“My wife is going to read this…”

Okay, let’s talk about sex.

So I presume I have your full attention now?😂

Kidding aside, we’ve started watching Billions. Thus far we’ve seen the first five episodes. Any program featuring “John Adams” and “Rachel Menken-Katz” is one I’ll certainly give a chance.

And it is worth doing so. To be specific, the drama is. In contrast, the sex?

[Roses on the kitchen window ledge. Photo by me, 2018.]

This post began to germinate form in my mind after I uploaded that roses photo to Instagram yesterday. Of course roses lead us regularly to think about romance. That led me next to recall that television program…

Billions strikes me as following an ugly “mainstream” television/film trend – and is even piling on the frequency. There’s at least one (and sometimes more than one) “gratuitous” and/or “twisted” sex scene forced into (no tacky pun intended) each of the first three episodes. It had become so predictable, I was naturally awaiting one in the fourth, and I was stunned when inexplicably there wasn’t one. However, that fourth episode “oversight” did not indicate any new “trend” within the program; it was an outlier. There was another in the fifth, as well as a “phone sex” and “kinky sex club” scene – the latter an especially ludicrous side trip irrelevancy that damaged the flow of the episode’s drama.

Is stuff like that thrown at viewers for “shock” value? Or is it just salaciousness? Or is it to see what can be gotten away with on screen nowadays?: “Hey, it’s pay cable. Gotta have it.”

Those episodes are from 2016, just before the “Hollywood” sexual abuse revelations. In the post-Weinstein world, many of us out here also cannot help but wonder now about a production itself – especially when nudity is involved. And this issue is not the nudity itself. Rather it is, as in a “sex scene” between two women, one of whom is visibly naked from the waist up, if those actresses felt they had no professional choice other than to give in to letcherous male demands to roll around on a bed together, licking each other?

One sure as hell hopes not. Yet it is tough to believe most young women go into acting dreaming to do idiotic scenes like that. I find I think when I see one of those: In high school, she probably played “Juliet” and hoped to be the next “Elizabeth Bennet” someday.

None in the series have so far been in my opinion even slightly necessary to drive the ongoing plot. They could have easily been edited down and aimed to leave more “to the imagination.” Indeed if that had been done, they would actually have made more of a substantive impact in storytelling terms.

But, then, one supposes, well, they wouldn’t be “pushing boundaries,” as it were? Yet what “boundaries” are being pushed back truly? The boundaries of silly? Anyone older than “age 18” knows what intercourse is – and possibly engages in it. The viewing age main demographic for a drama program like Billions starts mostly at least, I suspect, at “age 30” minimum. I am well beyond that age now and find I need to suppress laughter at such nonsense scenes. Who do its makers actually think they are “impressing” with them?

[My novels so far. Photo by me, 2018.]

Considering that got me thinking about this. Novels are not television and film, but are often as we know a prime source for screenplays. Last year I shared the story of one of my uncle’s novels, centering on a woman detective, nearly making it to “major motion picture” starring a famous American actress you would almost certainly know (or, uh, it being now several decades ago, let’s say here, if you are younger, your parents would).

I don’t write my novels imagining screen versions, yet I (and I suspect most other writers) would be lying if I claimed I had never thought about it. Yet much as I’d love to see one, I would also dread seeing a book of mine “ruined” on screen. They are decidedly different mediums.

I have learned over the years that writing “sex” is tremendously difficult. The fundamental problem is trying to put sex into words: I write such scenes over and over, regularly always hating what I had just written, and struggling to hit the right tone. It is among the toughest writing there is. “Oh, God,” often I recoil as well at what I had just typed, “my wife is going to read this too. And her girlfriends…”

[Excerpt from Passports, on Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

Writers know the imagination is far more potent than reality. As readers, we all see a scene differently in “our mind’s eye.” It is rare that any screen portrayal of anything can match or better what is in a book.

Also, unlike in acting, in a book no real person is ever even at risk of being real-life sexually abused.

Have a good day, wherever you are in the world. 🙂


  1. It’s as if each generation thinks that it is the one that invented sex, and that it needs to prove it, somehow. What fools.

    And I could have written the paragraph that appears above the photographed excerpt. Some of what I had to put into my first novel was heinous, but I couldn’t find a way out of it – that’s what the Muse said had happened. All I could do was to keep revising, until I had achieved some measure of damage control. It was exhausting, and the only part of the writing that I did not enjoy.

    Once again, the unvarnished truth, on all counts.

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