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Writing Sex Scenes

March 7, 2012

This was originally posted over on Zach Sweets’ blog, but I wanted to post it here, too, for those who didn’t see it on his blog. 😀

Today, I’m going to talk about writing sex scenes. Well, I’m going to try. Everything that needs to be said would take me several days to cover, so we’re just going to hit on some highlights. I’m going to try very hard not to ramble, but, hey, rambling isn’t necessarily bad!

Let’s get started.

How to Write
Know your characters.
One thing that can completely turn me off to a story is when I’ve learned about these two characters, and then they have sex and it might as well be two strangers. It’s like watching an action movie and being able to tell when they switch to the stuntman. The suspension of disbelief just crumbles. So make sure that your characters have sex in a manner consistent with their personalities, or provide an explanation for why they don’t. There is nothing wrong with the meek, middle-management company man having a proclivity for rough, dominant sex, but make sure that the disparity is addressed. (See ‘advancing the plot’ below.)

Choose your language.
The words you choose will help to set the mood for your scene, so that’s a decision you need to make early. Is this meant to be a sweet, loving scene, or a dirty, sweaty romp? Choosing that will influence the way you write the scene. “Stroking his shaft” evokes a very different image than “jerking his cock”, and it’s important to realize that. Nothing ruins the emotional impact of a sex scene more than inappropriately chosen words thrown into the middle. Be conscious of the feelings you want to convey to your readers and make sure your language reflects that at every step.

Keep the purple prose to a minimum.
Even in a sweet, emotional scene, there is a limit to the amount of flowery language that a reader will tolerate. Be wary of the number of euphemisms that you employ. Length, rod, manhood, rosebud, love-button, purple-headed warrior, or anything with the word “nether” – these are all things to be aware of. If you’re uncomfortable calling the bits involved by appropriate names, then focus on writing the emotions more than the actions. Don’t just resort to goofy words, because it won’t come across the way you think it should.

Don’t storyboard your scene.
This is something I, as a plotter, can be guilty of. If you plan out point-by-point how your sex scene is supposed to go, it’s my experience that the scene winds up rigid, stiff, and not in a good way. There needs to be a natural flow, a progression that is fluid and flawless. Emotion has to fill those love scenes as much as any physical act. Lust, love, hunger, need, desperation, repulsion – what’s behind the act? What drives the characters together? What ignites that spark? You can’t really plan that out. That has to come from your characters, has to flow naturally, and there needs to be a flexibility when you write sex/love scenes.

Everything you write should be to advance the plot, including the sex.
I can’t stress this enough: everything you write must serve a purpose. No word should be useless, not act superfluous. Sex can be used to show a deepening of emotion, a removal of emotion, jealousy, hurt, fury, anguish. It can show how a character who has, thus far, been careful and stoic reveals the true sadist inside him. Sex is when a character can be his most vulnerable or his most vicious, and a sex scene should be both titillating and purposeful. Always advance your plot, even if your character is on his back… or bent over a fence post… or chained to a St. Andrew’s Cross. 😉

Don’t stress out!
Keep it mellow. If it gets to be too much, set the scene aside. Move on to the next scene, or try writing something completely unrelated. If you put too much pressure on yourself to get the scene just right, you risk stifling it. Sometimes, the harder you try, the less return you manage. Chill out, have a cocktail, and then come back to your boys and see if they’re a little more talkative. If not, my advice would be to seek out a willing author or reader in your genre and bounce ideas off them. A sounding board can sometimes be the best tool an author has. The key? Relax.

What to Write
Not everyone has sex the same way.
This should be a no brainer, but I guess it needs to be said. Every couple has sex in a different way. Some like missionary, others like cowboy. Some like it doggie, others like to be slammed against a wall and thoroughly reamed. *ahem* Point is, everyone is different, and it’s high time authors began writing it as such. Blowjob, anal, handjob, between the thighs, rubbed along the ass crease, thrust between the feet, dry humping, 69, fisting, frottage, rimming, mutual masturbation… the list goes on and on. There are so many possibilities, and it would be wonderful to see the gay men we write about experience varied and personal sex lives.

Couples don’t have sex the same way every time.
By that token, couples simply don’t have the same sort of sex every time they choose to fuck. Let’s get real. Sex is a messy, dirty, wonderful, crampy sort of activity. Legs go numb, hips ache, a back spasms, and angles get all screwed up. Some couples have favorite positions, but a lot of couples? They shift positions during sex. I rarely see this. I’d love to see a twelve page sex scene where the couple goes at it from the front door to the bedroom, working their way through half a dozen positions along the way.

Everyone’s different, and every couple is different. No couple, day in and day out, have the same sex. This also brings me to one of my biggest pet peeves: ‘preparation’. If you’re doing fingering a foreplay, great. I think the erotic romance world could use with more foreplay. What I get so incredibly annoyed with is the one finger, two finger, three finger, BAM! routine. It’s still going on, and I’d love to see the unsexiness that is ass prep go the way of the dodo. Anal sex, unless you do it often, usually hurts for the first couple of thrusts unless you’ve spent twenty minutes warming that ass up. By all means, do that, but if you don’t plan to, just lube up that cock and thrust it home. Give a little wriggling, some heavy breathing, some discomfort, and then get on with the show. 😉

Not all gay men enjoy anal sex.
This is another pet peeve of mine. Guess what? Just like not all women like a dick up their ass? Not all men like it, either. In fact, a good number of the gay men in my life don’t engage in anal sex. Ever. Now, personally, I think that’s a travesty as I am a big fan of anal penetration of all kinds, but, to each their own. Which means anal sex shouldn’t the pinnacle of gay sex, even in fiction.

Not every gay man swallows come.
This… this, oh, man, this is something that’s been grating on me for a while. In my opinion? Come is disgusting. I don’t like it. I don’t like it in my mouth or on my skin. There is this mental block for me. Pre-come is even worse for me orally. It’s the texture, I swear. I also know I’m not the only woman who isn’t fond of the warm, slippery stuff. Do you know what I also know? Not all gay men swallow the load shot in their mouths, either! OMG, right? The desire to suck down that sperm milkshake isn’t linked XX chromosome. Just because one likes fucking men doesn’t mean one likes a shot in the mouth. Or on the face.

Spitting, swallowing, looking the other way… it’s all good. Variety is the spice of life, and like with everything else here, USE IT.

If you use a condom, make it sexy.
When it comes to anal sex, spermicidal lubricant isn’t necessary. This means you can use unlubricated condoms since, you know, there better be lube happening. Which means condom use can be sexy. It can be easy. It means guys can roll that condom down with their lips. It means you can give a brief handjob before the beefcake slides it home. Calling back to the previous point about swallowing, using a scented condom removes the whole spit or swallow dilemma! If using for anal sex, make sure your guy pulls out before he softens, else the whole point of using a condom can be lost. And don’t tie the stupid thing into a knot and toss it in a waste can. I don’t know of a single person—straight or gay—who actually does that.

Clean up can be sexy.
Here’s the thing. Sex is messy. Sweaty. There are fluids. There’s bowel upset. There could even be a little nausea or blood. Make the clean up part of the sex. Tenderness. Love. I tell you, when a guy or gal I’m with takes the time to actually clean me up post-boinkin’, I feel like the center of their world. My comfort matters to them, and that’s what you can put into that post-coital moment when things are squishy and mouths are dry. You don’t have to call explicit attention to wiping away come, but it always warms my heart when I see an author have their characters clean each other up. It shows a level of care and intimacy I love in sex.

Wow! That was… wow. I hope that helps someone, or at least made a couple of readers laugh. These are things I keep in mind. Things that stick out to me when I read books in this genre. Ask questions. Read posts. Engage in discussions. The worst thing an author can do is remain ignorant, not seeking answers when there are so many sources to draw on. Just… make sure you ask them in the right forum. Don’t butt into a gay friend’s personal space and ask him if he spits or swallows or if his guy takes it up the ass. 🙂

Also? The prostate is not a magic joy buzzer. Some men love it. Some men hate it. Some men, it does nothing for them. Kind of like Goldilocks and those beds, right? Right.

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