Reading novels as a sex-repulsed ace

I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction written for adults, preferring to stick with older works or young adult literature. I enjoy YA and just never really had a reason to abandon that section of the library, except for my age, which I’ve ignored. I’ve recently realized, though, that if I want to write adult fiction, I should be reading more of it—but there are factors that have made me wary of venturing into that section, and one of these is the possibility of encountering sex scenes.

I consider myself sex-repulsed; while I feel like the term may be a little too strong for me, as I don’t get physically ill when hearing about sex, I’ve decided it fits better than sex-averse, which seems too mild. I really would rather not see/hear/read about sex at all if I can help it. If it’s mentioned in a book, fine, I can deal, but I really do not want to read a discussion of sex or a sex scene. Sometimes, though, you’re reading along, and suddenly—sex! Right there on the page, too late to avoid, images in your mind that you can’t un-imagine. While generally you do have some warning that it’s coming, and can thus skip ahead if you like, how do you know how far to skip? You have to look ahead to know when to start reading again, and then you’re practically reading the scene anyway.

So I’ve stuck to young adult lit as a way of avoiding sex scenes. Some young adult books do have them, but often you can tell from the premise if that’s a possibility, and if it seems like it is I’ll stay away. With adult fiction, though, I feel like almost any story could have a sex scene thrown in. A few years ago I found a website that helps you discover novels that fit your preferences. I was excited to see that one of the options was “no sex”, and I tried it out, and since I liked the sound of the book that came up, I bought it. And then… there was sex. Nothing explicit, but the main character did have sex with someone multiple times during the book, and her sex life was discussed somewhat. So when even a book that is supposedly sex-free still has sex as a part of the story, I’m left feeling like I should stick with young adult forever.

I know a book rating system would be impractical, but it would be nice. Some young adult books have sexual stuff in them that I would rather not have read when I was younger, and I don’t think young teens should be able to stumble upon that kind of content when they may not be ready for it. But it’s so much harder to screen books as opposed to movies (I’ll write more about watching movies in a future post, but of course it’s super easy to tell before even renting a movie whether it has sex or not just by looking at the rating), and unlike what’s often the case with movies, there may be nothing about a book’s cover or blurb to indicate that it contains sexual content. I know there are websites out there that rate books (after a cursory look, Rated Reads seems like the best of the ones I’ve found), but so few of the books in existence are included—one site proclaims on its front page that they have 1,500 books in their database, which seems like a pitifully small number. And finding a book’s rating on one of these sites requires much more effort than checking on a movie.

So I’m basically left with two choices—avoid any book that may have sex, or be willing to put up with it. If I want to read contemporary adult novels, I think I’m going to have to do the latter.

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4 thoughts on “Reading novels as a sex-repulsed ace

  1. abonnace January 7, 2015 / 8:04 pm

    I tend to stick to YA too. I haven’t read much adult fiction myself so I haven’t had to deal with written sex scenes. I do find ones in tv and movies confronting and usually unnecessary to the plot. I can understand alluding to the act if its important to the plot or emotional development of the character in books but I don’t see the necessity of writing it out in detail. But I’m ace so *shrugs* Luckily I’m more interested in writing YA myself.

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    • cinderace January 8, 2015 / 11:44 am

      Yeah, in the book I’m reading now the sex is only implied and it’s done in a very tasteful, subtle way, and while I guess not all writers are going to want to do that for whatever reason, that’s definitely what I prefer! Like you said, it generally just feels gratuitous when it’s shown in movies or described in books. I’m sure there are some sex scenes that serve an important purpose in the story, but I don’t think that’s true for a lot of them.

      I have two novels in progress right now, and one’s YA but the other has a protagonist who has just graduated from college, which automatically makes it unclassifiable as YA. So while I never set out to write adult fiction, it’s what ended up happening when I decided to write a protagonist that age, and now I have this whole reading dilemma…

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  2. onlyfragments January 8, 2015 / 12:02 pm

    I tend to skim when I get to sex scenes, which feels like a waste, or a cheat, you know? One thing I’ve found that works for me is reading a book out loud with another person. For example, one of my girlfriend’s favorite fantasy trilogies revolves VERY heavily around sex/BDSM. I avoided reading it until she asked if I would be comfortable with her reading it out loud and just skipping over all the sex scenes. So that’s what we do; she’ll be reading the text and basically say “and then they do some stuff” and skip ahead until she can read again. It’s not a perfect system, of course, but it’s nice to still be able to share something that’s important to her without my being uncomfortable.

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    • cinderace January 9, 2015 / 1:29 am

      I really like the reading out loud idea. It seems like a shame to miss out on good books just because they have some sexual content, so that’s a great way to work around that!

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