15/09/2016 08:57 BST | Updated 14/09/2017 06:12 BST

Sex In Film And Television Versus Graphic Novels

I'll often be watching a film or tv show with two beautiful lead actors when suddenly some non-existent sexual tension breaks and I groan. "Just get it over with then." Characters who seem too perfect, whose only flaws consist of "too pretty" and "bad at communication" suddenly fling themselves at each other right before the big finale of a movie/series. Goal achieved. Congrats on the sex.

It doesn't feel like they're satisfied with themselves though. One example of this is in Watchmen (the 2009 adaptation of the 1986 graphic novel). The actors fumble out of their superhero costumes and awkwardly thrust at each other, all while wearing a combination of shocked, horrified, painful expressions. Afterwards as they talk, they don't look at each other, either. It's not arousing.

If you think sex should be more interesting, impactful and, y'know, sexy than that, you should try reading graphic novels. You may be more familiar with cartoons, comics, manga, strips, etc. Whatever you call them, I'm talking about pictures that tell a story.

Let's look at the Watchmen (Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons) GN scene in comparison to the film. The removal of their costumes is more deliberate, they clutch at each other passionately - and they smile! Heck, they smoulder! They communicate! With words! During this scene we learn that these heroes have hang ups about feeling kinky in their costumes, and you get the sense they've grown closer to understanding one another. Hot damn, if good communication isn't the most arousing thing ever.

What's great about GNs is sex isn't always the be-all-end-all goal of character relationships, either. GNs often use sex as a storytelling device, which means putting more effort into the crafting of satisfying erotica to accompany a well thought out story.

Asterios Polyp (David Mazuchelli) is a perfect example. An early sex scene between the lead, Asterios, and one of his university students is depicted using bright pinks to highlight full lips, perky nipples and glamourous poses. The characters are simplified using flat graphic design aesthetic to disconnect them from reality. It's insignificant to Asterios - he doesn't connect at all with this student, they are merely symbolic of an achievement. This emphasises the realism when he has sex with who he genuinely cares about: Hana. Carefully illustrated panels depicting sensuous moments with her are interspersed with panels of the everyday mundane: from popping spots, to smiling warmly at him, farting and sneezing, to stripping. This might sound like the most unarousing thing possible, but when you put sex on the same level as those every day 'gross' things that everyone does and make it clear the partner is in love with all of them - not just the sex - it seems less like this unattainable goal only meant for beautiful people and more like one real part of a satisfying relationship.

Acceptance from a person you love is sexy!

Acceptance of everything is what sex-focused comics like Smut Peddler (Iron Circus Comics) are all about. This "superior pornucopia for classy dames" features comics that cover many genres; cultural commentary, sci fi, high fantasy, parenting, superheroes, magic, time travel, slice-of-life and more. Every character is unique and their personalities shine through their sex scenes, plus no gender/sexuality/body type combination is ever frowned on or dismissed as unattractive. But the best thing about this GN is every character smiles as often as possible - sex should be enjoyable, right? Surely that should make you smile - but in most erotic content I've seen outside of GNs, everyone's grimacing. That's not hot, to me. The fact that GN artists insist on having their characters goof off and laugh with each other before, during and after sex is what makes this medium infinitely more appealing.


Image from For the Love of God, Marie! by Jade Sarson, published by Myriad Editions

In my own GN, For the Love of God, Marie! (Myriad Editions), I've tried to strike an entertaining and thought-provoking balance between these two extremes. The sex scenes sprinkled throughout depict sex that's sensuous and goofy, hot and awkward, and participants that are lumpy, bumpy and beautiful - and every scene serves to further the plot. Whether it's demonstrating lead character Marie's naive approach to love and understanding, Agnes's reluctance to associate sex with romance, Will's jealousy, Prannath's secrecy; each scene plays out differently in order to provide "a visual narrative feast" for the reader. (Emma Vieceli's kind words there.) Most importantly, every scene is of consensual sex - no ambiguous grimacing here.


Image from For the Love of God, Marie! by Jade Sarson, published by Myriad Editions

Perhaps the reason I like GN sex more than filmed sex is that actors seem awfully uncomfortable acting it out. But it's said that cartoonists are the best actors - they just let their characters take the spotlight instead. I think that must be true - why else does the sex in graphic novels seem more natural, arousing and downright fun?


Image from For the Love of God, Marie! by Jade Sarson, published by Myriad Editions

You can see for yourself how sexy this graphic novel is by getting a copy here: