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Sexy Script: Appealing to Prurient Interests

In legal speak, if something appeals to prurient interests, it’s deemed obscene and violative of the First Amendment. But those seemingly addlepated ancient Supreme Court justices back in the day clearly had no clue, because anything sexual in nature appeals to prurient interests.

People are interested in sex, and people have sex. Otherwise we wouldn’t exist. People also like to read about sexual encounters. And see them come to life onscreen.

Sex is a part of relationships, and romance novels. That’s why I read so many of them in my teens and twenties. Romance novels are not pornographic or obscene. But some of them are downright titillating, depending on your point of view.

The Supreme Court’s notion of obscenity is so antiquated as to be obscene in and of itself. Not to mention sexist and potentially racist, because for a great deal of the Court’s history, only white men and often elderly men at that, sat on the bench in the highest court in our land.

Furthermore, some of those men failed to honor the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment, as in separation of church and state, when it came to objectivity (or lack thereof) in their jurisprudence. Religious-based edicts do not belong in Supreme Court decisions, nor should one judge’s pious beliefs be decisive of how any given American can engage in consensual sex, or determinative of what we are entitled to read or see when it comes to material sexual in nature.

Today, the tricky part for writers might not be so much a concern over running afoul of the out-of-touch prurient interests edict, but to craft sexual scenes in a manner not cringe-inducing to readers. Which, unfortunately, is wholly subjective. What’s nails-on-a-chalkboard to one might instill pulsating hot flashes in another.

There are no doubt plenty of folks who don’t see women over fifty as sexual beings, and don’t think they should be having and enjoying sexual encounters or erotic fantasies, especially in the pages of novels like my Other Worldly Series.

My post-menopausal protagonist Rowan Layne might find those individuals to be immature prudes.

In fact, Rowan might find it downright cringe-inducing to read novels penned by men in which male characters decide for women what it is they desire in a man, sexually or otherwise, and what they feel, physically and emotionally, during sexual encounters.

There’s point of view, and then there’s pompous pontificating about that which one might know little about.

Kind of like the Supreme Court when it comes to sexy scenes in books and movies.

The best non-prurient example I have is a novel where a male author writes about a woman putting her long hair into a ponytail using an elastic band. She supposedly manages this procedure with one hand.

There are things, some prurient in nature, a woman can do for herself with one hand, but that’s not one of them.

This is not to say that women can’t write about men and men can’t write about women. It’s a matter of perspective, and being mindful of a lack of first-person knowledge or experience. As a heterosexual woman, I would not attempt to write an intimate first-person lesbian scene. Men probably shouldn’t either.

A character in a novel might wonder or imagine what another character is feeling, or espouse on what they desire them to feel. But that’s different than, say, a man stating a woman’s intimate feelings as an absolute fact from his point of view.

In Being Alien, upcoming fourth novel of the Other Worldly series, Rowan Layne asks, “What is it with that male fantasy of two women at once? Could most men even handle that? Don’t they realize both women will expect to be satisfied?”

Rowan’s not saying all men have this fantasy, or that men shouldn’t have this fantasy. She’s not saying it’s wrong. She’s simply wondering, based on her sexual experience with men, what the hell are they thinking?

About those sexual fantasies, or fetishes. Something we see a lot of in books and television and movies these days, all of which most definitely appeal to prurient interests.

An excellent example is the TV series Billions. Another example are the Shades of Grey novels and movies. Vintage films like McLintock! and Blue Hawaii have scenes some see as involving sexual fetish. And so do many romance novels, from the seventies and beyond.

How one reacts to these depictions of sexual fetish will ultimately depend on their point of view and personal experience, especially when it comes to what pushes their own prurient buttons. And that is also how any given individual will judge authenticity or sincerity of scenes in novels, movies, and on TV.

In my Other Worldly series, Rowan Layne grapples with how others might see and judge her sexual activity—as well as her longings in terms of sexual fantasy.

At her age, she is all too aware of the double standard for women when it comes to anything prurient in nature, not to mention the derisive stigma of being an older women in a relationship with a younger man. Or multiple men.

As the world gradually and grudgingly deals with the reality of aliens among us, Rowan also must grapple with vicious, bigoted views regarding sex with aliens, from the second book Alienable Rights through the fourth, coming this fall, Being Alien. It becomes intensely personal and sometimes perilous for her in the fifth Other Worldly novel coming next year, Alien Sensation.

But that doesn’t stop Rowan Layne from pursuing her desires, or ultimately embracing her sexual fantasies. Even at her age. Especially at her age.


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