Smut–or Something Like It

I’m well known amongst my writing brethren for my resistance to writing sex scenes. In a writing world that seems to be increasingly graphic, with great attention to–ah–details, I’m still carefully couching intimacy in innuendo and fading to black.

And I don’t intend to change.

I know that erotica is selling hand-over-fist, but here’s the deal. I don’t hold back with realism–most of my work is peppered with profanity, my characters are prone to bad judgment with terrible consequences, they might drink or smoke or both, and I don’t shy away from killing off treasured ones. Something had to give somewhere, right?

But that’s only part of it. You see, to me sex is something very personal. It should involve two committed people (and it often drives people to be committed. Just sayin’.). It should not be discussed with anyone but your partner, a therapist, or your BFF–and the latter only in the most superficial terms. I don’t involve my characters with each other sexually unless there are very deep feelings, and then you hear about those liaisons in vague, euphemistic terms. You’re not going to find my work in the “steamy aisle” of any store, be it online or brick-and-mortar. Ever.

Sounds prudish? Maybe. But there’s an elegance to sex when love is involved, there’s a beauty to the way emotions and physicality move together, and that’s what I want to capture. My critique partner/editor/business partner Nikki recently said to me about a scene I wanted to add to Office Politics, “It doesn’t need to be erotica style. You don’t write that. This is beautiful and perfect and adding graphic detail would make it tacky…It has a touch of class, which really says a lot if you ask me.” Wow. *blushing*

So what does a Sharon Sex Scene look like? Here’s an example (from my WNCIP (work-not-currently-in-progress), Sundown. (These, by the way, are my two favorite characters of all I’ve ever conceived. In fact, my daughter is named for the female main character.)

Her face crumpled. His heart twisted. Before he could decide how to handle this precarious emotional moment, she had battled back the tears and forced her expression into a calm mask. And before he could stop her, she had reclined on the futon mattress, arms crossed over her chest, her eyes watching the flickering patterns of firelight on the ceiling. She didn’t speak again, not even to say goodnight before her eyes drifted closed.

Sonny frowned, wondering just how she had managed to ninja his bed. He eyed the sofa, and the dismal prospect of too-thick cushions and too-short length made his spine ache and his legs twitch.

So he eased himself down on the cushion beside her, careful not to touch her, closing his eyes in resignation as she rolled onto her side and inched backward until they touched. Her warmth pressed against him hurtled him back in time to the lake cabin and the night he’d thought they’d solidified their future.

To this day he couldn’t recall who had moved first. There had been a sudden moment when their eyes caught and held. He became aware he was moving toward her and thought she was already moving toward him. The instant their lips touched had been, for him, like the sudden movement of the tectonic plates. His senses reeled, heightened, swarmed and subjugated his self-control.

Lavender and sunshine scented her skin, with an underlying hint—always present—of linseed oil. Her mouth tasted sweet and pure, like cold, clean creek water. He drank deeply.

Then he was tumbling down, and only when he felt the cool comforter against his cheek did he realize they reclined full-length on his bed. Hands explored, fingers stroked. He liked women with meat on their bones, hourglass figures that begged hands to trace generous curves. A few extra minutes thrown in were always appreciated, although she had none. She was just the right amount of time, and those curves let him know without opening his eyes that he held a woman in his arms. He’d never understood why some guys—like Marty—preferred their women so lean and shapeless that they might as well be holding a boy.

Her breath soughed across his bare skin, shivering it into gooseflesh. His mouth pressed to her throat, holding her pulse between his lips, and then moved downward. She shuddered. Her breathlessness was his, her pleasure his, her desire his. He moved without thought, obeying the silent commands of her body by instinct, eyes closed, senses submerged in a world of touch, taste, and smell.

Dizzy, spinning, because he wasn’t breathing. He became aware of her hands, moving lightly over his skin, touching forbidden areas, stopping his breath in his chest and making his heart hammer at its calcium prison.

Resistance. A sudden rending of flesh and a muffled cry of pain. Yielding. Accepting. Responding. Frantic kisses, desperate caresses. Intensity inside him and then…sweet release. Tenderness. Gentleness. His face pressed into her neck, breathing the scent of her sweat and her lavender lotion and sunshine and the linseed oil, always the linseed oil, as though her artist’s veins were filled with it and her pores wept it.

He raised his head, looked down at her perfection. Creamy skin flushed, eyes half-closed and sultry, fine dots of perspiration on her clear satin skin, glossy hair a cloud of chestnut silk across his pillow. Beautiful.

Their eyes caught and held. She pulled him into captivity, and she was his prisoner, and he knew he’d never feel for another woman what he felt for this magnificent, maddening creature in his arms, the living manifestation of his heart and soul. Love? What was love but an insignificant word in the face of this roaring emotion coursing through his blood? Love? This was eternity, this moved eternity, created and destroyed worlds, made gods of men.

She pulled him down to her as though into a deep pond, and he drowned in her with infinite joy.

He was lost, and he never wanted to be found.

But he had been found. The clan had come for him. Do your duty. Two wrecked lives and shattered hearts were nothing in the face of the Beguilers. Do your duty, Sonny. And he had. Because they were right; two wrecked lives and shattered hearts were nothing compared to the devastation a hive could wreak in a mere fortnight. But why did it have to be their lives and their hearts?

Now she lay curled like a question mark beside him on the futon cushion, her head pillowed on his arm. He watched her sleeping, the firelight playing gently over the curve of her cheek and the dark hollow under her visible eye, and he longed to let his lips travel in the wake of the fire’s glow.

But the chasm of his three-year absence lay between them, a canyon full of heartache and unspoken accusation. Went out for a pack of cigarettes and remembered to come back three years later? Two week vacation wasn’t enough? And he couldn’t explain his absence, not unless they were legally bound. She would never accept him back when she thought he’d snatched her virginity and fled commitment.

So instead, he let his mind wander the pleasant paths of his memory, and at last he slept, the woman he would joyfully die for pressed close to his side…and a million miles out of his reach.

 No thrusting tongues (or other parts), no hot wet mouths (or other parts). Equally, no throbbing manhoods or turgid peaks or heaving globes or silken warmth. What there is, is commitment, an emotional connection, a soul-deep longing for forever. You know what happened; you can read between the lines. What you don’t know,  what I’m showing you, is the emotion in Sonny that scent, touch, and memory bring to the surface.

Smut, or something like it? Not so much. But elegance, beauty, the map of a man’s heart? Yeah, I like that.

9 thoughts on “Smut–or Something Like It”

  1. I’ve had some bad reviews based on the fact that I built up sexual tension, but then there wasn’t a sex scene. Then I got a 5 star review about the same novella saying that it was nice to find romance without the graphic sex that many books had. So I have to please myself. And that’s what you should do. One of my books is a little more graphic than the rest, but I still feel like it’s tastefully done, and it doesn’t mention throbbing manhood. LOL. I do mention tongues when kissing is going on, but not sexual parts. :0)

    I found your scene very tasteful, but it still had enough heat to thoroughly enjoy reading it. Sexy without graphic sex. I think you did a great job with your words here.

    1. Thanks so much, Lauralynn! I know what you mean about a five-star from one reader, fewer from another. It all goes back to individual taste, I guess. :-)

    1. Gini, as soon as I’m done with Gothic, I’ll be working on Sundown and the 3rd Harper & Lyttle book (that comes after Sarah-Jane) simultaneously. ;-)

  2. That’s a great scene Sharon. Not prudish at all in fact. Very telling. The way you started this post I would have guessed that you would be uncomfortable with the scene you shared with us. It just goes to show, people’s ideas of graphic and the place of sex in story telling is quite relative. For me, sex is part of the human experience and thus can and should be explored when the story calls for it. Then its up to the writer and reader to make a connection over the content. Like you, I’m not such “on the nose” descriptions in books. But I also think that how characters approach sex: sexuality and the act itself can be a very telling thing about the character. As authors we write the truth of the character and the story and then let the readers decide. I have had readers tell me after reading Dark Province that they enjoyed the sexual elements so that I should write an erotic book. I have also had readers say they were enjoying the book until the sex showed up. We find our way. As artists if its true then we proceed uninhibited.

    Thanks for a thought provoking post. Love your blog. :-)

    William

    1. Thanks, William! In a way, I was a little uncomfortable writing the scene–there actually was a lot more detail than I usually provide. But I had to step outside my own comfort zone and tell it like a man would remember it, and it’s quite doubtful he would just fade to black in his memory. LOL

      Thanks for the praise for the blog–I’m quite partial to it. :-D

  3. Ooh! That was HOT! More please! Like I’ve told you before, the things left unsaid are to me the most precious. Definitely no smut here. Thank God! I abhor romance novels, unless there’s a paranormal aspect involved. ;)

  4. Christel & Jinx – awww, thanks. *blushes* These two characters—very special to me. They came into being in 1981. Glad I can finally unite them. LOL

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