Sex Scenes In Novels: Autobiographical or Imagined?

This article by Jon Stock originally appeared on The Telegraph on 3/5/13.

Authors risk the ridicule of friends whenever they write about sex, even if it’s pure fiction, says spy writer Jon Stock.

Authors are often urged to write about what they know, but does this apply to sex scenes? Should they be based on personal experience – cue sniggering from friends, family and fellow authors – or drawn from the realms of pure fantasy?

The novelist Julian Barnes claims in an article today that modern writers feel a commercial obligation to include sex scenes and then struggle to write them. Chief amongst their many fears is the assumption that readers will conclude they are in some way autobiographical.

According to Barnes: “Writing about sex contains an additional anxiety on top of all the usual ones that the writer might be giving him- or herself away, that readers may conclude, when you describe a sexual act, that it must already have happened to you in pretty much the manner described.”

I noticed that people began to look at me in a very different way after the publication of my 2009 espionage thriller, Dead Spy Running. The genre has certain requirements: exotic locations, gritty hero, labyrinthine plotting and, of course, sex.


Read the full post on The Telegraph.