“Big Magic” I don’t write my books. Yes, those are my hands typing. Yes, those…
The Anatomy of a Sex Scene-
So, when I asked you guys what you wanted to hear from me in blog posts, there were requests for things like beauty routines, pet stuff, and recipes, but the biggest thing people wanted to know about was writing. Whether this is because you’re an aspiring writer and would like some pointers, or because you are just fascinated by the process, writing can be super interesting. And super hard.
One thing I have heard some newbie writers say all the time is that writing a sex scene is difficult for them. Now, to be perfectly honest here, sex scenes are the easiest parts of the writing process for me. I am happy when I get to one because I know I can knock that shit out in my sleep.
I attribute this to several things:
- Reading a lot of steamy things
- Watching many steamy movies
- Knowing the cringe-factor.
If you are going to write sex scenes that aren’t fade-to-black in your books, you need to do all three of those things. A lot. And I don’t even mean porn for the steam scenes (though a good female-friendly porn scene can be a-freaking-mazing), but even just movie or TV scenes that rev your engines. When you find them – watch them. Then again. And again. Figure out what about it is what gets you excited. Is it the dirty talk? Is it the sensuality? If so, what about the sensuality? Learn to analyze what you read and watch to figure out WHY it works (or… why it doesn’t work!).
But perhaps the most important part of writing the sex scene is the third factor.
Knowing the cringe-factor.
I have read so many sex scenes in romance novels that have made me physically uncomfortable. Not because they were boundary-pushing or I was reading them in public… but because the author got the words wrong.
Books are all about the words.
Sex scenes in particular need to be paid attention to.
Words in a sex scene can make a reader cringe.
And you generally don’t want a reader doing either when you intended the scene to get them all hot and bothered along with your hero and heroine.
This is also a hard point because we all have words we don’t like about anatomy. I don’t have any “hard nos” when it comes to general sexual language. But I personally am not a fan of “cunt” in a scene that is supposed to be intimate. I can get with it if the scene is super raunchy. I also loathe when a writer uses biologically correct terms. Don’t be calling it a “penis” or “testicles” or “vagina” or “vulva” or “clitoris” in my sex scenes, please. It makes me feel like I am in 6th grade health class. And that conjures up images of my 6th grade health teacher. And let’s just say that an image of that individual is not going to help me enjoy a sex scene.
So, is it a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation? No. I think, pretty universally, there are terms we are all okay with even if we wouldn’t use the term in our daily loves. For guys: “cock” and “dick” work. I personally don’t like the word “dick” unless it is being used as an insult, but it won’t completely pull me out of a scene.
Here is where I get picky.
It’s easy – and common – for authors to just throw the word “pussy” out over and over. It’s fine. It… works. My thing is – what woman do you know in her daily life, in her own MIND, uses the word “pussy” to think of her own anatomy? Don’t worry, I’ll wait…
Very few, if any.
So when we are having a sex scene in the heroine’s POV, variety is key. Luckily, we have a lot of terms for the female genitalia that work, that aren’t super cringy for most readers.
We have: sex, core, cleft, slit, heat, clit, bud, pearl, bead, etc. You get the picture.
Now, the cringe factor is especially important in one specific kind of sex scene.
You know what I am talking about.
Yep, the anal sex scene.
Cue blushes all around the world here.
But if we are gonna talk about sex, we are GOING TO TALK ABOUT SEX.
I have read a total of maybe three authors who can pull off an anal scene that doesn’t make me uncomfortable. This is almost always due to the language used.
This is the only place I have “hard nos” when it comes to language.
Do not – and I repeat DO NOT – use these terms in a Big-A scene and expect me to enjoy it: asshole, sphincter, hole, ring.
Like, you get it.
You cringe just reading those in the context of the subject matter we are discussing.
But, Jessie, how the hell can we write an anal sex scene without using those terms?
The answer – carefully.
If you’ve read my books – and if you’re here, I am assuming you have – you will know that I tend to be VERY vague when using terms for anal sex. You will often see things like “moving back” or “back and up” to describe a hero going from normal sex to anal.
And I have never had a complaint about this language.
Because I think most of us simply like anal sex to be a little bit more, well, let’s just say… left to the imagination.
Alright, so we covered the terms.
Let’s talk orgasms.
Yep, we’re doing it.
LET’S GET TECHNICAL.
Women have clits and G-spots. Wellll… technically, the G-spot is just the clit but from the inside if we want to get suuuuper technical.
MOST women only have an orgasm through someone rubbing their clit of by their G-spot. MOST women won’t come from sex unless it is in specific positions.
And, who are we writing romance novels for? Women. Mostly, anyway. And for our male audience – some technical education on the right way to get a female to orgasm is also a good thing.
So we have to get the orgasm right.
Make him go down on her. Make him – or her… Girl Power – rub her clit while they have sex. Make him find her G-spot. Have him put her into positions that engage the G-spot.
We are force-fed plenty of content already that emphasizes sex in a narrow scope that really only focuses on male satisfaction. Let’s not perpetuate that. Let your heroines actually have an orgasm in a realistic way.
Now, let’s do it.
Let’s talk about the cringe-factor in orgasms.
Most especially… male orgasms.
Good God Almighty… I am sick of the word “seed.” Can we just agree in 2019 that this term is cancelled? It’s gross. And in a technical way, it is actually inaccurate. The seed would be the egg. “Spunk” is also a hard no. “Jizz,” “Juice,” “cream,” – we are all going to agree we don’t need these words anymore.
Oh, and one last sexual term technicality:
Come = to orgasm
Cum = male ejaculate.
If you mess this up, it might tick off readers and make your work seem like porn instead of erotica. Nobody wants that.
Alright, so length.
Ha, okay. I didn’t mean THAT, but if we are there, let’s talk about it.
I don’t care.
Many readers don’t care.
He’s massive, he’s average, it’s not specified.
I don’t care.
And because I don’t care, I don’t always specify.
This is a personal preference thing. You want your hero to have a third leg? Go right the fuck ahead. But also be mindful that it won’t fit ALL the way in and some positions would be painful.
But moving on to what I ACTUALLY meant.
Sex scene length.
My rule of thumb is this – the first sex scene should always be the longest and most detailed. From there, you can cut the extra fluff. But every reader wants a really good first sex scene. They waited for it. Make it good!
- Do we always have to use condoms? Okay, I draw a pretty hard line here and say “Yes, until they have the talk.” I know, I know, some readers don’t think condoms are sexy. You know what? I think someone caring about your physical health and wellbeing is sexy as fuck. I think people who don’t are people I would never have sex with. So I use condoms in my books. I don’t make a big deal about it, but it gets mentioned. Now, of course, there have to be exceptions – historical, PNR, etc. That’s fine. We get it. But modern-day romance with two characters we are supposed to like engaging in sex? Let’s have them make it safe, okay?
- Virgins. Oh, man. Let’s not get me going too hard on the virginity trope in books. But, say your heroine is a virgin. Let’s be realistic, but not overly graphic. First sex, for some women, doesn’t hurt at all or is only slightly uncomfortable. I know, right? I almost didn’t believe that myself until I heard a lot of women say it. My first time was extremely painful. Let’s chalk that up to, ah, trunk size and move on. Anatomy is different for each heroine. Maybe her hymen broke already, maybe it didn’t (but it is never a blood bath, guys. Just a few drops on the sheets kinda deal). Maybe it hurts, maybe it doesn’t. But what we aren’t going to do in 2019 in sex scenes is make a virgin heroine come ten times and have sex five times the same night they lost their virginity. Okay? Soreness and chafing just aren’t sexy.
- Do we always have to be 100% technical? No. Actually, let’s not. Yes, many – if not a LOT – of women need lube to enjoy normal or anal sex. Does that mean we HAVE to make our characters stop hooking up in the stairwell to go and buy some lube to make it 100% realistic? No. Should your heroines always hit the bathroom to avoid a UTI after sex? Yes, but we don’t really want to see that, do we? So chalk some things up to the fantasy of it all and move on.
Annnnd… I dunno. I think that’s it! Have any questions? Feel free to comment below.