I need your help, big time. My debut fantasy novel, now tentatively titled “Love After Death,” includes a number of explicit sex scenes. I’ve written them this way because that’s how they flowed onto the page. I have no qualms myself about publishing the novel with the sex scenes remaining as explicit as they are currently written. But I know there are some readers who are turned off by the inclusion of such scenes. Are there that many readers who feel that way, or just a few? I’m at the point where I’m ready to revise as needed and I’d love to have your input.
When it comes to sex scenes, I see four basic approaches:
- Not having any sex scenes at all, not even to mention that sex happens
- Mentioning that sex happens or alluding to the fact, but not describing any details beyond kissing, hugging or other activities that many people might do in public
- Describing or alluding to actions that most people would not do in public, but glossing over the specifics, and not mentioning people’s private parts in any way
- Placing no restrictions on descriptions of the actions involved during sex, typically being specific about what is done to or with people’s private parts
I say these are “basic” approaches, because between any two of them, there are many degrees of explicitness.
A nude lying on the beach, covering all her private parts. Image licensed from ClipArt.com, artist unknown. Please do not redistribute.
As written, my novel takes approach #4 above. I don’t want to back off to using approaches #1 or #2, but I would consider taming down to approach #3, or at least closer to it. I’ve even considered publishing two forms of my story. If I self publish, nothing would keep me from doing so. I could publish an explicit version that takes approach #4 and a tamer version that takes approach #3. You see this with music released by Rihanna and other musicians all the time. They release explicit versions and tamer versions of their songs and albums. The tamer versions are often just as suggestive as the explicit versions, but certain words are removed or replaced with some other words or sounds intended not to offend.
I’ve taken a step in the direction of taming down my story from approach #4 by using what I consider mild forms of the terms that refer to the male and female private parts (e.g., manhood, womanhood), but I still fully describe what is done with those parts. Is that enough for some readers who might otherwise object to explicit sex scenes in a fantasy novel, or would descriptions of how people’s private parts interact still be too much? In other words, is crude language the only objection for some people who don’t like explicit sex scenes?
Do fantasy fans in general prefer that the books they read not include explicit sex scenes? Should explicit sex scenes be reserved for stories that are strictly erotica, or at least more erotica than whatever genre they might be crossed with? How do you feel about the inclusion of erotic elements in a novel that is primarily fantasy? Which of the above four approaches to sex scenes in novels are you most comfortable with, as either a reader or a writer? Erotica is a popular genre now, and I’m about to take my fantasy novel in that direction. Do you think that’s a bad idea? Please weigh in with your thoughts on this.
For this discussion, we can restrict it to one-on-one male/female sex scenes. Those are the only kind in my story. But if you want to weigh in on other types of sex scenes, feel free.
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- The 14 Worst Sex Scenes Of All Time – Get Ready To Cringe (refinery29.com)
- Our thoughts on Sex in NA, what are yours? (growingbeyondya.wordpress.com)
- Daniel Radcliffe On His “Groundbreaking, Beautiful” Gay Sex Scene In “Kill Your Darlings” (queerty.com)
- Enslave Me Sweetly by Gena Showalter (dabofdarkness.com)