Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Handling Sex

Yes it is a tricky subject, the most rewritten parts of Scholarship were the parts where 'things happen'.

The question is what to include and what to omit?  Am I trying for the bad sex award or something more subtle?  There was also another overriding motive that led me to spend so much time on these parts was the desire not to produce an erotic novel but one that went deeper into what was going on in a relationship between two boys, part of which concerned their physical relationship.

It took numerous drafts before I felt I had the balance right between what was happening and what I wanted to say.  That meant editing out a lot of other encounters as I felt things were getting repetitive.  Whilst the other encounters were based on real life events, they did not take the story forward, in fact they waylaid the story and I felt gave the wrong impression about what the book was about.

I was reminded of this when re-watching one of my favourite films, Thomas Paul Anderson's 'Boogie Nights', which presumably had the same problem, how to make a mainstream film about the adult porn scene in California.  Director Anderson used dialogue taken from real porn movies to make it real and on screen it sounds so stilted it is very funny as Amber says to our hero Dirk:

"Let me check on something"

She pulls down Dirk's pants,

"This is a giant cock."

That dialogue took some writing, totally banal yet it tells you what is happening so for most of the film, you know you are in the world of the adult entertainment industry without having to digest endless sex scenes.


  1. Hi Ian,

    I really liked "Scholorship." Well done. I have a website dedicated to helping gay teens from a Conservative Christian and secular point of view. Here is the link to the site, the page dealing with pointing my young readers to the best gay teen stories, most of them showing them (though not this one, LOL) that love is possible in their lives:


    And here is the not quite finished review I'm going to say about Scholorship, either tonight or maybe on Sunday after the Washington Redskins game:

    On the surface this moderately long story is about life in a strict mostly secular 1960’s British Boarding School in Cornwall, England for boys of primary school age (USA comparison). It is located in a very beautiful coastal setting, where the development of overly close relationships between the boys was highly frowned on, especially between boys of different grades or forms. But really the focus of the story is what was going on in the relationship, deeply and satisfactorily detailed, between 11 year old Sacha (5th Form) and 12 year old Pip (6th form), part of which concerned the very innocent, subtle and furtive physical dimensions of the relationship. There is no sex in the story, but there doesn’t have to be since the story is about the intense relationship. And this is why this very British English story is so attractive as the analysis by the author into the intimate details and complications in the relationship and all the misunderstandings mostly due to their young ages and backgrounds, is so impressive. The whole aspect of being attracted to someone of the same sex and what to do about it at that age in a repressive environment is seriously and thoughtfully looked into. Remember that homosexuality was erroneously thought to be a mental illness and a depravity, and homosexual sex or sodomy was against the law in those times, most everywhere. Enjoy!

    Hugs, Gary Lynn, retired and living in Central Mexico

    P.S. My e-mail address and personal story are indicated on the website.

  2. Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed and appreciated 'Scholarship'. I was at prep-school in the 1950s and it seems to me that you've captured the atmosphere of this kind of school very well indeed - albeit the novel is set 10 years after I was at my prep-school. Clearly not much had changed in the intervening decade.

    Your characterisation of the boys and their relationships and, particularly, of the nature and intensity of Pip's feelings for - 'crush' on - Sacha, is spot on, as is your description of Pip's bleak grief after his final encounter with Sacha.

    My own experiences (at both prep and public school) were not of such intensity, but enough to find 'Scholarship' strongly resonant and, at points, quite painful to read.

    Thank you for your writing.

  3. Inner life,

    Thank you for your comments. I wrote Scholarship precisely because I felt that no-one had really spoken of the intensity of some relationships between boys at such a young age and how these relationships have a tendency to go horribly wrong as one or other boy grows out of it.

    I was amused by what you say about how prep schools did not change much from your 1950's experience. Mine was just about to start changing as the Head retired and was being replaced by a much younger man who immediately changed the uniform and various other aspects of the school. Now when I see documentaries on these schools today I see much more benign and child centric establishments where the teaching staff are more like uncles and aunts rather than feared martinets.