Sex on the Page: The Dirty Details

This is the last installment of our series on writing sex – I hope you’ve enjoyed it (*ahem). If you haven’t read Carol’s post  yet, I’d encourage you to pop over there – it’s excellent, as usual…

So what are we talking about here? I bet I can make some of you shiver (and not in the good way) with just one phrase:

Bodily fluids.

 Yes, I know…none of us really want to talk about this, but if you’re going to write sex scenes, you’ll have to address it eventually – one way or the other. It all really comes down to personal preference. Luckily, there are a lot of choices here, depending on what you’re writing, and your personal voice. For me, I prefer to use soft terms when it comes to fluids…and when I do use a more direct term, you can be sure it’s an intentional attempt to garner a quick “shock” response from the reader.

I am not a reader who likes to see the words “spit” or “saliva” used in any kind of sexual situation. Horror, sure (big fangs dripping saliva is a good way to get me anxiously peering out the windows to make sure I’m not being hunted). But when used with sex, that’s porn-speak in my mind, and I’m not a huge fan of written porn. It bores me.

We all know sex requires lubrication (okay, good sex…and if you think otherwise, I *really* don’t want to know, K?). And while in real life some spitting may occur (really? To each his/her own…), I prefer my characters take care of that in…shall we say, “classier” ways? I love the word “laved”. So expressive, and implies lubrication much like “licked” and “sucked” without any actual mention of saliva.

I don’t mind the word moisture, or moist, or even wet in certain situations. This is also the area I’m most likely to use euphemisms in – like “heat” or “warmth” for that flood of lubrication between her legs when she’s faced with a God-like male specimen who wants her.  Personally, I tend to avoid direct naming of orgasmic fluids as well. Words like “sperm” usually pull me right out of the moment, and into the “someone’s going to have to clean that up” mindset (which isn’t really where you want your reader at the end of a satisfying sex scene. Well, there are a few exceptions, but not generally outside of erotica.).

Ah yes, clean-up. Again, in my opinion, reality does have some part in all this, as I find it unbelievable if characters skip over the necessary clean up. Whether it’s just throwing out the condom or showering off (shower scenes are nice, because they’re all-in-one!), I try to make sure my characters clean up before going about the rest of their story. Even just a token mention can go a long way here…but if fluids are mentioned at all, then I think it’s important to mention clean-up as well.

So when it comes to fluids, my personal preference is for euphemism over technical terms. For me, technical terms are not arousing or emotionally satisfying – they’re cold and imply a lack of true emotion between participants. And my sex scenes normally exist to move an emotional connection one way or the other…it isn’t just sex for the sake of sex (not even in my erotica).

I suppose if you’re writing sex just for the sake of sex, the technical terms would be appropriate, though I still would argue they’re far less powerful to the average reader.

Those are my thoughts on it…anyone brave enough to comment? How do you deal with fluids in sex scenes, or if you’re a reader, which style do you tend to prefer? 

Thanks for joining Carol and I on our exploration of writing sex…it’s been a fun and very interesting journey, I think!

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4 comments on “Sex on the Page: The Dirty Details

  1. Brooklyn Ann

    I also avoid mention of saliva. It makes the characters sound all drool-y. As for the semen, I HATE the term “seed” it sounds too man-arrogant for one, and implies a pregnancy scare for another. Not sexy.
    As for “clean-up” I am guilty of not mentioning it. I just assume they shower in the morning and change the sheets the next day.

  2. Carol

    I have to admit, I’m another one of those who tend to skip over the “clean-up”. It might be a different story if my characters used condoms, but being set in the future they have contraceptive shots that include protection against STDs. 😉

  3. India Drummond

    I skip over clean-up unless it’s needed for characterisation. In my book, when an angel and human have sex, she has to worry about clean up, where he can just sort of magic himself tidy. (It’s phrased oh so much more cleverly in the book. LOL)

    But otherwise, like using the toilet or flossing, it’s not something I want to read about in romance novels.

  4. Jamie DeBree

    See…I don’t want to think of the chars all covered in…whatever under their clothes. I need *closure* in order to move on! LOL