Warning – This post is going to be highly NSFW and not for the viewing of anyone under the age of 18. I am not responsible for your innocence.
In fact, this is probably not going to be safe for anyone who thinks sex is icky and ewwy, or meant to stay behind closed doors. So, my dear reader, if sex talk makes you all the wrong kinds of hot and bothered, please enjoy these kittens.
Some background on the sex that shaped my world view. When I was ten, my grandmother started letting me read her Harlequin romances. If anyone had met my grandma, – one, they never would have taken her for a romance junkie, and two, they would have never believed she’d be letting her ten-year-old granddaughter read those kinds of stories.
Those cheesy, often sappy, sometimes tear-inducing books armed me with new vocabulary and an appreciation for men who were dominant, yet ultimately kind and caring. (As an aside, perhaps this is why so many women near my age went gaga over the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I did not, and we’ll get to why in a bit.) It was an education in what happened after kissing.
A few years after my grandma’s Harlequins, I discovered those thick, historical romances affectionately known as bodice-rippers. You know the ones, the books your mom, aunt, or the lady on the bus tried to hide so no one could see the bare-chested Fabio look-a-like on the cover. I was sold!
If I had thought those little Harlequins were hot and steamy, the bodice-rippers took it to a whole, new level. My early and mid-teens were spent day-dreaming of well-dressed men or pirates who were secretly misunderstood Lords, who would jerk me up against them, tear away my Hot Topic shirt, and ravish me silly.
If you want to watch the evolution/revolution of sex as a healthy thing that women want just as much as men, you can see it unfold in historical romances put out over the last thirty years.
Back in the day, everyone was fairly modest in writing about sex. In the beginning, after the swooning kiss, the eager couple disappeared behind the bedroom door, and we, the readers, were left hanging, wondering if it was as hot as we hoped. These were the days when just having the word penis in a book was fairly titillating.
Over time, writers evolved into using words like tool, manroot, and appendage for the men, and flower, hot cove, and tight passage for the ladies. Sexxxy, right? Yeah, not so much. I can remember more than once saying aloud as I read, “Just say the damn words!”
My love of historical romance waned for a good ten years, once my real life exploration far outpaced what I was reading. On a whim one day I picked up a book titled, When He Was Wicked. I discovered writers like Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Teresa Medeiros, Sarah MacLean, and other more modern Regency Romance writers and fell in love all over again.
These ladies were/are bringing sexy writing into the twenty-first century, and have continued to evolve, writing heart-racing sex scenes that don’t leave you wondering if the author was verklempt with every penis she inserted.
[However, I have idly wondered if after writing a particularly good sex scene, if they don’t sit back and cackle with delight at their masterful sex-writing skills, which I may or may not have done one or a dozen times.]
I truly knew times were changing when I saw the words cock and pussy used for the first time. Lately, I’ve even caught sight of that fantastically filthy word cunt being used in a sex-positive scene, rather than as an insult. Phew!
Sex is finally being treated like it deserves to be treated, as something innate to being alive. Lust, passion, desire – all good. What a disservice we have done ourselves by trying to keep sex this dirty little thing that was the sin of sins outside the locked bedroom door of a married man and woman.
Most writers are catching up, but we’ve got a ways to go when it understanding what makes written sex good. To explore that more, for myself, some years ago I joined a writing group dedicated to erotica in all of its various forms. Now, I’m not talking brown bag erotica that you read or watch and feel slimy about afterwards. I’m talking sex written in ways that made you stop and think about what you had been missing all of your life. Good Sex. Real, fleshed-out stories where sex played a glorious role.
It was that experience, combined with years of romance reading, and my own true life escapades that taught me how to write a sex scene that is both important to the story, and hot enough to leave the reader at least a little bit flustered at the end, if not in need of a good shag.
So, here’s what I’ve decided and/or learned as a reader, a writer, and a woman. Good sex rides a fine line between sexy and raunchy. Too many writers opt for raunchy. They throw in as many sex words as possible, all the cock and pussy you could ever want to read about, and that, to them, is hot sex. Their characters are jamming and ramming and grunting all through the book.
Now, I’m not saying those words can’t be used. Use them. Just don’t overuse them. Let them be words of impact. But, and this is a huge but, definitely make sure the words before and after them support sexiness, and not a groan of embarrassment for you, the writer. Grab a thesaurus and dare to be different.
It takes a lot of practice and a great deal of finesse to write a sex scene that doesn’t read like a bad porn. (Hint – jizz, spunk, splooge, yadda yadda – not hot. Ever.)
“Shove your big, hot throbbing cock into my tight, eager little pussy!” – No finesse. Not hot. No one needs that many adjectives in one sentence.
Look, you can use all the hard, blatant words all you want. Tits, asshole, balls, cunt – whatever floats your boat. Used in the right way, written sex can result in some highly enjoyable physical reactions. But, if you don’t support them with really solid writing, they’ll quickly shift from being page-turners to entire passages someone like me skips over.
Unfortunately, on self-publishing platforms everywhere, and even within the pages of traditionally published works, badly written sex is being put out there as good, and people are buying it. Why? Because we’ve shown them bad sex is fine. I mean, it’s published, right?
Which brings me, inevitably, to that aforementioned Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E.L. James.
If you are a fan of these books – turn back now. You aren’t going to like what I have to say.
I’m not going to delve into whether or not it’s a story of abuse. I am extremely well-versed in BDSM and there are plenty of platforms out there that have already addressed that aspect of this Twilight fanfic. What I’m going to talk about is the sex in this book, and the quality of the writing.
My overall opinion on the quality of writing in these books is – Dear Writing Gods, please don’t let the next generation of writers, and those older writers just getting brave enough to publish, believe this claptrap is good writing.
Fifty Shades is not a well-written book. It must have been through some divine bit of luck and timing, or her legion of Twilight fanfic readers ready to buy this book in published form, that it made it onto bookshelves. Otherwise, I have to believe the agents, editors, and publishers were all high on crack, and thought they were selling this as parody porn.
Fifty Shades became a thing, and again – lucky woman. She may not be a great writer, but she filled a need right as that need became a niche market, and boom, she’s uber-rich. I would have hoped her follow-up book would have proven that she had used some of that money on a writing class, but even reading excerpts on BadBooksGoodTimes (funny reviewer, check him out), all hope is officially lost that she will ever understand what good sex means.
For written sex to be good, the biggest must-have is tension.
The audience has to believe these two people want each other. They need what that other person promises. Tension needs to be built from the very first encounter. This can be done with a one night stand just as easily as it can be done with a longer build-up, as long as the writer knows how to work that palpable heat between the two characters.
You can write a good, hard fuck as raw and nasty as you want without it reading like a skeevy excerpt from a penny porn. Unless, that’s your jam, then more power to you. It’s all in word selection and everything you’ve written up to that point.
You must be a good writer to be a good at writing sex, and that takes reading a lot of books with sex written out in them, and practice writing them for yourself. I think we all know that, yes? When you write something you have never experienced, or something you’ve only done cursory internet searches on, it shows. So, just like learning an instrument or how to take a beautiful photograph, you must practice, practice, practice. Reading as much sex-filled stories in your chosen genre also aids in setting up your guidelines, what turns you on, and what turns you off.
Having experience is also a big plus when it comes to writing a memorably steamy scene. That doesn’t mean you need to have slept with a hundred people to blow your next sex scene out of the park. Quantity doesn’t always equal quality. But, what you do have to have is a real idea of how a situation feels.
If you’re going to have X spank Y, I want to know you understand what the flesh on X’s hand will feel like and the sensations Y experiences as his/her skin is struck repeatedly. Don’t just tell me, “X slams his palm against Y’s bubble-butt ten times. Y moans in ecstasy.” Meh – give me some reality.
When I read the sex you write, I want to think, damn, this writer gets it.
If you’re going to write about two would-be lovers standing close enough to kiss but not doing it, you want to be able use words that make the readers fall into that moment with them, until the air in the room is gone, until their hearts are beating just as hard and erratic as the characters, until it’s their lips tingling as they feel that almost kiss happen.
Seduce your readers. Be the lover, in words, that they’ve always secretly wanted. Write your sex scenes in a way that when it’s over, your reader is going to need .. a .. minute. Thank you.
[Tangent pause] Orgasms – Please, please write it out as come/coming. For the love of all that is sexy. Get your characters off as often as you feel it’s called for, but again we’re seducing minds here, not throwing poorly written stroke-fiction at our readers. Unless you’re into writing stroke-fiction, and in that case – stroke away.
Remember, sex is dirty, sweaty, lusty, fun stuff, and it almost never plays out like a well-choreographed ballet. Don’t be afraid to get them tangled in clothing, bang a knee, re-position, or have good giggle mid-coitus, every now and again. There’s nothing like a mind-blowing orgasm after a good giggle, when things have slowly slipped back into that intensely intimate space where two people are completely feeling each other, in every way.
If you aren’t sure what turns people on, start asking them, ask them which books with sex got them hot and bothered, no matter the genre. Start reading stories with sex, and discover what works for you.
Experiment in the bedroom. Hell, you can even interview sex workers, or people who openly do whatever it is you’re interested in writing. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. We’re animals, and animals are sex-driven creatures.
If you’re writing a sex scene and you aren’t sure if it’s hot/sexy/authentic, etc… Hit me up – I’d be happy to read it and give you my feedback. I’ve read and written thousands of sex scenes over the last twenty years. I’ve got no issue with helping another writer out.
At any rate, just a bit of rambling for today.