Writing Sex Scenes — The Dirty Details

Making love is many things: the ultimate intimacy with another person and a lot of fun, to name two. It’s also messy.

Some genres require messy details regarding moisture, fluids, saliva, and sweat. A great many readers like them, too. They feel more as if they’re brought into the experience if those details are present.

In my view, and for me as a reader, a little goes a long way. Fortunately, the genre I write, historical fiction set in the West, doesn’t require these details, but doesn’t forbid them, either.

Sex scenes that use “dirty details” with restraint, however, make up some of the best writing I’ve ever read. One such scene occurs in The Seville Communion by Arturo Perez-Reverte. He refers only to saliva, but lists the places on the woman’s body where this moisture might have been found during their fierce love-making. I recommend you read it for yourself and see what you think.

James Lee Burke uses details of sweat, saliva, and other fluids in the intimate scenes between his detective, Dave Robicheaux, and Robicheaux’s wife. Like Perez-Reverte, he uses them sparingly, and they add to the scene’s realism and deepen the active passion like cloud-to-cloud lightning between the two characters.

Using “messy” details sparingly, it seems to me, can intensify the experience for the reader, but using too many can tilt a story toward an effect the writer might not intend.

For myself, and this is no surprise to those of you who have been reading this series, I would rather not use fluids and images of skin slipping on skin unless I could do them as well as those two authors. Who knows, though? Perhaps the occasion will arise in a future novel. I’ll let the story dictate the style and content of love scenes in it.

On Thursday, Jamie will also discuss the “dirty details” and their place in her writing. She has given all of this a great deal of thought. Don’t forget to catch her take on it at The Variety Pages.

Soon to come for this blog: A complete change of pace and subject. April 12 is the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Civil War with the firing on Fort Sumter. From time to time, I’ll be writing about Montana’s role in our nation’s quarrel with itself.

The Civil War in Montana? Yes, indeed. Stay tuned. It may surprise you!

2 thoughts on “Writing Sex Scenes — The Dirty Details

  1. Brooklyn Ann

    Great post! I also use the fluids sparingly…maybe part of the reason is because the term “seed” drives me crazy. I don’t like it! That and I don’t want my guys to be all slobbery.

    1. CarolBMT Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Ann! I’ve enjoyed your comments while this series was ongoing. Best of luck with your writing.

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