I’m teaching an online workshop this week and next, on writing sex scenes. In the course of introductions, many of the participants mentioned that they feel nervous or awkward writing sex. I wrote up this piece as a side topic, so I thought I’d reproduce it, in part, here.
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Feeling awkward writing sex scenes? Not everybody suffers from this, but more do than don’t. Very often I find that the “brand” of the erotic romance author is to be bawdy and over the top. It’s frankly not one I’m comfortable with.
Does that surprise you? If you’ve read some of my sexier books, you’ll know that I don’t shy away from much. However, that’s “in the bedroom” for me.
Yes, I’m a subscriber to the “lady in the drawing room, whore in the bedroom” approach to life. 🙂 In a polite society kind of way, not a sexist way. I think men should be gentlemen in the drawing room and animals in the bedroom, too. That’s just part of not stepping on each others’ toes. My grandmother drilled ladylike behavior into my head so thoroughly that I *still* hear her voice when I step over some line of polite behavior.
We all have this, to a greater or lesser extent. We grow up being taught what’s appropriate and what isn’t. Where those lines are depend on the family. But from the time we’re little and people are spelling out S*E*X in our hearing, we learn that there are naughty words that must not be spoken aloud and naughty acts we must never do.
Or, when we become randy teenagers and actually DO them – we mustn’t let anyone know about it.
The most important thing is to know this about ourselves. It’s not a failing. It’s being human, a person in a reasonably polite society.
That said, when I sit down to write? My grandmother has no business being in the room. I don’t need her looking over my shoulder and saying “Jeffe!” in that particularly scandalized tone of voice I still hear so well.
So I kick her out of the room.
This is an important skill for writers of all types. The memoirists talk about this, too, because there are so many people in their heads saying they can’t reveal family secrets. To write the real, meaningful stories, they have to kick the gatekeepers out of the room.
As you’re writing the sexy scenes, when that awkward feeling comes over you, listen and identify whose voice that is. Then kick them out of the room.
Write their name down on a piece of paper if you have to. Then ball it up and throw it out the door. Or burn it in an ashtray. Make a list and then hit DELETE on every one. Whatever it takes.
That blogger who said she hates writers who use that word? Kick her out.
Your great aunt Tilly with the pursed mouth? Kick her out.
Your dad, aghast that his little angel knows about THAT? Kick him out.
Kick everybody out of the room until it’s just you and your characters. Repeat as necessary.