Sex in Audio: Is it Porn?

A good audiobook narrator doesn’t just deliver words from a page in a dry reading. They act out the scene with their tone and expression, increasing and decreasing the pace as the action heats up or pauses… and so it begs the question – does sex in audio equate to porn?

Sex in Audio: Is it porn?In the old days, simple erotica was considered just as taboo as pornography so listeners of a more sensitive nature may find the reading of any sex scene a bit beyond their comfort level but, unless you’re listening to the audiobook of an explicit novel, the narrator probably won’t titillate you much more than a sex scene in your favourite TV show.

Where audio delivers above a standard television show or movie is that the action is all in your mind. The pictures in your head are coming from a place deep within you. Only you know what really turns you on, what really makes you laugh or cry or sigh or swoon. When you hear a scene or person described, whether it be for a sex scene or not, you imagine your ideal location, hunk, fantasy girl or sensation.

Some readers do it better than others, of course. This week I finished listening to my third romance audiobook that was narrated by Emily Beresford. She has a sweet voice and, as a narrator, she can bring on the innocent dreaminess of true love. Get to the intimate scenes however, and there’s moans and groans and sighs to accompany the longing in her voice. Oh, my!

It’s all done very tastefully however, and she never over-does it. She uses subtlety to avoid turning the sex into something farcical, demonstrating that well-written intimate scenes can be stimulating so long as the reading is controlled under the spell of an expert narrator like Beresford.

Depending on the intent of the author, a sex scene can be anything from a discreet, passing mention to a lengthy, explicit description of every act. The challenge for a narrator is to bring the listener along for the ride, to let them experience the moment without coming across as too comical or creepy. Again, unless the text calls for it, a narrator shouldn’t be freaking out the listener by sounding like a dirty old man in a raincoat.

Sex scenes involving rape, kink, abuse or other difficult moments in the narrative can be particularly awkward to both verbalise and to listen to. Narrator Jake Urry does an unbeatable job reading in first person from the perspective of a child molester in John Nicholl’s White is the Coldest Colour. It’s indisputably the most uncomfortable audiobook I’ve ever heard but Urry delivers Nicholl’s sensational novel with such power and intent that I hope I never meet either man! With such exceptional writing at his fingertips, Urry was able to deliver with deliberate malice and creepiness, exactly as intended, and in complete contrast to the swooning and often awkward love scenes narrated by Beresford.

I’ve yet to listen to an audio adaptation of a pornographic novel. They’re out there, right alongside bizarro fiction, virginal comedies and all other novels that dabble in carnal delights. The genre is on my hit list because I’m curious to see just how pornography is delivered in audio. The genre, by its very nature, is far from subtle and it has a very distinct purpose that is not about getting the plot moving. They’re not so easily available though, so if you know of any worthy titles, please feel free to suggest one or two! Your secret will be safe with me. 😊