Last night I succeeded in writing my first sex scene in my fiction. Thus far my writing has only alluded to sexual acts or subverted topic altogether. Many in my critique groups find me prudish because I tend not to enjoy reading it in others’ writing in our groups and never write it myself. But this is a misunderstanding of my discomfort with the topic. Generally, I think sex scenes are written wrong in many cases.
There’s only one reason I’m uncomfortable having sex scenes read aloud in my critique groups. Most of our critique groups are in public places. Sitting around us are children and little old grannies who don’t need to hear the F Bomb or about the intercourse between two characters (pun intended). That’s really my big hang up in critique group.
Now to the important part, why I think sex scenes are written wrong in most cases.
Unless you’re writing erotica, sex scenes are meant to move the story forward the same as any other scene in a novel. Any scene that doesn’t move the story forward or divulge something about the character gets deleted, or should be. Few sex scenes produce either of these outcomes. Such scenes should not exist simply to get the reader (or worse yet, the writer) off.
The language used in most sex scenes suggest that’s exactly what the writer is trying to do. This feels dirty to me. I feel like I’m watching some perverted old man hit on a 16 year old girl at a mall. Just gross.
That is not to say that sex scenes don’t belong in novels. They do. They have a place. I’ve only read two sex scenes that I thought were necessary and produced the outcome the writer wanted. Both were from Haruki Murakami and both were from the same story: 1Q84.
Without giving too much away, Tengo has sex with one particular main character. It’s graphic, it’s explicit. But, if you can believe it, it’s tasteful, gives the reader a little of what they want (if you’re into that sort of thing, and let’s face it, we all are!), and it moves the story forward in a way that couldn’t be accomplished any other way.
Sex scenes should be used like -ly adverbs, exclamation points, and vulgar language. If they don’t move things forward, they don’t belong.
They must be used sparingly.
And they must be necessary.
Now I bet many of you are wondering about the sex scene I wrote. If you are, I’m afraid only disappointment is in your future. That scene shall remain hidden from view until that novel is published and you read it from there. I’m no prude, but there is a time and a place for everything.