Let’s Get Vulgar, Shall We?

First off, I’d like to apologize for my long absence. English classes have me bogged down with reading, my wedding is only 19 days away, and Anne Rice has sucked me into the first book in “The Vampire Chronicles.” But, let me assure you, as I’m typing this, I can tell I’ve really missed blogging. I’ve missed writing in general. I won a free contest where I get free cover art, so I’ve been going back through what I have for “London Darkness: War of the Devices” so I can finish it and use the free art for that book. But I haven’t been able to write in close to two weeks, which is very upsetting.

Now, on to today’s topic:

Photo Credit: Steven Thomas Howell WANA Commons

Vulgarity. (Of course there is nothing vulgar about this picture, but it appears the [assumed drunk] man may be shouting some vulgar things at that woman).

Vulgarity, including graphic violence and sex scenes, has its place in writing. These things happen in everyday life, which means they can more than certainly happen in our stories. But, how much is too much? Is there such a thing?

I imagine it mainly has to do with what genre you’re writing. If you’re writing YA, I’d stay away from anything outside damn, hell, and even bitch can be questionable in some cases.

However, when you get into adult novels, be it erotica, or, especially in George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” novels, things can get very graphic. Does this make them offensive? I’d imagine it could be offensive to some readers, but they need to expect that if they are picking up an adult novel.

While these situations can occur in any type of book, I think it’s helpful to separate them into three general genres where you may encounter vulgarity. (Note: These are merely my opinions on these matters).

Young Adult

As I stated earlier, in most cases you’re writing to a slightly younger audience (although not always). They’re old enough to have been exposed to the sex, vulgar language, and violence that is permitted on television, which means that as a writer, you probably shouldn’t go beyond that. Damn, h(H)ell, bitch, blood, severing of limbs, and mild sexual situations are all appropriate for YA. I would hold off on any extremely graphic sex or excessively violent situations here.

Fiction & Non-Fiction (New adult and up)

I’m lumping pretty much all fiction and non-fiction here. Anything not intended for teenagers. Science-fiction, fantasy, biographies, steampunk, cyberpunk. You get the idea. Because the intended audience is a bit older, then can *handle* (I use that word loosely. Only the individual can decide what they are capable of dealing with), things of a more violent and graphic nature. They are a more appropriate audience for more graphic sex, violence, f-bombs, and the other many things out there that our children and teenagers really shouldn’t be reading about.


I put this in its own category because, let’s face it, after the Fifty Shades experience, people know what they’re getting in to when they read erotica. You can expect graphic sexual scenes, vulgar language, and many other situations that just aren’t suited for young adults. Sometimes these situations aren’t even suitable for adults!

What do you think about violence, vulgarity, and sex in books? Does it belong? Do you know of any books with too many graphic details? Should books with a lot of graphic details be labelled with a disclaimer? 


14 thoughts on “Let’s Get Vulgar, Shall We?

  1. I agree that vulgarity has its place in fiction. I write intense and “vulgar” scenes about murder, sexual assault, and so on. I don’t do it shock or offend anyone. I do it because I have to. The things I write about happen in real life. In my job I hear and read stories that are horrifying and traumatic. Writing has become an outlet for me and a way to have control over terror. I have realized over the last few years that I could never imagine something that is any worse than the things that real people do to one another. I also recognize that my writing is not for everyone. That’s okay. There are other genres that may be a better fit for those readers who need happier stories. Great post!

  2. I have written some proper violent and blood bath scenes, and I have written one very graphic sex scene but I found the sex to before difficult for me. I think I will probably steer clear of the sex but the violence will stay because I write a lot of conflict and as Ms. McCoy says these things do happen, but with sex I’ll dodge the bullet and shut the door as my characters are getting it on.

    • I have yet to dabble into any sex scenes that are too graphic. Generally I just do a lot of the leading up to the actual act of sex. There is a tasteful way of writing sex scenes; but, I want to make sure I have it down before I go publishing any of my works that have sex in them.

      • Sorry, ignore my first comment. For some reason, My initial comment for posted twice a instead of what I wanted to say here. Lol. Regardless, for whatever reason, I tacked a graphic child abuse scene in my first work. I think I did it well though. Guess we’ll see.

  3. I think if it’s appropriate to the story or chars yet then yeah, stick it in!

    Personally, I steer well clear, but then the kind of stuff I write, well, there’s no need to include it. There are some subjects I just won’t write about, period! Lol

    Fancy trying Erotica, but I’m not sure Ive got enough vulgar thoughts lol


  4. First, this post was thoughtful and well written. You reflected on a devisive subject respectfully, but with a solid position on the topic.

    I do not like the notion of labeling my work, premptively alerting readers to the content. I think the blurb/back jacket text should give potential readers the synopsis, and the book should be on the appropriate shelf. A reader in this day and age has a wealth of tools to find out about the content of the work, so there really should not be any surprises when they delve into the story.

    And like television or the movies, if you hit a patch that you find vulgar or offensive, there are options. Skip it, stop reading/watching, turn the channel etc.. As an interesting side note, I found the Game of Thrones books to be less offensive than the television show. Probably because there was more context to the scene.

    • Thank you, Steven! And I haven’t read too far into A “Game of Thrones,” but I would agree that the television show does appear to be more graphic. I think it’s because you’re actually looking at it, instead of just picturing it in your head. I imagine people have a certain filter when they read that may naturally block out things that are too extreme.

      • The thing that made me use that comparison is the whole Danreys wedding night scene. In the show it was portrayed as a lot less consensual. Still need to finish reading books 3-5.

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