Friday, August 27, 2010

To have or not have a sex scene?

Recently, a friend asked me if a sex scene is necessary for the plot of a story. Among his circle of friends, a number of people said, yes. But, for me the answer was no.

But, really doesn’t it depend. What genre? Romance? Horror? Mainstream fiction? Erotica? Well, the last one is a given, but honestly when does sex enhance the story?

For me, sex is used to bring the characters together. To demonstrate the closeness or distance between my hero and heroine. To show character’s growth. And for so many others, too.

I have a short story that doesn’t have a fully consummated sex scene, but it does have a sweet tender sensual moment between my main characters. I believe the moment is just as powerful, if not more, than a full-blown sex scene. It tells a lot about the love between the two characters. It demonstrates one character’s growth because she has had a hard time showing love.

In inspirationals, I believe as much passion is shown with a kiss or the touch of a hand.

So, I don’t know if I believe a sex scene is required for any plot, but I know that I enjoy reading them, but sometimes the mystery of what might happen can be just as tantalizing ;-)


Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Interesting question, Angela. I enjoy reading a good sex scene, but that's not what makes a great story. It's the characters and the plot. IMHO :)

Martha W said...

Hhhmmm... good question.

One thing that I think is important to differenciate is between a sex scene (which is not fundamental to most stories) and a love scene (which is for any romance).

Love scenes, for me, are what you refer to in inspirational or less explicit stories. They need to be there to do just what you pointed out- show the emotional growth or distance between the characters. It can be a look, a touch or a full blown love scene with all the yummy details.

Great topic!

Lee Lopez said...

I think a sex scene is necessary. A well written story with a lot of emotion between characters can over shadow any need for describing a physical sex scene. In woman's fiction there is rarely a sex scene,but you still get the sense of the moment.

Joan Leacott said...

Hi Angela, Apart from genre requirements, I think it depends on the characters. In my first book, the hero was unabashedly sexual, so he was quite happy to strut his stuff for the uneasy-in-her-skin heroine. In my second, both hero and heroine are rather shy, so the sex is behind closed doors.
Martha W: I like your suggestion that a love scene is not a sex scene, that love can be expressed without full frontal nudity.
Plenty of food for thought in this post.

Carolyn Hughey said...

I'm so glad you brought this up, Angela! I agree with you. I like to let my imagination run wild wondering what's happening behind the door.

If I find the story I'm reading has more than one sex scene, I read the first and skip the others. It's the sexual tension that piques my curiosity.

Good point, great article.

Angela Kay Austin said...

I hadn't thought about it until Martha W. brought it up. I guess I do see sex scenes and love scenes differently. And, for me, they serve different purposes.

Angela Kay Austin said...

Joan, I believe you're right. Sexual appetite, comfortability, or knowledge can become a part of characterization. To show how characters have grown and changed throughout the story...not just internally, but with each other, too.

Angela Kay Austin said...

Carolyn, it's so funny that you mention skipping sex scenes. I do it so often ;-) I feel like I'm reading the same rehashed over and over. I guess that's why I don't write a ton of them, and try to be as selective as possible in the what, when, how, where, and why of it all.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I like the sexual tension when 'it' just doesn't quite happen but you read on to see if it will. I have found stories where sex is the main plot point aren't interesting enough to read to the end. I guess I am more of a plot person than I realized. I like to imagine what happens and suppose my imagination might be better than what someone can try to put into words. ;)

Jill James said...

My story has two sex scenes and a love scene. My h/h are very sexual creatures and the story is about seduction so I felt they were necessary. Each one is important to the story and shows how their relationshop grows. That said, I never in a million years would have said I would write a book with that much 'sex' in it. LOL

Angela Kay Austin said...

Paisley, you must have a heck of an imagination ;-)

Jill, now that I'm thinking in terms of love scene vs. sex scene...I am in the same boat as you. My most recent piece has a few sex scenes, but there is also a love scene. I felt they were necessary to move the story forward.

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Sex is great! But it's not necessary for some stories at all. :)

Joanne said...

I agree that sometimes writing less is just as sexy. In my daughter's teenage world of TV and internet, it's getting past the saturation point.