Writing Sex Scenes

I’m at that precious place in my NaNo novel in which I about to write my first sex scene in… Let’s see: 13 years. I am not nervous about it (lol), but it does make me think about the whole problem of writing interesting, yet tasteful sex scenes in novels.

By “tasteful” I don’t mean on keeping it polite. Frankly, if you are too freaked out by words such as penis, vagina, or it’s numerous slang variations, you are not ready to write sex scenes, unless it’s fade to black – and you can’t really count those as sex scenes, now can you?

A good sex scene in a novel is like any other good scene in a novel: it serves its purpose. If you are writing erotica, your goal is to make people aroused. If you’re not, you might (or might not) want to achieve a different effect. It all depends.

Last time I wrote a sex scene I was a virgin. It was really, really fun (writing sex scenes, not being a virgin), and I enjoyed it. (No, not in “that” way! ;) ) They weren’t as bad as one might expect, but I was never graphic. It was back in the days when I was unable to write words “fuck” or “shit”, despite the fact I had no problem using these words (and worse ones) when speaking. But to see them on page? No way! But I digress.

My current novel is a coming of age story with these young people who are, more or less, miserable. And I am not talking about the usual teenage wangst, but on family problems and shit and what not – accompanied with the usual teenage wangst. There are several sex scenes planned, most striking ones involving each of the main characters (there are three of them) losing virginity… for good or for the bad. I am planning to write it in a distant, almost cold and clinical manner. It simply suits the story (and its style) the best.

The main problem I’m having with the scene I’m about to write is the fact it should be told from male POV. It freaks me out. (Not male POV in sex, but writing from a male POV). I might be a tomboy, but I don’t know much about the way men think. I don’t think I am good at writing anything from male POV, let alone a sex scene. On the other hand, my husband says I am doing a good job with the (regular) scenes from my male character’s POV. But still, this is different.

Basically, how to write a believable scene in which this guy loses his virginity? <- a rhetorical question (but if somebody is eager to offer his advice, I'd be more than happy to hear it :D)

How NOT to write a sex scene

Learn from the best (worst?) Here’s a striking passage from the (in)famous camp classic, “My Immortal”, by Tara Gilesbie:

"Draco climbed on top of me and we started to make out keenly against a tree. He took of my top and I took of his clothes. I even took of my bra. Then he put his thingie into my you-know-what and we did it for the first time.

“Oh! Oh! Oh! ” I screamed. I was beginning to get an orgasm. We started to kiss everywhere and my pale body became all warm. And then….

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING YOU MOTHERFUKERS!”

It was…………………………………………………….Dumbledore!"

Ok, this might be a bad example, because it’s essentially an epic win. But you get the idea.

Useful links:
IKEA Erotica
Shortlisted books for 2008 Bad Sex award

12 thoughts on “Writing Sex Scenes

  1. Melina

    What a post. Youre writing a book? I’d love to read it. It definitely sounds like something I’d like. I love steamy scenes!

    Funny, I always thought writing sex scenes from male pov was easy…

  2. Anna Scott Graham

    There’s such a variety when it comes to sex scenes; just sex, sex and love, more love than sex, misery as not enough love in the sex and on and on. One of the most interesting I ever wrote was between a very experienced but wounded young woman and a mentally handicapped man. They were in love with each other, but he was very inexperienced. After the initial sex, what was great to write was their perspectives, his of something quite mind-expanding and fulfilling and hers of a lover tender but excited.

    I’d love to have a peek at an excerpt, sex or any other sort of scene… :)))

  3. Mariana

    You shouldn’t have taken My Immortal as exemple. I’m now laughing at that and It’s hard to think about you wrote now… LOL

    Well…
    Writing sex scenes must be really difficult indeed. The thing about writing is that no matter how tallented the writer is, people will imagine things the way they want. So, you can write the most “innocent” (if this word can be used when talking about sex) scene, still someone will read it as nasty hot sex.

    Good sex is never innocent, but it can be beautiful. But how to write it without falling into vulgarity is an art.

    About the guy’s POV, the sex scene must consider his personality. Of course all guys keen too much for it to happen as soon as possible, but how things happen depends on what he feels for his partner and how he respects her.

  4. Mira

    Melina,

    What a post. Youre writing a book? I’d love to read it. It definitely sounds like something I’d like. I love steamy scenes!

    Thanks. I am writing a NaNoWriMo novel. It’s (still) not available in English, though.

    Oh, and it’s not really about steamy scenes… I don’t think there will be anything steamy about them.

    Funny, I always thought writing sex scenes from male pov was easy…

    Funny, I always thought writing sex scenes from male pov was easy…

    Not if you are a girl!

    Anna Scott Graham,

    There’s such a variety when it comes to sex scenes; just sex, sex and love, more love than sex, misery as not enough love in the sex and on and on.

    Good point. Obviously, the tone and “style” of the scene must fit the rest of the story, or it would sound bad, cheesy and forces. I’ve read many books in which a particular kind of a sex scene didn’t go well with the rest of the book.

    One of the most interesting I ever wrote was between a very experienced but wounded young woman and a mentally handicapped man. They were in love with each other, but he was very inexperienced. After the initial sex, what was great to write was their perspectives, his of something quite mind-expanding and fulfilling and hers of a lover tender but excited.

    That sure sounds interesting. Was it difficult to write?

    I’d love to have a peek at an excerpt, sex or any other sort of scene… :) ))

    I am thinking of translating something, but I think it will have to wait till I finish my novel. I am almost at 50 000 words, but it’s only about 1/2 of the outline!

  5. Mira Post author

    Mariana,

    You shouldn’t have taken My Immortal as exemple. I’m now laughing at that and It’s hard to think about you wrote now… LOL

    In my best Jack Sparrow voice: I couldn’t resist, mate.

    Well…
    Writing sex scenes must be really difficult indeed. The thing about writing is that no matter how talented the writer is, people will imagine things the way they want. So, you can write the most “innocent” (if this word can be used when talking about sex) scene, still someone will read it as nasty hot sex.

    Well, not sure what to say. I think writing pornographic/explicit scene is actually a bit easier, because you are as open about everything as you can. Sure, it doesn’t automatically means you’ll write a GOOD pornographic scene, but that’s another matter.

    When it comes to “regular” sex scenes, it’s a bit trickier, because you have to adjust the style to the general style of your novel.

    Just like with any other scene, you can use sex scenes to make a point.

    In my novel’s case, sex should go as a part of rite de passage, the coming of age aspect of the story. It’s also an important plot point for my main female character because she has issues and is unable to relax, but instead of admitting she has a problem (general, not just sexual), she insists that how she feels is what all girls feel.

    She is a really fucked up individual… In a way, all of my characters are.

    About the guy’s POV, the sex scene must consider his personality. Of course all guys keen too much for it to happen as soon as possible, but how things happen depends on what he feels for his partner and how he respects her.

    You are right.

    I think my main problem here is that I’m scared not to make him appear like a female. It’s not really about sex, but the way men think.

    My character is one of those guys who people consider “nice”. He is a bit late to lose his virginity (not really, but that’s what he thinks), but is not into partying or chasing the girls.

    So he’s been in a relationship with my main female character (the one with the issues), but they broke up. So he ends up having a random (or it appears so) sex with a girl at a party.

    I am aware this is cliche in a way, but honestly?- I know many guys who react the same. This crap is real. Plus, I don’t want to make him overly sympathetic- just like the rest of my characters, he is flawed in a way my (potential) readers wouldn’t like.

    Also, I want to portray him as a person who does his best to act rationally and logically… But fails.

  6. Zaire

    Mmmm This is going to be interesting… If I were you I’d ask a man that is close to me(husband? brother? good friend?) how their first sexual experience was and go from there.

    Just a thought. Your book sounds interesting, do you know when you will finish? Are you writing this because of “Novel November”?

  7. Mira

    Well, I didn’t ask anyone, I just wrote it. I am not sure if it’s ok or not. It sure felt rushed (the scene) and confusing, but the act itself was supposed to be like that. But now that I’ve re-read the scene a few times I realize I didn’t really make clear what’s going on so I might edit the scene later.

    In any case, writing these from female POV is a lot easier.

    Just a thought. Your book sounds interesting, do you know when you will finish? Are you writing this because of “Novel November”?

    Yes, I am writing it for NaNoWriMo. Ok, not exactly. I am writing it because I’m at this point in my life when I’ve graduated but don’t know where/how to search for a job. So it is a way for me to do something JUST FOR MYSELF for a change. It’s been a while. And you know what? My novel might be crappiest on Earth, but I feel SO good!!!

    It’s basically a coming of age story… With unsympathetic characters. With a bit of postmodernism.

  8. Dr. Vagrant X

    This post is an instant classic, especially these lines-

    By “tasteful” I don’t mean on keeping it polite. Frankly, if you are too freaked out by words such as penis, vagina, or it’s numerous slang variations, you are not ready to write sex scenes, unless it’s fade to black – and you can’t really count those as sex scenes, now can you?

    lol. Good stuff. XD

  9. zekjevets

    That example of how NOT to write a sex-scene was hilarious! Oh my goodness I’m still laughing just thinking about it.

    Anyhoo, good luck with the sex-scene! For me they’re easy because I’ve read some good Anne Rice erotica to get the idea.

  10. Mira

    There’s more, but don’t say you haven’t been warned! Just Google “My Immortal fanfiction” and brace yourself.

    As for sex scenes, they are not difficult per se… Just those written from MALE POV. (And I am not sure if Anne Rice erotica could help me there).

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