How to Write a Great Sex Scene [+Examples]
by Writing Workshops Staff
A year ago
The best writers approach writing a sex scene with the same level of care and attention as they would any other scene. They consider the characters involved, the context and purpose of the scene, and the tone and mood they want to convey.
Here are some tips for composing a sex scene:
Set the stage: It's important to establish the setting and mood for the scene. This can include describing the physical surroundings, the atmosphere, and the emotions of the characters.
Show, don't tell: Instead of simply stating what is happening, use descriptive language and sensory details to show the reader what is happening.
Make it authentic: A sex scene should feel genuine and realistic, not forced or unrealistic. This means using accurate descriptions and avoiding cliches or stereotypes.
Consider the characters: A sex scene should reveal something about the characters and their relationship. This can be done through dialogue, body language, or other actions.
Use discretion: A sex scene should be tasteful and not overly explicit. It should also serve a purpose in advancing the plot or character development.
Overall, the best writers approach writing a sex scene with sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and a focus on authenticity and character development.
And: writer beware.
Every year the Literary Review hands out the Bad Sex Writing awards.
It can be heartening to see famous writers on the list, especially if you're an emerging/aspiring writer looking for a little confirmation that you also have what it takes to be a published writer (especially if you can write a good sex scene).
After all, John Updike won a lifetime achievement award from the judges of Britain's Bad Sex in Fiction Prize, which celebrates crude, tasteless or ridiculous sexual passages in modern literature.
So, here you go, a sampling of bad sex writing from past nominees to inspire you, and maybe even make you chuckle.
PLUS: we added TWO BONUS sex scenes at the very bottom from Mary Gaitskill and E.L. Doctorow that will show you how to write a GREAT sex scene (and, if you're looking for a class in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, or screenwriting, we've got you covered).
Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart
“You wanna pop me?” she said. This must have been some new-fangled youth term. The verb “to pop.”
“I wanna bust a nut inside you, shorty,” I said. “I wanna make you sweat, boo. Let’s do this thing.”
Apples by Richard Milward
“She had on no knickers, and my heart went crash-bang-wallop and my eyes popped out. She hadn’t shaved, and her fanny looked like a tropical fish or a bit of old carpet.”
Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe
“Now his big generative jockey was inside her pelvic saddle, riding, riding, riding, and she was eagerly swallowing it swallowing it swallowing it with the saddle’s own lips and maw — all this without a word.”
Kissing England by Sean Thomas
“It is time, time … Now. Yes. She is so small and compact and yet she has all the necessary features … Shall I compare thee to a Sony Walkman, thou art more compact and more – She is his own Toshiba, his dinky little JVC, his sweet Aiwa … Aiwa, aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh …”
List of the Lost by Morrissey
“At this, Eliza and Ezra rolled together into the one giggling snowball of full-figured copulation, screaming and shouting as they playfully bit and pulled at each other in a dangerous and clamorous rollercoaster coil of sexually violent rotation with Eliza’s breasts barrel-rolled across Ezra’s howling mouth and the pained frenzy of his bulbous salutation extenuating his excitement as it whacked and smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body except for the otherwise central zone.”
Noughties by Ben Masters
“We got up from the chair and she led me to her elfin grot, getting amonst the pillows and cool sheets. We trawled each other’s bodies for every inch of history.”
Rare Earth by Paul Mason
“He began thrusting wildly in the general direction of her chrysanthemum, but missing — his paunchy frame shuddering with the effort of remaining rigid and upside down.”
The Big Kiss: An Arcade Mystery by David Huggins
“’Stick it in’, she whispered. I moved up the bed and pushed inside her. Liz squeaked like wet rubber. She grabbed my love-handles and ground her hips against me, her eyes black saucers staring into mine as she hooked a yoga-leg onto my shoulder. We went through a medley of our favourite positions. When Liz saw that I was about to shoot my blob of Lo-Cal genetics she turned onto her stomach, lifting her arse to get a hand to her clitoris and chase me to an orgasm. She made it just in time.
We lay panting with the sweat cooling on our bodies.
Things were better between us after that but it didn’t last long.”
The Late Hector Kipling by David Thewlis
“This is not pleasurable. How could anyone find having burning hot candle wax dripped onto the flesh of their belly pleasurable? But I don’t want to tell her to stop cos the last time I told her to stop I got belted in the mouth. She wears an average of three rings on each finger. God, Mum was right, this lousy settee does stink. No wonder Dad’s in hospital. I might well be joining him by the end of the night.
I think I’m still inside her but, quite honestly, it’s difficult to tell …
“You fucker!” she drawls, and brings the flame up close to my left nipple. “You pathetic little fucker,” and tries to light it like a wick.
“Ooowwww!” Oh shit, my nipple’s on fire. She’s poured lighter fluid onto my chest and my tit’s gone up in flames like some dessert in a posh restaurant.”
The Stranger at the Palazzo d’Oro by Paul Theroux
“The softness of her skin in the dark, far softer-seeming because of the dark, was irresistible. And the aroma of her lily-fragrant perfume mingled with the cat smell of her steaming cunt made me salivate and pant like a lion, my nose tormented by damp fur and hot blood. Still I could not tell where her soft skin ended and her silk began, and the complexity of her vaginal lips was like another elaborate silken garment she had put on for me to stroke. I adored the gleam of her body in the light from the … streetlamps and the blistered moon… She knelt and worshipped my cock with her mouth and her gloved hands and she cried out louder than I did when I came, spattering her face as she licked.”
The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet
“He puts his hands on Bianca’s shoulders and slips off her low-cut top. Suddenly inspired, he whispers into her ear, as if to himself: ‘I desire the landscape that is enveloped in this woman, a landscape I do not know but that I can feel, and until I have unfolded that landscape, I will not be happy …’
Bianca shivers with pleasure. Simon whispers to her with an authority that he has never felt before: ‘Let’s construct an assemblage.’”
Winkler by Giles Coren
“And he came hard in her mouth and his dick jumped around and rattled on her teeth and he blacked out and she took his dick out of her mouth and lifted herself from his face and whipped the pillow away and he gasped and glugged at the air, and he came again so hard that his dick wrenched out of her hand and a shot of it hit him straight in the eye and stung like nothing he’d ever had in there, and he yelled with the pain, but the yell could have been anything, and as she grabbed at his dick, which was leaping around like a shower dropped in an empty bath, she scratched his back deeply with the nails of both hands and he shot three more times, in thick stripes on her chest. Like Zorro.”
++ BONUS: 2 GREAT SEX SCENES++
Secretary by Mary Gaitskill
The last time I made a typing error and the lawyer summoned me to his office, two unusual things occurred. The first was that after he finished spanking me he told me to pull up my skirt. Fear hooked my stomach and pulled it toward my chest. I turned my head and tried to look at him.
“You’re not worried that I’m going to rape you, are you?” he said. “Don’t. I’m not interested in that, not in the least. Pull up your skirt.”
I turned my head away from him. I thought, I don’t have to do this. I can stop right now. I can straighten up and walk out. But I didn’t. I pulled up my skirt.
“Pull down your panty hose and underwear.”
A finger of nausea poked my stomach.
“I told you I’m not going to fuck you. Do what I say.”
The skin on my face and throat was hot, but my fingertips were cold on my legs as I pulled down my underwear and panty hose. The letter before me became distorted beyond recognition. I thought I might faint or vomit, but I didn’t. I was held up by a feeling of dizzying suspension, like the one I have in dreams where I can fly, but only if I get into some weird position.
At first he didn’t seem to be doing anything. Then I became aware of a small frenzy of expended energy behind me. I had an impression of a vicious little animal frantically burrowing dirt with its tiny claws and teeth. My hips were sprayed with hot sticky muck.
“Go clean yourself off,” he said. “And do that letter again.”
I stood slowly and felt my skirt fall over the sticky gunk. He briskly swung open the door and I left the room, not even pulling up my panty hose and underwear, since I was going to use the bathroom anyway. He closed the door behind me, and the second unusual thing occurred. Susan, the paralegal, was standing the waiting room with a funny look on her face. She was a blonde who wore short, fuzzy sweaters and fake gold jewelry around he neck. At her friendliest, she had a whining, abrasive quality that clung to her voice. Now, she could barely say hello. Her stupidly full lips were parted speculatively.
“Hi,” I said. “Just a minute.” She noted the awkwardness of my walk, because of the lowered panty hose.
I got to the bathroom and wiped myself off. I didn’t feel embarrassed. I felt mechanical. I wanted to get that dumb paralegal out of the office so I could come back to the bathroom and masturbate.
Susan completed her errand and left. I masturbated. I retyped the letter. The lawyer sat in his office all day.
Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
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.