Sex scenes used to terrify me. Not writing them, but letting people read them. I soon discovered this is common among writers, and most of us dread it for the same reason: we’re afraid readers will think we’re living vicariously through our sex scenes. That they will think that’s the type of sex we want to be having. And that’s a very intimate thing for people to know.
It’s also bollocks (in a manner of speaking). I’ve written sex scenes with six different characters. Well, I mean, not together. I don’t think I’m accomplished enough with pronouns to pull that off without diagrams, and I can’t draw.
What I mean is, I’ve written three couples copulating. All three of them did it very differently. If I’m writing my idea of perfect sex each time, either I’ve got Tyler Durden issues or my mind changes quicker than Cheryl Tweedy’s name.
It’s obvious, really, that writing something does not mean we either endorse it or crave it. The heroine of Untouchable, Rachel, has a boss who sexually harasses her on a daily basis. I never once worried that readers would think I was gagging to be sexually harassed. (Just to clarify, I’m not.) Why should this be different for any other feature of her life?
My friend Yally was the first person to read Untouchable. This is the sex scene she received:
She assured me it was both well-written and sexy, but they say you can never rely on friends for honest feedback so I took that with a pinch of salt.
Finally, I gathered my courage and sent the real sex scene to beta readers. They treated the scene like any other, and the feedback was very positive. I realised I’d been an idiot, and now even Yally has the sex scenes.
Although I wasn’t afraid of writing sex scenes, I did find them challenging for a peculiar but limiting reason: there are no words for female genitalia that don’t make me cringe. I hate them all.
Pussy? If it doesn’t meow, purr and sit on your laptop when you’re trying to write, don’t call it a pussy. If it does, don’t have sex with it.
Mound? If it’s not green and covered with grass, or a heaped pile of something, don’t call it a mound. If it is, don’t have sex with it.
Minge? If you’re not twelve and giggling with your friends in the playground, don’t call it a minge. If you are, don’t have sex with anyone.
Vagina? Actually, okay with me. But then people get confused when you don’t use this interchangeably with vulva, and they also feel like they’re reading a medical textbook. Not romantic.
(I’m unsure why these two have pasta dishes instead of pubic hair)
I could go on, but we all have lives to get to.
So I asked my friends for help. They were not helpful.
I’ve managed to get away with not using any words for the female genitalia in my novels so far. Long may it continue.
On the male side, cock’s just fine with me. No jokes, please: Mr Kaling is shy. Although his mother can’t read English, so there is that going for us.
Now that I’m over my silly hang up, I’m okay with sharing my sex scenes. Several of my friends have read them (hello, if you’re reading). My aunt’s read them (hello, if you’re reading). The HR assistant at work has read them (if this is being used in a disciplinary, I didn’t do it).
I also really enjoy writing them now, word challenges aside. One of the reasons I love writing romance is that sexual tension is so fun to read and write, and it’s so satisfying when, after 30,000 words of skirting round the issue, they finally, finally, screw.
You know how the BDSM/controlling thing is really in right now? Well, if that’s your thing, write romances. You are totally in charge of their sex lives, from outfits to orgasms. You can write that scene where they almost put Tab A into Slot B but are interrupted / come to their senses / have an argument instead. Then you can be all:
Yes, characters, of course you can have fun times!
And then when you actually allow them to spring the coil, you can feel all benevolent like:
If I had a point for this blog, I forgot it a while ago. Just go forth and write merry sex scenes. If nothing else, you can wait until your kids get their first boyfriends/girlfriends and then hand them a signed copy and tell them to think of it as an instruction manual. Will guarantee you no grandkids for at least a couple of years, and they’d be even more expensive than the therapy bills.