Writing, Relationships, and Sex

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This month I’ve been wrestling with the idea of sex in my novels. I’m not in a genre that has clear expectations for sex. It’s not Erotica (More Sex!) or Inspirational (Less sex!) so, the decision comes down to personal opinion and “What the story needs.”

The issue never came up in my first novel. The main character was away from her husband, and married enough that sex with somebody else was out of the question.

Now… the novel I’m working on right now centers around the relationship between a man and a woman (not romantic, exactly, but definitely open to that) and the one I’m supposed to be revising centers on a relationship between two men and a woman.

Not a love triangle, mind you. It’s a domestic triad. Three people. All mutually married to each other. And, believe it or not, its the social dynamic that interests me more than the sexual dynamic.

Being quite honest… I read erotica. I enjoy erotica.

But I have a strange relationship with sex in my own writing. When I’m tired, and frustrated, and fed up with trying to remember whether that’s I-S-E or I-Z-E, I have a tendency to say I’m just going to chuck it all, and sell porn on the internet.

When I think I’m being funny, I’ll say I thought about starting a scatophilia website, but my ex(bosses, boyfriends, gym teachers, etc…) kept bugging me about a job.

And when I hit a tough patch–writer’s block, or just not living up to my own expectations–I actually do find a nice, soft cushion of despair and settle down to write that mediocre but lucrative porn novel that’s just bursting to pay my light bill.

That doesn’t last long, but it does get me writing. And eventually… something somewhere… somehow catches my attention, and I’m off on the next novel.

And my erotica never actually becomes erotic. More of an … and then came some mushy stuff, and THEN–a penguin escaped from the zoo… kind of motif. I’m really, really bad at writing sex scenes.

So, here is my question: Under what circumstances would you consider sex to be necessary in a book? Does it ever? And if not… do you think that any scene can stand in for sex?


  1. Reply

    Well as you mentioned the genre’s that are about sex e.g. erotica.

    Does sex enhance story more story or sub stories forward, does add a connection that enhances the reader’s experience or if it was removed makes no difference, as in makes better when it is removed.

    I think the answer is the same whether it is sex, a complicated relationship, a job a character does or cute or exciting event—if it does not move the story forward are enhance it in some way it would not have been had it not been added then it’s not needed. It’s extra words that detract from the overall story.

    Do I read erotica? Yes.

    I find sex scenes difficult to write unless there is an emotional connection with the characters. I still may struggle but is easier than writing sex for the sake of sex, although I might be easier if I knew no one living would ever see it.

    Necessary? Hmmm. I don’t know that I believe that term applies, however, needed at times to enhance, maybe? All the reasons you named could be personal growth or degrowth areas for your character and they have something to learn or face some kind choice that needs facing, so again does it move the story forward and/or does it expand and/or enhance and/or belong in the character arc of said character? Is it an inciting incident? Does it create conflict that aids story movement?

    No, I do not think any scene can stand in for sex because there is a purpose, a reason, a growth factor, learning factor, or something that moves or adds to the story, so only scenes that do the same thing can stand in for a sex scene. Can other scenes do that? Yes, I think they can. There are many books written that could go either way and are still good books with or without them.

  2. Reply

    My brain is farting. It put the wrong choice of words like, are instead of or, and misspelled and all kinds of dumb things and I thought I read it over good. My brain tricked me into thinking it was right until after I hit post comment. Dang brain and fingers.

  3. Reply

    I’m pretty sure I won’t be writing any sex scenes in my books. Can’t imagine I’d be any good at it. I don’t know if sex scenes are every required in a book, although I can see them occurring in a romance. Too often it seems sex scenes are thrown into a book just to titillate the reader, and has nothing to do with the story itself.

    • Reply

      I have sex scenes, from time to time, but the ones I’ve done so far aren’t “erotic” sex scenes.I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be good at that, either. Mine tend to be “And then, her father walked in…” or Something else unpleasant scenes.

  4. Reply

    Hi Karen,
    I think it depends on the genre, on the characters and on the writer.
    If you’re feeling self-conscious about it, that will show through and it’ll feel clunky (clunky sex? might work for androids maybe?)
    Rely on whether it’s appropriate for your characters, you can tell when a sex scene is shoehorned in for the ‘love angle’, I think I see this more in thrillers, where the author feels the need to add it in for the sake of it.
    Is it necessary? Sometimes, yes. Often yes! (Depending on what you’re reading!), but it’s up to you whether you want to do the ‘kiss & fade out’ or go into detail, or something in between.

    • Reply

      Thanks for stopping by! Right now, I’m working with the idea that I can write it, now, and then decide what to do with it, after I see what I’ve got.

  5. Reply

    Tee hee–I’ve often thought it would be fun to write erotic stories under a pen name–a good writing exercise. Talk about “show, not tell!” In my first (as yet unpublished) novel, a cozy mystery, I wrote a smoking-hot sex scene. It was quite good, I thought, but then I realized that people who knew me would be reading that scene, and I felt queasy enough about that possibility that I toned it down considerably. Sure, a romance novel or romantic sub-plot works fine without graphic sex scenes. But if I’m really invested in how a literary romance turns out, I’d expect there to be some sex at some point, though it could certainly be the soft-focus, behind-closed-doors variety. What I dislike is when a story begins with graphic sex–unless it’s a volume of erotica. I don’t want anyone’s naughty bits dangling in my face on page one. At least buy me dinner first!

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