Stephen King’s IT : In Defense Of “The Scene”
This book has arguably one of the most controversial scenes in the entire King catalog, one that has gotten IT banned from more than a few libraries. It is such a challenging scene that I could see many publishers today passing on it unless it was removed.
If you are reading this I’m guessing you already know that I am talking about the sex scene between Beverly and all six of the other members of the Loser’s Club, down in the depths under Derry. Following their defeat of Pennywise, the group finds themselves wandering lost through the tunnels under the city, growing progressively more desperate and crazed as they go.
Beverly is the one who comes up with the solution, what she realizes she had to do to save all of them and in the end, that means taking each one of them, one at a time and having sex with them. Right there in the sewer.
First, let me clear about this. I think there are plenty of examples of content in books where people just need to relax a little and not take things so seriously. In this case however, I wouldn’t think any less of someone who chooses to not read something like this. Trust me, I get how difficult and uncomfortable it can be to contemplate children having sex. And these aren’t even teenagers we’re talking about here, these are basically twelve year olds. This scene can be extremely disturbing and I won’t try and tell you to think otherwise.
All that aside, I will try and shed some light on why I think the scene is actually kind of important to the story.
I would like to think this would be obvious but in this day and age, you never know. So just to be on the safe side let me be clear that in no way am I endorsing the idea of children having sex. This is purely limited to the confines of a fictional story with fictional characters and how I see the sex in this scene as more of a metaphor than being titillating or amoral.
First of all, by this point of the story I feel like the Loser’s Club were just as much victims of Pennywise as any of the others. But instead of losing their lives, what they lost was their childhood and their innocence. It starts with the horrors they have to endure and by the time they confront and defeat Pennywise, they have stopped being children. What’s more, having gone through that together, they share an intensely intimate emotional bond, but one that is starting to break down after their confrontation of the evil. How better to represent that bond and to reestablish it than with the most adult and emotionally intimate of physical acts?
In the wake of this traumatic event, what we see is our heroes falling apart. Not from a lack of bravery but because for all of us there is a breaking point past which we can go no farther. And for them, I believe that if things had gone on in this fashion as they fled from Pennywise’s lair, they all would have gone mad and died, alone and insane down in those sewers.
My point is that Beverly had to do something dramatic and desperate in order to save them all and remind them of their most potent weapon and source of strength.
Their bond and their strength together was what allowed them to persevere so I think it makes sense that the use of this physical bond could help re-forge the emotional bond they needed to escape. Pennywise was a creature that fed off of fear so how better to stave off that fear with passion and love for each other?
Ultimately, the point I am trying to make is that when the Losers’ Club defeated Pennywise, there was a moment of passing over a threshold, one which they would never be able to cross back over again. How better to represent that than to show them taking their first sexual steps into the awareness of adulthood, another step which can never be turned back from. And instead of fumbling around with someone they barely know, it is with someone they inherently love and trust.
Friendship is love.
Love is intimacy.
I think great writing challenges you, forces you to engage your own moral center and ask yourself how you really feel about whatever it is you are reading. This book and this scene in particular is a perfect example of this. If I was the parent of one of those kids, would I be okay it? Not really. But the book makes me think. The book makes me feel.
Ultimately, this is what all good art should make you do.