Plunging Deeper into Sex – How to Thrust More Conflict and Meaning into Sex Scenes

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Sex Column

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Karyn Connor

Senior Editor @ GoneWithTheWord

What’s in a sex scene? Is it as simple as an erotic depiction of Insert Tab A into Slot B and repeat? For some writers, perhaps, but successful authors know that sex scenes have to work much harder. Otherwise, sex scenes start to bore the reader.

The general understanding is that sex scenes are supposed to sexually stimulate the reader. This is true of romance and erotica genres. In horror books though, sex is often written to disturb. In humor novels, to make the reader laugh. At the end of the day, all sex scenes need to accomplish more than just pursuit of orgasm.

Here are five things sex scenes should do beyond erotic stimulation:

  1. Advance plot. The sex scene should change things for the characters. Common ways this is done is:
    • It was just supposed to be a one-time casual thing, but the two people who never should have accomplished more than an acceptable orgasm are rocking each other’s world. 
    • It was supposed to be mind-blowing, but the sex was mundane. Now what?
    • Consequences that are either revealed right away, or come to light further in the plot such as an unplanned pregnancy . Realization of unreciprocated love is another.
  2. Develop or reveal character. Sex is one of those areas in life where people are exposed. The sweet girl suddenly screams “fuck me harder!” or the nice guy reveals his selfishness when he pursues only his own orgasm. When we’re thrown into the most intimate situations, orgasm pending, it’s hard to keep those walls up and keep our inner desires locked away. 
  3. Increase stakes. In the film, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Rose Morgan (Barbara Streisand) marries Gregory Larkin (Jeff Bridges) and excitedly prepares for her first sexual encounter with him only to discover he intends to remain mostly celibate. Now she’s finally married, but still lonely and now also stuck.
  4. Create or worsen the conflict. Protagonist has an extramarital affair knowing that he just has in itch to scratch and then he will be content with his wedded union. Except the affair only serves to hook him and kindle his need for more.
  5. Make a statement. Many erotic authors are now using their books to help women overcome sexual fears and guilt by portraying strong female protagonists who are able to work through past hurts and issues and revel in their own sexuality and sexual expression. People can learn truths from fiction that they might not absorb from other sources, including healthier sexual attitudes.

Sex scenes, regardless of genre, can be many things. Except boring. To keep the reader not only aroused but also enticed, layer the scenes so they mean more than just orgasm. Sex is always at its hottest when it matters most, especially when its significance isn’t known in advance. 

#BeBold, by Karyn Connor is available noweBook and Paperback

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