I’ve been writing a sex scene for what feels like an eternity. It’s like living in a seedier version of Groundhog Day but without Bill Murray on the piano. I’ve offset torrid looks with rogue pubic hairs, juxtaposed damp patches on the ceiling with difficult to clean upholstery, all the while worrying about the reader scoring my performance. So, briefly, this is some of what I’ve learned, just in case you also find yourself stuck in the second circle of sex scene hell (otherwise known as the 9.02 to London Bridge with a child sat next to you trying to read your screen…).
How to write a consensual sex scene, some tips.
1. Don’t. Seriously, unless it’s absolutely crucial to the plot let the reader fill in the gaps.
2. If you do decide to get jiggy on the page, make sure whatever you write is character driven and advances the plot – a sex scene is just like any other scene, but with sex in it. If you’re going to get intimate, remember to explore your characters’ emotional reactions alongside the mechanics of A did this then B did that. Sex should reveal something other than anatomy, otherwise you might as well write about the characters having breakfast the morning after.
3. Keep in the back of your mind that sex is inherently funny. While you don’t have to animate your scene with squelches and unfortunate headbutts, remember that there will always be some degree of awkwardness. Even if your characters have been knocking boots for several decades, chances are at least one of their minds will drift, mid-thrust, onto the weather.
4. If you can, avoid words like gush, moist, glistening, squirt, tumescent, engorged, swollen, pulsating, throbbing, engulf, shaft, succulent, rose-bud, and nubbins. No real reason except they all give me the creeps.
5. And definitely forget that one day your parents are going to read this scene. Because there is nothing like a bit of parental observation to give you performance anxiety…