Bad Sex Scenes

First let me reveal my bias, I write for an adult audience. My sex scenes are hot and explicit. To me, sex is a normal, healthy part of adult relationships. I can’t imagine leaving that part out of the story, or not allowing the reader to experience it fully and completely. I leave the bedroom door wide open so readers can grab a box of popcorn, pick a seat, sit back, and enjoy the entire show.

Although I candidly tell folks that I write erotic romance or urban fantasy with erotic elements. I don’t think I write erotica. Why? Because the sex isn’t primary, it’s not the focus of or the reason for the story. Rather it’s something that naturally unfolds as the desire and emotional connection between my cotagonists deepens.

I’ve seen and read lots of books and articles over the years about how to write a good sex scene, some focusing on the “dos”, other on the “don’ts”. Today I’m writing about something that I haven’t seen a lot of other authors discuss, the importance of a bad sex scene. Now, I’m not talking about poorly written sex, or a specific type of sex that I have judgments about. I’m simply talking about a sex scene in which the outcome is far from ideal.

Personally, I love it when an author inserts a well crafted and strategically placed scene in which the characters fumble, struggle, strike out, or somehow “misfire”. I think it makes characters more real, more vulnerable, and most importantly, more relatable. This is particularly the case when the author is able to show that the hero/heroine can get through the situation with finesse and that, as a result, they experience a more profound sense of intimacy.

There are some important key elements to making this sort of scene work for you.

Regardless of the failure, your hero/heroine must stay in character. You don’t want the reader to suddenly feel as if two entirely different characters are introduced.
Remember that you are striving for vulnerability and reality. The situation should be believable. You don’t want it to come off as comical and you don’t want to make the reader too anxious or afraid. Be subtle.
Use humor carefully. No one wants to be laughed at or feel like they are being ridiculed when they’re naked. Remember that your characters are bare not only physically during an intimate scene, but emotionally as well.
Keep the sexual tension high and the pacing steady. Lead both your characters and the reader down the garden path and then surprise them by inserting an obstacle.
Acknowledge the obstacle. It’s better when one of the characters is able to do this rather than relying merely on narrative.
Have the characters talk through the obstacle to normalize it. This will show the reader that they have the strength to get through those mundane relationship issues that are necessary to conquer if they’re going to have a long-lasting relationship.