There’s a major difference perceived in what is called mature content. Content not suitable for a certain age group. I can speak to this with some measure of expertise due to the fact I’ve received comments on my book, The Adventures of Black Mask & Pale Rider.
The book follows the adventures of two elven women through the Union and the Confederacy during the height of the American Civil War. They face all kinds of obstacles, such as the way they are treated due to their elven heritage, and even face many monsters that take the forms of a vampire, a lich, zombies, the Devil’s Rider, and even oppressive gunslingers who want to force their own form of law on a town. As they’re doing that, they are chased by a Union captain and his men on direct orders from the President that they be arrested for their crimes of banditry.
Throughout the book the two elves, Shani Wennemein and Pania Alow, fight various different creatures and people, slipping in and out of trouble. They travel from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Shreveport, Louisiana to Thief River Fall, Minnesota. Right away in the book I make it known that Pania is a lesbian. I even wrote a scene with Pania engaged in post sex cuddling with the mistress of a brothel. There was no description of sex, just the after glow (which was interrupted because Pania had to help Shani kill a lich). Even Shani got a bit of play when she realized the brothel had “boy whores” (one scene has Shani leaving a bedroom grinning and saying aloud “rode hard, put ‘way wet” and just mentioned that the young man was soundly sleeping in a disheveled bed).
Throughout the book, Shani and Pania also take the lives of several monsters (and a few gunslingers). It’s mentioned they’ve both killed (though, arguing many of those were in self defense). Pania uses her rapier tip against the throat of a brigand to extract information, pushing the blade into his neck to keep him still. Shani has a high noon gun fight with the gunslinger Dorval, putting several bullets into his chest and through his head. They killed a vampire (twice), sent the Devil’s Rider back to hell, destroyed a lich, been in a massive gunfight with the aforementioned Union cavalryman and his men, shot and destroyed zombies, and Shani ended the life of a plantation owner by shooting him square between the eyes.
Of all the comments I’ve had about the book where people raised concerns, they focused on the aspects of sexuality. They complained about Pania’s outspoken and openness, how she wasn’t one to hide the fact she was a lesbian. They were concerned the wrong impression might be introduced when Shani has sex (though, never described, merely assumed) with a male prostitute. There was concern that the fact Shani and Pania sleeping in the same bed would be taken the wrong way (when, they were both sleeping, and neither one engaged in a sexual act, though Pania did tease Shani a bit).
There was no mention of the two men Shani killed, no mention of Pania’s use of a rapier to extract information, no mention of the violent acts that the two elven gunslingers performed. The focus was entirely on their sexuality. On the fact that Pania was a lesbian, and that Shani might dare enjoy sex. One is an act that gives two people (when consensual) a great deal of pleasure (when done right), the other is an extremely violent act that ended lives. Yet, the complaints I received were all about the scenes of sex (which were never described, they were always implied).
One email I received even said that they would petition their library to ban the book (W00T! My book got a bannin’!) primarily for scenes which contained sex.
That’s very telling about our society, how we’re more accepting of violence than we are of sex. Kill a person, that’s fine. But have two people engaged in sex, even if it’s showing that they had sex and not describing the act in detail, well that’s just wrong.
I’d rather have people feel comfortable about the book when there are points when the characters have sex. Not to be titillated, but to feel safe and to know that the characters were safe and enjoying themselves. I’d rather have violence viewed in the way that sex is currently viewed in media. Where violence is frowned upon, but sex, consensual sex, is fine.