Friday, October 22, 2010

Sex Scenes vs. Intimate Scenes

Becca stepped out of the bathroom. Wrapped in an oversized towel, she sauntered toward him. A seductive smile brightened her beautiful face.

He exited his e-mail and hit the off button rather than wait for the computer to shut down. Pushing himself out of his chair, he hurried toward her. She dropped the towel and wrapped her arms around him.

“What’s the matter, sexy man? You’re not ready for bed.”

“I . . . thought you’d be in the shower longer. I was checking my e-mail.”

“And I rushed through because I couldn’t wait to get out here to you. This is serious. I’m coming in a poor second to cyberspace.”

He pulled her tight against him. Her warmth invited him to places he longed to go. Resting his head atop her damp hair, he struggled to lose himself in her presence. Her heart beat strong and steady against him. He loved her more than life itself. Without a second thought, he would die to save her or Haley or Mali. But a threat he couldn’t see coming from a source he couldn’t track—over this he had no control.

A few minutes before, wanting his wife dominated his thoughts. But now, making love was the last thing on his mind.
(from Treacherous Tango by E. Ryan Hale)

Is this a sex scene? Or is it an intimate scene? Without question, it isn’t graphic. Yet the intention of the characters is clear and would likely have been carried through had circumstances cooperated. But does the reader need to see the lovemaking to know that it happens?

Humans were designed to enjoy intimacy. But does it belong in all its sensual details on the silver screen . . . or in the pages of a book? Intimate scenes can add tension and spice to a story, but let’s omit the graphic sex and leave something to the imagination. Have we deteriorated morally to such a degree that we get our “kicks” out of being Peeping Toms? Many readers are women. Are we so insensitive to the lives of our sisters who live alone that we want to titillate their senses with graphic scenes and leave them longing for what they do not have?

Think about the classics—the books that have survived 100, 200 years. Their stories are still wonderful and still read. Yet vivid sex scenes do not grace their pages.

Great writing does not rely on graphic sex any more than it does on profanity or gratuitous violence. Strong story lines, complex characters, realistic dialogue, seamless flow, appropriate use of POV, and ongoing action hook readers and keep them turning pages. When we captivate our readers with our powerful, compelling stories, we don’t need lurid scenes to pull them into our books.

Just as “a rose by any other name” is still a rose, porn by any other name is still porn. I choose not to watch it, read it, write it, edit it, or publish it. And I get great feedback from my readers—men and women alike—as do the writers I publish.

Linda Lane has spent several years working with writers to help them develop powerful, compelling stories and strong writing skills without the use of foul language, extreme violence, or explicit sex.


  1. I was hesitant to read this post, but I'm glad I did! Excellent, excellent points!!!

  2. Sorry, I accidentally posted twice, then tried to remove the duplicate. Being the mediocre blogger I am, well...

  3. Not writing the graphic details while conveying all the emotion requires skill. The best writers have this skill and don't need the constant accompaniment of four letter words and three letter love.

  4. Do you consider D.H. Lawrence a classic writer? I do, and I find his sex scenes masterful. I think it's totally cool that your preference is not to read or write sex, but I don't agree that it's a moral issue. I feel comfortable and confident with my morals, and I love sex scenes that reveal character or further the plot or just provide a great setting for an important conversation.


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