I had an issue when I wrote one of my sex scenes in my upcoming book The Dark Proposal. Besides making sure it wasn’t written poorly or textbook-like (do you know there is an award for Worst Sex Scene in a Book? Who would want that one?), I also wanted to make it as realistic as possible.
But if I was too realistic, that would’ve ruined the sexiness of it all, right? I mean, we all know first-time sex isn’t as smooth as Hollywood portrays it – but then again, if I were to mention the real awkwardness, my readers probably wouldn’t enjoy the scene very much.
Sure, I have the main character, Claire McCormick, being both excited and nervous in the moments leading up to her sleeping with Daniel Bertrand – we all go through that. But once the passion begins, everything is so simple and effortless.
Perhaps too much.
Also, what about the use of condoms? I know, its an issue no one really likes, but they are important. After all, who wants HPV, crabs, HIV or whatever? In the real world, the average person would – and should – smack themselves for not using one, especially with someone they are not committed to.
But when it comes to a lovely sex scene in a book or movie, does it matter?
Well for me, it depends on the kind of story it is. Take for example the HBO series, Girls, a favorite show of mine. They show the use of condoms and I applaud them for it. Not necessarily because we all need to be reminded to use them, but because Girls is supposed to be about the realistic portrayal of real life relationships and sexual encounters. A lot of people in the real world use rubbers, its a fact of life.
But when we’re watching a movie or TV show with a lot of raunchy sex scenes, the use of protection kind of kills the moment. I remember many years ago, I was watching one of those cheesy, silly soft-porn shows on Showtime and one of the episodes dared to show a woman insisting her partner use a condom, which he gladly puts on. I remember feeling as if the romance and sexiness of the scene died by the mere show of the condom. Movies or programs that are meant to titillate their audience are supposed to do that – but not educate. When we watch those shows – at least for me – we kind of want to escape reality sometimes, and enjoy a good sex scene without remembering the realities of the world.
Oh, to imagine sex without any awkwardness, no diseases are exchanged, no one gets pregnant, and everyone is OK once its over!
But is it wise to leave out the realistic parts of a sexual experience in a movie, TV show or a book? I say yes, if you are aiming to entertain rather than educate, or want your audience to escape reality rather than share it. My book is not meant to be a soapbox about the importance of safe sex; if I had any of that in there, it would’ve not only ruined the sex scene but also not make sense for the whole book, even if mentioned for a brief sentence. Maybe some other time with another book, I’ll make safe sex an issue if it goes with no only the scene but the entire story.
But that’s not excuse for you not to use protection, contraception, or get yourself tested as often as possible.