Let’s Talk About Sex

Writing a sex scene is a tricky business.  Having someone you know read it is even trickier.

There’s only one sex scene in my book. I knew from the beginning that it would feature. It is, as the director said to the actress, “integral to the plot”. It was also a full-on nightmare to write, taking me the best part of two days for a relatively short – er – passage.

There were two reasons for this.

First was the language used for body parts.  There’s no getting round talking about those unless you’re going for some soft-focus, romantic, camera-panning-away-at-crucial-moment scene.  I wasn’t. So what do you call people’s bits?

Let’s take the bottom (and no, I don’t mean it like that). “Bum” is funny.  “Rear” is something horses do.  “Rump” just sounds like a joint of beef. It’s okay for the Americans, who bandy about “ass” with aplomb, but a Brit can’t use “ass” without sounding like, well, an arse. And “arse”, in turn, is so British that it immediately conjures up scenes from seventies soft porn films with names like “Confessions of a Used Car Salesman in Rotherham”.

I'm sorry, Geoffrey, it just feels as though there's something missing...

I’m sorry, Geoffrey, it just feels like there’s something missing…

And that’s before you get on to the really rude bits.

You know, just know, that choosing the wrong word is going to immediately shatter any erotic tension you’ve managed to build up. It’s the literary equivalent of comedy underwear. It’s like getting hot and heavy with your lover when the iPod changes tracks and you’re suddenly listening to My Ol’ Man’s a Dustman.  (To be clear, there’s no Chas ‘n’ Dave on my iPod. I’m not saying anything about the Husband.)

The other problem was that my sex scene comes, as it were, towards the end of my book. By the time I started to write it, various kind friends and colleagues had agreed to read through the first draft and tell me what they thought. The idea of them – actual living, breathing people I knew – reading my attempt at erotica was almost terminally embarrassing.  What if they thought it was vile /perverted /laughable /just plain rubbish? Imagining people I’d worked with, professional people with whom I’d sat in meetings discussing local government finance, reading The Scene was almost enough to make me abandon the whole idea.

In the end, I did actually cross a couple of people off my readers list.  Ridiculous, I know, when I want to be a published author, but there it is. I warned the others and gave them a get-out – i.e. if the thought of reading something I’ve written that’s a bit rude turns your stomach, feel free to say “no” and I promise not to be offended.  No-one took it, bless their hearts, but I still can’t help imagining them finishing those paragraphs, putting down the manuscript and taking a deep breath to keep down their dinner (“I know she said there was a sex scene but, really, I wasn’t expecting that!“).

Ultimately, of course, I just had to get on with it: write the words and hand ’em over.

Now I’m waiting for the feedback. Wish me luck.

10 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Sex

  1. Stan Neil

    The definitive recording of “My Old Man’s a dustman”, was recorded by Skiffle singer Lonnie Donegan. Anything else won’t do.

  2. helenmidgley

    I loved your take on ‘Sex’ writing. I recognised every part. I’m in the same boat, Ive just started my 1st ever novel and I know there will be sex, it’s not a hope or wishful thinking, its a Fact…. But I’m already in a panic about the language and I’m not even upstairs yet! I’ll follow you blog and check on your tips. Good luck 🙂

    1. yakinamac Post author

      Thanks Helen – it’s not easy, is it?! I’ve just had my first bit of feedback from one of my readers on The Scene and apparently, he thought it was a bit short! Not that surprised, but looks like it’s back to the drawing board…

  3. Mariah

    I blush when I’m reading a sex scene, so I can’t imagine the daunting task of having to write one! I’m fairly certain my mind would revert back to the vocabulary of a ten year old, and I would call it her “hooha” and his “winkle”.

    Just know, you’re already doing better than I would in that situation.

    1. yakinamac Post author

      Thank you for the encouragement! I think I might have a go at writing something completely outrageous involving “meat javelins” just so I can feel a bit less squeamish about it all. Then again, perhaps not.

  4. Sister

    Just remember all the squirm inducing moments that occurred when an unexpected ‘naughty’ scene cropped up in that made-for-tv movie you were watching with mum and dad. Can’t be worse than that!

    1. yakinamac Post author

      Except that if it does ever see the light of day – unlikely I know – it’s possible dad might actually read it… I’d have to give him a censored copy!

  5. Sharon Bonin-Pratt

    Love the way you wrote this post. I’m still grinning. Can’t be anything much harder to write than a sex scene, dontcha think? And you certainly put the models to, um, good use, no different from the high school boys in art class.
    BTW, I found your blog because you first found mine – thanks so much for the drop by. Hope you’ll come again.

    1. yakinamac Post author

      Completely agree – found writing it a complete nightmare. Thank goodness the plot only required one scene! Loved your blog and will be visiting it again – thanks for stopping by mine. 🙂


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