Anatomy of a Sex Scene
Anatomy of a Sex Scene
Why I did what I did and how I did it…
A recent blog discussion over on a group I belong to in LinkedIn for authors touched upon a topic that piqued my interest, that topic being sex.
The notice of the topic appeared in my inbox (if memory serves) and I thought it was an interesting topic to discuss.
I was particularly intrigued by the opening line –
“How’s that SEX SCENE you’ve written? You feel good about it, or as uneasy as a cat on a raft?”
I read through quite a bit of the posts (sex sells and these authors were definitely struggling or grappling or tangling with the subject matter by the looks of the posts). At first I wasn’t so quick to jump into the fray. The posts were hetero-centric and I just didn’t know if my hot man-on-man action was going to fit in with this crowd. Then I spied one entry that made mention of a gay romance story and how the sex scenes were handled there and I thought – oh, what the fuck -DIVE IN!
So dive, I did.
What I did do was rather than inundate people with a copy/paste of my sex scene on my website (an excerpt from my forthcoming book Angels of Mercy), I decided to simply reference the link to the work and give a general statement of how and why I did what I did. The forum moderator (who posted the topic) asked me why I made the choices I did (my main protag, Elliot, is the one in control in the book – it’s his POV through and through). And while I never pulled away from the intensity of these two young men and the serious sexual situations they found themselves in, I also knew that the sex wasn’t written to titillate and be a “one-handed” read (if you get my meaning). The sex in this book had to advance these boys further into the depths of their burgeoning relationship (so what’s new? – okay, I’ll grant you that one).
But here’s the kicker (from my perspective, at any rate): when I started out, I thought I was going to focus on romantic stories that I read when I was a teenage boy starving for some sort of recognition that there were other men out there who desired other men; yeah, not so much it turns out.
Gordon Merrick and John Rechy were my absolute go-to’s for that. Those men were my prophets – men of words and lust, of thoughts and hopes. I admired them greatly and still do. I often credit them for saving my young gayboy life. I am NOT mincing words here. These men, for whatever reason were inspired to write what they did, had absolutely no idea that some random kid in a Southern California city like San Diego, would find these books and hold them so close to his heart, taking the time to make paper bag book covers to disguise the truer nature of what was in them. I knew they were dangerous books to have (well, dangerous by others who might find them and think of them as such).
So yeah, as a writer, I thought my works were of an erotic nature because gay men like sex – we don’t have to procreate (though the tech is there if we want to use it – ala Neil Patrick Harris and his delightful hubby David Burtka) so sex is purely for pleasure and to bind the men involved together on a very intimate level. So I made that mistake to think I was an erotic writer. And more to the point – a GAY erotic writer. Sin of all sins in the mainstream literature world.
Then Angels evolved. It burgeoned into something else. Well, that’s not entirely true. It sort of was something else all along. I just knew there was some hella hot sex going on in there (because they’re hormonally charged teen boys and sex is on the brain every 8 damned seconds). So I thought that – hey, sex sells so I must be an erotic writer.
You see the book evolved along the lines of the thriller/high drama I’d always envisioned. It’s a very psychological book in that you, as the reader, are in Elliot’s head. He is aware of you and (at times) addresses you directly. You’re along for the ride, so to speak. It wasn’t the plan from the start when I saw these boys populate (nearly fully formed in a matter of seconds) in my head. But Elliot had other plans for me.
You see, Elliot was my sixteen year old self wanting to finally surface and play in the make believe world I’d created for him. Elliot is a shy, artsy, stay in the shadows kind of gay kid. He’s out – only because he made the tragic mistake of telling his then best friend in the seventh grade and that bestie turned on him and blabbed to the rest of the school about Elliot. So out but not by choice; to stay in the shadows, try to be unobserved, also not by choice. That’s survival, that is.
So how the fuck does this relate to the fucking, you ask?
It was clear to me that my boys were going to do something I hadn’t really read in LGBTQ YA or Adult fiction (romance or not). You were going to get into their heads and root around a bit. You were going to feel what they feel as they felt it (this includes their hard core fucking) – but from inside. I also had to keep in mind that book one was from Elliot’s POV, but the second book was going to be from his boyfriend’s (the star quarterback of the high school football team – the Mercy High Avenging Angels). So I had to carefully plan any situations between the boys so the two perspectives would jive when read side-by-side.
And my hubby, being the retired psychiatrist he is, put a golden nugget in my head to mentally chew on during the whole process – he said, “What is important for Elliot to remember and relate may not be important to Marco (the boyfriend).” That was far more helpful than I realized at the time he said it. It has been my lightning rod and bellwether and any other sign post I could have while I write the series. POV of both these characters is vitally important if the series is to work.
Okay, okay – so where’s the sex? I’m a-gettin’ to it… sheesh!
So the sex… yeah.
As I said, I knew that the sex was integral to the story. Hormonally charged teenage boys – duh! But I just didn’t want to throw it out there like a bone (pun intended – sorry).
First, a little context – if you haven’t followed my blogging about the story (then, where the hell were ya – just kidding!), my story centers around the question: what would happen if the quiet, shy, and in the shadows out gay kid became the boyfriend of the most high profile football jock on campus? How would it work? What would happen? Who would support them, and more importantly, who would try to tear them apart?
Angels is not an easy piece to write. In truth, while it is the first book I am going to release, it was not the first m/m romantic storyline I’d ever written. I have three other stories in the wings at various stages of development but put all of those on hold because I didn’t feel like those epics (and they sort of are – I tend to think Cecil B. DeMille epic – it’s just in my nature to do so) were quite ready for prime time. So when my boys come together (from the first chapter, mind you), I wanted to get the “chase” of their romance put quickly aside. Unlike most stories where they try to avoid the coming together of the romantic leads (because “they say” that once you do then all the sexual tension drains from the story-line), I was more intrigued to find out the “what happens next” in their romance rather than the thrill of the chase.
So the context: Marco has been secretly in love with my artsy gay boy, Elliot, for two years now. He’s stalked him in the background, biding his time, taking unobserved pictures of the boy he can’t seem to get enough of. All of this while he tries to lead a double life of the jock image everyone puts on him. That duality in his life is very much the crux of the whole story. How the hetero-sexist world pressures gay men (even more so than our lesbian counterparts) to conform to what makes them comfortable, that we’re one of them at the expense of who we are.
Once Marco has Elliot front and center in his life – he holds onto him with a ferocity that consumes them both. These boys are lost in each other (to the detriment of their own safety as danger definitely circles them). But they aren’t concerned with that in the heady and intoxicating draw they feel in one another.
But I had a few things to consider at this juncture:
- These are boys of the internet age. THIS IS SIGNIFICANT AND CANNOT BE UNDERSCORED ENOUGH. (A point I’ll come to later)
- Hormonally charged teenage boys and the proliferation of safe sex knowledge and avoidance in such boys
- How men/boys think about and (more importantly) execute sex – no girls involved so the soft pillows and lacy crap was out the window – men, despite protestations to the contrary to their lady folk (in the hetero world) like their sex like they live their lives – MESSY AS ALL FUCK. Marco and Elliot were no different. Why? Because when I was a lad – the messier the sex, the hotter it was. Plain and simple. We’re boys; it’s what we do.
Now for one other element that was of consequence but how and why I employed it was purely from personal experience and not, I repeat, NOT because I was pandering to the whole über-hung sex stud romance story stereotype. Simply put, my first boy was massively hung. He even had a nickname – Glo-bone. I didn’t give it to him – he had it all on his lonesome before I met him. So Marco is a BIG BIG boy. And like me, Elliot was a bit of a twink (don’t know what that is? Google it!), so I wanted to use what I had from my own past to color how they came together (I swear these puns are not wholly intentional, well, sorta).
Elliot is a boy on a mission. He contemplates the enormity of his boyfriend and knows he’s diving into the deep end of the gay pool – but like me, he realizes that if Marco is the one for him, then what he’s got to work with from his boyfriend is something he wants to become adept at. It is important to him that Marco sees him and only him. No matter the cost (pain or otherwise) that may come in the process.
Marco, on the other hand, has his own demons to face in his first time with Elliot. Those demons don’t fully realize themselves for the reader until we get to his part of the story in book 2, but I do hint at them during Elliot’s telling of their first time together.
So now – ONTO THE SEX –
From Angels of Mercy – Volume One: Elliot [Chapter 3 – Shadowboxing and Champagne]
I already surmised that he was a man full of surprises. He was thoughtful, gentle and very passionate. But the most surprising thing about him was his patience. I was a jumble of nerves and conflicting emotions. Not about him. I knew I loved him. I was overwrought inside, concerned if I would make the grade, be an adequate lover the way he would wish me to be. Turns out, I needn’t have worried.
He was so sweet-tempered, taking his time to undress me slowly, gently batting my hands away anytime I tried to help him. With a lone small table lamp on the nightstand next to the bed, our bodies shadowboxed on the wall behind us. In that silhouette I became so ultra-aware of how inadequate my body was in comparison to his. I tried to hide it, painfully aware of how glorious he was, and how not, I was.
He smiled softly, but he said I was perfect for him in every way. He reminded me gently of how long he had watched me, how his desire to have me for himself had built over the past two years. Then he said the most amazing thing to me: he told me that he hoped that he would be everything I would want in a lover. That what I thought mattered to him so much that he was a bit nervous. He hoped it would be good for me. His hands were trembling, a slight quiver to his voice. My heart melted for him.
I just watched him. I heard the words; I knew what they meant. But for the life of me I couldn’t make it make sense. I could see he was becoming pensive, being so vulnerable with me about his insecurities. There was no way I was going to let him think he would ever be inadequate.
I wanted to make sure that Elliot set the tone. He was nervous as all get out but once he saw that Marco was right there with him, it completely transformed the whole scene. To Elliot, Marco is every bit the confident and studly jock that everyone says about him. To find out that Marco was just as vulnerable, even more so when (as the author) you know what demons he’s wrestling with that Elliot has no idea about. It’s quite the moment that will have to wait until book 2 for the big reveal on that front – but in the moment all we have is Elliot’s position – so let’s roll with that, shall we?
I pulled him to me and we fell onto the bed with a ferocity that I didn’t know I had. We tangled; we writhed, our bodies becoming slick with the passion we felt for each other. And it mattered to me that he was just as unsure as I was. Marco, my confident, sexy as hell boyfriend, was vulnerable with me. He allowed me to see that in him. And it mattered. It mattered in ways I couldn’t even fathom in that moment of our passion. It was something I found I would ponder from time to time thereafter. Truly astonished that someone who seemed so sure of himself and his place in the world, was worried about what I thought of him, of whether he’d measure up to what I wanted. If anything, it made my heart flutter just thinking about it, the way that sentiment from him did. But after that admission, I could see it in his eyes. Tucked there, in the furthest reaches, along with his abiding love for me was the fear that he’d fail me. Absurd. Completely absurd that he could ever fail me.
His kisses brought me back to the moment.
He whispered that he loved me, every inch of me, proving to me that he did by covering every inch of me in soft kisses. I tried to return each of his ministrations, but he wouldn’t have it. He said it was my night. He wanted to spend the night making love to me, pleasuring me. Letting me take from him what I wanted.
And make no mistake, I wanted him.
It was important to me that Marco’s revelation about being just as vulnerable and concerned with what Elliot would think of him as a lover was out there. It’s what Elliot clings to that allows his trust in everything Marco to become absolute. It was this trust that was critical in making the scene work. Without it the whole thing would’ve been something else – something more porn/erotic. Eroticism wasn’t the point. The sex was. There is an important difference. Erotica is by nature there to titillate the reader – sex, the sex between my two main characters was put there to psychologically advance their relationship – to establish that trust that Marco was Elliot’s and Elliot was Marco’s. Nothing new from any other romance, right? Yeah, not so much – only because I knew where this was all going to go – so I had to seed this from the first time they were together. The trust had to be absolute. It had to be pervasive for the rest of the story to work. The whole series is a question of who do you trust and why. The element of safe sex (with a condom) is addressed here because it’s just the thoughtful kind of guy Marco was reared to be. But the question of youth and safe sex does percolate in the background. Boys will be boys, and given the vlogging by sex-crazed teens who post their exploits on the likes of XTube and RedTube, there is a plethora of kids out there far more sexually active and proud to post their sexploits on camera (as a matter of record, I never viewed any vlog post of anyone who appeared younger than 18 – the age of my boys in the novel – I was VERY careful about this. It may be research, but I too am sensitive to jailbait postings. But while I didn’t view them, it was clear that they were out there). The folly of youth, it seems. In any event, it was more than enough evidence to support Elliot and Marco becoming fully conversant with the ins and outs of gay sex – and messy gay sex at that.
When the moment arrived, he looked into my eyes, and he spoke of our love again – of how he knew how much trust I was putting in him. I had reason to be concerned – he was no shrinking violet. Italian Stallion didn’t begin to cover it. But there was no way I was not going to do this. With an ample gob of lube, he worked his fingers into my ass to get me used to it. I knew he didn’t have to do that, after all, he was a hormone raging teenaged boy – as was I. He could have just plowed me for all I was worth. But he didn’t. That’s not my Marco.
After a few minutes of his fingering me because we’d watched it on a porn once (exchanging charged looks between us as we did so), I told him I thought I was ready. He leaned down and we kissed very tenderly. He asked me again if I thought I was sure. He wanted me to have a way out if I was worried. No way. I was in all the way. I wanted him to take me, no matter the pain, no matter the cost. He slicked up his sizable condom sheathed cock, my eyes wide at how much of him there was. I wasn’t sure how all of him was going to fit in so little of me. But I’d remembered the porn videos about it and saw that some twinkish guys like me were able to take some massively hung men – so in theory it was possible. A part of me was inflamed with the possibility, but the more reasonable part, the part that was speaking fairly loud at this point, wasn’t so sure.
He paused, unsure if we should do this. No going back. I reached down between my legs and gripped that slicked up monster cock of his and pulled him to me, letting him firmly know that we’d passed that point of no return the moment we became a couple. I wanted him to know that I was good with it. I wanted it. I wanted him.
I don’t know if he thought it would be sexy or if he was trying to distract me from that impressive cock of his, but when he pressed into me, kissing me while he was shaking it a bit with his hand as if that would get me to loosen up further, there was precious little that would have distracted me from what I was feeling. There was no denying it. It hurt. Far more than I was prepared.
At this point I knew I was deep in the mechanics of the sex the boys were going to have. This is where most erotica fails to even remotely draw me in. The mechanics are fairly well known to most people. Fucking is fucking… it may be creative, it may be damn near acrobatic in nature, but it’s still fucking. Fucking is fucking. That part didn’t concern me nearly as much as what Elliot felt during the process. Feeling the enormity of the man he loves as he takes Elliot’s virginity from him. The manner in which he moves Elliot from virgin to an adept lover happens fairly quickly – this wasn’t a mistake either NOR is it wholly impossible (drawn from real life, remember?). Elliot is a quick learner – he sort of has to be. It’s how gayboys survive in this world. We dance between our thoughts and our reality like a well-trained boxer. As with any boxer, some are better at it than others. Some are naturals, while others have to work hard at it. Elliot is closer to the latter rather than the former. He talks a good game, but he’s not as en-pointe as he likes you to believe he is. That’s important too. Having the über hot boyfriend, the man who is at the apex of their insular high school world, only serves to dull that carefully honed survival instinct that Elliot is ‘sorta’ good at. So their sex, their coming together, while it strengthens them as a couple, it also conspires to erode the foundation they both come to rely upon, the world that will eventually crumble from beneath them. But that was later – now I had to build upon their growing trust to be there for one another.
With my sharp intake of breath and a deep moan, he stopped – his eyes soft with fear, saying over and over how sorry he was – that we should stop. When he began to withdraw I found something within me clicked, I knew I didn’t want him to stop. I hooked my feet around his back and drew him forward. I was already committed to being there for him. I would endure anything for him – even if that meant enduring the pain as if he were cleaving me in two. I was determined for my body to learn of his passions and not only accommodate them, but become adept at pleasuring him. I never wanted to become so good at something as I did in that moment.
I once read somewhere online that Linda Lovelace had said that fucking John Holmes was like squatting on a telephone pole. That sister was preaching to the choir here. But he meant that much to me, so I begged him to continue, biting my lip as he pulled me to him. His next few thrusts into me burned, and I hissed – part in pain and part in a blossoming raw erotic pleasure. Then before I realized it, his fucking me caught fire, ignited an inferno of desire and then I couldn’t get enough of him. My legs had moved from being at his side to finding their way onto his shoulders as he brought our bodies together in a thunderous clap of sweat, flesh and passion. My toes curled from the largeness of his moving deep within me. I moaned – loudly. I tried to keep from calling out his name, afraid he would think he was hurting me. And he was hurting me – each time he withdrew, it hurt – hurt that he wasn’t there anymore and I needed him to be there.
He chuckled softly at my pleading for more. He picked up the pace – only because I told him I wanted it to be rougher. Before long I was demanding that he give me his all. And he did. He poured every ounce of his body strength into fucking me, and I met every thrust, hoisting my hips to meet his with a resounding clap of flesh. Panting with exertion, he asked me if I was sure I hadn’t ever done this before. For his cheekiness I clenched my ass tightly around his cock causing both of our eyes to bulge at that sensation. Hands down, that became our new favorite thing. He began begging me to bear down on him as he fucked. I was a quick learner. I could tell he was pleased.
“So good, baby. You’re so fucking beautiful. I just want to make love to you. That’s all I want to do,” he murmured as we kissed between his impassioned words. I just nodded. I was beyond words to tell him what I was feeling for him. I hoped like hell he saw it in my eyes.
Without much in the way of warning he leaned forward and bit down on that tendon from my neck to my right shoulder as he continued to take me. His teeth gripped that piece of flesh, rasping his tongue against it – the pull upon my skin burned while he fucked me with reckless abandon. I was in heaven. I was shuddering with how deeply he burnished his way into me. I was on fire. I didn’t want him to stop; I wanted that burn to consume me. I found I would always want him this way. There was no going back. I could feel him sucking very hard upon that tendon. I knew he was leaving a mark. Marking me – making me as his own. I’d wear that proudly. I was putting the world on notice: I was Marco Sforza’s. That put an extra spark in our fucking that had me abandoning any pretense of being quiet. I’d become a dirty little bad boy and I begged him to keep fucking me.
Surprisingly enough, he came after only a few seconds of my dirty talk. Leaning forward so our foreheads touched, he giggled and told me I got him so hot when I said those dirty things to him. I felt sort of cheesy saying them – like I was some sexy porn star, but fuck, he was doing me good and it just seemed to spill out without much thought on my part. I told him if he fucked me like that I’d always remember to do that for him. He smiled as we kissed. I felt him wane a bit, though never really slipping from me, but as the kiss blossomed in the afterglow his cock stirred to life and we went for another round right on the spot, laughing as we did so. Ever laugh while you fuck? I can tell you now, I highly recommend it.
Marco and Elliot are one. Their relationship on more solid ground than ever before. Elliot is confident in what they are to each other – insofar as he’ll allow himself, that is. He still grapples with why Marco wants him. He can’t reconcile that with the boy he’s stared at in the mirror each morning. He’s skinny (though not really – body image issues – another gayboy foible), he’s average looking (he’s not – image issues again), he’s boring and nothing special (he’s a brilliant singer and a great graphic artist), and for the life of him he doubts that Marco will be around for the long haul. This too was the impetus for the work. Gay men always carry a degree of doubt when they find a potential mate. All the love in the world is a wonderful thing to have, but there’s always the chance that it’s purely transitory. A wisp of the real thing. Nothing to cling to.
Only Elliot will come to learn that Marco is, if anything, a man of his word. When he tells Elliot that he is the one for him, he means just that. It is a promise and a binding that will be tested as the story progresses. Each time I use sex in the story, while I don’t pull punches in it (the boys get into some very messy and involved cum play – it’s just their thing and with that safe sex definitely goes out the window – but they are exclusive to one another so they think they are safe) I don’t want to use it for the sake of sex.
Eh, what would a drama infused story be if everyone were safe? Thankfully, the manner of sex is the least troubling for the boys of Mercy, but sex is an important tool, a device I employ to color ALL of the characters of Angels.
Sex sells. I just made sure that when I use it – it advances not only the story as a whole, but the characters as well. Sex may sell, but it doesn’t have to equate to a sell out.
A great post, and the last paragraph really resonated with me. It would be all too easy to lump this book with the rest of the”erotica” out there, and it would go under the radar, lost in all the dross. And that would be a criminal act, in my mind, because it is beautifully written and pinpoints the realities of young gay men in the 21st century (as far as I know anyway.)
So here is the question, because there is a LOT of sex in a book, does that make it erotica? Should it? Or do we put the word “erotica” on products, not just to sell them but to warn people about the content. Is defining a work as erotica a defense mechanism so that if people rail against you and say “this book is obscene!” you can say “well, I did warn you it was erotica.” This is an incredibly interesting question. When is erotica not erotica, and vice versa? I can feel a discussion coming on!
Great point – But here’s the counter: I’ve read “mainstream” lit fic that had some fairly intense sexual scenes and there was no warning. I also call to mind a quote from Gore Vidal (who had his fair share of scandalous writing) in that nothing helps sales more than a scandal. If it is labeled as obscene, it may not make it into a public library, it may end up on a banned book list or two, but if word spreads about the scandalous nature of it – it may serve to promote the book if for that titillating point alone – say nothing of the quality of the actual writing.
I guess what separates it for me, and this from my hubby who took the time to point it out to me, is that in my case the character relates the psychological progression (if I’ve done my job) of what the sex does for him as a person. I think the difference stems from why it’s there in the first place. If the story revolves around the will they/won’t they sort of scenario – where it’s all about the chase and the sexual union/conquest, then maybe just labeling it erotica is sufficient. BUT, if the sex, as I have it in the book, fundamentally changes the character (as Elliot does in Angels – he faces his tormentors head on after being so close to Marco’s bright light – he grows a pair, though ultimately to his own detriment (spoiler – sorry)). And while it’s definitely intense sexual situations I put out there, they are there for a reason. I think putting an erotica label on it as a warning would only lessen the audience who it might otherwise reach but wouldn’t think a book with strong erotic elements would be something they would want to read. As an author, i’d rather be slammed for writing a smutty book that hopefully will have characters and situations that still resonate with readers.
It is a good question – my only take on it is, ultimately I would be against a ‘warning’ label on the work because of the potential readers I might lose who wouldn’t give that element a chance. The hubby was ADAMANT about my not labeling my work erotica. Almost to the point where he became exasperated with me on it. Primarily because of its strong psychological undercurrent in Elliot. He said that the sex is almost irrelevant when held up against the context of who Elliot is. A mere facet of his life. BUT the most salient point of my book is what this teenaged boy (on the brink of manhood) goes through (and I put him through A LOT) to have the man he loves most. It was the mental underpinnings of my character that the work was really about – and that parents struggling to understand what a gay boy goes through at that age, psychologists and therapists could also benefit from reading about it – why? Because a great deal of it was drawn from my own experiences and are deep inside my boy. Elliot and Marco are a very real reflection of myself and my husband (who used to play College ball for Clemson U). The situations are made up BUT the reactions are rooted deeply in reality. So yeah, I get what your proposing as a viable option, just after talking about it with my husband on it, and given the nature of the work I’ve created, I am not so sure that a warning or label to inform would ultimately benefit the work as a whole. There may be a situation where that might prove beneficial, but as it stands right now, I can’t think of one.
You’re right though, it does merit discussion. Thanks for the thoughtful response! SAC