How to Write a Sex Scene
The 12-step program
Now that I am an internationally famous author celebrated for my graphic portrayals of amour (see “A Pervert Among Us,” New York Times Book Review, April 2002, and “How Low Will He Go?” US Magazine, Jan. 2003), I am frequently asked how I manage to write such incredibly hot sex scenes.
My general response to these inquiries is to laugh shyly and say, “Look, kid, ask Updike, he’s even smuttier than me.”
But I must admit that the question is being asked so frequently these days, and with such delicious sycophancy, that I feel duty bound to respond to my public somehow.
Therefore, in the interest of preventing more bad sex writing from entering the cultural jet stream, I am officially setting out my 12-Step Program for Writing Incredibly Hot Scenes.
Step 1: Never compare a woman’s nipples to:
b) Cherry pits
c) Pencil erasers
d) Frankenstein’s bolts
Nipples are tricky. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and shades. They do not, as a rule, look like much of anything, aside from nipples. So resist making dumbshit comparisons.
Note: I am guilty of the last.
Step 2: Never, ever use the words penis or vagina.
There is no surer way to kill the erotic buzz than to use these terms, which call to mind—my mind, at least—health classes (in the best instance) and (in the worst instance) venereal disease.
As a rule, in fact, there is often no reason at all to name the genitals. Consider the following sentence:
“She wet her palm with her tongue and reached for my penis.”
Now consider this alternative:
“She wet her palm with her tongue and reached for me.”
Is there any real doubt as to where this particular horndoggle is reaching?
Step 2a: Resist the temptation to use genital euphemisms, unless you are trying to be funny.
No: Tunnel of Love, Candy Shop, Secret Garden, Pleasure Gate
Equally No: Flesh Kabob, Magic Wand, Manmeat
Especially No: Bearded Clam, Tube Steak, Sperm Puppet
I could go on, but only for my own amusement.
Step 3: Then again, sometimes sex is funny.
And if you ever saw a videotape of yourself in action, you’d agree. Don’t be afraid to portray comic aspects. If one of your characters, in a dire moment of passion, hits a note that sounds eerily like Celine Dion, duly note this. If another can’t stay hard, allow him to use a ponytail holder for an improvised cock ring. And later on, if his daughter comes home and demands to know where her ponytail holder is, well, so be it.
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