Three other authors and I are booked to read sex scenes from our novels at a bar in the hipster part of Milwaukee.
And, yes, there is a hipster part of Milwaukee.
We refer to our loose collective as SexScenes. For the obvious reason. The idea came to me as a topic for a panel at a book festival. When that fell through, I decided to take the show on the road. Not that it’s been easy. I contacted three writers groups to see if anyone was interested in joining me, only to be told that not one member of any of them had ever written a single sex scene.
Or would admit to it.
It was especially difficult to find women. Hell, I even told one woman it was okay to write a sex scene just to read at a SexScenes event. I still have not heard back from her.
I asked a friend how this could be, given that erotic romance written by women is the fastest-growing literary subgenre. She said, “Women feel uncomfortable writing sex scenes because they think people will think it’s a reflection of their lives. I just finished reading a book by my dad’s friend. He and his wife write books together. This was a mystery and there were sex scenes and I was kind of weirded out thinking: ‘This is my dad’s friend.’ Then again, it was like, wow, it’s pretty cool that they write these books together and they have a really good marriage.”
Should I tell her what’s implied when she says that her friend has parents?
I asked the Internet how women feel about writing sex scenes, and found a blog called Loud Quiet Girl, where author N.M. Martinez laments that “when I mention including sex in my stories, I face this attitude that a sex scene turns a book into erotica. I can’t really explain it, but…there does seem to be a bias against the sex scene in regular fiction.”
Book reviewer “Lazarapaste” acknowledges on Dear Author.com that writing sex scenes ain’t easy: “If the ability to speak English has convinced some that it is easy to write it, then erotic romance is a genre that suffers the additional handicap of people thinking that just because they have fucked, they can write convincingly about fucking. Let me be very clear: It Does Not.”
The problem is, if the sex you write sounds stupid, you open yourself to ridicule. The Guardian, for example, has its own version of the Razzies for bad sex writing—the winning examples of which are submitted annually for your disapproval and amusement.
I was so self-conscious about the first sex scene in Palm Springs Heat that I could not read it aloud to my writers group, which consisted of one other man and several women. Instead, I asked them to read it silently. Their assurances emboldened me so that, by the time I got around to Malibu Bride, I just plowed through the naughty bits, figuring that if thousands of people I don’t know are going to read them, I certainly shouldn’t be bashful around my friends.
Or my parents. My god, I’m over 50 years old and have presented them with grandchildren. I’m pretty sure they—my parents and my grown-up children—know how that happened.
And so now it’s on to the next level: SexScenes event No. 1 at Club Anything, a goth/heavy metal bar at S. Fifth Street and W. National Avenue in Milwaukee, at 7 p.m. July 16. My collaborators are Elaine Bergstrom, who writes vampire novels, Jim Norton, who writes military fiction, and Elizabeth Ridley, who’ll contribute what she describes as “literary lesbian sex in a historical setting.”
We’re hoping for a nice crowd and a good time. Because, really, sex is fun—in real life as well as in books. And I hope that the vast majority of us can admit to that.
Next post: An actual sex scene from Malibu Bride.