Sex scenes are a fickle thing. Personally, I don’t like writing them. Not because I’m uncomfortable with it, but because I have a hard time justifying any reason to have a sex scene at all. Now, there are actually several reasons to add a sex scene in your book, and there are even more reasons not to, which we will discuss before we even go over what’s in a good sex scene and what isn’t.
As an example, I’ll use my work in progress, Taichiren’s Heart. There are no real sex scenes with gooey details, but there’s one scene where it’s a little more than implied. You know it’s happening… and you’re kinda there while it’s happening… well, you should get the point by now. I like to call it “it happens, but it doesn’t”.
When is writing a sex scene a bad idea?
Generally speaking, sex scenes are bad if they add nothing to the book. So that sex scene you added just because you felt like having your characters get it on? You probably should cut it and leave that stuff to the fanfiction writers… or, if you really want it to happen, write it and keep it in a folder just for yourself (I do this, though I share it sometimes).
Like all other aspects of your book, each sentence should either a) build character, or b) move the story forward. Sex scenes, or even battle scenes, are no exception. When you write a sex scene with the intention of adding it to your novel, it needs needs to remain fundamentally true to the story, plus express whatever that scene is meant to express in a way that no other scene could express it without being a sex scene. This means that ideally, your sex scene should actually have a reason for happening, as well as represent something that could not be done any other way.
This also means that if your two characters could be standing in front of each other doing nothing, or even talking on the phone, and still get the same message across as the one in your sex scene- then the chances are that you shouldn’t be writing it as a sex scene in the first place.
When do do think you can get away with a reason to include a sex scene, then have at ‘er. There are still a few things I’d keep an eye out for, though.
I’d like to tell a short story about this first.
Once upon a time, Erynn was handed a 50 shades of grey wannabe book. I’ll say this up front: I’m not a fan of erotica, but I don’t really have anything against it. Anyway, I brought it to school and was trolling around with my friends, laughing at the shitty sex scenes… then my friend said “The orgasm rolled through me like a fresh croissant.” and I’m like WOAH that’s not a quote from the book, is it? Of course, I was somewhat disappointed to find out that it in fact wasn’t, but my friend explained that’s what he thought of when he read a specific sentence in the sex scene we were laughing at.
This comes to red flag #1: If the sex scene comes off as in any way, shape, or form as cheesy or silly.
The only exception to this, in my opinion, is when the whole book is like that. If you’re writing a comedy or something where left and right is nothing but silliness, then it would probably be kind of strange for a sex scene not to be like that, too. Basically what I’m trying to say is look at the scene you’re writing from several different angles and try to think of what the most mature people would think of it, and what the most immature people would think of it. Finding a middle ground is a good idea.
Red flag #2: Srs bsns all day long. Or in this case, all night long.
Real sex isn’t usually formal… and in most cases that’s not how your character’s sexual experiences should be portrayed (unless, well, it’s prostitution or something like BDSM, then you might want to consider making it srs bsns, but I wouldn’t know). I giggle a lot and have fun, and I would assume most people do the same when you’re in a comfortable situation. Maybe I’m crazy? Not sure, feel free to call me out.
Well, I’m sure there’s actually a lot more to look out for. Amazon, for example, if you’re looking into self publishing, has begun to censor “adult” ebooks or remove them completely. Some things that they look for is vocabulary usage, but since I don’t write that stuff I’m not going to go into detail about it; if you’re interested, someone else has likely written about it before.