Since the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, the once latent genre of erotica is making more
than people’s eyes raise these days. Of course, E.L. James was not the only author to release
novels about the art of monkey love. Before her, there was D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s
Lover, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, and Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, not to mention authors
such as A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice), R.J. Masters, and Caleb Knight, to name a few. If you
were to do a random Google search of erotica, you’re immediately bombarded with an
eclectic menagerie of novels by authors trying to tackle a genre that some would still consider
taboo. Who wants to read about sex? Right? (A devilish grin forms on my mouth even as I type
What constitutes good erotica now-a-days? How do you compete in an over sexualized
world with writers trying their hand at slapping the monkey?
First, in order to write erotica, you need to be comfortable with being able to describe
the act without giggling. Ok, I take that back, maybe a little snicker here or there, but you should
probably take it seriously if you’re going to write about sex. Cue the music—(This is the part
where you put on Salt-N-Pepa’s hit song Let’s Talk About Sex as I continue on with the rest of
As an author tackling the world of Urban Fantasy, I’ve often seen some of the lines
blurred as I set out to write love scenes. I’m always in the mindset “Be careful. It’s my first
time.” Wink. Wink. Nod. Nod. However, the only way to get your feet wet is to dive in and try
your hand at it. Yet the appeal of writing an erotic novel is fascinating. How far do you push the
envelope? With the evolution of the internet and powerhouse search engines like Google is there
anything out there that will shock people anymore?
My first attempt was not bad, but not great either. The struggle for me is that, number
one, I’m a dude. I’d rather see the action than write about it. After all, men are usually more
visual than women. Women enjoy the fantasy and the build up that accompanies erotica, which
sounds easy enough to capture. The Harlequin novels with the chiseled men on the front holding
the damsel in distress seem to have the formula down to a science. My head is spinning with
where to start on my journey to improving my craft. How does a novice begin to tackle jungle love?
Let’s consider the psychological perspective, taken from Robert S. Feldman’s
Understanding Psychology 6th edition; human sexuality, by nature, is complicated on an
individual level depending on the “expectations, attitudes, beliefs, and the state of medical and
biological knowledge of a given period.” In other words, we love sex! And with it comes a sort
of complexity based upon each writer, which brings up another question—what does writing
about sex say about you (the author)? If you write about doggie style, does that mean people
think you’re a freak in the sheets? Not necessarily. Erotica that gets a person hot and bothered is
good storytelling, not a reflection of the writer. Or is it? Sex is complicated, but it’s a part of life
and human nature. There are also many levels of erotica—it’s not just male and female. Gay and
Lesbian erotica is a growing market and is seeing a rise in writers not afraid to tackle the genre
It’s easy to write about two lovers intertwined in the art of Kama Sutra, but writing a
compelling story that justifies the sex is the hard part.
Currently, technology reins supreme as the main source of information for the current
iGeneration. They base their knowledge on what their friends tell them or what they can find
with a typical Google search (which is not always pretty by the way), but I digress.
Understanding how men and women respond to sex is just as important to your writing as
knowing what you’re writing about. Think about what turns you on specifically. Do you enjoy
getting handcuffed? What about licking chocolate syrup off your partner’s chest? One of the
many rules for writing is ‘write what you know.’ Now, this doesn’t mean you have to go out and
do ‘research’ every weekend just so you can produce a novel worthy of a Hollywood treatment.
On the contrary, there are other ways to become a better writer of erotica and love scenes in
general—read! See what’s out there and take notes. Know your audience! Define what you want
to write. There’s a difference between erotica and pornography. Erotica requires a certain je ne
sais quoi; you can’t dive into the sex without the foreplay. Well, you could, but it probably
wouldn’t bring the notoriety that you want. It’s all about the scenes.
If you want get down to business, but need a quickie, I highly recommend you check out
the hysterical article by Steve Almond called “How to Write a Sex Scene: The 12-step program.”
(Almond, Steve. (2005). How to write a sex scene. UTNE Reader. Ogden Publications, 2005. Retrieved from http://www.utne.com/arts/how-to-write-a-sex-scene.aspx)
In it, he writes the following:
Step 1: Never compare a woman’s nipples to:
- Cherry pits
- Pencil erasers
- Frankenstein’s bolts
Step 2a: Resist the temptation to use genital euphemisms, unless you are trying to be
- No: Tunnel of Love, Candy Shop, Secret Garden, Pleasure Gate
- Equally No: Flesh Kabob, Magic Wand, Manmeat
- Especially No: Bearded Clam, Tube Steak, Sperm Puppet
Step 3: Then again, sometimes sex is funny. And if you ever saw a videotape of yourself in action, you’d agree. Don’t be afraid to portray
comic aspects. If one of your characters, in a dire moment of passion, hits a note that sounds
eerily like Celine Dion, duly note this. If another can’t stay hard, allow him to use a ponytail
holder for an improvised cock ring. And later on, if his daughter comes home and demands to
know where her ponytail holder is, well, so be it.
Step 4: Real people do not talk in porn clichés.
- They do not say: “Give it to me, big boy.”
- They do not say: “Suck it, baby. That’s right, all the way down.”
- They do not say: “Yes, deeper, harder, deeper! Oh baby, oh Christ, yes!”
At least, they do not say these things to me.
Most of the time, real people say all kinds of weird, funny things during sex, such as, “I think
I’m losing circulation” and “I’ve got a cramp in my foot” and “Oh, sorry!” and “Did you come
already? Goddamn it!”
Step 5: Use all the senses.
The cool thing about sex—aside from its being, uh, sex—is that it engages all five of our
human senses. So don’t ignore the more subtle cues. Give us the scents and the tastes and the
sounds of the act. And stay away from the obvious ones. By which I mean that I’d take a sweet,
embarrassed pussy fart over a shuddering moan any day.
The article brings up some very good key points without giving you the same old bullshit.
I could include the whole article, but then I’d take the fun out of the rest of the Almond’s
information. I guarantee you may find it even more titillating than what I exposed you to! Check
out Steve’s entire article at http://www.utne.com/arts/how-to-write-a-sex-scene.aspx
The bottom line with erotica and sex scenes that I’ve learned is that you have to be
willing to invest the time in making your scene pop—turn your reader on. Sex creates a response
within us and that key point often gets lost. Don’t be afraid to experiment and don’t over think it.
If you’re able to invoke horniness just by writing a simple sentence then you know you’ve done
your job right. With that said, get practicing—safely! 😉
By Romualdo R. Chavez