Sex scenes are as integral to spicy romance as whipped cream is to sundaes (or to use-your-imagination), but quantity hardly speaks for quality. A proliferation of ins and outs and seductive banter are only the more apparent components of saucy scene-writing. Truth be told, there should be much more going on before the point of contact than during. A romance writer should never forget to keep an eye on the romance if she’s ever going to make the scene truly sensuous. So how to accomplish it?
Romance is mostly written by and for women, and because of that the prose has to be approached with their sensibilities in mind. Women take their cues from the images they form in their mind as their senses are acted upon, rather than visuals observed as men are more apt to do. This is the greatest difference I’ve noted between sex scenes written by male and female authors, and the biggest flaw when male authors get it wrong. (Not that it’s universal in male authors, as many get it exceedingly right. Ken Follett still writes the best sex scenes of any male author I’ve ever read. To see what I’m talking about, read Night Over Water.) Let me give you an example.
I once read a sex scene written by a man which included the male character receiving stimulation to a very male part of his anatomy. While the prose was quite good and very descriptive, the writer’s observations were not only in the male character’s point of view, but within the confines of a man’s sensibilities. He described the woman’s breasts and her voluptuous figure, as well as her lipsticked mouth gliding up and down him. He also described rather graphically how it looked when his climax reached its er…finish, using some very active verbs and sticky adjectives. I don’t know about you, but I was a tad put off by the scene’s ickiness, and I feel quite safe in saying there would be more than a few women who’d share my opinion. Now, while this would be considered just fine if it were written primarily for a male market, it doesn’t work for women, and I’ll tell you why.
Part of the explanation is obvious, as most heterosexual men would consider a description of a woman’s feminine pulchritude essential, while most heterosexual women would not. But it’s more subtle than that. When writing for a female audience (and I’ve found this point valid with lesbian romance as well), it’s more important to show not what the woman observes but what the character’s lover reacts to. Although she may be just as interested in the male’s anatomy and what he does with it, her senses are more roused by the male’s sexual reaction to her. The more arousing he finds the heroine, the more arousing it is for the female reader. Take male-centric scene mentioned above. Written for a female audience it could be just as sexually charged and graphic, but the focus would be more on how excited she felt doing it, as well as how passionate her partner reacted because of it.
Simply put, as far as the males are concerned in female-centric sex scenes, they should always be more aroused by their woman’s reaction to them, than by how they feel by the act alone. Every woman, no matter the shape or looks or age, wants to feel that she alone can cause her lover to lose it, her own uniqueness being the most potent aphrodisiac of them all.