Let me start by saying that I love Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. I have broken the rule that I do not buy collected editions of a book I own every single issue of. I used my boyfriend (who had not read it yet) as an excuse to buy the Big Hard Sex Criminals hard cover. I stood in line for over an hour to get Chip Zdarsky to make me a sketch of young Suzie at Emerald City Comicon in 2014. I own a Brimper shirt that I love wearing under a formal blazer at important and very official meetings. In a nutshell, yes, I am a fan. I think this book is awesome and I love it.
But sometimes, its success makes me sad and even angry.
The fan community of Sex Criminals, the letters sent in, the great appearance of Matt Fraction on the Mystery Box show, all underline for me the absolute lack of healthy conversation about sex in our society. If Sex Criminals became such a symbol and reached such a significance, it’s also because it fills a void. And this void is what I am mad about. Is there no space available to talk about sex?
As far as I am concerned the most “scandalous” aspect of Sex Criminals is its title. None of the sex scenes are there to arouse the reader, they are part of the plot. The story is more about relationships than actual sex. Recent issues have dealt with mental health problems. Chip Zdarsky joked on Kate Leth’s Less Than Live podcast that Sex Criminals could be summarized by “You come for the dildo jokes and tada here is depression.” So of course sex is part of the story, but it is not THE story.
I need here to acknowledge that I come to this with my own cultural bias. I am French, and in France you can see boobs in an all ages comic, ads in the streets can feature naked people. My parents (Catholic and conservative according to European standards) have a painting of a nude in their living room that nobody even blinks at. So clearly, my threshold for what I consider scandalous is probably higher than your average North American.
Yet, the issue remains. I see an incredible disconnect between the letters printed at the back of each issue and the real content of the book. I don’t mean that Sex Criminals being the catalyst for this “we are all alone, together” is a bad thing. I find it depressing that the message needs the context of the book to flourish. And I also think there would be less terrifying stories out there if we could talk about them more openly rather than whisper them as terrible secrets. Can I please just change the norms by wishing it?