The other day I rudely inserted myself into someone else’s conversation on Twitter because they were talking about writing sex scenes in their novels. They were specifically discussing getting over timidity in going all carnal in their writing. It was charming and so I butted in and wanted to know at what point does sex in general fiction become erotica. Katherine then organized a writer’s round table discussion and set it all up for us to have an official discussion on this burning question of mine. (See what I did there?) She and Sonya asked an erotica writer to join the discussion so we could have some professional perspective.
I’d like to distill the discussion. I will not do any direct quotes because I’m terrible at that and also – Twitter chats are kind of hard for me to follow and require me to get past the feeling of wanting to die in the same way that conference calls do. All I’m going to do here is share the highlights in neat and tidy bullet points.
I love talking about sex. I’m interested in people’s attitudes about sex and I’m interested in what makes people’s sex drive tick. Talking about sex doesn’t embarrass me or make me blush. So don’t call me a prude or I’ll go all dark side on you like one of the Winchester boys. What I don’t like is watching, hearing, or reading explicit descriptions of other people having sex.
Here are some points we covered and questions that were raised in this round table discussion about sex in fiction:
- The difference between sex in general fiction and erotica is a thin line between intention and frequency. Is the point of the book to explore a character’s sexuality and therefore the sex is a feature? (Erotica) Or is the sex part of greater story and not the main point of exploration? (Gen. Fiction)
- There are wildly varying industry ideas about what constitutes erotica and Inakat has encountered publishers who think one kissing and hand holding scene make a book erotica and once a single graphic sentence put a book in the erotica genre, completely bypassing the possibility of being put in romance.
- Sexuality is such a major part of character motivation that it must be addressed in some way or characters will be flat and unrealistic.
- People seem to think sex is more exciting than the second coming of Christ.
- Which might explain why the religious people are often so uptight about it and also teen pregnancy.
- People really love watching other people have sex.
- “Wet Genitalia” would make a fresh band name!
- Erotica doesn’t necessarily have to be graphic. It’s really about sensuality and heightening sexual pleasure through many different sensory experiences.
- BDSM stories do not necessarily involve graphic sex.
- It’s common to grow up with the idea that sex is shameful and some authors feel it’s important to explore and let go of those ideas. (They are SO jealous of my hippie free-love/lots of adults having frequent loud sex around me childhood now! What I wouldn’t have given to grow up with a slightly less sexually liberated group of parental figures.)
- Writers sometimes feel more squeamish about friends and family reading sexual scenes in their books than violent ones and they think this is really fucking messed up.
- I personally need to explore violence in the way others explore sex because I find it troubling and I have PTSD from physical violence and I NEED to understand it more than sexuality which I understand perfectly well.
- I’m not going to get “wet slit” out of my head for days. THANKS A LOT.
- Some people enjoy reading heavy petting scenes (does that expression make anyone else’s skin crawl? Very last mid-century prude) but don’t want to see the whole carnival.
- Graphic sex in fiction can lend a dose of gritty reality to a story.
- Some people (not naming my name) don’t think bodily fluids are sexy at any time in novels ever. Only time they’re sexy is when you’re in the middle of exchanging them with someone you’re having sex with.
- Some people enjoy that Lolita leads the pedophile on and knows what she’s doing. You can tell from how I phrased that what I think.
- Good sex scenes are hard to write because – basically – there aren’t that many ways to say “inserts penis here” or “vagina welcomes insertion” or whatever. (Or any non-straight variation.)
- Sex can be a lot of different things – it’s not one dimensional. There’s sexual intimacy versus sex for pure gratification, and sex for hiding from your problems (apparently)
- The French don’t have everything figured out.
I loved hearing everyone’s thoughts about this subject. Thanks for sitting at the writer’s round table to empty your budget about sex and genitalia in fiction! xoxo
Note: Sonya – wish you were actually here for this discussion. (no Beyonce was harmed in our explicit sexual chat)
Last note: Jennie – hope you get some before your surgery tomorrow AND more importantly – I hope it goes absolutely perfectly and can’t wait to see you on the other end of it!
Participants in this chat, their twitter handles, and where applicable – their blogs. Go check out this group of writers – all awesome!
Katherine Lampe (
@KeleGrrl, moderator) https://theshadowsanctuary.wordpress.com/
Jennie Davenport (
Sonya Craig (@SonyaCraig15) https://sonyacraigsf.blogspot.com/
Melissa Hope (
Michael Zimmerle (
Jessica Guthrie (
Aria Glazki (
S.S. Lange (
Anders R. Viane (
*That’s right, bitches, humans be animals!