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”.
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.