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This is unlike the question How to write good erotic scene?, which refers to a sub-plot of a novel in which two characters had sex. There the accepted answer essentially evades any detailed descriptions of the act, by focusing on appearance, or feelings and specifically NOT about genitalia or the actions involved in having sex. Other respondents suggesting similar methods of "hiding" the sex scene, stopping with a kiss or embrace, and jumping to a point after the sex has happened.

In erotica, the whole reason the reader is reading is for a lengthy and detailed blow-by-blow sex scene, that is the nature of the genre, and the treatment of sex in a novel or R-rated movie defeats that purpose. The reader wants a fully imagined sex scene, genitalia, penetrations, orgasms, fluids, the whole thing. Perhaps for masturbation or perhaps as a scene to reenact with a willing partner for role-playing fun. (If you are put off by these purposes, this question is not for you!)

All of that said, I write erotica. Typically these stories have a setup and scenario which I can describe quite well. However, once I get to the... main event... I find it much too easy to fall into the trap of clichés about crashing waves and rolling eyes.

I think perhaps other writers can provide a good way of thinking about such scenes to accomplish this, or perhaps ways in which this is similar to other writing tasks for which more advice exists.

What approach can I use to tackle writing long and detailed explicit sex scenes without turning away, that are varied and will sexually excite my readers without using silly similes or boring my reader?

  • You might be interested in How to write good erotic scene? and Sex: How much is too much? – a CVn Jul 11 '18 at 21:18
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    I think the question is not really a duplicate, because the genre here is "erotica", so the rules of what's acceptable are different, like a good sex scenes in R-rated and XXX-rated movies. – Alexander Jul 11 '18 at 21:23
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    Reddit has discussed this; see the "boots" paragraph at reddit.com/r/writing/comments/57p013/comment/d8tqjco The trick is to focus on the feelings, not the activity – J.G. Jul 12 '18 at 5:58
  • @Alexander I agree, readers of erotica expect more explicit description, including the whole gamut of penetrations and flesh meeting flesh, orgasms, etc. The whole point of their reading is a detailed sex scene that lasts for pages to aid their imagination for either masturbatory or reenactment pleasures. Not some allusion to guess at. This is considerably different than sex in a novel or R-movie, in erotica the specifics of precisely what goes where and actions taken are the whole reason the reader is reading. – Amadeus Jul 13 '18 at 11:45
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The best thing you can do in this scenario is read - prolifically - in your genre. Research what works for you, what gets your juices flowing ( so to speak :) ) and what reads like nails down a blackboard.

Reading takes time though, so if you want to read prolifically and have the funds to do it, sign up for an audiobook site. I use Audible. You will get through novels like wildfire (while you're walking the dog, exercising, doing the ironing etc.) because you can be listening (reading) all the time. I wear headphones everywhere I go.

The Guardian does a Bad Sex Award each year with excerpts from novels where the sex is so cheesily awful it makes the national press (UK). So Google this over the previous years and read as many bad examples as you can.

One of my university lecturers taught me that you can learn as much from bad writing as you can from good and we actually studied Twilight along with the literary classics!

When I write a sex scene, I steer clear of metaphors and similes and write exactly what is happening. Nobody wants to read about her "inner goddess doing a salsa" or his "billiard rack" penis and testicles (a recent Guardian winner).

Just tell it like it is.

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    You've opened my eyes, GG! I was going to write an answer explaining that the best way forward would be to develop good metaphors. But your comment about his, ahem, 'billiard rack' has, thankfully, reined me in. Thanks for the save. :) – robertcday Jul 12 '18 at 10:18
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    Ha ha ha... read those Guardian winners and you'll never write a sex metaphor again! To quote: "(I’m still haunted by Morrissey’s “bulbous salutation”, but a special mention is merited for my colleague Paul Mason’s description of his male character “moving in the general direction of her chrysanthemum”); crass or facile metaphor or simile (Ben Okri’s infamous rocket, Haruki Murakami’s mention of pubic hair “as wet as a rain forest”, Nancy Huston’s “sex swimming in joy like a fish in water”); overzealous presumptions of male prowess; and the word “cum”." – GGx Jul 12 '18 at 10:22
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    Save yourself, Robert!!! Save yourself!!!! – GGx Jul 12 '18 at 10:23
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I use two approaches: First, like @ggx, I steer clear of metaphors and similes in describing anything about the physical parts. The characters think and use the words they are accustomed to using and thinking, any description or dialogue is direct.

The second approach (in combination with this) is describing feelings, again as realistically as I can. Here, I may use metaphors and similes, memories and internal justifications for why somebody is doing something, enjoying something etc. Say my heroine prefers receiving oral stimulation to intercourse: Why? is it the only way she can achieve orgasm? Does it give her a feeling of power, does it make her lover subservient? Does it lessen her experience if her lover stops during her orgasm? Is it important for her to watch her lover's performance, or does she close her eyes and focus on sensation alone? How important is it to watch? Does she have mirrors strategically placed for this exact reason?

In general, what's going on in her head? To me, it is a cop-out to just say "it feels better", that is a "telling", not a "showing."

Likewise; I do refrain from anything identically repetitive, or any blank-minded sequences (often the same thing). I "compress" those areas with implied time passage; it is NOT erotic to detail every thrust and withdraw, or every moment of fifteen minutes worth of some sex act. You must find a way to "fast forward" through that, in a sentence or two, to something new.

Finally, I'd say beware going over-the-top on anything. Sex can be enjoyable without being the best sex the world has ever seen, the most beautiful woman the world has ever seen, the best cunnilingus she has ever enjoyed, etc.

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In my opinion, erotic writing is more about frustration than fulfillment, even in an explicit context. Once you give the reader exactly what they want, you've spent your load, so to speak. So you want to put that moment off, while still keeping the reader engaged. There's plenty of things an explicit writer can use for this purpose --sex with the wrong person, sex interrupted, innuendo, transparent symbolism, dirty talk, voyeurism, and so forth.

Then, when you're ready to end the story with a bang --so to speak-- pull out all the stops, make it quick, and don't worry if it's cliched. It's the journey that will be memorable, not the destination.

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