How not to write sex scenes


Originally published at:





“I do not want to write this part of the story.”

I read you 5x5, loud and clear.


Is… is that Morrissy on that cover?



I feel like “her assemblage” is just erotica ahead of it’s time. It’ll electrify the LANs after the robot uprising.


At some point romance novelists have to say “If i have to write the words ‘throbbing member’ one more time I’m going to stab myself to death with one”.

Even when you aren’t tied up in your Victorian sensibilities writing a good sex scene that feels real is far from easy. Worse, what’s good for one person is boring or shocking to someone else, you’ll never get a group of people to agree on it. A complete lack of sex scenes can leave a piece feeling juvenile (oh, they closed the door and came out a while later with their clothes slightly ajar) or even worse, boring. In the absolute worst case someone might call your work “literature” and then nobody will ever read it for fun again.


At least we haven’t sunk to bathroom scenes. Sometimes a good sequence of dots or spaces is all we readers need. TMI


Uh… … What are you doing in there?!?


Is Cory writing under a not-so-obscured name?


“She now stood nude in the lamplight except for her black embroidered cotton stockings which were held up by elastic bands around the thighs. Goldman rolled the stockings down and Evelyn stepped out of her stockings. She held her arms across her breasts. Goldman stood and turned her around slowly for inspection, a frown on her face. […]"

“Lie down. Evelyn sat down on the bed and looked at what was coming out of the black bag. On your stomach, Goldman said. She was holding a bottle and tilting the contents of the bottle into her cupped hand. Evelyn lay down on her stomach and Goldman applied the liquid where the marks of the stays reddened the flesh. Ow, Evelyn cried. It stings!”

“This is an astringent – the first thing is to restore circulation, Goldman explained as she rubbed Evelyn’s back and buttocks and thighs. Evelyn was squirming and her flesh cringing with each application. She buried her face in the pillow to smother her cries. I know, I know, Goldman said. But you will thank me. Under Goldman’s vigorous rubbing Evelyn’s flesh seemed to spring into its fullest conformations. She was shivering now and her buttocks were clenched against the invigorating chill of the astringent. Her legs squeezed together. Goldman now took from her bag a bottle of massage oil and began to knead Evelyn’s neck and shoulders and back, her thighs and calves and the soles of her feet.”

“Gradually Evelyn relaxed and her flesh shook and quivered under the emphatic skill of Goldman’s hands. Goldman rubbed the oil into her skin until her body found its own natural rosy white being and began to stir with self-perception. Turn over, Goldman commanded. Evelyn’s hair was now undone and lay on the pillow about her face. Her eyes were closed and her lips stretched in an involuntary smile as Goldman massaged her breasts, her stomach, her legs. Yes, even this, Emma Goldman said, briskly passing her hand over the mons. You must have the courage to live. The bedside lamp seemed to dim for a moment.”

Evelyn put her own hands on her breasts and her palms rotated the nipples. Her hands swam down along her flanks. She rubbed her hips. Her feet pointed like dancer’s and her toes curled. Her pelvis rose from the bed as if seeking something in the air. Goldman was now at the bureau, capping her bottled emollient, her back to Evelyn as the younger woman began to ripple on the bed like a wave on the sea. At this moment a hoarse unearthly cry issued from the walls, the closet door flew open and Mother’s Younger Brother fell into the room, his face twisted in a paroxysm of saintly mortification. He was clutching in his hands, as if trying to choke it, a rampant penis which, scornful of his intentions, whipped him about the floor, launching to his cries of ecstasy or despair, great filamented spurts of jism that traced the air like bullets and then settled slowly over Evelyn in her bed like falling ticker tape.” Via thejohnfox


“The passionately writhing figures crashed through the fourth wall.”


The funniest (unintentionally) sex scenes I ever read were in Tom Clancy’s The Bear and the Dragon. Clancy could barely write normal human being dialogue on his good days, but this was just a guy flailing about out of his depth/genre.


I was coming here to comment on Clancy specifically – in some of his earlier ones where there was some mild sex (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, Sum of All Fears), I seem to recall he pretty much did any sex scenes by saying some obvious thing and then -cut scene- “Lie Back” or “Get the lights” or “…when they were done blah blah blah”

I think mostly those work better anyway.


Yep. Morrisey’s novel is cited near the end of the NYT article.


Doctorow-verse canon says that the two are unrelated, distinct people, and that the similarity of names and professions is just coincidental.

Of course, fanon and slash-fic is a different story.


These characters are real historical figures, by the way- the anarchist activist Emma Goldman, and the actress Evelyn Nesbit.

Those with an hour to spare and a high threshold for literary sesquipedialism will probably enjoy this recording of Martin Amis and Will Self’s discussion on ‘Literature and Sex’.


Ah, I remember losing my virginity.


From the article (best bit I think):

"It’s hard to pick the best (worst) Bad Sex winner. But many people familiar with the prize have a soft spot for the 2015 recipient, Morrissey, former lead singer of the Smiths, for a passage in his debut novel, “List of the Lost.” Not only does he use the phrase “bulbous salutation,” but also he describes how it — the bulbous salutation, that is — “whacked and smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body except for the otherwise central zone.

That made people think of the London Underground, which they found especially amusing.

As Jonathan Beckman, a Literary Review editor, wrote at the time: “For future reference, the best way to reach the otherwise central zone is almost certainly by getting off the Victoria Line at Oxford Circus.” "


I have published than 70 gay romance and erotic novels, and never once have I used the words “throbbing member.” (I have used “throb,” but I always regret it)

I do run out of ways to describe oral sex, though. At some point, it becomes a game for myself: let’s find a metaphor that cannot in any way refer to oral sex, and use it to refer to oral sex. “He went down on him like consumer confidence declines in response to a drop in the value of the dollar.” That sort of thing.


I guess I’m prudish here by comparison, but to me sex in story is like going to the bathroom: though it’s absolutely vital for the species and the organism, and sometimes it’s important to the story, the vast majority of the time I’d prefer it not described in detail.