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Sex and the Horror Writer

Remember all those times you thought something was missing from a story, and you realized that something was sex, then the author surprised you and threw some in, but it turned out to be really really bad? Like “I want to plant my baby-seeds in your hose-soaked lady garden” bad? No? Apparently, you and I are not reading the same books. *checks the title* Sorry … Landscaping For Dummies.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good sex scene in a novel—if it makes sense for the characters to be doin’ it, and if it’s very well written. I’m gonna say that again. Listen for it closely:

 If it makes sense for the characters to be doin’ it.

And if it’s very well written.

 And. Not or.

Very. Not sorta. Not kinda.

Sex is a funny thing. Not  funny ha-ha, but funny strange … unless you’re unfortunate enough to be doin’ it with me; sex with yours truly could pass for an episode of the Stooges, complete with head-bonking and eye-poking.

<Ah, I see you’ve chosen to bed AJ. Good luck with alllll that>

 I will admit, arousal can crop up at odd times. Like when you’re waiting for an oil change, for example, and the guy in the waiting area beside you smells wholly fantastic, and you sneak a peek at his hands—those big, strong, powerful hands that could probably reduce a woman to a quivering pile of helplessness in under ten seconds—and you wonder what they’d feel like if you just inched your fingers over and … *ahem* For example. That never happened. I never get my oil changed. Though it’s sounding like maybe I should, cuz while that may not be the most ideal situation in which to become aroused, at least it makes  sense.                                                                                                    

On the other hand, if you’re on a runaway barge going 89 mph down some white water rapids, ducking behind a battered suitcase, which is your only protection against the bullets zinging past your head, almost certainly getting laid is not your primary focus. If it is, relax: you’re probably a guy. No woman in this situation would even remember she has a vagina, save to fleetingly wonder if she could hide in it (No? Just me, then? Righty-O). Which is why a straight sex scene in the midst of battle/attack or the inevitable “everyone’s dyin’ all around us, but let’s pause for some bowchickawowow” in the horror novel/movie is, in my opinion, not realistic . The exception to that is: if you’re under attack and you’re holed-up safely in a bunker. Then, bring it on! Oh hell yes, bunker sex is a go!

When the time is right for two characters, the decision comes down to: how much do I show? How far do I take this?

Do I begin it, and do the tasteful fade to black? Do I shut the door? Sure, that’s a perfectly fair option, and a lot of the time, the story doesn’t require further detail. Sometimes, knowing they bonded in an intimate fashion was the point, and having been implied, that’s enough. It can be done classy. Yeah, that’s right … I’m a classy, classy bitch, I could do sophisticated if I wanted to (probably?).

The alternative to the fade-to-black is an interesting menu of options. Do I go full-out? Wellll, maybe … if you’re careful not to sound like a crack whore slapping her fanny at a slow-trollin’ car at the corner of Geneva St. and Welland Ave at 4 o’clock in the morning (Johns and/or arresting officers in the St. Catharines area looking for action: you. are. welcome). I prefer reading a little sex, as opposed to a hint and then the classic literary door-slam. But that’s just me. I’m nosy: I like to know everything about a character. I happen to be of the opinion that sex is a fascinating window into people’s personalities; you can learn an enormous amount from how a person reacts under the duress of an unexpected seduction, or in the pursuit of their desires, or in mutual mad monkey-lust. And I have said this before: you’re putting a fully-rounded person on the page when you write a character, and every person–from sex addict to coldest fish–has some sort of sexual personality traits. Even the complete lack of sexuality is, in itself, a sexuality trait.

Say you’re like me (caution: one should never say that). Say you think it’s important to include an actual sex scene in your novel, during which you will actually show something. Writing sex is not for the faint of heart: it’s for the brave, and the foolhardy perhaps, or for those with little or no shame (guess which one I am? Wrong–I’m all three). So, how do you write good sex?

First of all, you have some. Honey, you ain’t writing no convincing sex if all you’ve got on a Friday night is aFleshlight and a tube of Super Lube (side note: I’m not making that up, there’s a fake vagina in a can called a Fleshlight. It’s hilarious–but I’m not linking it). Grab a partner and do some hands-on research.  If you don’t have a partner, go to your local Starbucks, order the most pretentious beverage on the menu, add random uber-specific boosts and shots and powders, then ask the irritated barista if you can make it up to him/her by practicing tantric sex moves with them … no, it willwork: just ask that blond barista with the goatee at the mall–ooooh, I’ve said too much. OK, maybe propositioning strange coffee shop employees isn’t your thing, for whatever reason *rolls her eyes grandly at your prudishness* though I can’t for the life of me imagine why not. What are some alternatives?

Well, you read some. Other writers have mastered the art of writing sex. Better yet, some write it poorly; it’s out there to read, and you should, if only to get a feeling for what not to do. You want to read a whole lot of it, to see what sounds right to you and what makes you laugh so hard that tears pour down your cheeks (for example, you don’t ever wanna write that he “filled every crevice” because that makes the average reader go, “EVERY crevice? REALLY? Wait, d’ya mean …*scratching forehead* between her toes, too? Behind her ears? Is a nose a “crevice”? Dude, that’s a lot of man-spackle”). Go ahead, pull up yer superhero Underoos, sally forth and infiltrate your local book store, and buy some erotica. Research, my valiant friend, is not going to kill you. The politely-controlled “I’m pretending not to notice you’re buying paper porn, nor am I looking you in the face” stare of the book store cashier isn’t going to kill you either, though depending upon your personality, it may feel like a part of you is dying.

Some of you are saying, “but AJ, I can get erotica online. Easily. And for free.” Yes, I reply tersely, but then you will have denied me the opportunity of causing you personal discomfort. Hello? Have we met?

“Also,” you tell me, rather cheekily, “I don’t need to read. My sex life is research enough. It’s spice-ay.”  That’s wonderful, I congratulate. But it can always be improved-upon, no matter how spice-ay it may be (and btw you sound like a lying dillhole when you say it like that, cuz if it were truly spicy, you’d be too exhausted from multiple orgasms to stretch the word to spice-ay… in point of fact, you’d clip the word. It’d be spi–zzzzzzzzz.)

Experiment, read, think about what’s logical for both the male character and the female character (or if a gay scene, what makes sense for whom), consider the personalities that you’ve already laid-out (ha! I said laid) . Push a few boundaries but cautiously, or you’ll end up making your readers spit their tea–and no, that’s not a coy euphemism. Test things out! When you’re reading erotica and a certain word tickles your hoo-hah unexpectedly–and it will–jot it down.  Make a list of what turned you on, and what didn’t. Think about that list from one of your character’s perspectives. Now, apply a cool damp wash cloth to the back of your neck, breathe deeply, and do it again. And again. Again. More … more! More! Oh God, baby soon ohyespleasepleasePLEASEDON’TSTOP–*gasp* sorry.  What were we talking about? It couldn’t possibly have been … it was? Shit, what was I thinking? Well, I blame you; that’ll work nicely for me.

Mimic reality, then make it one notch better: that’s your job, after all, whether you’re a horror writer or any other kind or writer, and whether or not you write a sex scene. And before you rush out in the name of research and buy a Drilldo (I’m not making that up either, there is a product called the Drilldo, and it’s exactly what you think it is) you should probably note that your sex life does not necessarily suck if it in no way resembles something you’ve read in erotica, seen in porn, or in the Saw movie franchise, or that strange amalgamation: Porn Saw.

I hope I made that up just now.  

I very much hope Porn Saw’s not a thing.

This is me refusing to Google it to find out.

Please, oh please, do not tell me what you find if you do.

(editor’s note: AJ Aalto does write sex scenes in her novels; if she didn’t, there would be NO excuse for the MASSIVELY RIDICULOUS amount of time she spends staring off into space fantasizing various unlikely scenarios, up to and including her post-apocalyptic duty to trade her hoarded SPF900 sunscreen supply for orgasms with the hunky-yet-tragically-shirtless male survivors, and the sci-fi variation: AJ waiting for her transport home from the Farload Quadrant on Space Station Delta V-69, stuck with a platoon of  horny space cowboys with a whoooole lotta time on their hands. Wait–is a group of space cowboys a “platoon” or a “pride” or a “troop” or … WHAT? I might need to know!) 


This entry was posted in Opinions, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Sex and the Horror Writer

  1. Karen / ikss says:

    Hilarious post. And true.

    And by the way? There is indeed a porn parody of the Saw movies. I haven’t watched it…honest, I haven’t…

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