Stephen King Says Focus on That Creepy It Sex Scene Is 'Fascinating'

Image: Warner Bros/New Line Cinema
Image: Warner Bros/New Line Cinema

Stephen King’s It is an upsetting novel. Sometimes for the wrong reasons. Most notably, there’s the icky and inexplicable sex scene between the boys of the Loser’s Club and their one female cohort, Bev. It’s a gross, gross scene, and a lot of people hate it, which means it gets brought up every time It gets discussed.

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Stephen King, for his part, seem to find the whole affair mildly intriguing. In a new statement to Vulture, he says, “I’d just add that it’s fascinating to me that there has been so much comment about that single sex scene and so little about the multiple child murders. That must mean something, but I’m not sure what.”

I have some ideas. It could mean that that scene, which shows a group of pre-adolescent children having sex, sticks out on account of being so utterly bizarre, or that it affirms gendered stereotypes whereby female sexuality exists solely to serve and affirm men (in the book, Bev has sex with the boys to “unite” them after their first battle with Pennywise as children). It could also be related to the fact that this sexual experience is filtered through the gaze of a middle aged dude, which is not what many people would consider ideal for depictions of pre-adolescent sexuality. (For more on all the ways this scene is freaky, check out Rich Juzwiak’s breakdown on Jezebel.)

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The child murder at least exists in a long continuum of socially accepted fictional violence, and has a narrative function that can be fully justified. The child sex, I’d argue, not so much.

The above statement, the first King has made on the scene since it re-entered the pop culture blog-o-sphere-otron due to It’s new film adaptation, adds on to King’s 2013 comment on an old message board, which reads:

I wasn’t really thinking of the sexual aspect of it. The book dealt with childhood and adulthood –1958 and Grown Ups. The grown ups don’t remember their childhood. None of us remember what we did as children–we think we do, but we don’t remember it as it really happened. Intuitively, the Losers knew they had to be together again. The sexual act connected childhood and adulthood. It’s another version of the glass tunnel that connects the children’s library and the adult library. Times have changed since I wrote that scene and there is now more sensitivity to those issues.

Again, I get the feeling that King just doesn’t quite... get it. Fortunately for us all, whether or not the creators of the new It movie get it, they decided to do the least gross thing and just pretend that scene never happened. Good on them.

[Vulture]

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io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.

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DISCUSSION

It is hard to believe that King is confused about all the attention that the tween orgy scene has received when the novel itself spends so much energy to buffer the reader’s reaction.

The novel projects sexual sadism onto its disposable villains: Bev’s abusive father and husband, who both regulate her desires with violence. These characters assure us that Bill and Ben (and the narrator) have a more innocent and protective interest in her. Meanwhile, Bill and Bev respond with shock when they remember the group sex scene, and this is long before the scene is actually narrated. When the scene happens, it feels inevitable because we already know it happens. King is careful to assure us that the sex is her idea and not ultimately rooted in desire, which is a strange way of exonerating everyone involved from the Puritanical backlash that is already associated with abusive characters.  

King builds such an elaborate set of structural failsafes around this scene, including some of the most contorted chronology in the whole damn novel, that he must have anticipated its deep weirdness at some level. Meanwhile, the depictions of child murder and dismemberment are much more frank and straightforward. There is suspense but not nearly the same level of narrative evasion, caution, double- or triple-framing, or implicit reader-exoneration.

So, um, whatever dude. You know it’s weird or your book wouldn’t play Twister to get there.