Let’s Talk About Sex

Fear not, this is not a blog about the 50 Shades trilogy, primarily because I haven’t actually read it but also because it’s probably been talked to death by now.  No, I wanted to talk about reading and writing sex scenes. How far do you go?

When I’m not writing, more often than not, I’m reading. A lot of what I read involves some sort of relationship between adults and, therefore, the expected sex scene comes up.  How sex scenes are dealt with varies immensely and it made me wonder where the barriers are for the reader and the writer.

At a recent meeting with an editor, I was asked about the heat level of my work in progress.  Well, to be honest, I didn’t know where it came on the ‘heat’ scale. Was it a ‘sweet’ romance? I was asked. Did the bedroom door close and the rest left to the reader’s imagination? Errm, no was my answer but I still wasn’t quite sure where to place it. Did the editor have a Heat Scale I could look at and work out roughly where mine came? Sadly not, so I thought I’d devise one myself for future reference. (see below)

Anyway, all this made me ask myself a few questions…

Is a sex scene always necessary?

How much detail do you need to go into?

Is it best to leave something to the imagination or are consumers more accepting and/or wanting to go further into the bedroom?

What do you think? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Thanks. Sue 

37 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Sex

  1. I think I come somewhere between cool and warm and that’s what I like reading too. It’s like eating fish and chips – we know what it’s like. What is far more interesting and sexy is the tension before the act itself, the desire, the relationship, the characters…. great topic for debate!

    • Hi Sophie

      Thanks for commenting, you do have a very good point there.

      I’m now trying to disassociate the thought of fish & chips with sex!


  2. Determined not to be last on your blog today, Sue. LOL. I like my sex scenes to be somewhere between HOT and RED HOT. But I like them to involve the hero and heroine ONLY (cough, cough) and to either kick off their relationship or to be at the point in the novel where having sex complicated things rather than solves problems. Terminology can be a problem, if I read the words ‘her sex’ in reference to a woman’s body I find it a complete turn off. I prefer proper nouns rather than ambiguous descriptions but draw a line at describing the intimacy of the sex act in purely biological terms. Blimey, its only a quarter to nine. Better shut up now and go and have a cold shower. LOL.

    • Hi Lizzie

      Yes I hate those sort of terms too. We all know what everything is called, why come up with something else?


  3. Definitely HOT – but like Lizzie, hero and heroine only – although I did once have a very startled Labrador who rapidly shot out of his basket and hid in another room when things started getting steamy.

  4. Hahaha love the heat scale. Maybe should print it out and place by bed?? Maybe not! I think (here we go) that whatever, women write MUCH better sex scenes than men! Because we are into the small subtleties that make it exciting. They are into …well, you know. That’s why the best ‘eroitic’a’ is written bu us. And cooked by us – check out what Nigella can do with a teaspoon!!!! (Ducks, waits for oprobrium to be chucked).

    • Hi Carol

      Thanks for the comment. Glad you like the heat scale, I think I’m onto something here 😉

      As for Nigella, I dread to think what she can do with a teaspoon ….


  5. Well I googled the Fortin Scale and it’s all true. “The Fortin barometer is used to measure atmospheric pressure accurately”. There is reference to “The adjustable screw”, which I guess gives rise to the existance of a scale.

    • Thank you Garry – that last comment made me laugh. There’s not a lot I can say to that!


  6. The trouble with sex is it’s so personal. If you describe it as you like it,to the extent o you’re bumping about with an orgasm as you write, it will leave 99% of your readers completely unmoved, but if you put in only the bits everyone has in commmon, your agent will tell it’s too clinical, so the safest thing is to shove the pair iinto a soundproof the bedroom, shout get on with it before shutting the door firmly and doing something more exciting outside.

    • I think it helps if you have really connected with the characters before they jump into bed together, then it can make it a whole lot less clinical.


  7. Love the Heat Scale Sue. As a reader, for me it’s HOT… but there has to be a plot too – not just erotic romance scenes. Love a good bonkbuster for example recently read Killer Heels by Rebecca Chance and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    • Hi Shaz

      I think the Heat Scale may be my finest piece of writing to date …. LOL

      Thanks for leaving a comment.

  8. I can’t cope with REALLY hot scenes! I am so old…sigh. I can just about manage Jilly Cooper/Jo Carnegie/Fiona Walker type sex scenes. I haven’t even attempted Fifty Shades…I blush at the thought of it. I have written a couple of sex scenes but whether they’ll survive the final edit, at least in their current form, is anyone’s guess. I think they’ve got to be part of the plot and I hate stupid terms for body parts but I don’t like it too clinical either. Jeez, it’s a total minefield. Mind you, a well written sex scene is a pleasure to read *blush*.

    • Hi Sharon

      The only time I was embarrassed about writing a sex scene was when I realised my mum was going to read it. Yes, I hate those stupid names too.


  9. I used to write really explicit erotica so am pretty comfortable writing about sex, I skim read the erotic bits of 50 Shades (and to be honest Bared To You which has received better reviews) and was so disappointed!! Gunshot Glitter features a gorgeous, but deeply explicit scene which readers both male and female have picked out for comment because they loved it and it made their toes curl. That made me really happy. It would ping Red Hot on the Sue Fortin scale.

    The secret to writing a good sex scene is to make it completely appropriate and relevant to your characters. You can of course write from your own experience and emotion for authenticity, but try not to be judgmental, don’t impose your own value system on it. And most of it read it aloud! You need to be able to read it aloud and not wince or cringe, or for the dialogue not to sound shlonky. Give it a go. In fact that goes for any part of a book. It needs to feel believable and real for it to be truly sexy and erotic, at least it does for me.

    But the flipside is that you can also use a sex scene to showcase the degeneration of a character and tell you something about and what’s happening to them. Sex, creatively, can be a massively effective and powerful metaphor,actually.

    • Hi Yasmin

      Great advice there – thank you! Like you say it has to fit the characters and be appropriate to the plot.

      Thanks for taking time to post a great reply.


  10. I think you lot have s-e-x on the brain!! 😉 Mandy Baggot posed a similar question today, so I’m going to cheat and post my comment to Mandy here. Just for info, though, I’m HOT! Yay! I’ve always wanted to sizzle – in a sexy temptress way rather than a sausage. Oooh, scratch the image. Here you go, my comment (I’ll go now before imaginations run riot!): My book, Warrant for Love*plug, plug* has two, s-e-x scenes in it. When I didn’t include, the editor said, so what happened? Did they rip each other’s clothes off and then sit down and have a cup of tea?? Show us!! So I did! Basically, I think sex has to be integral to the plot, not THE plot, if you get my drift. So, yes, sizzle away, I say – as long as it’s appropriate and part of the story. 🙂 xx

    • Hi Sheryl, you do make me laugh. I really am trying not to think of sausages whilst retaining the word sizzle 🙂


  11. Ooh late to the party, as always but as they say in German, the later the hour, the hotter the guests. HA! In my writing, I vary between warm and steamy. Sometimes I like more detail, I like to make sure that the reader understands that my characters are REALLY getting it on (pardon my French). And sometimes, it’s not so necessary to the plot so I make sure they get in the bedroom, take their clothes of, get… you know, going, and then I leave them to it. 50 Shades of Grey, it ain’t, but it ain’t all sweet innocence either. GREAT Post. Fortin Scale is going on my wall!

  12. Hot and steamy is good, but must have the magic ingredient…love. That’s why – imo – FSOG works.Without the love/romance, gratuitous sex can become boring. If not love, then at least a passion that you just know is going to turn into love.

    • Very much agree with you Liv, love is the thing that makes it magic. Thanks for popping by.

  13. In an adult romantic relationship, there should be some sex. If there isn’t, there’s either something wrong, or the participants have a valid reason for not engaging, eg religious convictions. We are writing for readers today, and even the older generation lived through the permissive sixties!
    Your scale is cute, but it won’t mean much to publishers. It will to readers, though!
    The heat scales that publishers understand for romance are erotic (open bedroom door, frequent sex scenes, menage, kink. BDSM and GLTB themes all acceptable, no flowery language, explicit language including the f and three c’s), highly sensual (everything explained, but fewer sex scenes, kink etc allowed but not extremes), sensual (not so much graphic language, fewer sex scenes), warm (open bedroom door, vaguer descriptions, maybe not explicit descriptions) and sweet (bedroom door firmly closed).
    If you’ve read Jilly Cooper, ,50 Shades is far less explicit, so it won’t shock you.
    To write sex scenes well, they have to either advance the plot or character development, or both, and they have to be specific to the characters involved, or you’ll end up with something generic and boring.

  14. Hi Lynne
    Thanks for taking the time to leave the comment – much appreciated. Some great advice there.
    To be honest, my scale is only a bit of fun and I wouldn’t really take it to a meeting 🙂


  15. […] The Romaniacs have been very romantic over the last twelve months with the help of wonderful guests, comical comments and brilliant banter. Thank you all so much for joining in with the fun, offering advice, and caring. It’s a proper relationship. We’ve even got hot under the collar, once or twice. Sue took us through our very own, unique heat scale: https://theromaniacgroup.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/lets-talk-about-sex/ […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s