To Write, Or Not To Write, A Sex Scene?

Sunday, July 26, 2009
There are so many things to consider in writing, or not writing, a sex scene (versus how to write a sex scene). Here's some things I've found helpful for me:

1. My characters morals are not necessarily my morals. But, like all writers, I can choose to bleep a scene when it gets too hot. (I write YA, and so I usually do).

2. Sex happens. Really. Not many people go through their entire lives as virgins. I write about characters in their late teens to early twenties--usually when the virginity thing . . . uh, goes away.

3. Sex happens, but so do consequences (having trouble coming up with any, think back to sophomore health class and all those nasty pictures). But don't stop there. Sex has emotion impacts on people. It changes relationships, permanently. I have a responsibility to represent sex as it truly is.

4. Don't write a sex scene just to have one. Do you ever feel like an author tossed in a sex scene because sex sells instead of because the plot/character called for it?

What did I miss? What other issues come into play when deciding whether or not to write a sex scene?


  1. Excellent post, Amber. My second book has a lot of sex in it... and it's a little embarrassing. I keep telling myself not to be embarrassed because it's a HUGE part of the story. I don't show full scenes at all, but I do build a lot of sexual tension, and I have the characters talk about things that have happened, and of course there's always consequences.

    Since I write adult and not YA, I deal with this a lot, deciding what to show and what not to show. And let me tell you, writing sex isn't easy. In fact, I think the LESS you show the harder it gets because you want it to work and be believable. If that makes sense.

    This post hits home for me since I'm in the middle of rewriting my book at the moment, and I've been wondering if I'm going in the right direction with all this sex stuff. But after reading your post I see that I am, because sex does happen, and it does impact people, and I want to portray it correctly and in a way that moves the story forward in a good way.

    (p.s. I answered your question about the retreat over on my blog in the comments. I hope you can come next time!)

  1. Good topic!

    I did a whole series of this on my blog.

    But I only have a YA WIP so take my advice for what it is worth.

    My problem with sex in YA it is often stilted for the same reasons it is stilted in adult novels: show vs. tell.

    Many a time, a writer drops her book into tell mode when describing a sex scene. Either leave the tell mode at home or don't put it in there.

    Literally, the voicing will change right during "those" scenes.

  1. I'm so happy to see another LDS writer approaching this topic! And you did it so well too.

    I've not written a sex scene (though I have implied it), but I'm not averse to doing it if the situation really requires it.

    It is so important to present it realistically and with consequences, like you said.

  1. I appreciate your comment about consequences. Good choices, or morals, should placed in the best light possible--rather than making them seem bad. To often (in a variety of media) making good choices in terms of sex is portrayed negatively. Sometimes characters may think negatively about choosing well, but I think the author should not leave those thoughts as one-sided in the story line.

  1. I completely agree w/ #4 and see too many authors doing this just to spice things up. It dulls it down for me, though.

    I think people like to be given an opportunity to use their imagination.

    ~ Wendy

  1. I wish I could remember the name of the organization that started giving out awards for the most awkward sex scene: the kind that's there just because the publisher wanted it there to sell the book. I can think of a few I would nominate. Sure, sex happens, and it has consequences, but if the whole story is one big he did this and she did that, I'm outta there.

  1. Glamis: So true. I had a reader tell me my stuff was too hot because I used the word, "nipple." I pasted a smile and thanked her for her opinion.

    Anthony: I don't know if I agree with you. In order be a little less graphic, I don't see a problem with telling, as long as the scene is kept pretty short. I'll have to stop over and reread some of your posts.

    Natalie: Thanks! So much pressure to get it right, whew, glad it worked.

    Becky: Great point. I agree. I hate it when parents in stories push their children into sex to help their kids gain popularity.

    Who does that?

  1. Wendy: I agree! My imagination works as well or better than most authors anyway!

    JoLynne: I think we all have "those" really awkward moments. I could certainly win a few awards!

  1. glovin said...:

    I don't know if I agree with you. In order be a little less graphic, I don't see a problem with telling, as long as the scene is kept pretty short.

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