Friday, April 15, 2011

Writing Believable Smex (From an unexperienced point of view)

**This post comes from friend and writing buddy Jennifer Milligan. Jennifer is awesome in all  kinds'a ways-- and she laughs at my jokes. She also happens to be a virgin. Hey! I know nice people! Nice people like me! Anyway-- enjoy!**
Sex has become commercialized.  We see it everywhere.  On TV, in the movies, hear about it in music.  Read it in books.  And I’m not just talking about the act of getting down and dirty.  Think about all those models for perfume, hair products, make-up, clothes, diet pills.  They all drip sexual tension.  As the public acceptance of sexuality grows, it becomes more mainstream, and more explicit.
But that doesn’t really make it more real.
Romance novels, too!  The sex scenes in nearly every romance novel I’ve ever read follow a strict set of steps.  It usually goes; oral (with man going down on woman), intercourse, oral (with woman going down on man), more intercourse.  And the man ALWAYS goes for the woman’s breasts as soon as some of the kissing is out of the way.  
Now, I’m not saying that that way of doing things is wrong.  I’m sure there are partners out there that take turns going down on each other.  But in novels, that’s how it’s done almost every. Single. Time.
Realistic?  I think not.  Believable? I don’t think so.
Romance writers are working out a fantasy.  Repeat.  Fantasy.  In fantasies, everything can be ideal.  Everything can be perfect.  The woman gets to come multiple times.  The guy has the stamina to make him the perfect, never-tiring partner.  (More like a battery operated dildo than a real person.)
How then, do you write believable sex?  
Sex isn’t perfect.  It’s dirty and sweaty.  Sometimes--gasp!--the man comes before the woman.  A lot of woman don’t like giving head.  Long hair gets stuck under an elbow, or gets in the mouth.  The guy--and even the girl--won’t always wait until she’s wet and ready.  That’s what lube is for.  And don’t forget the condoms.  
Spice things up with imperfection.  If the guy is being teased all damn day, you think he’s going to be able to hang in there until his partner gets off?  For a woman, that can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes.  That’s a long time to hold a rocket in check.  
I know what you’re thinking.  “If you’re a virgin, how do you know all this?”  
Research.  Any believable writing takes research.  Instead of doing mine in books, I talk with my friends that are sexually active.  I ask my sister about her more amusing bedroom stories.  I have a fabulous beta reader that gives me a kick in the balls when I’m doing it wrong.
Writing fantastical sex is all well and good, and it has its place in.  If you want your sex to be believable, and not just another scene following a formula used in dozens of romance novels everywhere, mix things up.  Add a bit of realistic dirt.  Good characters aren’t perfect.  Their sex shouldn’t be either.


Jan O'Hara (Tartitude) said...

Some of my favorite romance authors begin the relationship with bad sex, and that's part of the conflict between hero and heroine for the rest of the book.

The tropes bother me too. One thing I have heard, but cannot comment on with the validity of personal experience, though, is that publisher expectations drive the kind of scenes included. Maybe that will change. With self-pubbing I imagine it will.

Lela Gwenn said...

In my last MS- The MC really wants to love the guy she's dating-- but she belongs with someone else. The sex between them is pretty awful.

RL.Treadway said...

Yay! for the post. But in "the Romance" novels I think it's kind of a textual porn and that's what the readers want. I agree tho', I skimmed through a lot of them to see if I can swallow my bile long enough to write one and it's not for me. It is as you say and incredible dull. The after glow is almost always the same too. "snuggly" or "hungry for food" blah blah