Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of fanfiction. THAT’S RIGHT, go ahead and judge me. If you don’t know what fanfiction is, it is when someone takes either the story or characters (or both) of a certain piece of work, whether it be a novel, tv show, movie, etc, and create their own story based on it.
Now, the reason I bring this up is because there’s a lot of sex and romance in fanfiction. People grow attached to certain characters, and certain character relationships, and want to create a space for those feelings. Unfortunately, because anybody and everybody can write whatever and however they want, there are a lot of bad sex scenes written out there. We are talking BAD. Worse than Fifty Shades of Gray. Worse than those period novels with half-naked men on the front. Worse than a Twilight fever dream. Just bad.
Although some of these scenes are bad because the actual word choice and syntax is bad (who knew there were such terrible synonyms for ‘thrust’?), I also think some of them are bad because they focus on the wrong things. Obviously, I’m no expert, I just read a lot of these stories, but what I’ve noticed is that people like to focus too much on the actual sex part.
See…the thing is…sex isn’t actually that sexy. Sex is messy, animalistic, and if you think about it for too long – gross. The sexy part of sex is in how it feels, not what it is. But these writers focus on graphic portrayals of the act, rather than the feelings, which ultimately leaves the reader feeling detached and often cringing at the crude descriptions instead of losing themselves to the material.
As I mentioned before, I’m not an expert at writing these scenes (although, now I’m thinking I should give it a shot…), but the scenes that truly get your heart racing have perfected something that the others completely miss.
Anticipation. Apprehension. Tension. Uncertainty.
Maybe it’s just me, but the ‘will they? won’t they?’ feeling is where it’s at. One character noticing a flash of skin on the other. Eyes looking at lips. Lips brushing but not touching. Pulling close, pushing away. This can be maddening to consume in media, because you just want the characters to get on with it, but the tension it creates makes that eventual sex scene so much more believable and gratifying.
The feeling all this build up creates is similar to hanging out with your crush. Remember having a crush? Remember when we were all fifteen and hormonally imbalanced and everything felt extra EXTRA heightened? There were all these little things that happened before you eventually kissed. Hands brushing, lingering hugs, wandering eyes. Your heart beats unnaturally fast, your breathing is shallow, and there’s all this tingling in your stomach and below.
Movies and TV have a leg up on writing in this respect because they can simply show us the characters, and build up the tension through good editing and music. Reading forces a little bit more imagination into the mix which means these scenes must be treated that much more delicately.
So why am I writing this? Most of us probably aren’t trying to figure out how to write smut better in our spare time (no judgment if you are though), but I’m writing this to explain why the sex can never be the only sexy part of the journey. In media, and in life. It’s the hunt, the anticipation, the tension, the foreplay, that ultimately makes sex truly sexy. We often dismiss these feelings as merely a means to an end, but if we actually examine ourselves closer, we’ll find that we enjoy them. We want to work for it, we want the uncertainty, we want the chase, we want to go after things just out of our reach to see if we can catch them, and when we do, it’s just that much more satisfying.