As I enjoy the Mother's Day breakfast my husband has so lovingly prepared, I'm thinking about writing sex scenes. Actually, I'm thinking about how to write sex scenes well. It's not an easy thing to do. How does one ride (sorry) the thin line between clinical description and tired euphemisms while recreating the language of the time and staying true to the characters one has created?
I'm a consumer of romance novels because I like them, I need to understand the genre in which I write, and because I support fellow writers by buying their books, reading them, and reviewing them. Although the different plotlines, narrative voices, and characters are unique and exciting, I find an alarming number of sexual euphemisms repeated throughout both historical and contemporary fiction. Seriously, if I have to read the phrase 'laving her nipple' one more time, I will scream (and not in the good way).
A couple more over-used terms: rod, nub, button, manroot (oh, come on!) (sorry), folds, core, and anything to do with creaming, dewy or glistening.
Euphemisms are such strange things. Authors seem to use them to make the act more innocent, or not so base. What they don't do (for me, at least) is make the act more romantic. Nor do they infuse the scene with passion. An acid test for scenes like these might be to substitute plain language for the euphemisms. Would the scene be any sexier or romantic or passionate if his 'throbbing member' was a 'stiff cock?' When the answer to that question is no, perhaps the scene needs a second look.
So, how does one write a 'throbbing member' scene? Naturally, I turned to the expert on sex or Sexpert, if you will — the Internet — the world's primary resource for all things sex related. Here are a few helpful sites.
Start with the basics. Why write the scene? Like any scene in the novel it should move the plot forward, develop the characters, create tension, establish conflict, etc. Jami Gold's Worksheet for Writers I figure without at least one of those things it doesn't matter how hot the sex is, the scene won't make sense. Perhaps the only writers who don't need to adhere to this notion are those who write erotica. It seems a sex scene on every third page is a requirement of the genre.
I am a fan of Diana Gabaldon's historic novels. She's got some great advice in her post on How to Write Sex Scenes. Gabaldon says, "Where most beginning writers screw up (you should pardon the expression) is in thinking that sex scenes are about sex. A good sex scene is about the exchange of emotions, not bodily fluids." Gabaldon also uses the rule of three. Use any three of the five senses. Fantastic advice.
Gene Doucette writes an excellent piece for the Huffington Post How to Write a Good Sex Scene. Most of what Doucette covers in the article is what NOT to do when writing sex scenes: try not to be misogynistic, ironic detachment is a poor narrative voice, and don't get bogged down in description. Sound advice. But I especially appreciate his acknowledgement that if you want to learn how to write good sex scenes, read romance. He says, "Since writing a good sex scene--just like anything else--gets easier with practice, the authors writing the most scenes because of genre demands are the ones getting better at it."
In summary: make it count, make it sensual, infuse it with emotion, and do it a lot.