Let's Talk About Sex

Jordan Summers has an interesting entry up at RTB about sex in books.

I love sex in books. I love to write sex in books but I don’t love to read books which are essentially a string of poorly written sex scenes with no plot. I rarely read romances without sex in them because frankly, I like sex in romances. BUT, I’m dismayed a lot by the idea that sexy means a full blown sex scene every eight pages. And I’m dismayed by sex in books of any genre with no purpose. Sex is a great way to advance the story, to show a breakthrough, to bring out anger, fear, pain, healing, love, hate, etc. Without purpose it’s just a waste of words.

I was having a discussion a few weeks back about sex in books and my perspective is this – a book with one or two sex scenes can be way more erotic and hot than a book with ten or twenty. Because erotic is not in the number of scenes, but the build up. Building up tension takes words. Now sometimes a smart author can have sex on page three and make it work, and sometimes it doesn’t happen until page 204.

Sometimes a brush of lips over an ear can be a million times hotter than actual intercourse. It’s the build up that creates an ultimately satisfying sex scene, IMO.

And while we’re on the topic and I’m sitting here in this pot of very hot water, let me just talk about the quality of sex scenes because well, okay here’s my thing – if you personally feel uncomfortable writing sex scenes, don’t. For the love of cupcakes, please, don’t do it. Becuase it shows and it makes me wince. And also, hello, if you’ve never actually done something before either research it well and talk to people who do, or don’t write it.

For instance – many BDSM and D/s books bug the heck out of me because most of them aren’t written by people who’ve done it or have talked to people who do and it’s like this carnival of weird sex scenes wherein the hero does things to the heroine that most women (submissives included) would knock him out for. Why does he spank her? How does it make her feel (and not just the strikes of hand on ass)? How does it make him feel to dominate her? BDSM is a rich theme for emotions and you rarely see that because the writing is all about the sex and it misses the opportunity to deepen the sensuality and get into people’s heads instead of just into their orgasm.

I’m not one of the erotic romance authors who cringes at the idea that their sex scenes turn people on. I figure that if they don’t turn readers on, I’m not doing my job. I have no shame that my sex scenes are evocative, in fact, I’m proud to hear when they are because I work hard on them. But I’m far more proud when they fit into the story and mean something more.

I’m not perfect by any means. I have a lot to learn and I expect I’ll be making mistakes until the last breath I take. I love my genre and I think there are a great many talented authors in it breaking down doors and pushing the envelope, writing books that knock your socks off as well as get people excited. I’m proud to be a part of this genre and I’ve learned a lot from other authors working hard and putting in the time to put out a product that gives the readers a whole experience.

And lastly, even erotica is more than just a whole bunch of sex scenes. Well written erotica’s sex scenes are also there for a purpose. Without the purpose, it’s just porn. And that’s fine, I don’t have problems with porn, it’s just not what I write and not what I enjoy reading.

So as far as sex in books, give it to me! I love it. But give it to me with purpose.

6 comments to “Let's Talk About Sex”

  1. Jordan Summers
    October 7th, 2006 at 2:21 pm · Link

    Lauren, I love your work. And that was the point I was trying to make over at RTB. I’m so sick of reading a string of sex scenes that mean NOTHING. I hate that I’ve started skimming. There’s no reason for that to happen, if the author has done their job correctly.

  2. laurendane
    October 7th, 2006 at 2:27 pm · Link

    I’m honored, Jordan because I love yours too and I admire your style and ability to write a story that’s interesting as well as sexy.

    I think your point is spot on and I’m glad you made it.

  3. Jorrie Spencer
    October 7th, 2006 at 2:39 pm · Link

    I’ve been enjoying these discussions.

    I’ve run into problems reading sex scenes in romance that is not deemed erotic romance, too. Here it’s not usually that there’s sex every eight pages, or even that the sex doesn’t mean anything. It’s that I’ve read that scene in other books, and the author doesn’t add anything new.

    The scene just isn’t individual enough and I begin to skim. Maybe it’s because the author doesn’t naturally write as hot as she thinks she’s supposed to in today’s market. Dunno.

    I do notice that sometimes in romance (and probably in other genres) a certain type of description begins to appear everywhere. For a while there, a couple of years ago, every single hero seemed to have broad shoulders and narrow hips. Nothing wrong with broad shoulders and narrow hips! But it does get generic as the main intro description of the hero. (And then the whole size thing came on the market and let’s just say that not every author can describe a guy’s apparatus in a way that is sexy. But they seemed to think it necessary.)

    Anyway! Off-topic as usual. I think I had a point here besides effective sex scenes are hard work. It takes talent to write erotic romance.

  4. laurendane
    October 7th, 2006 at 2:52 pm · Link

    I think the perceived and real pressures of the marketplace are a hard thing for authors to deal with. In the end though it gets back to writing what’s meant to be written. If your story has a high level of sensuality, that’s great but I do think there’s room in the market for not so hot as well.

    I suppose right now it’s a matter of equilibrium in the market, finding a natural level and then the next “new/hot/now” thing will come along.

  5. May
    October 8th, 2006 at 8:35 am · Link

    I’m a writer who’s new to writing sex scenes.

    I believe that if your sex scene doesn’t arouse the reader, it should be scrapped. I mean, it should serve a dual purpose, ie it might develop the h/h relationship further, but it absolutely should titillate the reader.

    Now, that’s a lot easier said than done. 😆

  6. Lauren
    October 8th, 2006 at 6:34 pm · Link

    May, I’m with you on both of your points. It is hard to write a good sex scene and IMO, it should titilate.