Great Expectations: Writing Sex Scenes

Throwback to an old 2014 post. Enjoy!


“omg now that they are together it’s the best sex ever and everything is perfect and they just intrinsically knowww what their partner wants and nobody has complaints and orgasms run wild and it’ll be perfection foreevverrrr”

Although probably not the most grammatically sound thing I’ve ever written, it’s a fairly accurate assessment of what goes through my head every time I read a sex scene in fluffy romance novels. I can’t really complain much—the scene tends to be well written, and I’m usually squeeing over the happy couple finally breaking the sexual barrier and having a go at it. Still, when all is said and done, and the euphoria disappears, I’m left sighing like the weight of the world sits on my shoulders.

Why? Because I wish sex wasn’t so glorified. I wish it wasn’t portrayed as the final product of all this work that two people put into a relationship. I happen to like when it’s portrayed realistically. I like the messiness that comes with it, both physically and emotionally. There’s a lot of awkwardness between two people when they first start at it—no one just intrinsically knows what their partner will enjoy, and it takes time to explore that.

But then, what’s the point of reading these sorts of books—romance and erotica, particularly—if not to venture away from a drab everyday life. I think most women know that sex is complicated. It can be fun and awesome too, but it can also be a big stressor in relationships when it doesn’t work out properly.

A lot of my first experiences with sex in literature—and I use that term loosely for this example—came from smutty fanfiction. I’d shut my door whenever a “lemon” scene popped up in a chapter, and then hungrily devour it, no matter how poorly it was written. Back then, I didn’t know any better. Neck kissing is adequate foreplay? Cool! Then, when I actually started getting into sexual relationships, I sat back and wondered if something was wrong with me. I didn’t immediately have an orgasm. Foreplay needed to be longer than a few minutes of fumbling. I wasn’t “immediately wet” on every single occasion.

TMI?

Anyway.

I think the reading I did when I was younger set the bar pretty high for upcoming sexual relationships, and I found myself a little put out when I realized that the real world wasn’t like the things that I read. But then again, the real world is seldom like what we read in books. Happy endings aren’t guaranteed, and people are assholes.

When I write sex scenes, particularly for my fanfiction series, I like to make them realistic. I like fumbling and awkwardness. I like my characters to get a little flustered in the heat of the moment. I like their passion and drive, but I also enjoy highlighting just how normal they can be. I find readers appreciate it, and that makes me happy.

Still, as I gear up with my erotic/romance manuscripts, I’m left wondering if that tactic will be acceptable for original work in the designated genres. Does fantasy have to win out? Should orgasms run aplenty? How do you cater to the audience who comes to your book for an escape, and how do you please the rest who like it when someone accidentally rolls off the bed or leans on their partner’s hair?

Should there be a balance, or should it lean one way completely? Does it depend on the genre? Does it even matter?

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