Sex is a difficult topic in the Christian book community. A lot of readers demand pure, PG or even G rated content, and understandably so. But does sex have no place in Christian-authored work?
Often, Christian readers come out with pitchforks when the topic of sex is remotely broached in fiction.
I read a book where a male character in a female’s bedroom was described as shirtless, as a protagonist walked in on his girlfriend at some stage of the act of cheating on him. There were no lewd acts described, but the implication was clear. It was also clear that the fornication was a negative thing. The cheating girlfriend was villainous, the protagonist was hurt and scarred by what was going on—it was in many ways a lesson that fidelity is crucial. What happened? The book received numerous scathing reviews because the mere topic of sex was broached, though in a way that could be seen in any PG-rated film.
In science fiction and fantasy, books are often more concept-driven than character relationship-driven, which means that as authors, we can avoid the subject by relying on plots that steer far away from sex as possible. The readers tend to expect more of us as Christians in the speculative genre, as evidenced by the incident above. But as sex is a very human condition, sometimes it can’t be danced around. What are we supposed to do?
As Christian authors, we not only have to tell great stories, but we have a secondary duty to present characters and conflicts as a moral alternative to secular culture. Presenting heroes who value chastity is certainly one aspect of this, but the vast majority of humans on the planet, from Adam and Eve to now, were certainly not chaste, or we wouldn’t be alive to discuss this topic.
As Christian readers, we want to fill our minds with what is right, and what is good. In the context of science fiction and fantasy, however, we can get into a number of concepts that, if we were to open that can of worms to its full and logical conclusion, we would have to throw away almost every book we’ve ever read—Christian or not. Most genre books have something creepy, magical spellcraft, or, at the very least, violence. Even the Bible has some pretty graphic violence and strange sexual scenarios. Genesis 19 still gives me the creeps to this day whenever I read it. With that being in one of the opening chapters of the Bible, I find it hard to believe that God’s intention is for us to wholly ignore human intimacy in our reading.
So why are we so afraid of examples like the above?
It’s more of a psychological backlash to current modern secular culture, and readers perhaps being overly-aggressive toward Christian authors in warning them not to become like their secular counterparts. It’s understandable that we as Christians don’t want our literature to look like Game Of Thrones, but by putting limits on authors like the example at the beginning of this article, we are potentially shaming authors into not taking risks with their art—which in turn creates works that feel cheesy, subpar, and watered down. And that’s because, often times, the works are watered down intentionally as to not risk offending sensitive readers.
Authors need to be able to be free to write the story calling to them. Now this is not advocating for the same in children’s books, as I wouldn’t let my child read either Game of Thrones or Genesis 19, but for adults who understand the world. Authors shouldn’t fear writing about sex any more than they should fear writing about violence or the occult. There is a place for all of those things in fiction.
I tackled the sex topic in my most recent novel, The Stars Entwined. There’s a heavy romantic component to it (spoilers), and actually, the sex in the book is so crucial to the plot and concept, it actually can’t be removed without heavily detracting from the book. I made a twist around it, though—-which is an alien culture where fornication and divorce are biologically impossible. Sex was intended by God to be an act of pure intimacy and love between husband and wife, and that is all that can possibly exist in this culture that did not have such matters corrupted by Satan and human sin. The result is both a compelling science fiction concept and highly-charged romance for readers to relate to characters’ very real human conditions as characters become besotted with one another.
Several people told me they wouldn’t read the book because there was sex in it, and they didn’t want that as Christians. It’s not a complaint, as that’s a reader’s right, but I still think it’s important to present alternatives to secular culture that can show a God-designed function in our lives as it was intended, as a juxtaposition to its debased and loveless depiction in much secular work. The sex in my book is born out of a covenant of eternal love between two people, which is what we as Christians want to promote for our society.
Some people will always be opposed to any reference to sex in works, but hopefully some adults will read this and consider with an open mind as Christian authors do their best to realistically portray human conditions and create compelling fiction we can read without feeling like we ourselves sinned.
Jon Del Arroz is the leading Hispanic voice in science fiction. He is a multi-award nominated author, popular blogger, and journalist. He contributes to The Federalist and Milo Yiannopoulos’ Dangerous.com. In the summer of 2017, Superversive Press released his YA Steampunk novel, For Steam And Country, to critical and reader acclaim. His most recent novella, “Gravity of the Game” is an exploration of baseball’s future as humanity expands to the stars. His triumphant return to Military Science Fiction comes on March 20th, 2018, with the release of his new interstellar war epic, The Stars Entwined. He releases monthly short fiction and more on his Patreon.