No, I’m not going to tell you how to write a good sex scene.
But I have been thinking about this for a couple of weeks and as it is a rather controverisal subject I kept my twitching typing fingers at bay. Now however, I feel ready to talk about it….Sex that is…..Well, Sex in writing that is….
At the beginning of this post (or rather in the second paragraph) I just want to make sure it’s understood that these are my views and they are not an attack on anyone else or their writing – so don’t get the hump….get over it…..
Also, it’s important you know where I’m coming from on this one. I’m a Christian and I believe sex is made for marriage. That does NOT mean I’m disconnected from the culture however, I am only twenty-one and fully aware of how ridiculous these values will seem to others.
The plain fact is, that sex does sell doesn’t it? And it sells in books just as much as it sells elsewhere. Why I hear you say? I reckon because:
1. It’s enjoyable and exciting
2. Most humans end up with experience of it
3. It is the most intimate act between a man and a woman
Having said the reasons why sex sells in literature, I find that having the values I do does affect my approach to the subject. That does NOT mean I’m averse to the subject, in fact, I don’t actually mind reading a love scene. I think with some books those loves scenes are quite beautiful (if written well) but note I say ‘some’ not all.
Take Jane Eyre for instance – Is there any sex in it? No.
Is it one of the best English romances written? Yes.
Charlotte Bronte manages to create an incredible love relationship between a man and a women (who are both ugly – don’t get much of that nowadays do you?). The relationship may portray sexual tension but never is sex explicitly written in a scene or even alluded to. It didn’t need to be. Bronte has managed to write so beautifully, so brilliantly and so intensely that it just doesn’t matter. Who do you hear saying, ‘Oh, where’s the good rough and tumble in Jane Eyre?’ – No one.
The fact is, in our culture sex is synonymous with love and yes, I won’t deny that when you get married you plan to have sex obviously, it is the physical expression of your love for your spouse. However, that is not the sole expression or definition of love and yet that is what our muddled culture tells us.
It’s all sex, sex, sex and to be quite frank I’ve had enough of hearing it. Sex is something which was create for the enjoyment of men and women in marriage and is so intimate, so special; but when it is plastered across the media, including literature, that sacredness is significantly lessened.
Just look at romance novels: What are the majority of romances focusing on these days? Are you finding yourself reading what is supposed to be a love story but instead of the crescendo being the hero and heroine declaring their love for each other or being honorable, it’s sex? Some books I’ve read, and yes they were absolute trash, have literally been a trail of mediocre writing interspersed with raucous and badly written love scenes.
Thanks to all this great mess of sex and writing I decided to ask my friend, who shall remain nameless, about writing sex scenes in novels. I was sort of wondering whether I should venture there, knowing my views on sex in real-life, and she gave me one of the best answers I have had and one which I constantly use as a guideline in my work:
You should only ever write a sex scene between your characters if you have to show a side to your hero or heroine that can only be shown during a sex scene. If you can show that characteristic in any other scene then you don’t need the sex!
Now, I haven’t asked her whether I can put that in, so she may well renounce all recollection of telling me, if she even realises it was her in the first place 😉 (I will give full attribution if she wishes it).
However, even if she does renounce it, that will not stop me from using that piece of advice in my writing. One of the few books which I think the sex scenes were vital to was ‘Redeeming Love’ by Francine Rivers. This book tells the story of a prostitute in the American West, who becomes the wife of an honourable man, and her story of redemption.
I have written love scenes, so don’t get me wrong, but I just cannot believe that it is essential to a romantic novel to have a sex scene. The worst occasion where this happens is in historical fiction where I am reading a book thinking, ‘Well that would never happen because of ettiquette, practicalities and a mountain of other historical issues which would just bar those two from having sex.’
So, to sum it all up:
1. Sex is a good and special thing
2. Sex in writing can work but only if it has purpose
3. Writing without sex can be equally exciting, full of tension and great
So come on then….those are some bold statements……who has been stewing the entire time whilst reading this? Who categorically disagrees? Who wants to give me a piece of their mind? Give me your best shot —
Philippa Jane Keyworth – Author