In this world, witchcraft is practiced openly and is a neccessary function of society. Men cannot use magic directly, but possess much more mana than women. There are some spells that a witch may not have the neccessary amount of mana to perform, or it would be extremely difficult for her to do it herself. During intercourse, a witch can absorb the essence of a male and use it to temporarily power her own spells, or to concieve a child.

In many fantasy writings, sex is used as a neccessary part of performing magic. It often feels like it is thrown in just as an excuse for having it, and can come off as tacky or cringeworthy. How can you make it feel natural to a setting? How much should you show and tell? Should you go into detail about how it works, as well as its limitations? Or should you gloss over the nooks and crannies of it and leave it to the imagination of the reader?

  • I have heard a number of accounts about sex magic being a real thing - not just fantasy. I'm sure there are books, etc. on the subject which could be used for background research. The new series, Strange Angel, is partially based on this and from what I have heard, is at least somewhat based on actual events. Also, not all sex magic requires intercourse. Although what little I have seen is very male-oriented, there is a whole body of work on Tantra/tantric sex that might prove helpful. This is more about how it works than about how to write about it. – Joe Oct 10 at 6:42

I think that giving the witch conscious control of the conception/conjuration choice is a mistake. Granting her control over the consequences of the intercourse makes the process safer and less life-altering than it is in the real world. Keeping all the real-world complexities of sex in your story adds justification for hesitancy on both parties, which can help to flesh out your characters and make them more real.

It can also serve as a plot device to limit the powers and options of your characters once pregnancy is achieved. A male embryo can be sucked dry of mana, with life ending consequences if his mother attempts heavy magic while he is in the womb. A female embryo can also cause problems by influencing the spell's effect towards her own goals. A strong female character can go from magic-wielding bad-a$$ to near powerlessness as a consequence of a single powerful spell. That can make for an excellent and unexpected plot twist.

To answer your question, sex magic can be more than just reader-bait if you put effort into making it real with positive and negative consequences and allow it to influence the plot. You save it from being tacky and cringeworthy, by making it integral and necessary to the story being told.

As for what level of detail to share with your reader, that is an entirely different question. In simplest words, make it appropriate to your intended audience, but within those boundaries, make it as beautiful and realistic as possible; just like everything else that is worth writing.

Keep Writing!

You need to reframe sex.

In the world today, sex is mostly associated with pleasure. You want to associate it with magic. You can do that by

a) making it a ritual. Instead of the free-flowing, spontaneous act that sex for pleasure is, sex magic has precise rules. Everything happens on cue, at a specific time in a specific order. Arousal is ensured through tried-and-tested procedures that work on purely biological excitement (it is quite possible to stimulate both men and women without having an emotional reaction).

b) clearly seperating the two. A witch certainly would have sex for pleasure as well. But she would have it with a different man (or, if you want to go there, woman). In a different location, in different clothes, etc.

c) or by going the other way entirely and basically tell the reader: "Have you ever had sex that was just magical? Well, it probably was exactly that..." and then focus the storytelling not on the biological details of which body part goes where, but on the inner emotions of the participants.

  • As an example of (b) -- I have a story set in a world where one of the major religions uses sex in their rituals; one of my protagonists becomes romantically involved with a priestess of that religion and a source of conflict at the beginning of their relationship is that she refuses to have sex with him ("because between us it would be personal") while still performing the rituals with others. – Jules Oct 13 at 9:38

Just do what you are already doing. First, make it necessary to perform some spells; they require the energy of two genders joined. I might even make it distasteful to the female, but she does it out of necessity.

I'd let the men volunteer. Yeah, they will be drained for a day or more, but sex for magic is the best sex there is, so it is worth applying. Let the witches be picky.

Then your problem is a more normal problem, which you can conquer, writing a sex scene that isn't cringeworthy, You want it to be realistic given the attitudes of the partners and the goal of the witch. In many ways (under the scenario I have outlined) she is similar to a prostitute with a willing client; she has to bring him to orgasm, but she is not doing it for love or kindness, this is just manual labor, her job to get her pay (mana) and accomplish something else.

  • This sounds a bit Puritanical. In this scenario, the man might be closer to the role of prostitute than the woman. In a society where this was an openly accepted practice, there could be any spectrum of attitudes and emotions associated with it. Whatever makes the world and the story within it work, but it doesn't have to be negative on either end unless that furthers the story. – Joe Oct 10 at 6:51
  • @Joe Surely the witches are the closest to prostitutes here; pragmatically doing something they don't really want to do for what they can get out of it (to get the man's mana in this case, not the man's money). For the man, just like with the prostitute, he does this for pleasure, for his payment he gets great sex, with no strings attached, that he could not get for free (or he wouldn't pay for it). This is libertarian, not Puritanical. Witches make an informed and un-coerced choice to have sex with volunteer men for some form of payment. Neither party would be good "Puritans". – Amadeus Oct 10 at 10:25

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