Writing Sex Scenes

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androidblues
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Re: Writing Sex Scenes

Post by androidblues » May 19th, 2011, 10:23 am

There is gratuitous sex, much like there is gratuitous cursing, then there are sex scenes. One is needed in context, the other isn't.

Saying that sex is never needed is akin to saying that sex is needed everywhere. Black and white is never good.

Sex can be a plot device in YA. In Forever it is. In The Duff it is. In Speak, although that's rape, it is. In Twilight(Breaking Dawn) it is. In Invincible Summer it is. This list goes on and on. Sex is needed in those books, otherwise they wouldn't exist.

Other times, the sex is highly gratuitous. Don't get me started on the sex in Vampire Academy. Without it, the book could continue just fine. It adds nothing to the plot. Same with Anita Blake, except to give her Mary Sue points.

In some cases, the answer is no. But for others, it is yes. And not because they're incubi.
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Re: Writing Sex Scenes

Post by Margo » May 19th, 2011, 10:35 am

I'm squarely with Mike R and androidblues with this one. Sex is a heck of lot more than tab A to slot B. There are a hundred different character issues involved in sex, including power, guilt, self-worth, objectification, attachment processes, self-love and self-loathing, alienation, etc etc etc. Taking the position that a sex scene is never necessary ignores that sex is a MAJOR influence on human behavior, with the potential to be everything from a healing experience to a force of destruction used against oneself and others.

Yeah, can't imagine why anyone would want to attempt to apply a tool that powerful. It takes awhile to get it right, but that doesn't mean don't try it. There are only two reasons I think someone should avoid writing sex scenes EVER: it's inappropriate for their genre/target audience, and/or it makes them uncomfortable to write it.
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Re: Writing Sex Scenes

Post by Margo » May 19th, 2011, 10:39 am

sierramcconnell wrote:Because in the end (totally not a porn joke) there's only so many ways to have sex.
This is the aha moment for me. It has not occured to you that in a well-written sex scene, the mechanics is not the focus of the scene? Nor the 'sensual details'. Those are intended to play off the deeper meaning of the scene -- what is happening to the character internally.
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Re: Writing Sex Scenes

Post by Cookie » May 19th, 2011, 10:47 am

Margo wrote: Taking the position that a sex scene is never necessary ignores that sex is a MAJOR influence on human behavior, with the potential to be everything from a healing experience to a force of destruction used against oneself and others.
I was going to comment, but you kinda just summed up everything I was going to say.
Plus, with the headache I have I kinda forgot everything else.

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Re: Writing Sex Scenes

Post by androidblues » May 19th, 2011, 10:49 am

Margo wrote:This is the aha moment for me. It has not occured to you that in a well-written sex scene, the mechanics is not the focus of the scene? Nor the 'sensual details'. Those are intended to play off the deeper meaning of the scene -- what is happening to the character internally.
Yes, so many times.

A few months ago I was squeamish about writing sex scenes. Then I realized that the mechanics did not have to be mentioned in detail. Everyone knows what happens during sex. It's not a mystery unless you're in elementary school. And even then, kids had a dictionary to look up "dirty" words. I realized that the emotion was the important part. What happens during this scene to progress character development? How does this change your character and his/her relationship with his/her partner?

Why does violence get a pass, but not sex? Can't violence or language be gratuitous and unneeded? I don't see anyone mentioning that. In the Animorphs, a very pre-teen series, there's a whole lot of violence and torture. But the romance, even though the characters talk about marriage and dating when they're sixteen, never goes beyond kissing. I'm not saying that it's a bad thing, but it's interesting that violence and war are seen as appropriate for fifth graders, but sex isn't.

By the way Margo, I must say that I find your signature amusing. Fellow Leo here, except it's my moon sign.
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Re: Writing Sex Scenes

Post by Sommer Leigh » May 19th, 2011, 11:23 am

I'm going to jump in and say that I disagree that sex has no place in YA. Of course, YA is complicated in that one twelve or thirteen year old is not the same as another one, so one book with a sex scene might be ok for one kid but not for another until they are a little older. It is impossible to brand the whole reading audience as any particular age group. Young adults are too varied to be lumpable.

And I think that sex is a bigger theme in teen's lives than say, love at first sight. Doing it. Not doing it. Doing it. Not doing it. My friends are doing it? My friends are not doing it? I want to do it? I don't want to do it? At least facing the question is more prevelant, whether the "doing" happens or not is up to the story at hand.

The DUFF is a perfect example of an awesome book that handles teen sex really well in a way that makes sense and provides a great platform to ask such questions. WANTING teens to be unconcerned with sex is not going to make it so.

I would argue that writing sex scenes for YA is WAY more difficult than writing it for adults, though.
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Re: Writing Sex Scenes

Post by sierramcconnell » May 19th, 2011, 11:26 am

Margo wrote:
sierramcconnell wrote:Because in the end (totally not a porn joke) there's only so many ways to have sex.
This is the aha moment for me. It has not occured to you that in a well-written sex scene, the mechanics is not the focus of the scene? Nor the 'sensual details'. Those are intended to play off the deeper meaning of the scene -- what is happening to the character internally.
And as I have said before, I have written plenty of sex scenes, thank you. Frankly, it got boring, quickly. Even with those 'changes' you think take place.

The same sort of changes can happen if a person isn't so base an animal and can see the beauty in the world around them. If they haven't become so shuttered to -stop rolling your eyes- the innocent things that are around us.

There is so much more out there to write about without fillering your word count with useless [bleeping].
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Re: Writing Sex Scenes

Post by Mike R » May 19th, 2011, 11:50 am

The changes we think take place are real. Sex changes people. It changes their attitudes, motivations, their outlook, mood, their perception. It works as a catalyst for character growth.

Sex also works as a reason for betrayal or loyalty. It can give a character a reason to die for another. It can give a character a reason to kill. Sex is about what it does to or for the characters. Sex is an internal experience.

Sex isn't filler. It's about motivation, growth, building relationships. Sex can be good or evil.

No one really really has to write it. Some of us choose to and a discussion of its merits, problems, how to, and why is valid.

Those of you who dislike writing or reading about sex, don't. Just don't berate us for liking it.

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Re: Writing Sex Scenes

Post by polymath » May 19th, 2011, 11:58 am

I believe the root of any scene, sex, violence, rock and roll, drugs, glorifying socially and/or age inappropriate behaviors, etc., any scene is, is whether it is problematic and goal oriented and life complicating and the obverse, resolving, achieving, accomplishing a purpose payoff. How graphic a scene is or needs to be is proportional to how problematic it is or how strong the payoff is or needs to be. And artful, timely, and judicious.
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Re: Writing Sex Scenes

Post by Margo » May 19th, 2011, 12:30 pm

Sierra, you are confusing the heck out of me. First you say the scenes are unwanted and unnecessary, then that you have no problem with those 'particular scenes', and now they are back to being useless *#$% filler.
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Re: Writing Sex Scenes

Post by Margo » May 19th, 2011, 12:31 pm

polymath wrote:...whether it is problematic and goal oriented and life complicating...
This.
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Re: Writing Sex Scenes

Post by sierramcconnell » May 19th, 2011, 12:41 pm

I kind of like the way poly puts it. Nice and strong and flat and just there. Not one way or the other.

Margo, I said I USED to write those things. USED TO meaning in the past. Meaning YEARS AGO.

And you know what I learned? They are useless filler. I found that every time I wanted to put in a scene I could find something else that was more compelling and used MORE brain cells. Look, you don't need to use sex. Be a bit more creative and think of something else.

And no, I don't read anything with any sort of sexy scenes anymore. I'm a different person than I was then. Because I understand that sex isn't all that great, it's not the bees knees, and it's not what makes the world go round. People talk about how great it is and all that, and I've had my ear's fill of these books and words and you know what? I haven't even had it yet.

That's what's sad. When a person who hasn't even had sex yet knows more about sex because there's too much of it out there.

Oversaturation. Ridiculous. There's more to life that being on your back and knees, and dressing like a hooker because you don't think anyone will love you unless you show some skin. Honestly? Get some self-respect, women.
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Re: Writing Sex Scenes

Post by Margo » May 19th, 2011, 1:03 pm

Sierra, I think this might be a topic that doesn't resonate with you, so I'm just going to leave that particular aspect of the thread alone. No point in flogging the horse, right? You're comfortable with your position, and I don't see a constructive reason to engage you on it.

However, I would like like to hear other people thoughts on writing sex scenes well. nudge nudge, polymath.
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Re: Writing Sex Scenes

Post by oldhousejunkie » May 19th, 2011, 1:06 pm

sierramcconnell wrote:And you know what I learned? They are useless filler. I found that every time I wanted to put in a scene I could find something else that was more compelling and used MORE brain cells. Look, you don't need to use sex. Be a bit more creative and think of something else.
Well, Margo, I'm not Polymath, but I'll throw in. I'm a big advocate of making the sex scene pointed. When I read one that is totally unnecessary, I roll my eyes. I also want to gag when I read one that's badly written (::cough:: Alison Weir).

Personally, not one of the four scenes in my novel are and it took a heck of lot of brain cells to write each one. Of course, the one is a rape scene. I was squeamish about it, so I had to handle it very carefully. Mostly because I've never had to endure such an awful experience. That whole experience changes my protagonist in such a way that she believes that she is unfit for marriage (general opinion of society in the 19th century). So when she meets a guy and he wants to marry her, she's sort of freaking out about their wedding night. She's convinced that he will throw her out of the room when he discovers the truth. I felt it was very important for the character development to show that he loved her above all else and that he wanted her. The impact of that would be pretty weak if it was cut out or just alluded to.

The third and the fourth...well I might be pandering to my own fantasies. In fact, I might go back and allude to the fourth because it is just filler (so thank you for that). The third is a pretty emotional scene as the protags reunite after a long absence. There's been a betrayal, etc.

What I'm trying to say in a very drawn out way is that there can be character development for sex. Heck, it was one of my defining moments so why not for my characters?

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Re: Writing Sex Scenes

Post by sierramcconnell » May 19th, 2011, 1:09 pm

Perhaps I just look at it differently, (ie not a panting, raging, hormone) because of the following:

1) I'm a virgin, I can do without. I don't need it to live.
2) I know people who've been abused. Let's please to not be glorifying the act.
3) I know people who've been raped. Let's really please to not be glorifying the act.

So sex. It is a terrible, bad, horrible thing that does not need to be glorified. It is useless filler for the sake of shock value and "thinking" it's going to get a rise out of our readers, when really, unless you've been there, no, you've not been there.
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