Sexual tension is a plot element employed in works of fiction wherein two or more of the characters sexually long for one another, but the consummation is postponed or never occurs. This longing is often suggested by incidents of intimacy; for instance, when two characters are alone, are physically close, but desire is never explicitly expressed. It also might be suggested in dialogue, as in, for example, a subtle reference to a character's feelings. Sometimes, displays of hostility are used to hide secret attraction, or to deflect true but inconvenient romantic feelings.
The device creates a direction for the plot: toward a resolution. Alternatively, it might create a subplot that may or may not be resolved.
The device, when used by a skilled writer, evokes tension in the audience on account of this private knowledge. In a generic movie, by contrast, sexual tension is often employed and then concluded with a love scene. Soap operas in particular, rely heavily on sexual tension between characters to extend storylines, and maintain interest.
It is important to note that many popular television shows suffered declining ratings and subsequent cancellation, once the sexual tension between the main characters was dissolved. This was usually achieved when the characters married, entered an ongoing sexual relationship or had a child.
Sexual tension can be a normal part of human sexuality in day to day life. It is particularly common in the workplace, where many people work together in close proximity and develop an attraction to each other, but are unable to pursue a connection for any number of reasons.
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