The Mark Blog

Bookmark This: How to Write a Sex Scene

Author Steve Almond has some excellent rules for writing about sex. Utne has republished his three-page essay on the tricks of the trade. Here's a sampling below. Read the full text here.

Step 1: Never compare a woman’s nipples to:
a) Cherries
b) Cherry pits
c) Pencil erasers
d) Frankenstein’s bolts
 
Nipples are tricky. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and shades. They do not, as a rule, look like much of anything, aside from nipples. So resist making dumbshit comparisons.
 
Note: I am guilty of the last.
 
Step 2: Never, ever use the words penis or vagina.
There is no surer way to kill the erotic buzz than to use these terms, which call to mind—my mind, at least—health classes (in the best instance) and (in the worst instance) venereal disease.
 
As a rule, in fact, there is often no reason at all to name the genitals. Consider the following sentence:
 
“She wet her palm with her tongue and reached for my penis.”
 
Now consider this alternative:
 
“She wet her palm with her tongue and reached for me.”
 
Is there any real doubt as to where this particular horndoggle is reaching?
 
Step 2a: Resist the temptation to use genital euphemisms, unless you are trying to be funny.
No: Tunnel of Love, Candy Shop, Secret Garden, Pleasure Gate
 
Equally No: Flesh Kabob, Magic Wand, Manmeat
 
Especially No: Bearded Clam, Tube Steak, Sperm Puppet
 
I could go on, but only for my own amusement.
 
Step 3: Then again, sometimes sex is funny.
And if you ever saw a videotape of yourself in action, you’d agree. Don’t be afraid to portray comic aspects. If one of your characters, in a dire moment of passion, hits a note that sounds eerily like Celine Dion, duly note this. If another can’t stay hard, allow him to use a ponytail holder for an improvised cock ring. And later on, if his daughter comes home and demands to know where her ponytail holder is, well, so be it.