Sex scenes, that is. I cannot be the only writer who finds them torturous.
Please tell me I’m not.
I’ve just finished – bar the tweaking – the one and only sex scene in my book. It was a difficult process. I cannot describe body parts. I cannot move, on the page, through the bumps and grinds of the physical act itself. I just cannot write these things.
Fortunately I’m well-acquainted with the glorious twins Obtuseness and Metaphor, whose help I have called upon (in spades!) over the last 36 hours. Thank you, girls, you’ve saved my blushes.
I can’t work out whether the reluctance to write sex scenes is solely down to a fear of the reader’s perception and judgement (she must do it like this!) or whether it’s a general dislike of sexual acts written out as processes – or, perhaps, the combination of both.
But there’s no guarantee Obtuseness and Metaphor get it right either. In fact I think I may have been irrevocably damaged by Ian McEwan’s fantasy-killing Sex in the Library scene in Atonement, wherein he extended a mountaineering metaphor well beyond its natural boundaries and made me cringe and shake my head at the very point I probably should have been hyperventilating.
It. Was. Not. Good.
There is no easy route. And yet we persist. What exactly are we trying to capture? What exactly are we trying to conjure in our readers’ minds? These are the questions I asked myself and, in answering them, my scene revealed itself as one (thankfully) requiring those Glorious Twins – and not a biology lesson or an attempt at textual wank-fodder.
I recently saw a Facebook writer friend post the distinction between erotica and porn. It went something like tickle with a feather, it’s erotica – use the whole chicken, it’s porn (though I have to say much of the erotica I’ve read on Authonomy does seem to cluck).
I reckon we need another definition, for a sex scene in reluctant hands – wherein we allude to the feather and its usage, esp. the areas it may touch, with the help of those Glorious Twins.
I’m not going to do it… I’ve worked Obtuseness and Metaphor enough today. But the best suggestion posted below will win a (virtual) prize… go on, you know you want it.