Jan 25, 2011

Let's Talk about Sex (In Writing)

This post was supposed to be about Robert Drewe's Baby Oil, but I reread the story and it didn't grab me.

This probably says more about me than the story, as literary tastes obviously change over a lifetime. At fifteen I was excited to be reading about sex. I did not struggle, as I do now, with Drewe's description of Anthea's oiled up nipples as big silver coins, nor did I wonder what sort of sex could make both Brian's keys and his coins rattle the way they did.

In all fairness, the Baby Oil sex scene is no better or worse than many I read, and The Bodysurfers was a landmark collection. It's just that writing good sex scenes is hard work. It's doing an Iron Man marathon with a stitch, it's writing an essay on the night before it's due, and some writers avoid it entirely. If you have experimented with such scenes in your writing, let me know how you went. Was it hard? Was it easy? Were the nipples big silver coins, or indeed any other form of currency?

The first sex scene I wrote was damn awful and I kid you not, involved a mantra-like chant and constant references to the various colours of the rainbow. I wrote it in 2004, which, according to physicsworld.com, was also the year when quantum cryptography was used in a commercial transaction for the first time. But I digress.

I won't reproduce the scene here as it's now being used to scare kids into celibacy, but lets just say it also includes both a heaving body and an ocean of feelings...and is not at all sexy.

Maybe it's a guy thing. Because of all the books I've read I remember only two interesting sex scenes, both written by women.

The first was in Julienne Van Loon's Road Story, which is also an excellent book. Why is the scene so good? Because there's no oceans, no rolling, no girth or width. There's just sweat, bodies and an urgency that keeps you reading.

I also enjoyed the sex scenes in Angela Meyer's You Will Notice That Hallways Are Painted, from Torpedo Greatest Hits. I liked these scenes because they said much about the character, touching on sex as emotional release, sex as blurred boundaries, and sex as both the culmination and the antithesis of intimacy. So maybe there's hope for us yet.

On another note, we have competition winners to announce: my congratulations to Jordi Kerr and Melanie Beer, who won our [Untitled] competition, and Boris Kelly, who won our page seventeen competition back in December. Congratulations guys, and happy reading!

Note: I'm aware at this point, that I may have missed some great sex scenes written by men. So if you've read any good one written by guys (and no, don't say Henry Miller), then let me know.


  1. D. H. Lawrence wrote good sex scenes. I think.

  2. If I'm honest, I can't even think of a memorable sex-scene off the top of my head. Like urinating, it seems to be ignored in most of the books I read. I remember being irritated by all the innuendo in 'The Slap', but that was likely deliberate (or at least I hope so). Perhaps I'm just not reading the right authors?

  3. One in Luke Rhineheart's "The Dice Man" is still in my head 20 years later ...

  4. Luke Rhineheart's "The Dice Man" - in your head but still shite


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