Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sex scenes

The authors of Self-editing for Fiction Writers say, when x-rated images started being used to advertise blue jeans, explicit sex writing lost its power to shock or titillate. They suggest a subtler linespace approach will engage a reader's imagination and thus be more effective.

They say do it like this: (do you recognize it?)

He swung her off her feet and into his arms and started up the stairs. Her head was crushed against his chest and she heard the hard hammering of his hear beneath her ears. He hurt her and she cried out, muffled, frightened. Up the stairs he went in the utter darkness, up, up, and she was wild with fear. He was a mad stranger and this was a dark blackness she did not know, darker than death. He was like death, carrying her away in arms that hurt. She screamed, stifled against him and he stopped on the landing and, turning her swiftly in his arms, bent over her and kissed her with a savagery and completeness that wiped out everything from her mind but the dark into which she was sinking and the lips on hers. He was shaking, as though he stood in a strong wind, and his lips, fallen from her body, fell on her soft flesh. He was muttering things she did not hear, his lips were evoking feelings never felt before. She was darkness and he was darkness and there had never been anything before this time, only darkness and his lips on hers. She tried to speak and his mouth was all overs her again. Suddenly she had a wild thrill such as she had never known: joy, fear, madness, excitement, surrender to arms that were too strong, lips to bruising, fate that moved too fast. For the first time in her life she had met someone, something stronger than she, someone she could neither bully nor break, someone who was bullying and breaking her. Somehow, her arms were around his neck and her lips trembling beneath his and they were going up into the darkness again, and darkness that was soft and swirling and all enveloping.

When she awoke the next morning, he was gone and had it not been for the rumpled pillow beside her, she would have thought the happenings of the night before a preposterous dream....

Does this do it for you?


  1. I hate this!! It's more like rape with the hurt and fear and then, oh my, she suddenly gets the 'thrill' and 'oh my God, this is wonderful' surrendering to him. What?? She should be fighting him off and kicking him where it hurts!
    This isn't subtle, but - sigh - it's Gone with the Wind - and maybe Miss Scarlett liked that kind of sex, but then I never liked Scarlett anyway! Wasn't madly keen on Rhett either, if it comes to that.
    That kind of scene actually does absolutely nothing for me. I want the sex in a novel to be part of a loving and tender relationship. That's far more effective to me. But maybe that's why I can't write bestsellers!

  2. P.S. Should have added this - bullying and breaking someone is total anathema to me. It's the worst kind of male domination. Mills and Boon/Harlequin tried to replicate this in their 1970's bodice-ripper novels - now, thankfully, very dated.
    Sorry for the rants, I just feel very strongly about this!

  3. No, doesn't do it for me either! But no scene like this ever would if I read it out of context - for me it's all about the build up of sexual tension. But if that's Gone with the Wind, then I'm sure I did enjoy watching it at the part in the story!

  4. I agree about the forced, I know what you need tone. Maybe their point was the not-need of anatomical blow-by-blow action.

    I agree about taking out of context, Rosemary. Scarlet was a self-absorbed woman-girl and Rhett's "domination" fit the story.

  5. Knowing ahead of time that it's from Gone With the Wind made it a little more palatable, although I was disappointed to see how dated the writing is. There is too much force. As I was reading, I could see certain sentences and descriptions had appeal, and would be so much better if they went in a different direction than where they did, but as it is now, it's just shy of rape, so no, it doesn't do it for me.

  6. Ana, agree about not needing all the anatomical detail but the "darkness that was soft and swirling and all enveloping" is so reminiscent of the typical 1930's/40's movies when the lace certain wafts in the breeze while the couple 'get on with it'!

  7. I did recognize this right away from "Gone with the Wind". I think now it does seem rather forcefull, but in context and given the tone of the rest of the story, it fits and works.

    I think romance in general today, is very different than this, whether we get a full, blow by blow (no pun intended) love scene or a fade to black.