I’ve been into musicals since I was a little girl, nurtured by the Disney movies. One of the first CDs I ever listened to was Phantom of the Opera, and the overture hooked me with the first loud, dramatic, gothic notes. It’s so iconic. The next CD was Jekyll & Hyde (OBC), and then I was officially hooked to gothic and horror musicals, in spite of their scarcity and often their melodrama.
Erotic literature is like a musical. Musicals require an incredible suspension of disbelief, given that people don’t randomly break out into song in the middle of the day (usually) in front of other people. And if you do sing, people can hear you. You can’t have a soliloquy song in a crowd. And generally, people aren’t good at bursting out into seamless rhymes and harmonious melodies. In addition, musicals can be viewed by some critics as less serious and more frivolous than plays (as though there’s something wrong with that), or even that musicals aren’t real theater (Peter Brooks). But when you listen or see a musical, you accept music as a tool for the story (and you don’t cry out in the middle of the performance, “People don’t really sing like that!) to do one of several things.
First, music drives the plot forward, often with a multi-voice song like “One Day More” from Les Miserables or “Facade” from Jekyll & Hyde that denotes action or a Greek chorus kind of explanation. Second, music reflects character growth, such as “For Good” from Wicked or “I Know Things Now” from Into the Woods. Third, music reflects unspoken or hidden emotions, such as “On My Own” from Les Miserables.
Sex plays a similar role in erotica as songs do in musicals. Sex in erotic literature exposes emotions and drives character growth, exposes character issues, and moves the plot along. Ideally, while sex plays a huge role in the story, it’s not the sole purpose of it, although there are genres in which that is acceptable, nay, expected. Sex is important, but it isn’t the goal, anymore than the songs in musicals are working towards a climactic song. The climax may be represented by a song, but the climax isn’t music; the climax is in the story.
Also, like a single song, a sex scene is its own little story, with rising action (*cough*), a climax (*cough*), and a swift denouement (*cough*). And an erotic story is more effective with many sex scenes of varying intensities and different importance to the plot rather than one Major Sex Scene that many romances in other genres seem to depend on. It’s like a musical with only one song – something of a disappointment, especially when you consider that the Major Sex Scene or the Sex Off Screen implies that that’s as good as it gets; that’s the climax of their lives together, and ain’t that a huge disappointment? It’s like focusing your life around the Hallelujah chorus without realizing that the rest of Handel’s Messiah is pretty awesome, too.
Similar to musicals, too, is the suspension of disbelief. Just as people don’t really burst into song and sound like Broadway stars doing it, people don’t have great sex all the time. People don’t orgasm all the time, or their orgasms aren’t that great. People certainly don’t have spontaneous orgasms as often as they do in erotica and romance. Sex in real life is messier and has many more risks, like pregnancy and disease. Erotica has as much barebacking as video porn, except it’s much safer. But people don’t read erotica for the nitty-gritty downers of reality; they open an erotic novel expecting a certain amount of fantastic (meaning fantasy-based) sex, and sex that is fantastic (meaning awesome) to boot. Most erotica readers don’t close their book in disgust and say, “That’s not how real sex is.” Their suspension may drop if the sex is so unrealistic as to be impossible anatomically speaking, but a certain idealism is accepted without question. Just you’re there for the music when you listen or see a musical, you’re there for the great sex in an erotic story – and hopefully a decent plot that makes everything make sense.
So there. I got to geek out about two subjects that I enjoy.