18 August 2011

Sexy Realism

If it seems like ages ago that I posted the first in my Writer’s Guide to Being Sexy series, you’re right, it has been a while! I’m finally back with the second installation, and just in time for my contest.
Speaking of the contest, here’s a bit of important info: I’ve decided to extend the deadline just a bit. When I first came up with the 8/20 midnight deadline, I was thinking it was a nice round 10 days from when I announced it. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that it’s right in the middle of the weekend, and people might like to have the whole weekend to put finishing touches on their submissions. For that reason – and because I’m working this weekend – the new deadline for the Clothing Not Optional contest is Monday, August 22nd at 9:00AM Eastern.
Now, back to the sexy series!
Last time we talked about the language of a sex scene. Today we’re going to talk about realism. Let me preface this by saying the emotional and psychological dynamic of the scene is always more important than the physical action. Still, the physicality of a sex scene can really ruin it if you’re not careful.
If you’ve ever heard a criticism of pornography (moral objections aside), you’ve likely encountered the assessment that porn films perpetuate unrealistic ideals. After all, how many people actually look like that—naturally? In my rather non-statistically-based opinion, that’s a major reason many women don’t enjoy it. Not because they couldn’t possibly be turned on by a video like that (porn is a whole ‘nother post completely! lol), but simply because they can’t identify with the image of perfection presented to them.
Same goes with erotica. Hell, same goes for ALL WRITING, regardless of genre, category, or subject matter. Are you really going to present a woman (that’s my main audience, and probably yours, too) with a fantastical Barbie-esque main character and ask her not only to identify with the character, but to also care whether said character gets laid, AND to be sensually aroused by those scenarios, when the reader might have four kids, wear a size 16, and be a little self-conscious at times? No. That’s just stupid.
While erotica may be a form of escapism and fantasy, it still has to ring true for your reader to be able to really lose herself in the scene. That doesn’t mean you have to go the other way and riddle your characters with every imperfection you’ve ever observed in yourself or your lover(s). It’s like I say with dialogue: It has to be realistic – not real.
So here’s a reality check for you on a few different aspects of sex to use in your writing:
  • The average American woman is somewhere around a size 14. If everyone in your books/stories is a size zero, you may want to reconsider.
  • No 12-inch cocks, please. The average length of an erect penis is about five inches (and don’t worry, that link is totally safe for work haha). I’m of the opinion that it’s really not necessary to give measurements – I mean, really? What’s the point?
  • Just about every part you’ll encounter in a sex scene comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and types, so mix it up a little!
The Act
  • A majority of women cannot achieve orgasm through penetration alone. They require clitoral stimulation for that. And a leading man who knows how to take care of his leading lady will certainly win over some female readers.
  • Foreplay! ‘Nuff said.
  • Adventurous positions are fine – variety is encouraged! But if your characters are doing the deed in ways that require the removal of a couple ribs and a double-jointed spine, they’d better be professional contortionists.
Health and Hygiene
  • Condoms
  • Birth control
  • Dental dams and other barriers when necessary
  • STI testing
These are a few things to consider. In this day and age, I think STI prevention and pregnancy prevention are issues that are openly discussed enough to potentially pique your readers’ concern. Decide how/if you want to incorporate these into your story, and do your research.
  • Keep it minimal
  • Keep it relevant
Just like any other dialogue, what your characters say during a sex scene should serve a purpose, whether it’s for characterization, build or resolve tension/conflict, etc..

Despite all this talk of realism, the key thing really is not to overthink it. If you’re thinking too long and hard (heh) about it, so will your reader. As writing buddy R.S. Mellette would encourage, if you’re having trouble making it work, always go back to the core – the basic goal (aside from having sex, obviously).
Maybe it’s just me, but when it comes to sex scenes, I’d rather err on the side of a little too realistic than too ridiculously out there.
Are there any realistic aspects you like to include in your sex scenes, or that you wish more writers would include?


  1. These are great tips. I also like the little awkward or uncomfortable moments that are certainly inherent in sex with a new person, and often even great sex. Like when she gets too sensitive right after an orgasm and needs to take a break, or when he's so into his bj that he throws his head back and thumps it on the headboard. They make it real for me, and thus increase the hotness.

  2. Oh, those accidental head bumps! Haha. Yes, how could I forget those sweet, awkward moments? I love those, too. Especially if it brings a touch of humor to the scene. Humor is definitely sexy!

  3. I remember reading Soulless by Gail Carriger (didn't know there were lots of sex/y scenes in that one. Picked it up because I heard someone said it was a funny paranormal). Anyway, there was this one scene where they're trapped in the villain's lab, and the werewolf(Male MC)transforms to human form so he's naked, and the female MC is in the room with him. I mean, they're about to die and all they do is flirt and make out in that room. Thought it was so unrealistic considering their situation. Really threw me off the story.

    I know this is not what you were referring to in your post, or actually in a way it is, because if the situation is unrealistic, no matter how sexy the scene is, it still jars the reader out of the story.

    Good post, Jen!


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