Writing sex scenes

When one of my beta readers came back with her comments on Burdened to Death, she finished by saying, “And I want a sex scene.”
I asked her why; she said, “You keep leading up to the guys having sex, but then you never go all the way. I want to see them go all the way.”

I laughed and said I’d consider it. I went back through Burdened to Death and couldn’t find a place where I thought it would fit, so I didn’t add one. I kept in mind what she’d said, though. Right now I’m writing Encountered to Death, the fifth book in the series, and I found a place where I thought a sex scene wouldn’t be too disruptive, wrote it, and sent it to my critique partner. He came back the next day shaking his head. “No.”

“Why not?”

“It just doesn’t work. There’s no reason for it to be there.”

And he was right. I’ve read the advice of several writers on sex scenes, and there is general agreement that it needs to do one of two things: either move the story forward somehow, or reveal something about the characters. This scene didn’t do either of those things. I said, “You’re right,” and took it out.

We all know that Pete and Jamie are having sex. They’ve been together for over a year, at the beginning of Encountered to Death, and they’ve had lots of sex. But – because of Pete’s history of sexual abuse, the different ways in which they have sex are limited. Pete will only have anal sex face to face, in the missionary position. How many ways are there to describe that?

Of course they are doing other things too – oral sex, frottage. But then I get into a new dilemma. From what I’ve read in m/m fiction, there are only so many ways to describe oral sex. To be honest, I’ve stopped reading m/m romance for the most part (with a few exceptions, see below) because it got to be repetitive. If I read about someone tonguing someone else’s slit one more time, I might just throw my Kindle across the room.

There are a few authors – Josh Lanyon immediately comes to mind – who write so well that the sex scenes are almost lyrical. I wish I could write that well, but I can’t, so I’m not going to try. I’d rather fade to black and let the readers use their imaginations than write a sex scene that is a mediocre repetition of the sex scenes of all the other m/m writers out there who don’t have that level of skill.
I’ve said from the beginning that my books are not m/m. They’re gay mystery. And gay mystery they shall remain. 😀


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