Thinking about Sex Scenes

One day, on a small writer's loop, someone asked:

> Can you articulate why you feel most slash writers don't
> do sex scenes very well, and what it is that constitutes
> having done one really well?

And Keiko Kirin said:
You're requiring me to make sense? On a Friday afternoon? With no caffeine? Well, the other option is that I go back to work, so...

I think a well-written one meets the following criteria:

  1. It doesn't sound exactly like every other sex scene in a slash story, including the previous sex scene in the story you're reading at the time
  2. The language used suits the rest of the story. I.e., if the rest of the story is stark and spare, the sex scene doesn't suddenly become flowery, coy, or over-descriptive, or if the rest of the story is sweet and romantic, the sex scene doesn't begin with the dialogue, "You're my bitch. Bend over."
  3. It doesn't read like a how-to manual on what appendage should be inserted where
  4. It maintains the level of emotional involvement of the rest of the story. What I mean is, I still feel emotionally involved in the story, not like there is a sudden commercial break ("Sex! New and Improved!")
  5. There is a reason for the sex scene. It doesn't have to be a plot-driven one at all, but I need a relationship-driven one, at least. I want to know why they're going to bed together. If they're already a couple and in love, that *is* enough reason, but the story still needs to meet the other criteria. I have a preference for first time stories, probably because of this, but I have read ongoing relationship stories that work for me because the relationship wasn't just an excuse for a lot of sex scenes.

One writer I'll mention (not to say there aren't others) is Ruth Devero (DS). Her sex scenes meet my criteria, and she goes one better by staying firmly within the POV character's voice in each scene. (It's just so Fraser that he thinks in terms of "penis" and "scrotum," and Ray being Ray thinks in terms of "cock" and "balls.") I think they're extremely well-written and give me a very nice emotional buzz.

Looking back at the list, I can see where a good author could stray from each point (except maybe #1 and #3) and make it work, to achieve a kind of effect, but it would really depend on the story. (And let me clarify that #1 doesn't mean "same" as in always the same position -- that's not a particular bugaboo to me -- it means you feel like you have read the scene at least 10 times before.)

I guess a lot of stories where I'd say the sex scenes aren't well-written fail points 4 and 5. I've seen PWPs that meet all my criteria, though.

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