Writing about sex – badly

Let’s talk about sex, or rather write about it. Usually badly. Take The Quiddity of Will Self by Sam Mills for an example: ‘Down, down, on the eschatological bed.’
What does eschatological mean anyway?
Both the Sunday Times and The Guardian followed up on a Radio Times article by novelist Julian Barnes on why the British have a specific problem about sex in literature. (Just literature? I thought we were hung up about sex generally…)
Apparently it’s really hard to write well about sex. I think it’s really hard to read about good sex. Starts making you squirm with inadequacy.
Anyway, as a writer, you can end up in the Bad Sex in Fiction awards, like David Guterson for overusing “back door”, “family jewels” and “front parlour”. I believe there is something worse than that. Your readers – or audience – think that’s a) how you do it and b) that you must think about sex all the time.
In Martini Bond, there is one very funny sex scene. Simulated while tied up under a laser. It’s all Fifty Shades of Grey. We even use that line and it gets a laugh.

Martini Bond sex scene

Mind those heels – oooh, er, missus. Phwaor. Snigger. Etc

The problem is that I’ve had quite a few members of the audience (usually – make that always – men) approach me afterwards and say something like: “I didn’t know that’s what’s on your mind…”
Oh god. It’s not. It’s fiction. And we thought it was funny. In rehearsals. Where no one can approach you…
Anyway, must be off for a spot of Carry-On style hanky-panky, rumpy-pumpy… all in the name of research.
PS A big thank you to everyone who sent messages of support over the stolen car. The show went on. We got a great review – Spoof genius for Bond fans. And we could be back in Manchester in the summer for the Pride festival.

Have you written a sex scene? Will you give us some lines? Do you squirm when you read sex scenes? Or was it good for you? And what does eschatological mean?

March 14, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , . Comedy writing, Humour, Publishing, Writing.


  1. Missus Tribble replied:

    I’ve read some sex scenes that are so bad that I have no words to describe the badness. Some of the best sex scenes come from medieval-based romance. Writing sex scenes myself makes me squirm, but reading a good one is quite another matter (i.e: husband doesn’t know what hit him).

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      Medieval romance – I’ll have to dig some of that out. Sounds intriguing.

  2. Brigitte replied:

    There is an art to writing good sex scenes I think. Giving just enough to get a nice picture in the readers’ mind’s eye and leaving the rest to the imagination. At least that’s how I like mine. The reading of them that is.

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      Yes, leaving the rest to the imagination is definitely the way to go!

      • vivinfrance replied:

        I agree. Barbara Cartland (whose work I have never read) used to claim that the scene must end outside the bedroom door and before any shenanigans.

        eschatology – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
        en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EschatologyThe Oxford English Dictionary defines eschatology as “The department of theological science concerned with ‘the four last things: death, judgement, heaven and … What that that has to do with sex beats me!..Perhaps they meant Scatoligical – which is an obsession with faeces and the process of excretion!

      • WomanBitesDog replied:

        I bet they meant scatological!

  3. Carrie Rubin replied:

    Yeah, I pretty much stay away from writing sex scenes. And for that, I think the world thanks me.

  4. colonialist replied:

    I would have thought that the process of when ‘es giving logical chats would kill desire stone dead.
    I’ve recently posted a sex scene in verse. Actually, it turned out not to be (sex; that is; it was certainly in rhyme) but I think the secret is to say just enough to let the imagination fill in the rest.

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      Very good – I like that tip. Not that I’m about to try and do it. (Write it, that is.)

  5. jmmcdowell replied:

    Hmm, I sense a pattern here. For writing, I just set the scene and “fade to black.” I figure everyone can use their imagination to fill in the details. I couldn’t write a good one no matter how hard I tried, so I won’t force it.

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      Fade to black – is that like closing your eyes and thinking of England?

  6. Pauline Guerin replied:

    Sex scenes, mmm yes good point. I don’t particularly enjoy writing them, but sometimes it makes a lot of sense to put them in. My Mother and Father in law (your Aunt and Uncle in fact!) are about to read my novel for me, and the thought of them reading the sex scene is filling me with fear, it’s not even that racy, but I do think the book needs it in order to explain the plot, or part of it. I have kept it realistic I think, and not mentioned any ‘parts’, well no need to really is there.

    The one writer whom I absolutely love, and yet I hate her sex scenes is Penny Vincenzi. Currently reading her 90s novels for the second time. Most of her heroines have a fantastic time in bed, where they ‘soar’ and ‘fly’ and reach ‘unprecedented heights’ of sheer pleasure. Really? have I been doing something wrong all these years, it’s never been like that for me! One imagines that Penny is either having an amazing time in bed herself, or perhaps she’s a virgin imagining what it might be like, who knows? Bit cringe-making though Penhy, I’d calm it down a bit if I were you!

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      LOL. I cringe about Aunt and Uncle. I secretly cringed when Mum, Dad and another Aunt came to see Martini Bond…still, it was bums on seats! Make them buy the book!

  7. WordsFallFromMyEyes replied:

    What does eschatalogical mean anyway, indeed! I’d have to look it up, if I were interested enough…

    You invite me to give you a few lines. Well, I’m not shy. This I’ve had published, a short story erotica – the opening lines:

    “When your lips touch upon fine wine, your senses are imbued with the pleasures of quality, purity, unsurpassed taste. And so it was when my lips sucked the nectar of Cassandra.

    Our coming together was wholly a dream, for although I’d imagined I would like to kiss a girl, I had never in my life made a move to. It seemed to threaten the opening up of a whole Pandora’s Box, so to speak – there was order to my life as it was, my defined sexuality as it was.”

    Bad or good, people? 🙂 I still like it 😉

    But to your post and the writing of sex – I did not know the British are not so good with it. Your Martini Bond sounds (no – is!) very successful, so you can’t generalise about the British!

    When I think ‘sex, British’, I cannot help but think of Benny Hill. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, you know.

    Great post! 🙂

  8. WordsFallFromMyEyes replied:

    PS: You’ve inspired me to share that erotica short (at risk of scaring off some of my Subbers!) I will link to this post of yours, I trust you won’t mind, for you inspired me.

    Thankyou! 🙂

  9. 4amWriter replied:

    I don’t mind writing sex scenes, and I think they can be difficult to write. I try not to overdo, and keep them short and sweet. I like reading about them as long as they’re well-written and still leave a lot to the imagination. I don’t need a play-by-play. 🙂

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      I think a play-by-play could be called chore-play! Thanks for the comment.

  10. WARNING: sexual content (genuine warning) | WordsFallFromMyEyes replied:

    […] in my utter leisure of a Saturday, I cruised by Woman Bites Dog.  Love the blog name. […]

  11. The Laughing Housewife replied:

    ‘A script worthy of its own paragraph’ – well done! So glad it all turned out right in the end.

    Your point about people thinking the sex is yours struck a chord with me – I have written poems about murder, domestic violence and other unpleasant subjects. People often commiserate with me for my bad experiences. Nothing like that has ever happened to me: the narrator is not always the writer.

  12. sharpword replied:

    she took him by the hand and lead him into the bed room. “I want to see these wounds right now.” She sat Charles down and began to help him off with his shirt. “You have never worn jeans in your life, this is something new.” Taking off his jeans Alley had full view of every bruise, puncture wound and mark on her husbands body there were more bruised areas than unbruised as Alley began to test, and survey most were without pain at all but not an attractive view. When she came to his abdomen she, bringing her head closer said, “Who bandaged you up Charles, this looks like the work of a woman.” Charles began to laugh as her finger traced over the only ticklish spot on his whole body. Alley pulled her long red hair over to the other side of her head as she looked over and grinned at him remembering the times of discovery when they were first married and on their honey moon. Charles laughed again when she asked, “who – bandaged you up like this Mister?” Alley continued her inspection further recounting the secrets of their intimacy and the treasures which God had allowed them to share as husband and wife. The morning vanished in a secret rapture and after noon was soon drawing away. The door suddenly burst open as Cristal ran into the room shouting “Daddy!” She launched herself onto him, and Charles’ nearly went into convulsions. Cristal had noticed the bandaging and the cuts, but once into the launch it was too late. “What happened, Captain Jonah did you get bitten by a whale?” Charles, Alley, and Cristal laughed at first but then Cristal began to cry as her dad held her closely, and told her briefly what had happened.When she settled down her mind and thoughts changed to inquisition, She screwed up her face in a curious gaze,”Why are you naked?” It wasn’t that she could see his complete form he was covered with a blanket. “Well honey your momma was looking at my bandages, and bruises, and….” “W- w- why is she naked then?”
    I cant believe i have read this whole post and comments, then commented too??

    The part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind.

    • sharpword replied:

      Oh I forgot to mention the excerpt is from my book in progress here on word press; The Palace

  13. Julia replied:

    I think the point you’ve made about the problems of writing sex scenes is a good one, but the passage you’ve picked by Sam Mills doesn’t work in the context of your discussion. It is meant to be a parody, an OTT overblown sex scene. A while ago David Baddiel tweeted about how it funny it is that people are taking it seriously when it’s meant to be a joke. I read about it here http://workshyfop.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/attending-bad-sex-award-party-by-sam.html

  14. rawmultimedia replied:

    I think it comes down to sex sells…unless the reader or consumer is religious, in which some leaves behind walls and want to see that out of curiosity. 🙂

    • WomanBitesDog replied:

      Haha! Sex definitely sells! Good point about religion…I try not to go there…

  15. diannegray replied:

    I don’t write sex scenes simply because it has to be done really well otherwise it just ends up a comedy! I tend not to read sexy stories – not because I’m a prude, but I just love a good story (if it has sex in it fair enough, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to read something just for the sex scenes) 😉

  16. The Wandering Mind replied:

    I’ve learned from my own personal writing about sex, that I like to allude to things. I create vivid visuals without really spelling it out. Innuendos and metaphors can be sexy when used correctly, just like the direct approach.

  17. Aewl replied:

    Reblogged this on Aewl's Abode and commented:
    Great advice for would be romance novelists.

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