Also, nothing will get me to drop a book faster than including a rape scene. You want to put it into a character's past, fine whatever, but I'm not reading a graphic account of it.
Hmm I'm assuming we're defining "sexual content" as anything related to sex? Tension, flirting, the character's inner thoughts, etc.
I'd say this definitely depends on the genre. If it's romance as the primary genre, I'd expect to see flirting, sexual tension, etc in every other scene, and anywhere between 1-3 sex scenes over the course of the book. (The plot only needs so many scenes like that before you're doing it for its own sake, e.g erotica.) I'm not typically into straight-up romance, but I wouldn't criticize a story for following its own genre conventions.
If romance is the secondary genre, there's a sliding scale that's typically lower than the amount I mentioned above. As for how much I like personally, it depends on the characters and the author's execution. If the characters are likable and there's some understated tension between them, I can get on board with that.
David Wrote: Hmm I'm assuming we're defining "sexual content" as anything related to sex? Tension, flirting, the character's inner thoughts, etc.
Sex and Romance and Desire are not the same things. It is pefectly natural to experience desire and to express one's romantic intention.
However 'Tab A in Slot B' is never an appropriate topic for polite conversation.
There is one sex scene every 15 or so chapters on average. It is almost always to move the plot forward and doesn't neccessarily takes the whole chap.
But it mostly depends on the mood. Sometime you want a good fantasy story with magic and epic, but someday a hint of smut is welcome. There is a public for every stories.
I actually get far more disgusted with cliche romance than I do with honest desire or sexuality, and I'm including consensual kinky, honest polyamorous, non-hetero, and non-cisgender desire and sexuality in that. Shoehorning a sweet-as-sugar romance with forced tension ("Will they? Won't they?" ad nauseum) into a story is a surefire way to make me drop it with no regrets.
Sexist misogynistic stories, where women exist to serve men or to join a guy's harem will also make me drop it even if there is no actual sex. (Or the other way around, although they're relatively uncommon.) I can live with rape scenes if they have a purpose and they're very clearly shown as a bad thing - pretending it doesn't exist helps no one. Ditto for homophobia and transphobia in relationships, even if they aren't explicit.
But I'm just fine with reading a few non-gratuitous explicit sex scenes - preferably more creative than just some hydraulic squishy noises.
Which is pretty much how I write: there will be sex scenes if I need them for the sake of the story, but others have no romance, let alone sex.
Letum Wrote: It really depends on how it's being used. If it's smut for the sake of smut, no thanks. However, if it drives the plot forward in some way or leads to character development that's a bit different. That being said, it can also be more impactful to imply the characters had sex rather than writing it out.
I also agree with this. The implication is fine enough for me personally. Unless there's something critical to the story or characters' development going on during the act, I can't see a justifiable reason to actually write it out in detail. Doesn't help that I've never read a sex scene that hasn't felt jarring and weird anyways.
Prysmcat Wrote: I actually get far more disgusted with cliche romance than I do with honest desire or sexuality, and I'm including consensual kinky, honest polyamorous, non-hetero, and non-cisgender desire and sexuality in that. Shoehorning a sweet-as-sugar romance with forced tension ("Will they? Won't they?" ad nauseum) into a story is a surefire way to make me drop it with no regrets.
Actually this is closest to how I feel. If I read a pair of lovers or married couple or two people who are attracted to each other, any sexual content involving them only seems the natural next step to me, and I do not understand when the author actively avoids the sexual interaction, even implied ones.
Some authors even go as far to place sex scenes under spoiler tags.
Whatever you decide it's a great forum topic.