Friday, March 7, 2014

Sex Still Sells Books

I recently saw a provocative comedy – off-Broadway – called Intimacy. It covered sexually-liberating topics, such as: bisexuality, masturbation, porn, and infidelity. The story line revolved around a young man who gets family and friends to make a neighborhood porn movie – and along the way, individuals discover how they really feel about certain sexual acts and practices. The play was enjoyable, if not at times, farcical, but its added dimension of public nudity is perhaps what gave it a memorable note.

Why do we still spend a lot of time discussing sex? It’s in so many books, TV shows, movies, and plays. You’d think by now that writers have explored every side, angle – and position – on sex. Yet we’re still fascinated by nudity, and the connected factors of power, seduction, and intimacy.

The first play that I ever saw with nudity was Oh, Calcutta. It was awful. Maybe I was too young when I saw it – I was around 20, I think – but it seemed the play lacked a story and just hoped to titillate the audience with its skin parade.

Books lead the way in our discussion of sexuality, from marriage mores to raw eroticism. Fifty Shades of Grey is the most popular book in the past decade for a reason. We can’t get enough of sex – or of talking about it, watching it, fantasizing about it, or contemplating it.

Books tell us how to have sex, where to have it, and with whom to have it. They tell us what to say before, during, and after sex. They tell us about monogamy, polygamy, abstinence, loveless sex, violent sex, sex with objects, sex with animals, sex in public, sex in a group, and on and on and on and on. But the best part of sex is self-discovery, and to do what is not spoken of or even acceptable to society. 

Novels, quite often, have a sexual theme or at least a side story. The emotions connected to sex are so powerful. You can’t go wrong throwing sex into a book. Who will argue about a good sex scene or the introduction to a story of beauty, youth, and passion?

On the other hand, if sex seemingly is everywhere, perhaps writers need to move on to something else. Does sex distract from a deeper storyline? Showtime and HBO have a formula for showing nudity and couplings, no matter what the story is about. Books are starting to mirror that, where no matter what’s going on, throw in some sex and let the reader tap into an aroused state.

Maybe sex is written about and depicted in entertainment so often because so much is attached to sex. It can be connected to love, acts of power, money, family, and life-altering moments. Sex can be a crime or bliss. It can produce offspring or revenge. It moves us – literally – in our bodies and our minds. It has the capacity to infiltrate our essence and cause us to reevaluate our entire lives. Sex can lead us to do dangerous things, and it can inspire us to build a beautiful life. Religion and money and politics are extremely powerful agents in our world, but I think sex ranks at the top.

The world and our literature react to life based on sex. Think about it. Think of your own life. How many actions are based on you having – or not having sex? What book are you reading now? Does it relate to sex in some way? How about the last movie you saw or the show you watched tonight?

Many of the best books will have a sexual connection. So if you are looking for the secret to writing a commercially viable and stimulating book, don’t forget the adage: Sex Sells.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014.

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