Adam & Eve: the original sex story that’s been denounced as evil and immoral.

I’m actually kind of sick while I’m writing this post, so if it’s not up to my usual quality, I apologize. Also, if you want to make me matzo ball soup or something, please make sure it’s prepared in a manner that is acceptable under the laws of kashrut. For an easy guide to cooking kashrut, please contact your local rabbi or read a guidebook to Jewish cooking.

Okay, enough rambling that unfortunately we cannot blame my current condition on. I don’t know if anyone’s noticed this, but the horror genre–whether it be books, movies, comic books, or TV shows on FX–has a lot of sex. It’s one of the draws of the genre, and it’s also one of the things horror authors are criticized for the most (besides the whole–you know–the fact that we write about scary, bloody things that often kill/maim/cover us in blood). Sometimes it seems that there’s more sex in a horror movie than there is horror.

The question is, why? Why is there so much sex in horror stories?

Well, I’m not exactly sure. Besides demons that use sex as a weapon in ancient legends and folklore, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of material on this subject before the 19th century. I do know that works by early horror writers like Edgar Allen Poe and Mary Shelley, who wrote around the same time, didn’t have a lot of sex in their work, and any that did was only subtly hinted at (for example, “The Fall of the House of Usher” hinted at an incestuous relationship between Usher and his sister, but never exactly came out and said it). However things started to change around the turn of the century. Dracula contained several themes about Victorian sexual mores, and theater productions of horror stories often used sex to draw crowds in. I’m not as familiar with the works of HP Lovecraft as I should be, but I bet there might be some naughtiness hinted at in those stories.

(And if I am wrong, I apologize and ask that you please notify me immediately of the fact)

“Bleh! I am so chaste! Bleh!”

Early horror films like the original Phantom of the Opera film with Lon Chaney, Nosferatu, the Universal horror films and some others skirted around sex (mostly because Hollywood had much more stringent censorship back then), but it was still present in books and comics of the time, which led to comic books being censored as well. However with the fifties and sixties came the sexual revolution, and mores surrounding sexuality loosened. This started being reflected in horror, with Stephen King in the seventies debuting with Carrie and Salem’s Lot, which had plenty of sex and sexual themes in them. Slasher films made use of sex as well, showing sex alongside blood and gore well into the late eighties and nineties. Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted in the late nineties, during which the connection between sex and horror was often explored and commented upon within the show and by its viewers.

Fast forward a little bit, and you have the Scream movies, which poked fun at the supposed “rules of horror movies” (see video below), the Friday the 13th remake which had so much sex, it kind of lost the point of the film till near the end (but still couldn’t salvage the story), and American Horror Story, which actually manages to use sex in an artful way without taking away from the terror of the show.

(If anyone feels my history lesson in horror and sex is lacking something, once again I apologize.)

But like I said, all this sex in the horror genre has its consequences. Some will say that horror is using sex to draw in its audiences, like when you have a pretty girl being tortured while in her underwear (I think that’s a new way of looking at torture porn). Others say that horror authors are making a morality statement when they say “sin” like sex, drugs or booze causes you to die horribly, and the sweet virgin is the only one who survives (albeit with severe trauma). Plenty of critics believe that all the sex, along with the gore and killing, are warping the minds of children and teenagers (I don’t believe that for one minute). And feminists criticize horror authors for objectifiying and sometimes demonizing women and their sexuality in their work.

For that last one, I have to admit, we’ve been guilty of that a few times. So has certain evangelists and nutcases and whatnot, but yeah, horror authors have done this a few times. The video below provides some examples on this.


But this still doesn’t explain how sex has gotten to be such a part of the genre of horror. Maybe it serves as a relief for audiences. After seeing something so scary, a little sex can actually serve to relax people. In some funeral parlors, they’ll actually have lewd statues or paintings in order to make the grieving feel a little better (not kidding). At the same time, sex could act as a way to ramp people up, show them a little nudity, and then when they’re excited, scare them silly with some blood and death.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that if there’s more sex in a horror movie than there is horror, it’s probably because the filmmakers realized they have a pretty weak story to begin with, and need something to draw the audiences in with. I don’t know if anyone else shares that opinion, but I definitely believe it. And it certainly would explain a lot.

And occasionally, sex serves as part of the plot, like how in AHS: Asylum Kit and Grace having sex is used to further certain elements of the story. So occasionally sex can be used in a good way in the horror genre, instead of just making us worry that the people behind the story you’re watching or reading about just needed something after a very bad dry spell.

Here’s another question to ask yourself: Is my story more likely to get this rating than an R or PG-13 rating if I use sex?

I’m still not sure why sex is so intrinsically a part of the horror genre. However, because it is, I think it should be used more wisely. If you write horror stories, unless you’re trying to use sex as part of your story in a tasteful way or as a tool to further character development, then you should probably leave the sex out. Ask yourself this: what does this story gain from me using sex in it?

If you can’t think of a valid reason, then don’t put the sex in. (You can also ask this question for gore, and I highly recommend that you do).

Comments
  1. Ashana M says:

    I think there’s so much sex in horror because it’s exciting, just as violence is, and horror is about attaining a very heightened level of emotional arousal. I think that’s pretty much the point of horror for most people. It’s like a roller coaster ride for the brain. And there is a point when all of that violence or implied violence or suspense would no longer be effective. You can’t just keep adding scarier scenes or bloodier deaths without it becoming just stupid. (And it sometimes does anyway.) But sex keeps you at the same level of emotional arousal but in a different way. So I think it’s just responding to the audience’s preferred level of arousal: totally amped.

    • you’ve got a point. Still, when I see movies that don’t rely too much on sex and are plenty scary in themselves, I feel like all the sex could be played down or even eliminated from certain stories, especially when you see really bad horror films with plenty of sex.

  2. I think you are spot-on with your theory that weak story lines rely on sex to bring the crowds in. Sex sells. Dracula was a real changing of the tide for the horror genre. For the first time, the audience was presented with a monster that didn’t look like a monster, one that was handsome, suave, and yes, even sexy. I think that audiences became completely intrigued by the concept that evil doesn’t always look or act evil, that evil can be sneaky and handsome.

  3. […] a guarantee? When asked whether or not sex was even necessary for horror films to be successful, Rami UnGar the Writer explains that sex is sometimes used to relax the audience after they’ve seen something scary. […]

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