It’s Research, Mom, Really! Tips for Writing Sex Scenes

couple kissing

moriador @

I’ve set before myself an interesting task for this week—an interesting and awkward and blush-inducing task. It’s actually something that I’m sure most writers have to consider at some point in their careers—of course there are some obvious exceptions, but I’ll let you explore those on your own.

This week I’m researching how to write sex scenes.

Yes, you read that correctly. I muddled through a few sex scenes in my first novel, but the writing was achingly slow because I agonized over every word. No, I didn’t break out the thesaurus to find that perfect word for each body part, but it felt impossibly difficult to figure out how to describe what characters are feeling and doing in that very intimate moment. That’s the moment when I just want to say “…And the door closed” or “…And they woke up beside each other the next day.” As a reader, though, I know what a cop-out that is, so I’m doing my homework.

Dear readers: I solemnly swear that I won’t skip the good stuff.

To aid me in my quest to become better at writing sex scenes, I turned to the experts: the writers of Harlequin Romance novels! I went to my local used book store and picked up a selection of novels to get a feel for (oh gag) (double gag) (ugh!) the fine art of writing about sex. So far, I haven’t been disappointed. Truthfully, though, I’m not sure that I could reproduce much of what they include in their scenes without laughing hysterically. (Just ask my husband who had to listen to me read the over-the-top descriptions aloud because I couldn’t keep the hilarity to myself.)

Okay, so if Harlequin won’t give me all the answers, where do I go? I decided to peruse the internet. These writers are the founts of knowledge, right? Honestly, there were really only about two things all these sources agreed upon in their discussions (although I certainly hope I already knew these beforehand):

1.    Use all five senses if possible. Sex includes more than just what we see or feel they tell me.
2.  Don’t use words like “penis” and “vagina.”  (Sorry, I guess now I’m making you blush, too!) As one writer said so well, writing a sex scene shouldn’t be like a trip to the gynecologist!

So, while I’m not sure I’ve accomplished all I set out to discover about this topic, I did pick up some useful tidbits in my research:

1.    Sex isn’t about the sex; it’s about advancing the story & understanding the characters.
2.   Sex is as much about what comes before and after as during.
3.   The best sex scenes don’t include clichés or euphemisms.
4.   Reading the sex scene aloud should result in heat—not laughter.
5.    #4 above notwithstanding, sex is humorous. If everything goes perfectly in a sex scene, it’s probably not very realistic!

Now, armed with my new-found knowledge, it’s time to get back to Book 2. I’ve got some hot sex to write—sorry, Mom!