature.

I've only read "The Golden Compass" in the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, and I was prepared for something really special. And I did enjoy the texture of the story, but in the end, I was disappointed, and particularly confused by the notion that this was the sort of treatment of sexuality I was supposed to find so much more illuminating than Tolkien's.

The bond between human and daemon became a metaphor for sex, and the breaking of that bond a bizarre (and to me, sanitized) metaphor for castration and rape. Anyone who knows even the most basic and superficial facts about Christianity could not fail to make the substitution--children and their formless daemons as sexually pure, with the dust becoming the stand in for sexual development, to parallel the popular (mis?)interpretation of the Fall. I felt bludgeoned by this, and thought it was a fairly crude, if multi-staged, ploy for something so clinically clean, as it were. Sort of a literary "Rube Goldberg" machine for sex, if that makes any sense to anyone besides me.

I would much rather Tolkien's treatment, which (as we see in UT and in the painful tale of Húrin) though not graphic, at least is up front about the subject matter at hand. "All things were made for [men's] service... women for their bodies' need," Erendis's fragmentary teaching warns: how much more plain can you get without descending to crudity, which is not the same thing as being blunt? And the notes of how she cleaned out the house and pretty much told him to go sleep on the couch, rather than with her? None of this "you're dusty, love, and I am a pure soul untainted by dust" nonsense; Erendis is in no way comparable to the castrated, bland nurse in Pulman's novel, nor is Arwen, nor Galadriel, nor Lúthien, and if that is Pulman's opinion of Tolkien's characters, then I am left with the conclusion that he just didn't read very carefully.

What I like about Tolkien's depiction of marriage and desire between different characters is that it changes as you grow. I didn't pick up on any of it when I first read the books, and only as I've gotten older and started reading between lines, or rereading lines that I'd once simply absorbed and forgotten as meaningless, I've begun to appreciate that these characters are not castrated, they're not sexless or blushing virgins--huh uh. If I think that, it's more a comment on me, and my stage of development is what I've come to conclude. Either that, or I'm just not reading carefully enough.

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

"One Night" was actually written before "Stud Fee", and again, it was a story that was primarily about the sex, so the sex was explicitly described.

My reaction to "One Night" is it's less "all about sex" than "Stud Fee", ... or maybe it was that "What would it take to get Heth and Faramir in bed?" is a more interesting question for me than "What would it take to get Eomer ..." -- but I think there's more going on in "One Night", and the amount and type of detail was appropriate. In CMC Elhrohir does healer work in Heth's mind to help with the orc voices, and it's later possible for her to have normal sex with him. In "One Night" Faramir has to deal with her involuntary reactions to his touch to get past the orc voices. As I have read the story multiple times, it's impressive to see how much you "pull the veil" at various points and unfocus into oblique or emotional description (when normal reactions to a kiss or whatever are happening) and the most percise description of placement/movement of hands and such is when the orc voices are being battled.

When I was reading the story the first time, I was getting a reaction of "oh, Faramir is so dense to not see she loves him" ... but by the end of the story it's a lot more understandable. On the one hand, it's clear he has had sexual encounters with other women that were casual, so it will be possible for him to put the night with Heth in the same category. On the other, she really did have a problem that took a lot of work, kindness and understanding to get to the point that she could get intimate in that way. So Heth's request was, on the surface, legitimate, and -- being distracted by Eowyn -- ok, he didn't have a strong reason to look further.

Sex with a plot, and I liked it. Most of the time in LotR fanfiction, I'd rather have erotic content (if there) to not be the central theme.

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

"What I like about Tolkien's depiction of marriage and desire between different characters is that it changes as you grow. I didn't pick up on any of it when I first read the books, . . . "

One of the big differences between Tolkien and modern novelists is that Tolkien is not a psychoanalytical writer. He does not tell you what the characters are feeling or thinking. You have to figure it out from what they say and do. This results in LOTR being even more of a mirror than most literature. If you read it when you are young (as so many have), you don't even see much of the character's emotional lives, much less understand them. The more you live, and the more experience you have, the more you pick up. For example, I didn't understand the love story between Eowyn and Faramir until I was almost 30. I read LOTR again, after a long absence, and after I'd fallen in love for the first time. All of a sudden, their story just came through so strongly it almost made me cry. Blammo.

I tend to wonder if people who claim that Tolkien is simplistic or lacks sex or doesn't understand women (or whatever) have not read the book since their teens. That's no slam against them, although I could phrase it that way if I were being snarky. I had a lot more time for reading, and a lot more willingness to tackle "great works", in high school and college. There's a lot of books I've only read once, and that while I was a teen.

There is one scene in LOTR that I have been semi-jokingly referring to as "the only sex scene in the book". It's where a major character shows immediate phyiscal attraction to a character that s/he has only just met. Would anyone care to guess the scene?

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

It's where a major character shows immediate phyiscal attraction to a character that s/he has only just met. Would anyone care to guess the scene?

Off the top of my head, I'd have to guess Eowyn's introduction to Aragorn. But watch me be wrong...

-Aerlinnel

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

Dropping comments here and there like daisies...

Given the prolific breeding that goes on in the Appendices (13 kids for Sam, 5 for Aragorn and Arwen, Faramir and Éowyn have at least one child and probably more, and I'm not sure about Merry and Pippin but both left families), given the dynastic set up that most Middle-earth societies are dealing with, I'm going to put my money on the modern sensibility option.

I'd say that a lot of the *absence* of sexuality is simply the fact that let's face it folks, most of the time the boys are a bit busy with going from one place to another, fighting off orcs, worrying about the Ring, worrying about folks at home, gaining kingdoms and soforth. Ducking off into the bushes to tumble the nearest availble variation on the general theme of "female" probably wasn't high on the agenda.

Certainly the minute they get a moment to relax and get over the whole business, most of the lesser-lived mortal ones start breeding with a certain degree of alacrity >D.

2) Sexual anatomy tends to provoke strong reactions in readers and writers. It may be a stupid reaction, but it is a real one, and as I've said elsewhere, how much attention are you going to be able to pay to how lovingly x is holding y when confronted with sentences like: "x stroked y's cock, rubbing gently along its length..."? And that's mild, comparatively. If there's a point to the story to be found in the act of sex itself that transcends the mere fact of the characters having sex, I usually lose sight of it once we descend to excruciating detail.

At this point, I have to be very evil, and point to this particular post on Google:

.CDF9A1D8%40BellSouth.Net&rnum=6&filter=0"> Sailor Jim, in Alt.Callahans, on writing sex scenes

This post is the main reason why I tend to crack up at the notion of what I call "plumbing manual" sex scenes (ie: hook this bit to that bit, put tab of A in slot of B). Another is the following little bit of ummm...interplay from IRC:

***
[mpk] I suppose the other thing about foreplay for geeks is that it's
a repetitive task that's not scriptable.
[Tom] while(!$motas->climax) { stimulate($erotic_zone[rand($foo)]; }
(IRC - never say that "something can't be done" on #drum)
***

It never helps when you've got a rather graphic imagination....

Hence my major interest in a lot of these sorts of fics tends to be about sensuality - involving the senses - rather than pure sexuality. Well written emotional explicitness can be incredibly arousing. Straight hooking up of the plumbing makes me long for the mental equivalent of that blue rubber cement that my father used to cement the joins on polypipe plumbing at home.

Of course, even worse are the ones written by people who have no idea how the plumbing is supposed to hook together...

3) Circumlocution can get annoying if you pass the one paragraph limit, and even that takes a lot of cunning, I've found. If you use euphamism and circumlocution too much, it becomes ridiculous and inspires the reader to scream: "Call it what it is! It's a penis, you moron!" It's akin to the difficulty of rape scenes, I think: given the act, if you describe it at all, you can't get away with "and then he raped her" or give such a short, sparing and roundabout description that it's clear you're trying to put a veil between the reader and the ugliness.

Quite. In a lot of ways, I find excessive euphemism to be even more irritating - especially when used to describe female parts. There's this sense of "hang on, am I supposed to have one of those?" or even, given the perceived sex of the writer "do you have one of them, do you? How very uncomfortable."

I'm not sure whether there's a difference between masculine and feminine perception of sexuality. If there is, that may explain why there's these differences in the quality of slash. Who knows.


 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

I've only read "The Golden Compass" in the "His Dark Materials" trilogy, and I was prepared for something really special. And I did enjoy the texture of the story, but in the end, I was disappointed, and particularly confused by the notion that this was the sort of treatment of sexuality I was supposed to find so much more illuminating than Tolkien's.


Your instincts are right, Dwim -- trust them. Pulman in fact gets *even more* preachy and simplistic the later two volumes, imo. I could stand Compass -- in fact, I liked Compass a lot -- because I was already familiar with Pulman from the Sally books (Ruby in the Smoke) and knew that he considers religion the root of all evil and *cannot* write any of his villains with any fairness. (In fact, Compass was a significant improvement, in that his clerical villains are given a certain amount of gumption and competence and evil-idealistic integrity -- but he quickly reverts to form, so that they're pusilanimous idiots by the end of book III.)

What I forgot from the Sally books (it was a long while back I read them) was that he doesn't plot out farther than one book in advance, (this by his own admission) so the subsequent plotholes and quality decline were a nasty jolt. ("Oh yeah, *that's* what ticked me off about the sequels to Ruby...")

The only additions to your assessment of Pulman is that not only castration/fgm and rape, but *any and all* restraints on sexual behavior, even self-imposed, in Pulman's worldview come out of a cowardly puritanical loathing of the body and fear of "life".

And no, you won't find anything like the Narn i hin Hurin, or also that other bit in UT which is so snarkily dead-on, where Erendis during one of their pre-final-meltdown meltdowns, complains about her bed always being cold, and Aldarion fires back that, Gee, he thought she *preferred* it that way...or Treebeard mourning the disintegration of his own marriage, or Tuor complaining in LT that this tunnel business is an impossible project, and Idril saying -- You have to make up your mind -- *now* -- followed by her hacking her way through invaders to find him in the actual sack of the City and literally tackling him when he tries to go save her father for her though it's hopeless to try.

--But hey, he has an explicit-if-not-graphic "deflowering" scene in the sequel to Ruby in the Smoke, and "the Fall of Man is Sex" heresy *is* the center of Dark Materials, so Pulman's more "authentic" about sex than Tolkien.

I do think that Pulman is a careless reader not only in this regard, but in his frequent assertion that he is a more morally-sophisticated author than JRRT. I also don't think that he (any more than David Brin) bothered to read Silm. or any of HOME before talking.

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

At this point, I have to be very evil, and point to this particular post on Google:

Sailor Jim, in Alt.Callahans, on writing sex scenes


[splutter, choke] Can we put this in the URL library? Please? We could title it "Sailor Jim On Writing Sex Scenes: How Not To Embarrass Yourself." Ithilwen?

While I would not agree that the instant clothing starts to hit the floor, we *must* back out and close a door or pull a veil or something, I think SJ is essentially correct in the point he's trying to make. In art, there is a trade-off between the literal truth of the matter (in this case, an accurate description of portions of human anatomy) and the emotional truth of the situation. In attempting to serve the former faithfully, an author runs the not inconsiderable risk of missing or marring the latter. A young or inexperienced or (pardon, please don't take this personally) thoughtless writer is going to fall into that trap more often than not, and not just in writing sexually explicit or graphic scenes. The thing in itself is not what makes me cry, makes me laugh, makes me hurt—that's the artifice, and the interpretation of bare factual reality (pun intended) that you as the writer impose.

And as a writer of sorts, I'm not a scientist--I am not studying the "hydraulics" of sexual stimulation, nor am I interested in documenting every step across that room like the recreation of a crime scene. Sex that makes me do things like cry or smile or wince out of sympathy can't be a literal documentation of the writer's last encounter with Joe Boyfriend or Jill Girlfriend (whichever is appropriate). I rather wish that some authors (ok, many authors) of sexfics would take Ang's advice and read aloud what they've just written. Can they say it without blushing? Without causing a good friend to blush? Without inciting inappropriate giggles and pleas for mercy? If not, why would anyone else find the fic romantic or erotic?

And that's just basic, without the added burden of constructing a believable situation with believable characters that someone else has already written.

Quite. In a lot of ways, I find excessive euphemism to be even more irritating - especially when used to describe female parts.

I think the trick is not to use euphemism in that way. After all, euphemism is a way of substituting descriptions of things, so in the end, you're still describing body parts. To take the Pulman example above, the *lack* of sexual reference in a sexually charged fictional environment was so obvious that the daemon-bond/dust metaphor simply drew attention to the writer's sleight of hand. A real magician is the one who can trick you into believing there *was* no sleight of hand--that you've witnessed something "real" and non-artificial. The sex has to fit the emotional tone, and graphic depictions tend not to fit very many places at all. You notice that you're reading a piece of fiction when you are trying to follow positions and penises, especially if the author then attempts to cloak the fact that s/he's writing a sexfic by writing how stirringly passionate and romantic it all is.

The thing I try to do when writing more or less explicit scenes is to tell people where hands are going, but without doing it in such a way that I'm required to name parts. Granted, that, too, can get irritating, but not nearly so quickly as euphemism and clumsy metaphors (or ridiculously purple prose), and if done properly, it doesn't sound like circumlocution--it's factual without being too blunt for the mood.

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

I freely admit to being a neophyte writer. Much of the problem I have is I tend to construct stories as movies or TV shows as opposed to thinking in prose. I then have to translate the movie in my head into prose. Movies are visually oriented. Dramatic action, vivid images, conveyed emotion are what make them successful. I'm going to assume I am not unique in fan fictiondom. The graphic sex scene is not really an element of literature, it started in porn movies and slowly worked its way into mainstream cinema as the culture and its attendant restraint on behavior went down the drain. In a movie, it works to take two gorgeous people and voyeuristically watch them have sex. It is a lot less exciting in text. Are novice and untrained writers simply putting into text the movie in their heads when presenting graphic sex in a story?

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

I second adding that to the URL library - appropriately marked, of course.

What, Dwim, you don't like "Hobbithood"?

A thing I've found useful is only describe a sexual/erotic encounter from a particular POV of a story character. This does not mean it is from the POV of the person engaged in the erotic act (it can be someone who sees it), but it must be in the thoughts and feelings that particular character is going to have. How would Bilbo experience a kiss vs. Frodo, for example, and how would their own language and understanding be reflected in the description and words? Would Gimli think the same thing as Legolas at the sensation of touching an unbearded chin? Is Arwen going to think of intercourse the same way as Eowyn? as Galadriel?

And sometimes the thought is "Boy, does that thing bounce up and down a lot..."

Ang

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

Aelinnel guessed:

"It's where a major character shows immediate phyiscal attraction to a character that s/he has only just met. Would anyone care to guess the scene?

Off the top of my head, I'd have to guess Eowyn's introduction to Aragorn. But watch me be wrong..."

No. I won't argue too strongly that this isn't another example, but Eowyn's reaction to Aragorn is not so clearly stated.

The scene I'm thinking of is when Frodo is introduced to Goldberry:

------
‘Fair lady Goldberry!’ said Frodo at last, feeling his heart moved with a joy that he did not understand. He stood as he had at times stood enchanted by fair elven-voices; but the spell that was now laid upon him was different: less keen and lofty was the delight, but deeper and nearer to mortal heart; marvellous and yet not strange. ‘Fair lady Goldberry!’ he said again. ‘Now the joy that was hidden in the songs we heard is made plain to me.

O slender as a willow-wand! O clearer than clear water!
O reed by the living pool! Fair River-daughter!
O spring-time and summer-time, and spring again after!
O wind on the waterfall, and the leaves’ laughter!’

Suddenly he stopped and stammered, overcome with surprise to hear himself saying such things.
-----

He's just met a gorgeous babe, and starts babbling poetry. Nearer to his "heart", yeah.

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

The more you live, and the more experience you have, the more you pick up. For example, I didn't understand the love story between Eowyn and Faramir until I was almost 30. I read LOTR again, after a long absence, and after I'd fallen in love for the first time. All of a sudden, their story just came through so strongly it almost made me cry. Blammo.

Same here.

There are some books that grow with you as you grow, I think. I've just reread Tehanu by Ursula Le Guin. It did nothing for me first time round (early twenties). This time round I finished it (crying buckets) and went back to the beginning again (something I hardly ever do).

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

Oh-kay, I read that love story (Eowyn/Faramir) and I enjoyed and understood it. I get all mushy about it and I'm only a teenager! Hehe!


Anyway, I talked to a pervy sixth grader last year and sort of spoiled that story for her, and she said before I could finish, "Maybe she (Eowyn) was so pale because she was pregnant". I nearly fainted there and then. I'm positive that Aragorn and Arwen must've done "it", and obviously, Sam and Rose did "it" too. But not Eowyn and Faramir, at least during the main plot of LOTR!

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

[splutter, choke] Can we put this in the URL library? Please? We could title it "Sailor Jim On Writing Sex Scenes: How Not To Embarrass Yourself." Ithilwen?

I've no objections. Although we may want to point to a slightly smaller version of the link.

But having read that, I'm sure you can now see why "throbbing manhoods" tend to send me off into hysterical laughter. Not to mention the mention of the phrase "boingy, boingy, boingy"...




 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

Mike said:
> The graphic sex scene is not really an element of literature, it started in porn movies and slowly worked its way into mainstream cinema

I've wondered if something like this is behind my own reactions to sex in Tolkien fanfic (which I bring up because, judging by comments on/offlist, they seem to be shared by quite a few others).

I enjoy reading well-written, sexually explicit fics in TV-based fandoms (XF, Buffy/Angel, etc). I feel a lot of resistance when reading sexually-explicit fics in literary-based fandoms (Tolkien, Harry Potter, etc) - although the one piece of Jeeves/Wooster I've read was hysterical (in a good way) and obviously written by someone with a lot of love for Wodehouse...

Where was I? Oh, yeah, I think Mike has a good point here in that we are conditioned to accept/see more sexuality in visual media. That's another reason (besides the undeniable physical appeal of the actors) that LOTR slash exploded after Dec. 2001.

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

Whoa, whoa, WHOA!

Warnings for this post: Nothing drastic in the sex department, but major spoilers for Pullman's His Dark Materials. And I'm living up to my name.

Your instincts are right, Dwim -- trust them.

The only additions to your assessment of Pulman is that not only castration/fgm and rape, but *any and all* restraints on sexual behavior, even self-imposed, in Pulman's worldview come out of a cowardly puritanical loathing of the body and fear of "life".


1. The daemons are not a metaphor for sexuality. They manifest character, and intellectual and spiritual vitality, and their settling has less to do with sexual awakening than emotional and moral development. Book 3 is explicit about this: "Conscious beings make Dust -- they renew it all the time, by thinking and feeling and reflecting, by gaining wisdom and passing it on." (440) "'And [the specters] grow by feeding on Dust,' said Pantalaimon. 'And on daemons. Dust and daemons are sort of similar; grown-up daemons anyway.'" (436) You can still call the business in book 1 rape, if you like, but not in the same sense.

2. Pullman *does* believe in self-restraint -- The entire finale hinges upon it! Will and Lyra leave behind their newly discovered desire (read: Paradise) for the greater good. It's Paradise Lost -- "Through Eden took their solitary way" -- except the loss is voluntary; they are their own enforcers. What Pullman doesn't approve of is institutionalized abstinence in order to connect with/honour a deity who is fundamentally dishonourable. (Note that this is not God. Pullman's "Authority" is explicitly not the Creator. He's sort of doing the Sophie's World thing with all his levels.)

In fact, Compass was a significant improvement, in that his clerical villains are given a certain amount of gumption and competence and evil-idealistic integrity -- but he quickly reverts to form, so that they're pusilanimous idiots by the end of book III.

Pusilanimous -- I do like your turns of phrase! I'll give it to you for the clericals, but Asriel is one of the neatest villains I can think of, and the harpies are pretty good.

I do think that Pulman is a careless reader not only in this regard, but in his frequent assertion that he is a more morally-sophisticated author than JRRT. I also don't think that he (any more than David Brin) bothered to read Silm. or any of HOME before talking.

Oy. Are you referring to interviews? And do you mean careless reader of JRRT, or who? Milton? I'd love to know if Pullman actually thinks Milton was, as Byron put it, "of the Devil's party."

The one other notable example of sexuality in HDM is the intense language P. uses to describe the relationship between the two male angels, which aligns his views on love more closely with Tolkien's than anything else.

It is now past my bedtime, so part two, the ON-topic stuff (my thoughts on the rest of the thread), will have to wait until tomorrow.

- Stulti

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

"throbbing manhoods"

Doesn't Great Britain have a literary "award" sort of like the Razzies for "most absurd sex scene"? The authors *have* to show up to receive it, or they hire actors to impersonate them. I'll see if I can dig up the article. IIRC, Salman Rushdie got it one year.

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

On the porn-scene provenance of explicit writing--

I've wondered about this but don't know exactly how true it is. It feels intuitively right, certainly, and I wouldn't put much money on the majority of the modern American audience having anything more behind its sexfics than that, even if there are examples of sexually explicit poetry from ancient times.

I certainly agree that the glut of A/L, A/B, Haldir/anyone, etc., largely can be attributed to people having seen the movie and known about slashfics. That could account for the focus on mechanics, as Mike noted--people are literally attempting to write the scripted movements in novel form, without realizing that translation has to occur.

On the other hand, while I'm not brave enough to go there even to try out my French, the Marquis de Sade didn't have movies to blame his writings on....



 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

I certainly agree that the glut of A/L, A/B, Haldir/anyone, etc., largely can be attributed to people having seen the movie and known about slashfics.

Perhaps. Of course, I have to plead guilty to writing Haldir slash, and quite graphic at that. I don't recall seeing any other Haldir fics before I began it, though that certainly doesn't mean there weren't any - I don't browse that widely. But I chose Haldir as a character largely because he wasn't well-known at that time (last May or so).

My gut feeling is that for me, writing fanfic at all is a result of the film, but once that happened, I took it where I wanted. Though as I've said, it was actually FtoRB that convinced me that sexuality and particularly M/M sexuality in Tolkien fic could be plausible.

Cel

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

Doesn't Great Britain have a literary "award" sort of like the Razzies for "most absurd sex scene"?

Courtesy of the Literary Review (which isn't the same since Auberon Waugh died), and called the Bad Sex Award. Here's a taster:

http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,6109,613940,00.html

 

 

Re: No sex in LOTR?

Stulti wrote:

The daemons are not a metaphor for sexuality. They manifest character, and intellectual and spiritual vitality, and their settling has less to do with sexual awakening than emotional and moral development.

Thanks, Stulti - that's how I'd read it, but I would never have been able to explain it.

I'd love to know if Pullman actually thinks Milton was, as Byron put it, "of the Devil's party."

Seems he does (read down a bit):

http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,6109,543409,00.html

He also seems to be getting a grip about his previously aired views that fantasy is a lesser mode than realism:

http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/politicsphilosophyandsociety/story/0,6000,865562,00.html

 

 

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