Is Sex Necessary?

Krissie and I have been e-mailing about sex in our current WiPs (I know, you’re not surprised).  She’s dealing with button flies and I’m trying to figure out plot arcs, which tells you all you need to know about how we write.  But underneath that and the place the conversation eventually went is the role that sex plays in story.  Krissie, if I’m understanding her correctly, feels it’s central to life in general and therefore central to story (not the most important thing in life, but crucial).  I feel it’s an action and therefore illustrative of character and relationship arc, but not central to anything, even story (unless you’re writing erotica, in which case, yes, central).  Add to that, I really hate writing sex scenes which is why I think of them of scenes during which sex happens.   And yet here I am with four sex scenes (maybe0 in Nita’s book.  Argh.

Nita’s story takes place over five days, so for awhile I tried to believe that it was believable they wouldn’t even have sex.  People are trying to kill them, and Nita’s world just blew up because she’s finding out she’s not human, and Nick’s world is blowing up because he’s finding out he is, and they’re both fixers and the island needs fixed in several different ways so I can see them looking at each other and saying, “You know, in a minute, but first I have to put out this fire.”  Except all of that creates stress and adrenalin which is a big push toward intimacy in general and sex in particular (office romances, war romances), especially since toward the end they’re really partners, and there’d be a move to make that physical, too.  

Which means I have to figure out what to show and what to elide.  If character changes and plot moves (along with the earth) I have to do the scene.  If it’s just “boy, that was good/bad sex,” I can have somebody just say that in the afterglow scene.  I think the first time probably needs to be on the page because so many things go wrong, but I’ve also already written it and it’s a terrible scene.  The last time everything works, but if nothing changes, I don’t write that, except that I think that showing the change from the first scene is probably important.  And then there’s Nick cycling through a 500 year (50 hell years) character arc in three days; right now I’ve got the sex scene from the arrogant bastard from 1502, and it’s short, but then there’s 1600 something and 1800 something which are going to be too brief to hit the sheets, and then 1934 which I have a draft of that I don’t like and 1969 which I do not have a draft of because that’s supposed to be the good one and nothing happens and kill me now.   Also four sex scenes is a bad idea.  Rule of threes, please.  I can elide 1934, so that would leave 2011, 1502, and 1969.  That seems . . . lopsided.  ARGH.

So I’m asking you: When is a sex scene necessary and when can it be skipped?  I’m not talking about whether you like sex scenes or not, that would depend on the specific scene, I’m talking about the scenes you want and don’t get, and the scenes you get and just skim.   And what number is too many, assuming this is not erotica, where the answer is “There is no ‘too many.'”  Also, I have a strong feeling that what actually happens during the sex act is not as important as what the characters are feeling, their emotional and physical reactions, so I’m not terribly interested in body parts and instructions on how to do this; is that necessary?  So much of this is just personal preference, but trying to see past that, when does a story need or not need a sex scene?

93 thoughts on “Is Sex Necessary?

  1. I used to read sex scenes and then I started skimming them and now I just skip them. Pretty much entirely. They’re “how fast can I flip through the pages” territory for me. Generally speaking, I avoid books with more than one or two sex scenes (if I can tell), and a third sex scene is likely to turn a book into a DNF for me.

    There are a few authors I make exceptions for, though. Sarina Bowen is one — she’d be an auto-buy for me, except that I try to figure out how much sex is going to be in the book from the description and then skip the books that seem like they’re heavy on the sex. And it’s not that she writes a bad sex scene, she doesn’t. I actually find with her books that I like the characters so much and believe in them so much that reading about them having sex feels as uncomfortably invasive as if I was standing outside their windows looking in on them.

    Mostly, though, I just skip sex scenes because they bore me. I’m guessing I’ve read about 10,000 of them in my lifetime and I lost interest at least a thousand ago. My strong preference in a sex scene is that it last no more than a few paragraphs, so I don’t have to skip so much. That said, when I try to remember a sex scene that I liked, the first one that pops into mind is the pool table scene from Welcome to Temptation. I don’t remember the details at all — it’s been years — but it worked for me!

    And even though I said three was my limit, I don’t think there should be a hard and fast rule — I think it should be what the story needs. Of course, as I write that I remember that I agonized over how to get my characters into bed in my last book — it’s a romance, they HAVE to have sex. But I failed. At the end of the book, their HEA is that they should probably go on a first date, LOL. Yay for self-publishing!

    1. Yes, I’m the same with skimming – if it’s just about sex. But if there’s other stuff going on as well, I’ll read it. If they’re having fun – enjoying each other and not just hot and steamy fun – I’ll read it too, because it’s about character. There’s definitely a point at which I groan and say ‘not again’. Three is a good maximum.

  2. I loathe recently written romance novels where the sex scene is left right until the end of the book, or stops at a closed door, with it being preceded by some sort of a commitment like an engagement, betrothal, wedding or even a promise. I accepted that sort of writing with Barbara Cartland. Not with any Modern Molly Writer. So I tend to agree with Krissie.

    (Pardons if your name is Molly, I needed something suitably alliterative.)

    I’m reading more of the Baleful Godmother series and one is an MM romance. Sex scenes are used to show the emotional dynamic of wanting and needing the other person but being tied up in knots over supposed right and wrong.

    You established that Nita has relationships but doesn’t want to be married. Nick becomes real to her and the emotional overload of extreme events need to go somewhere. Nick is becoming more human so that takes over … think of teenagers with hormones coursing through them. It’d be unbelievable if they didn’t find an outlet for that energy.

    Jenny, you write sex scenes well, probably because you don’t want to cock it up. (Heh) You wrote Agnes and Shane brilliantly, and it also happens over a short time. I say go for it within the bounds of moving plot and revealing character.

    1. That sex scene in Agnes (there was only one, right?) was fun to write because it was about anger not sex. And then Shane got out of bed and shot a guy. Agnes was fun to write.

      1. There are millions of sex scenes in Agnes and the Hitman. Each is different, reflecting where their relationship is at that moment. That’s how I remember it.

        1. That was my reaction, too. Certainly that first one, which, whoa Nelly, that’s a doozy, but then day by day as they get closer. Seems like there were a few melting together scenes.

      2. I distinctly remember 3 sex scenes in Agnes. The fun & first time when she says something like “my psychiatrist says I should do something productive with my anger” and Shane’s verbal response was like “not the best pickup line” and then they had angry sex. Then a time on the porch. Shane intercepted the sheriff in the morning while Agnes sneaked into the house. Finally in the room upstairs that Agnes had been saving.

          1. Because I don’t think we read about the sex. The porch scene ends with the lines “Agnes sighed and began to concentrate on the details. They were very comforting.”

            And the upstairs scene is pretty abstract.

          2. There was the time Shane jumped Agnes in the shower after she’d come home from jail. He thought he shouldn’t, but he did. He was rewarded.

            There was the time in the second floor room where is was old friends, long relationship sex.

  3. I broaden sex scenes to include sexual scenes – scenes where they almost have sex then stop for whatever reason, scenes where they both want sex but can’t for whatever reason, so they’re getting that pleasure and connection and thrill they want in some other way – food, banter, whatever. That way I think you can include that “sex is essential to life thing” that Krissie believes in and the show-a-change thing you want without monopolizing the focus the way a traditional sex scene does.

    I’ll think more about what makes scenes necessary and what makes it skippable, but probably the rule of thumb is “does what i get from the story as a whole change without this scene?” If yes, keep. If not, skip.

  4. Like Sarah there is only the occasional writer whose sex scenes I read. In current publishing almost all writers seem to include sex scenes. (Well not Terry Pratchett or Connie Willis) And when I reread I usually read the foreplay and skip the sex, especially if it is going to drag on for pages. Been there, done that and I am not particularly interested in a long description and I don’t need it for the story. The problem is that if you skip, it throws you out of the story. And if you mentally leave the story very much, you lose interest in it.

    Saying that sex is central to life and therefore should be central to story is irrelevant. Eating is even more central to life and more than one scene of someone describing the experience of eating doesn’t do much for the story generally. And even more necessary to life is urinating and defecating, yet no one feels they have describe those. Everyone does it, ergo, it is a given. It is not part of the story. And it is not that elimination cannot be pleasurable. It is just that no one talks about those pleasures, which are frequently described as relief, not pleasure. Although Fragonard as one of his naughty paintings has one called “The Enema” and the subject looks like she is having a wonderful time.

    Elaborate battle scenes that go on for pages are another one of the things that I sometimes skip. A lot of it feels like a place holder and doesn’t move the story forward.

    I am reading more YA then I have ever read before and mysteries and science fiction because they are more about story and less about sex.

    My take is only put those scenes in that you as the author want to write. If your agent feels that you need more sex for the book to be balanced, she will tell you.

    1. What Jessie said. (I took so long to write my comment, it turned out everyone else had already said what I was struggling to say, once I’d posted it and could see them.)

  5. (I’m afraid I’m too tired for this; but I’m out all day tomorrow . . . ) I only like sex scenes that are all about emotion. The logistics (what limb is where, etc.) are often a distraction. I skim sex scenes that are just about having sex, and not about the relationship developing. Many authors include too many of them, and they’re tedious and repetitive: all readers know about sex by now (even if only from reading novels), so reading a description of just the physical act really isn’t fun.

    On the other hand, if the story’s about a romantic relationship, I want to know how the couple become intimate, physically as well as emotionally. I want some vicarious fullfilment.

    I suspect it shows when authors are putting sex scenes in for marketing reasons (a contemporary romance must have sex scenes, etc.). Also, probably, when they’re embarrassed and trying to be cool and sophisticated (and keep themselves distanced). So I’d try to come up with some physical encounters between Nita and Nick – don’t all have to be full intercourse – that you find fun/thrilling/romantic in some way, and I bet they’ll really grab readers too.

    1. PS. As you’ve said, given Nick’s physical challenges, and Nita’s changing identity, their sexual/physical relationship is going to be much more integral to the story than if they were normal humans.

  6. Keep ’em brief in my opinion. It’s what’s going on inside their heads that moves the story. Cal looking at Min’s shoes on the picnic table is more erotic (for me) than their later lovemaking (which I don’t remember as well except for there being Krispy Kremes and a trench coat belt). So the lead up and motivation and the how-do-we-feel afters are fun but the mechanics are mostly dull unless I’m looking for a new fantasy.

    Maybe have them be interrupted and not complete?

    1. Yes! I don’t remember the trench coat belt at all, but I definitely remember the shoes on the picnic table. Attraction is fun, consummation less so.

    2. You know, the picnic table worked better for me than the couch, too. I’d just written myself into the place where I had to have the couch.

      1. I have very fond memories of the sex in Bet Me.

        Why don’t you just think of the sex scenes as a way for Nick to say something correct for the mindset of his era but mood killing for Nita – and then watch him try and talk his way back into her arms? Or they could do new & fun things with those breakfast foods they’re both consuming.

        I’ve got a list of mood killing lines which dorky guys said if you need them. ; )

        1. LOL. I have a few of those myself.

          The first one is in 2011, he’s just trying to remember how to do it and kind of annoyed that he wants to. I like the beginning of it because . . . never mind, too long to explain, but I really love the beginning of it and I’ll keep that. It’s just once they get down to it, it’s boring. Boring is bad.

          Then in 1502 (she’s still in 2011 of course), she makes a pass at him not realizing he not her Nick anymore, and he goes for it because why not and he doesn’t say anything. I can fix that one. That when it’s over she says, “What the hell was that?” and he says something in Italian and leaves.

          1934, he’s a con man speaking English, but his identities are meshing and he seduces her and it’s good but that scene goes nowhere, plus she’s annoyed at falling for the con. In 1969 (still 2011 for everybody else) he works with her for two days and starts to synthesize and remember and then he gets mugged and kidnapped back to Hell. I think I need that one, and not the 1934 one. ARGH.

          1. It’s bad. I think.
            I might share the latest rewrite of the 2011/first sex scene just to see if it works because the latest rewrite cuts the sex. I’m cogitating.

            ETA: I was wrong. I did not write the 1934 sex scene, I did the before and after. I just don’t know if that’s copping out. I think it is. I can put another scene between there, Max and Chloe trying not to kill each other or something. Cogitating.

          2. Okay, let’s remember I have an evil sense of humor.

            My memory is that condoms in 1934 are not as comfortable as now. (In 1502, I’m not sure he’ll even think about it).

            The condom might be funny as he keeps discovering the joys of 2011.

  7. Yeah, I’ve started skipping sex scenes too. I’m just not interested. I now understand what my Aunt Sue was going through when she read my books. She thought they were unnecessary and I didn’t. Now I don’t think they are necessary. Maybe it’s an age thing?

    I enjoy the sexual tension more than the act itself.

    I guess for me the question is can the change that comes with the scene happen any other way? If not then it must be written.

  8. I only care about sex scenes if they’re transformative–if the characters change as a result. Or if I do. Phin not getting off on the pier (?) in WTT was a game changer for me as a sexual person. I started having sex really young (14) and didn’t know how to advocate for myself. The idea that men didn’t need to get off for a sex scene to be valid translated for me into the beginning of a long and ongoing discussion/pushback on heteronormative sex.

    The “bad sex” scene in Faking It is so cringeworthy but so necessary. Bad sex isn’t always bad chemistry. Sometimes it’s bad headspace. Helped me to forgive myself if I didn’t feel like I was performing the way media teaches us to expect.

    So…I skim/skip a lot of Krissie sex scenes, but never yours. (Sorry, Krissie! Yours was the first Harlequin I ever tracked down on my own, though. I think I was…too young to say here, probably. Catspaw 2 ❤️)

  9. Hmmm I seem to be in the commenting minority at the moment: I like sex scenes. I like writing them and I generally like reading them, though the super-explicit ones can be squicky and there is definitely a point in most books where I think “that’s one too many, use your words.”

    For my own stuff – and given that I’ve been writing mostly novellas – the sex scenes range from almost entirely offscreen to, in my latest, really integral. But even in that one, it’s two on-screen scenes and they’re both short. We all know how Tab A goes into Slot B.

    Why the scenes are important, I think, is that they can knock the characters off cliffs or into different lanes. I’m trying to use them to establish that the characters NEED to have this encounter, in this way, in order for their relationship to proceed. The physical expression of trust and intimacy is what locks many people IRL into their bonds with others. Also, a lot of people can express love physically while being completely inarticulate with Words. If a person is having trouble with the Words, s/he often resorts to sex (or other physical demonstrations). Of course, sex can also be a weapon or a shield, e.g. “I don’t want to talk therefore let’s f**k.”

    Anyway, all y’all already know all that. LOL

  10. Generally, no. Most of my favorite books don’t have sex scenes. I like sexual tension–although even that isn’t necessary–but usually it’s much sexier if the actual act is left up to the imagination. Sometimes I feel that the sex even detracts from the romance.

    There are exceptions, though. For example, I love the sex scene in The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne, but it’s way different from the usual (as her writing is generally), serves an important purpose in the emotional connection between the characters, and makes the reader love Hawker all the more.

    I enjoyed writing sex scenes at first, because it was a new experience, but it got old quickly, like having a car chase in every book. I was revising one of my old manuscripts and came across the sex scene, and thought, wow, this is good! Yeah, because it was new and exciting and fun to write sex ten years ago. Now I suspect my lack of enthusiasm shows. All things must pass…

  11. I’m jaded, and I like sex scenes. However, thanks to you, Ms. Crusie, when I read sex scenes today they now have to move the story or character along. What I do not appreciate – and I find occurring in *career writers – is the telegraphed sex scene. In most of those cases, then much of the book is telegraphed and we’re perilously near the stereotypical. Just “pah” on that.

    *writers I have followed through years’ long career.

  12. I will chime in with the minority: I like sex scenes, if they’re done well. I don’t have a lot of interest in which part goes where (though it does throw me out of the story if there are continuity problems, like in any other scene), but I think sex scenes can show things about the characters and their relationships that you don’t see in other ways.
    I have two in my current work-in-progress (do I need three for the rule of threes? hmm…), and they really change the relationship between the characters. They don’t have much time and have had even less downtime, so I think (hope?) the scenes show things that they’re feeling but haven’t been able to articulate, even to themselves, yet. So I have tried to use their actions to show their emotions. In the case of the sex scene, it’s sexual, but it doesn’t seem, in basic premise, that much different than emotion and character being demonstrated in the characters’ actions in any other kind of scene.
    I don’t think I have any preference as to how many scenes, though if there are a lot, that’s probably not the book I’m going to read on the Metro. Each one just has to show me something about the characters. If they’re feeling something, I probably will, too. If the author threw it in to satisfy the “it’s page 150, they should be having oral sex by now” or whatever rule, I will probably be bored and skip it.

    1. I realize I didn’t answer the main question: is sex necessary? I don’t know. Maybe not, depending on the characters. But if it’s necessary to them, and it means something to them, I think it’s probably necessary. I think you can have a plausible romance without it (especially in YA), but that has to make sense for the characters.

      So, based on what you’ve said for Nita and Nick, I think probably it’s necessary. And not just because I can’t wait to read the sex scene between a 15th century bastard (in the moral rather than paternal sense of the term) and a 2011 cop who doesn’t let anyone push her around.

    2. No, you do not need three for the rule of threes. I have a story knocking on the back of my brain that has two necessary ones, but it only needs two.

      1. I was kidding about the three. My characters don’t have time anymore; they have bad guys to defeat.

        But thanks for the little hint. Adding one more Crusie to the mental list of books to look forward to!

  13. Speaking as primarily a short story writer, I agree with you that everything on the page needs to do double, triple or quadruple duty to justify the word count. However, considering your characters and what they’re experiencing, I agree with Krissie that sex is crucial to this story.
    The subtext of every underworld myth anywhere is fertility, specifically the incipient, death-driven fertility of the land in winter. Persephone and Hades is the one we all remember. But Christian depictions of hell (Dante in letters, Bosch in art, etc.) spend as much–if not more–time on sexual misbehavior as do on much more serious crimes. Yeah, they’re (ahem) sexier, but they also reflect the intimate connection between death and new life.
    You’ve already set up a plot arc for scenes of intimacy/sex. Am I correct in my guess that 2011/present day effort blows up because of Nita and Nick’s situation and then-reasonable fear of commitment? I also presume something happens that drives the plot forward–the sex triggers a change in Nick or Nita? Is this correct? If so, I think the scene does what it needs to. It’s just a question of writing something you’d want to read, maybe with added banter. 😉
    1502 is a necessity to both screw up Nita’s life and establish the baseline (the very base baseline) of Nick’s original character. So it does what it needs to. Besides it’s a foolproof recipe for an angry explosion from one or both of the players, which always drives the plot along.
    Regarding 1969, am I correct in assuming that this scene marks the final turning point in Nick’s personal development/transition to human? If so, could the scene be where the key transition happens, either in terms of his head space or in terms of his physical transformation?
    Alternatively, could this be where the balance of physical power finally tips, and Nita completes her transition to Satan’s daughter and presumptive heir? (I don’t know if this actually happens, but given what I’ve read so far, it seems like the logical arc.) How would Nick handle becoming the physically weaker of the two emotionally after centuries of being the most powerful creature around? How would he handle it physically now that she could accidentally kill his fragile human body in the middle of sex? Their reactions could then fuel the reordering of their personal universe which ultimately allows them to defeat the Big Bad.
    I hope this sparks some useful ideas. I’m dying to read the book.

    1. I don’t think it’s a fertility trope, although now you’ve got me thinking about what it is. It’s Nick’s first acknowledgement that he’s becoming human (not because of Nita, somebody’s poisoning him), but it’s not a turning point, it’s part of the progression of their partnership. The turning point is when the poison finally does its work and he thinks he’s in 1502 again. The sex isn’t great because Nick has a very hazy memory of how to have it and Nita’s frustrated but trying to be helpful. It’s a terrible scene right now.

      1969 isn’t when Nick becomes human, that’s 1502. It’s interesting answering your questions because I’m realizing that none of these sex scenes are turning points (and my sex scenes often are). They’re points in the arc of Act 3, but not in the relationship. Hmmm. Must cogitate. Oh, and Nita doesn’t have a transition to Satan’s daughter, she’s always been what she is. She just knows now and that explains a lot. I keep thinking of when my therapist first told me I was hypomanic and explained what that was. Suddenly I understood everything I’d ever done that I didn’t understand. I think finding out her heritage does that for Nita, but she doesn’t change because of that.

  14. Ok, I’ve thought about it more. Here’s the thing – I don’t skip scenes in books, ever. I just stop reading the book. And the things that make me stop reading are never a single scene – unless it’s the first scene – it’s a cumulative problem over the course of several scenes. I either stop reading because a book is too hard for me – two grimm, two violent, too hopeless. Or because a character actively pissed me off by doing something that is seen in the book as morally neutral or attractive, and which I find appalling – misogyny passed off as masculine virility, a character purposely triggering a rape flashback in a survivor without the survivor’s concent, etc. That disonance throws me out. But more often it’s just me not caring what happens in the story because I haven’t attached to the characters, their goals, or the world it’s happening in. If I’ve attached, I’ll read through and enjoy the sex scenes. If I haven’t, I probably stop reading before I get to the sex scene.

    I’m in my 20s, if that matters to your survey at all.

    1. I’m with Cate, but in my late 40’s. I read all the scenes and in a book I’m rereading, I still read all the scenes, including the sex scenes.

  15. Yes, sex is necessary. It’s an integral part of the late 20th and early 21st century shared way of envisioning people in the world.

    The comments have been amazing. Perhaps chachal’s hits more points with me than the others.

    Certainly, Jenny Crusie stories range from one sex scene to multiple, and each sex scene works.

    One bit to add to all these comments: the sex scenes belong in the time of the story. I think later Jenny Crusie novels bring the reader through hours and days, and times of day and night, more smoothly than the earlier ones. The time when intimacy fits in is important to that sort of movement in the story.

    1. Yes, that arc is really important. How did they get here and why is it important that they do. Hmmm again.

      1. About time in the story — what I meant was the real time of the story. If Shane and Agnes are left in the house after everyone leaves, what happens? They have sex and usually try to discuss who they are or where their relationship is. I’m there. The time to the next morning is covered.

        In books that leave me frustrated, there are times when, say, the protagonist couple have just experienced an event that changed their relationship, and they’re staying together for the night, but nothing is written about the night and the story is picked up the next morning when they meet up with other people. What the heck did they talk about before they went to sleep?

        I hope that makes sense. I keep using the word “time” to mean different sorts of timing.

        1. I think time is really important. You do know want to know what happened once people are alone, what happens when they wake up in the middle of the night, you have to fill in those blanks, even if it’s with a transition clause.

  16. I agree with most of what’s been written already – both the nos and yeses. I enjoy reading well-written erotica where the tension builds and the sex is hot. I will read those scenes.

    When I am reading straight romance or women’s fiction, I will mostly skip sex scenes. Not much new, no story building. Been there, done that and honestly a lot of the time the dialogue that is there is just ugh… The interrupted make out sessions and near misses as a way to build tension is generally obnoxious too.

    Most of yours are an exception because (as you have mentioned) you focus on making things happen in them especially the “first time” ones – like the scene in Agnes/Hitman.

    There are times I like the build and payoff with the emotional connection of showing sex/making love. When they finally making love in the Cinderella Deal, I’m glad that scene is there and it is shown. I was so happy for them that they finally figured it out and I was glad to be there.

    Another example on the flip side was in the TV series Bones. I still feel angry that after YEARS of tension and will they/won’t they with the two main characters, Bones gets pregnant and they don’t even show a kiss with them first. She is just telling her best friend that she’s pregnant. I didn’t need a full-on sex scene (as someone mentioned earlier that would almost have felt intrusive) but a kiss with a closing door, light turned off? SOMETHING darnit… (Extra annoying because she was so adamantly childfree for so long and there’s no way she would have an oops baby – she was too rational and intelligent.)

    P.S. Thank you for not ending Anyone But You with a lobotomy – let’s have kids theme!

  17. I think you can’t ask ‘is sex necessary to a story’ , you have to ask ‘is sex necessary to THIS story’. One size does not fit all. That said, if a sex scene is necessary, I agree it should change something – advance plot, develop the relationship, change character, etc.

    Personally, I don’t care to read sex scenes anymore. I’m not particularly comfortable being a voyeur, and too often, scenes that people rave are ‘so hot’ just leave me wanting to find some brain bleach. But my preferences are not important here and I will love it whether it has sex scenes or not.

  18. Do Nick and Nita have to have sex in all the past period scenes? I assume you want to show how he is changing but maybe sometimes that’s not through sex.

    I do think they have to have sex. They are both experienced and would have no reason to hold off unless it’s physically challenging because …dead. Which would be a bad way to end the book. What I can’t tell is if we have to read it.

    If you look at Agnes and the Hitman I think you only actually show us one sex scene.

    1. I thought there was only one in Agnes.

      I’m thinking I have to show the first one because it doesn’t work but that may be wrong. I’m wondering if I have to show any of them or just the build-up and the aftermath. The bad sex scene in Faking It was important because (swear I’m not kidding) it didn’t just arc the relationship and the plot, it was thematic, plus it set up Tilda’s character arc so that when she finally stopped lying at the end, the good sex made sense. Also I found them both funny (your mileage may differ).

      This one, I’m not sure what it shows and I think that’s why I don’t like it. I like the beginning of it a lot, it just loses its way (much like Nick, I guess).

      1. I loved the bad sex scene in Faking It, and also the good sex scene when it finally all clicked. I loved the bad one, because it left me feeling “Yes! It isn’t always perfect, and it’s not just me!!” and I loved the good one, because it was all about their characters, and why they were so right for each other.

        1. And you get the resonance of all the different kinds of fakes that are in Tilda’s life. She isn’t living a free and authentic life in any sense until she and Davy can finally be honest with each other. And then they have good sex.

          1. I like both the fake and the for-real sex scenes in Faking It because they reveal so much about Davey. He believes that he can guarantee Tilda’s pleasure (while flipping songs on a juke box). From his experiences in high school and with Clee, he thinks he knows everything about what women want. He considers Clee the high scorer in sex and notes how well she gives head.

            So it’s crazy for Davey when Tilda changes the rules on him, brings in all her family history and her acting/faking skills, and makes him pay attention. And participate!

  19. Hi Jenny,
    My two cents worth, I don’t like sex scenes that go on for pages.But I do like,no, I enjoy your “Sex scenes,” because They are about feelings not mechanics. I promise I won’t skip them. Honest.

  20. Personally, I’m generally not in to sex scenes anymore. I started reading romances in elementary school – and it was all new and exciting and sometimes I had no idea what was happening. As I grew with the books, those scenes were fantastic. I have since jaded and moved on. I can, and do, read sex scenes, but the more unrealistic the scene, the more likely I am to skim. If it’s just a sex scene, and there isn’t something emotionally significant occurring, I’m likely to skim. There are times where it’s fitting my mood, but… too much, and nothing is new. And it’s Always There, now. It’s so common there’s no sense of anticipation or achievement most of the time.

    It’s also become a thing where everyone is…. so quick to jump the gun? I am by no means stilted, and if you want to do it, by all means, go crazy. But the new norm is it happens immediately, and is super descriptive, pushing the bounds of what the characters are comfortable with because all sex must, and omgomgomgomg I came thirteen times and sex is always just the most fabulous thing ever!!!!! I pretty much have stopped reading anything that moves in that direction. Which is not to say that sex can’t be impromptu, or that you shouldn’t have the sexual freedom to do anything you want – it’s saying that the norm is that all sex is now that standard, which isn’t right the same way making all women virtuous until their wedding night isn’t right. I am dissatisfied with the new gender norms in a variety of genres….

    That being said, my all time fav sex scene is in Faking It when they reveal their secrets. Each sex scene, or sexually charged moment, moved something along – which is definitely what I prefer, AND it setup the major scene at the end. When I want erotica, I go read erotica, otherwise give me plot. It’s missing far too often.

    I haven’t been reading the chapters, because I want to keep as much of the story a surprise as possible, but I will confess to being worried about the timelines. Those suspense books where the criminal is right on their ass and they stop to have sex and finish just in time to not be caught? Yeah, if I’m in the middle of running for my life, I’m not going to stop and be horny and not have a paramount fear of the villain walking right up any second. And 4 sex scenes in 5 days seems rushed (with having read none of it), and it sounds like a lot of page space is being spent on those scenes, even though yours are always short. There are other authors who have their books be in a very narrow timeline, and have the sex scenes number technically be low, but take up the entire freaking book without being counted as erotica.

    So, my two cents, for it’s very limited worth – include it if it’s moving the story or characters along, otherwise it’s like a great conversation that is fun, but should be cut because it isn’t pulling it’s weight. If you aren’t writing erotica, why is it there? Romance does not have to mean sex, and sex does not have to mean romance. If the sex scene is just illustrating a point, then perhaps there is a better way to illustrate the same thing with more weight. I also really like the idea of all of them not being complete encounters. The better ones are longer, but then the best one is a true sex scene. Gives you the sexual frustration/tension, while also illustrating different aspects of Nick. I also feel like brevity will highlight the not knowing what he’s doing bit, and also (if this is one), the selfish dick man of yore. Which then makes it more questionable when he suddenly knows all of what he is doing with the con scene. Which now sounds like Goldilocks and the four sex scenes – ha! Also, 4 sex scenes in 5 days leaves me feeling tired knowing they are running their asses off doing different things to save the island. And from what I remember from one of the earlier drafts – it starts with a murder investigation. That seems energy draining in and of itself, let alone the emotional drain of dealing with new self-identity/world revelations (although you implied that might not be as big a deal as I thought it was originally). Maybe I feel too tired for sex and that’s that… >.>

    So, no, sex scenes are not required. And I really only want them in non-erotica when it moves plot or character along, not when it’s because it’s fun or a “really funny conversation that makes it’s own worth”. If you don’t want me to skim, make it important or so radically new I have to read it.

    And your writing is always fabulous, and I love you putting so much of the process on your blog, and thank you for being you and doing what you do!!!!! You’re gonna finish this and it’ll be FABULOUS! 🙂

  21. I like sex scenes, but I’ve definitely skipped through a few. I’m trying to recall why, and I think it’s because they were boring in that they were only physical. I like being in their heads, seeing how much they’re enjoying themselves, each other.

    I guess every book doesn’t need a sex scene but I think that depends on the characters. Some people are not going to hop into bed until whatever mark in their head. Others, you’re looking at them going, cmon already, these two people would have absolutely slept together already. But it also drives me nuts when the couple hops into bed so fast that it’s just unbelievable.

    I hope this was helpful, though I’m thinking not so much 😆

  22. I’ve been thinking about this question a bit too, and partly because I’m trying to write a sex scene for something, and it’s just not doing it for me.

    So, sex scenes that stick in my mind and still work for me:

    Faking It – both the bad sex, and the good sex. It’s about character. And both illustrate, in different ways, a “Yes! That. Thank you!” moment for me. Even if it’s Tilda realising that it’s not working for her, and putting Davy in his place – that had me going “Yes! Exactly!”

    Welcome to Temptation – I think my favourite scene in the whole book is when Sophie plays Phin with no pants on. Even though it doesn’t actually end in sex, it’s the most charged scene in the whole book for me, and again, I was “Yes!” because Sophie is being herself and plays Phin in every way possible, and he knows it, still falls for it, and loves it.

    Various scenes between Imriel and Sidonie, in Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series, stick in my mind, and I go back to them. She can be very detailed about what’s going on, but every sex scene that she actually describes has a purpose in moving the characters forward together, and is very much about who the characters are. Without that, those scenes wouldn’t work for me.

    The sex scenes in Duff by Kody Keplinger I enjoyed. Again, they’re about character, and each one shifts the relationship.

    I gave up on Laurell K. Hamilton largely because her sex scenes took over the whole book, shoved the story aside, and it started to feel like she was working through a checklist of kinky sex – “Okay, we’ve had a threesome in the bathroom, what about if we had a group orgy in the middle of the woods? With goats. And a bucket of whipped cream.” It was so boring!

    I can easily live without the sex scenes, as long as the characters and story stay true and deliver on the emotional payoff. Also, the type of sex has to be true to the characters.

  23. I think it depends on how well they are written and what it changes between the characters and story as a whole.

    I’ve read books where you think finally the characters get together and books where it is filler. Though sometimes they are so bad they are funny.

    Skillfully done they are great, if you get the foreplay right.

    Just remember unless one of them enjoys it or gets something out of of it, they wouldn’t repeat the experience so frequently in such a short space of time

  24. Okay, I’m chiming in late, but this is the kind of thing I think about when it’s 4:30 in he morning and I can’t go back to sleep.

    First of all is sex necessary? I mean, for a long time it was for procreation. And it can be a big part of human relationships and a big drive. But it’s not necessary for every person b/c there are lot of people out there that are celibate or almost celibate and are perfectly happy. Or not any more unhappy than sex having people 😉 So necessary, no way.

    To me, romances are about emotional intimacy and emotional vulnerability and when sex scenes are done well, they add to that. Doesn’t mean they’re always necessary. There are lots of ways for people to be emotionally vulnerable (and plenty of ways to write it) and of course, it’s possible for people to have sex without any emotional vulnerability (although I don’t personally enjoy those stories, usually).

    My broad personal preference is for there to be foreplay and buildup for most of the book and then if there is detailed love scene, it comes at the end of the book as a culmination (a climax, if you will ;-)) of everything that has gone on before. But that’s only my preference b/c I think it’s something a lot of authors can write well and it gels with my preference for that sense of emotional closeness. I can think of tons of exceptions, including “Welcome to Temptation” and “Faking It.”

    For me, I don’t think there is any set number of sex scenes that is too much or too little. It’s all about what the story needs and what the author can pull off. I will say reading about lots of bad sex in a row might make me a little less sympathetic to the character (like, girlfriend, just keep your pants on around him and buy a vibrator already), but if that’s something that’s well-motivated by the characters, I will go with it. The bad sex scene in “Faking It” is great b/c the characters talk through it and figure stuff out and it just makes you more sure that this is going to work out for them in the long run.

    Mostly, when I’m reading I want to feel like I’m not having my expectations messed with too much. That’s more important than if the sex is described or not. Half-way through Lauren Willig’s “Pink Carnation” series, she switched from on the page love scenes to “fade to black” or nothing at all. She mostly handled it gracefully, but one of the first books she did not have a love scene was very meh. She had the characters talk about making love and then indent paragraph, next sentence is “sometime later. . .” It was really abrupt and clumsy and frankly, I think she would have been better off not having the characters have sex at all. Which she did do successfully in some other books. My friend and I still joke about that one.

  25. Writer friends and I have talked about sex scenes often. The conclusion I’ve reached is that a lot of how I feel about writing six scenes is hampered by the age in which I grew up. As a writer of a certain age, I started out thinking there’s no way someone would have sex a week or two into a relationship. But then in conversation, I got to thinking that sex “in the old days“ generally meant you were in love and getting married. If I am writing about a sexually active person in this day and age, they think of sex as a mutually satisfying “maybe“ no strings attached activity. And there’s nothing wrong with writing a scene like that between two main characters, as long as they discover this sex was different! For example, the main character never stays overnight. He or she always gets up and leaves because they don’t want the morning after awkwardness. But this time, a main character finds him or herself wanting to wake up next to this person. Shocker. So the intimacy in the relationship may actually happen after a sexual encounter rather than before.

  26. I don’t agree with a lot of the assumptions in most of the comments. I’m 61 and I don’t think “I’m over all that” or”why don’t they leave it until the last scene?” That has become formulaic and boring and that is what I skip in disappointment. So I think the question of how much is too much and when is too soon just leads you into other problems. If the sex fits in the story, that is where it belongs. Otherwise it is like playing a game of Mad Libs and not something that would be funny, sexy, moving, enlightening or just plain fun.

  27. I mostly just skip the sex scenes in most books, or even just stop reading. I mean, really? They have sex every day for hours? A good sex scene is part of a book, not filler. It advances the plot, you care about the two people and the author doesn’t use it to fill pages.

  28. I skim when the sex is perfect and boring. I’m frustrated when the sex would be ridiculous/vulnerable/interesting and the author just fades to black.

    My own rule for a sex scene is not only how it moves story or reveals character, but also how specific it is to those exact people at that exact moment. If I can swap in any other characters, or even the same characters at a different part in the story, then why is it there? If it could only happen to those people in that exact moment, with their hang-ups and turn-ons and mental headspace, then you have my attention.

    I was (re-)reading Welcome to Temptation the other night and thinking about this very thing re: the dock scene. When to show, when to skip. You could have easily done the fade-to-black at Phin’s kiss (the chapter ends there), and begun the next chapter with the Sophie aftermath. I was trying to figure out why you didn’t. And why I was so glad you didn’t. I think, by going through the whole scene (which is hot and vulnerable and interesting), I’m there with Sophie. Instead of a fade-to-black and relying on her to say it was good or bad, I get what she’s *not* saying afterwards, when it doesn’t match up with what went on in her head. She doesn’t trust herself yet, she doesn’t trust herself with Phin yet, she’s trying to edit her thoughts, but the reader knows what really happened and that the earth moved a bit for her. That makes the scene necessary.

    So I don’t really care if the sex itself is good or bad or bone-melting— I want the scene to be there when I know something afterwards that I would not know without it.

    And now, the disclaimer that I am still in my thirties, so I have a few more decades to change my mind on all this.

    1. I don’t think age has as much as to do with the reaction as number of sex scenes read. That is, I think people who are older have possibly read more books and since romance readers are notoriously voracious, after the ten thousandth sex scene, they’re thinking, “Yeah, been there, read that.” It’s like the Shakespeare bit: Shakespeare stole every plot he ever wrote, he just wrote them better than anybody else. So I’m thinking, following my nose here, that the key isn’t just change character/move plot, it’s Make It Different, and of course, It’s About the Feelings, Stupid.

      1. I have a hypothesis that as women age and our hormone levels decrease, our interest in reading sex scenes decreases. Alternatively, it could be what you’re saying–that by the time we hit our mid-fifties, we stop reading, not just sex scenes but romance novels in general, is because we’re read it all a million times.

        Now I just need a population of 50-somethings who have never read romance to do a test.

        On a less dorky note, the reason I like your sex scenes is because the characters continue to talk to each other. Sex (bad or good) and all that great Crusie banter? I’m in.

        1. I haven’t stopped reading romance; nor have the other over-fifties here, obviously. I think it’s what Jenny said: once you’ve read a zilllion sex scenes, you’re going to be bored unless there’s something key in the scene.

          I don’t think I’ve got more choosy in my reading; I’ve always been choosy. That’s why I reread so much: I can’t find enough good new storied to feed my habit.

        2. fwiw I’m going on 53 and my hormones are raging. at the moment I would say that my interest in reading sex scenes is turned up to 11.

          but also fwiw I read about one romance for every 3-4 other genre books, so I’m not, like, marinating in it all the time.

  29. I am an elderly white male, married, with grandchildren. We got our first TV (the last family in town!) 60 years ago this summer. At that time TV spouses always slept in twin beds, and TV heroes always slugged the villain on the jaw to climax the episode. I should not be in your target demographic. Nevertheless I own every Crusie novel plus “Crazy People.” Some random thoughts:

    “… when does a story need … a sex scene?” When there is no possible way to tell the story without it. Example: Dorothy Sayers’ novels written in the 1930’s. A sex scene would damage “Gaudy Night,” altho there is plenty of unsatisfied sexual tension. “Busman’s Honeymoon” (sequel to GN) has one character clearly changed after (off camera) sex, in ways that would not have been possible without it. There are some ~1968 stories where sex leading to character change would have helped. There are some ~2018 stories where the sex is a sign of a lazy author. A good story, as you know, tells itself using whatever construction materials, sex or not-sex, it needs.

    Are Nick’s emotions coming back in a particular order, irritation->anger->empathy->love, or are they all back at once, just growing in intensity? This might make a difference.

    It’s hard to imagine a 2011 woman, after sex with a 1502 man, not yelling rape. That should be enough to end the relationship, and the book. But if anyone can work that out, Jenny can.

    The complication may not be the repeated sex, but the time travel. (Pretty sure it isn’t really time travel, altho for Nick’s growth maybe it’s something similar.) Nick needs several “experiences” of some kind, not necessarily sex, to show character growth. Nita needs some experiences, not necessarily sex, to show a (probably more subtle) character growth. At any rate the 1502/19xx stuff suddenly makes the book in my imagination seem three times as large.

    Thinking of time in another way: the 1502 sex scene probably lasts two minutes, tops. (The sex scene at the end of “Bet Me” lasts more than an hour, most of it foreplay. It’s the foreplay that makes it work.) The final Nita/Nick sex scene probably needs to be v-e-r-y slow and tender.

    1. I vaguely remember Busman’s Honeymoon having a very soft focus sex scene with a regrettable line of dialogue, but it’s been awhile since I read it. The 1502 scene isn’t rape; Nita initiates it and then is just surprised and annoyed by how businesslike it is. Nick just gets his emotions back as he gets his body back–emotion lives in the body–so the arc is more the intensity than in any progression of kind of emotion.

    2. This young whipper-snapper (I’m seven years older) pretty much speaks for me. I own the same books.

      OTOH, I never skim. If it’s that bad, I take notes for how I’d write it differently. Because I’ve written some myself. Erotica, adult stories. Not romances, much, but romantic – more in the HEA, because courtship shouldn’t end just because you’ve made the commitment. How I started was “even I could do better than that!” So I did. All self published, though, on the net.

    3. I wouldn’t bet on the woman screaming rape.

      Think about Abelard & Heloise. Think Romeo & Juliet. Poor boys had to seduce – seduce, not rape – rich girls to get ahead. It gets called rape because it is a crime of property rights and the rights don’t belong to the girl but to her family. That’s why widows are scolded for being lusty – they don’t technically belong to a man so what they do can’t be officially published. Unless they have adult sons. But poor boys seducing rich girls is how Western romance was established.

      OTOH, emotion I think is far more a part of the body than the brain. Think odor, how your grandmother’s perfume can comfort you even before you identify why. For some people, it’s taste. Think Proust & the madelines.

      Old fashioned radiators gave off a heavy hot smell which I find comfortingly familiar – because when we lined up to go into elementary school in the morning, that’s what my school smelled like. Fifty years later, I recognize it because I’m happy – just a little lift but a lift none the same. Taste doesn’t do it as much for me in terms of memory because the only one who cooks like my grandmother is me and I know I’m recreating her recipe when I cook. I suppose if my sister surprised me with a meatloaf (my BIL does the cooking) that might be different.

      Sounds. In a curated world, there’s not as much spontaneity but on the road I sometimes catch random radio stations. It’s the one hit wonders that make me happiest because they catch me off guard.

  30. I’m in my mid-50s, I’ve been reading romance since the age of 12, and currently read an average of 150 romance (and erotic romance) novels a year. I don’t skip the sex scenes, but I particularly like the ones where there is significant communication (physical, verbal, even one-sided internal) going on. And I want it to be specific to these people, which should mean that it also moves the plot along somehow. If I’m going to stop reading at any point, I’m going to DNF the whole book. And chances are that it will be either because the characters are horrendous and I don’t wish to spend more time in their company, or because the writing leaves me unaffected.

    Nothing new or earth-shattering to add here that others haven’t already said. I just felt the need to chime in.

  31. What I remember about Busman’s Honeymoon is (1) Harriet speaking in French but failing to trick Peter into thinking he’s with one of his former lovers, (2) several mentions of tigers to intimate passion, and (3) a little old lady seeing Peter waist high and naked in the window and exclaiming at his lack of chest hair. All amusing. Quite pure.

    This blog post is reminding me of all the amusing Crusie sex, most of it merely glossed. Like Sophie and Phin: almond oil, handcuffs, back of car (doesn’t work), broken lamp. Add the gun going off and the “I love you,” and most of the story happens as part of having sex.

    And to think of all the times Andi and Archer were having sex on top of his uncle, the ghost in the desk. That one is the most deserved.

    1. But the funny line about the older lady is after she says that about Peter’s hairless chest, she remembers that her first SIL was very hairy but she only got grandchildren with the second SIL.

      Sex in Busman’s Honeymoon is emotionally laded because Harriet’s last sexual experience was the slimy Phillip who talked her into living together and then offered marriage as a good conduct medal. She doesn’t even admit she’s attracted to Peter until Gaudy Night. (Although I’m almost certain there’s something close to sex before the wedding).

  32. This reminds me of crime writers discussing how much blood should be on the page.

    The answer is, of course, up to the writer, because you’re the one in the driver’s seat.

    Opinions will range from “close all the doors” to “the more the better.” The real question is what you feel comfortable with and what is required by the story.

    In a forum like this, I feel like it’s easier to say, “No sex, please” compared to “Give me all the sex,” because it’s still somewhat frowned upon for women to have a strong sex drive. Personally, I remember being ten years old and thumbing through romance books, only to be hideously disappointed at a page break. I felt cheated.

    On the other hand, adult me has occasionally been bored by poorly-written sex scenes.

    Since I’ve read your previous books, if you closed all the doors, yes, I’d feel disappointed. What happened to the boning? Not even one description, when they’re both demon-ish (haven’t read all the details; am trying to save some of the mystery for me for when it’s released)? Why the change? It would seem like something was missing. But if the rest of the book was good enough, I’d get over it.

    To me, the answer is, write what you want and write it well. People will complain either way. But for you, I vote for at least one or two sex scenes.

  33. I actually like reading sex scenes. I just do. It’s fun, it’s sexy, and I like them. I don’t necessarily see them as character-building or transformative although they can be. I just think they’re fun and can be necessary for seeing the characters bond and come together (pun intended). Yes they can be generic and too long, but good writers like Jenny can make them interesting and relevant to the story.
    My one pet peeve is when the characters have sex while leaving too many things up in the air especially if talking to each other would be more contructive.
    I’m not old. I’m from the abstinence generation (Gen Y). I was raised that sex before marriage will send me to hell, and I feel like romance has helped me with some of my issues with sex.
    I define sex scenes as those that are consensual and nonviolent. It makes me angry that some romance writers have to justify sex scenes while other writers think nothing of writing a scene with violence pretending be sex. It makes me furious that an old judgmental relative makes fun of romance novels for the sex scenes and has sent me several books with tons of sexual violence/nonconsensual sex. It makes me angry that anyone can be sanctimonious about not being able to tolerate sex as a loving, consenual act, and be fine with sexual violence! More people need to consider whether violence is necessary as it rarely reveals anything beyond that person is a jerk.

    1. I forgot to comment on Nick/Nita. I think you write sex well. I think you should include atleast one or two. I’m confused by the time-traveling arc. I didn’t realize there would be moments in 1502, 1934, 1969. I feel you can skip those if Nita isn’t there, because most romance readers (in my experience) only care about sex scenes between the hero and the heroine. I’m confused as to how human Nick will be in the said scenes. If he isn’t fully human, I’m curious as to how the logistics of sex will work for him. I’m picturing him as skeleton with some of his vital organs topped with facade and trying to figure out how that works.

      1. I haven’t explained that well.
        Nick is gradually poisoned with a plant that makes his facade an actual body instead of just an illusion. (There’s some handwaving there.) So he’s still dead, but he has a body. When he changes, he thinks he’s alive in 1502, the last place he had a body. He’s still in 2011 with everybody else, he just thinks he’s 1502. After that Rab figures out that he’s waking up in every time period where he spent too much time on Earth and began to assimilate. So whenever he wakes up, he thinks it’s that year and acts accordingly, but it’s still 2011, and they have to explain to him what’s happening. And the closer he gets to the present, the more the memories of then and now start to scramble, mixed up with the physical memories, so they’re dealing with this extremely dangerous wild card all the way though while trying to keep anybody from Hell to find out what’s happening because then Mammon and Moloch will be able to stop him from becoming the next Devil and one of them will take the job and be a selfish, stupid, narcissist and screw up Hell. Plus there’s all the hell breaking loose on the island . . .

        By the time he has sex, he has a full body, so it’s not a problem. He’s nuts, but he has a human body. He’s also still dead, but that’s a nitpick at that point.

        1. Does he speak English in 1502? Because that might be funny if he switches to a different language and only the humans don’t understand him. (I’m presuming demons come with a built in universal translator).

          1. No, the demons have to learn languages, but Rab’s been in school for centuries.

            I had him speaking Italian when he thought it was 1502, but then I shifted things around. I may shift them back.

  34. I read here a lot of people skip the sex scenes, and I can understand it if its generic or if it’s shoved in there to fill a spot, or it’s not well written, but I don’t particularly like a romance without a sex scene.

    It seems disingenuous (to me) to write a story of a very intimate personal journey between two people falling in love, which always includes lust (unless they are asexual characters), without the sex scene.

    I do agree there are badly written ones out there, or ones slotted in because it should go there. But when you as a writer know it needs to be there to move the story and slam the door or ignore it, then it is frustrating as a reader.

    There are times where you don’t need it to be explicit detail, and there are times you do, but it should always serve the story and the character’s journey. There’s definitely no need to write out all the sex scenes if they’re getting it on all the time in the book. Only the relevant ones.

    Mind you, I’ve been seduced by Krissie’s books since I was about fourteen, so I am on her side with the sex. It’s important.

    However, it’s up to you as to how graphic or brief you need them to be.

    Also, listen to some Anonymous Four when writing them. It might help.

  35. I think I’m probably late to the conversation, but this is a really interesting topic to me, so I did want to throw out my thoughts for whatever they’re worth.

    I’m definitely one of those who tends to skim over sex scenes. Mostly, I’m interested in the motivation that they provide. Does it deepen the characters’ connection? Does it lead to conflict? Did something hilarious happen during it because I enjoy a good laugh and that could possibly lead to some emotional and/or psychological distress down the road?

    I think I’ve always viewed sex as motivation to revelations or conflict for the characters. Yes, everyone does it and it’s a fundamental aspect of life, but how does it affect these particular people and why? Is it a good thing, bad thing, or something that leads to a good or bad thing? And why?

    If it was just sex, I really don’t care. Get me back to the story. If it has to do with the evolution of the romantic relationship between the characters and how they get from acquaintances to something more, I’m in.

    1. I agree with this wholeheartedly. I needs to reveal things and move the story along, and be relevant to the characters, otherwise I’d rather read the one where it’s important, or just have it either a few sentences or closed door (and I’m not a fan of closed door romance).

  36. I think the experience is different for each writer and reader…and book.

    Also, I wish I loved writing sex scenes. I don’t hate it but it’s like the kiss scenes, where it’s intimate and a point where things change. And I think they have to be done right for the characters and the story.

    However, I know (I hope) when I need it, and how explicit or detailed it all needs to be. But the emotional story is the most important thing in any sex scene in a romance. If you’re going through the motions or telling us what they are doing and in what position and in horrible detail without a real emotional connection, an emotional reveal that spurs the story then it isn’t worth it.

    I think with the advent of more and more sex in these books, more and more writers feel the need to shoehorn it in, whether they need to or not.

    Over the years I have become more comfortable in writing a sex scene, but it’s still, for me, just as much as an ordeal as getting all the pivotal emotional turning points down. As in I want them to be right and resonate, so for me, if there’s sex, then it is just as important as all their connections and beats for the emotional story’s growth.

  37. I think sometimes they get included in romance as a sort of paint-by-numbers thing whether the particular plot/characters require it or not. When it’s needed really comes down to the characters, plot and even setting to some degree. (Who among us has not thrown a book at the wall because the characters decided to Do It in the middle of running for their lives?) Anyway, I’m kind of with Krissy on the theory that sex is human and therefore part of the romance establishing an enduring human bond. But who the main characters are really determine what that means. In the case of Nick he’s also figuring out what it even means to be human, so it’s kind of perfect to have him flailing around through that in the sex scenes, it’s a great opportunity to reveal him and show his arc.

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