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Skipping Over The Sex Scenes

Kissing couple man with tats and long hairDo you remember the first time you ever read a sex scene? I sure do. The book wasn’t even a romance, in fact it was a murder mystery, but there was a brief scene between two characters meeting for a secret tryst in a snow- covered woodsy cabin. There’s a bit of naughty phone talk as they arranged for the rendez-vouz, and – never having read anything like it before –  what a scorcher it was for my virginal eyes! From that moment on, I was hooked on sex scenes.

Years after that steamy introduction, I’m like a hardened street cop who’s seen it all. Groups, couples,  ménage, straight, gay, bi, every orifice we have, every curious position we can think of, I’ve read it in an erotic romance. It’s a positive advance within the genre that writers have gained acceptance in introducing all kinds of different scenarios in their books. Readers can now step up to the erotic romance buffet table and choose just what they want.

“I’ll take a paranormal with inter-racial shapeshifters, group sex, and some m/m, please.”
“No problem, ma’am. Any light bondage on the side?”
“Sounds great. Thanks!”

Yet despite our vast array of choices in erotic romance – including how many or how few sex scenes we want – I’m still see seeing readers commenting on how they “skip over the sex scenes” when they’re reading erotic romance. At first take, it seems like an odd thing to do. Wouldn’t it go to reason that the desire for a hot, descriptive book is what prompts a reader to seek out erotic romance in the first place? So why skim over the very scenes that were wanted to begin with?

There are a number of reasons I can see, number one being that some books just have too many of them. It’s like dessert overload. As much as you love it, eating twenty pounds of chocolate in a single sitting is simply too much chocolate. Reading an erotic romance in which long, drawn out explicit sex scenes go on for three quarters of the book is simply, at some point, just too much sex. It’s not hot anymore. It’s not titillating. It’s doesn’t thrill and excite and make us tear through a book at the expense of all else. It’s just . . . meh. You start flipping over those scenes as you wonder to yourself, “does anything else happen in this book?”

Another sure incentive to skip the sex scenes is when they’re so badly written that they become either really irritating or inadvertently hilarious. The purple prose debacles of the 80’s have largely gone the way of ripped bodices, but there’s still bad writing a’plenty out there, and it doesn’t make at all for a hot read. Scenes become mechanical, pronouns and nouns are highly overused, and the result is a sex scene with as much passion as a dead fish.

Lots of erotic romances could be improved with the help of a good editor, but the demand to get books out quickly before on to the next puts unrealistic expectations on editors. It’s far too time consuming to work with writers crafting and refining sex scenes when the conveyor belt of books to be published is coming at editors with the speed of a bullet train. It’s too bad, too, because I think there are lots of erotic romances that could go from good to great if only someone with desire and experience had the time to make it so.

As an erotic writer myself, it’s a bit crushing – to say the least – when I hear readers talk about skipping over the very scenes that I take pains to imagine, write, edit, re-write and refine to make them really and truly hot and exciting. So what gives? What gets you to stop and read the sex scenes versus rolling on by? We writers would like to think that if we write it they will come – literally (ha!) – but only if the scenes are actually read.

Sound off in the comments and don’t forget to follow. You’ll never want to skip what I have to say.

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with my webmaster, Alla. {photo credits: Alessandro Bologna}