Val Kovalin of Obsidian Bookshelf has, at my invitation, sent in this intriguing post on something I’m sure we have all wondered about in the context of M/M stories. She would love your comments and observations on her post.
Val has been reviewing for about three years. She reads across most fiction and nonfiction genres, but likes m/m fiction best. Visit her Obsidian Bookshelf blog (see link below) for reviews and non-stop advice on reading and writing topics in the m/m genre –
First, I’ve got to say that I totally admire the courage it takes for anyone to attempt to write erotica. There are only so many ways to describe the sex act, which means that a writer probably can’t help stumbling into clichés. Also, everybody’s sexual predilections are so unique and subjective that there is no telling how each reader will react to certain descriptions.
The readers might burst out laughing. They might put the book down in disgust. Worst of all, they conclude that the writer has never had sex in his or her life. We women who write m/m definitely face the possibility that we might sound like we don’t know what we’re talking about because it’s not like we’ve experienced gay male sex firsthand.
As an m/m fiction writer (not yet published, but working on it), I have total sympathy for how difficult it is to write sex scenes. I tend to write mine last of all when the entire story is finished because otherwise I’ll just sit there in a totally intimidated mindset and not be able to advance the plot at all. It definitely helps me to skip over writing them in the rough draft.
As a reader, I’ll admit that I’ll snicker if a sex scene gets too far-fetched. But then I always remember how hard it is to write about the body parts involved in sex and what happens to them. I mean, we only get three possible approaches.
First, we can use the scientific terms such as penis or erection, anus, and ejaculating. Positives? Well, as words go, they’re accurate and unambiguous. No unintentional connotations there! Negatives? Some find these words so cold and clinical that they kill the mood in a sex scene.
Second, we can use the slang terms like prick, asshole, and coming. Positives? These terms can sound edgy, gritty, and exciting. Negatives? They can be too culture-specific. Also, they can sound too negative in that many slang terms double as insults.
Third, we can use metaphors like rod or shaft, entrance, and erupting. Positives? Metaphors let you build in connotations. If you write that someone is ejaculating, it doesn’t really give you much range of meaning beyond the verb itself. But if someone is erupting, the exaggeration conveys a lot of intensity. Obviously, this is a better-than-usual orgasm!
Negatives? The unintentional humor attached to some built-in connotations. I mean, you can never predict individual reactions to something you’ve written. The weirdest metaphor I’ve ever read for an erection? Rebar – as in those steel rods used to reinforce concrete. It immediately sent me off on a distracting tangent, wondering if the guy whose viewpoint we were in worked in construction and was so into his job that he tended to think only in builder’s terms!
The weirdest metaphor I’ve ever read for ejaculating? “And then he exploded.” This doesn’t sound all that weird, but every time I run across it, which is often, I always picture someone just vaporizing down to his sub-atomic particles. Talk about distracting!
Here is where I’d love to hear your opinion, whether you’re a reader or a writer. What types of words do you prefer when reading or writing sex scenes? Are there words that really kill the mood for you? Have you run across any really off-the-wall metaphors for the sex act lately? Anybody else out there find sex scenes difficult to write?