My teeth grind when I hear the phrase “sex and violence”, usually pronounced as one word: “sexandviolence”. In theory, I could understand an objection to one or the other in movies, TV, and books. But why are they always linked as if we cannot have one without the other? Call me slow, but I don’t get it.
I can understand distaste for exploding cars and bodies mashed beyond recognition, but why link that kind of violence with a natural fact of life? The species wouldn’t continue without sex. At its most successful, sex bonds two people into a happy pairing, the most productive and least violent element in any tribe. So what is the issue?
Maybe it’s the misconceptions. (Bad pun. Sorry!) Rape, incest, emotional coercion, and pedophilia are not sex. They are violent acts against helpless people. Only the choice of weapon is different from other forms of battery.
Are we still frightened by sex? Birth control may have been practiced for thousands of years, but the methods were really iffy until The Pill. In earlier times, women, and the men who cared about them, had reason to fear that natural urge to mate. The resultant pregnancy often meant a woman, like my own grandmother, died a lingering and very painful death. More often, too many pregnancies permanently damaged a woman’s health.
But isn’t this the 21st century? And aren’t most of the objections to sexandviolence about fictional portrayals of modern times? OK, I’m still clueless so let’s move on to how I handle the issue of sexandviolence.
Sex has a natural role in my books. The medieval era was an agrarian time when our ancestors probably learned the facts of life from family goats. Nor did most parents need to have “the talk” because only the upper and some merchant classes had anything resembling our concept of privacy. People under the age of thirty were the largest population cluster, because of a lower life expectancy, and folks in that age group spend a lot of time thinking about, doing, or planning sex. If I ignored the subject, I would not be portraying the era accurately. It doesn’t have to be graphic but it has to be present.
While noting that fatal childbirth or lingering poor health for women are tragic, I do not link sex with violence. My characters are human so no one beds another after drinking a barrel of ale at breakfast, knifing a few folks before the midday meal and falling from the castle walls, while suffering only a minor bruise, after supper.
So maybe my mysteries aren’t full of sexandviolence? Well, they are mysteries so murders happen…
I give up. Since I don’t have a clue what the term means, the books probably are.