How Much Sex Do You Need In A Sex Scene?

How Much Sex Do You Need In A Sex Scene?


Are you writing a love scene? In this post, we look at levels of intimacy and ask: How much sex do you need in a sex scene?

This is the second post in a series on How Much questions. Previously we looked at how much blood you need in a crime novel. In future posts, we’ll look at how much magic you need in a fantasy novel, how much profanity you need in a novel, and how much detail you need in a novel . In this post we’re talking about ‘how much sex do you need in a sex scene?’.

Writers often ask me ‘How much…’ of something they can or should have in their stories. The short answer is, it’s up to you, but here are some guidelines that may help you decide.

How Much Sex Do You Need In A Sex Scene?

When you write romance or any story in which you include a sex scene there is always a panicky moment before you start. How much is too much? Where do you draw the line?

Well, it comes down to sub-genres really. You will choose a sub-genre that you are comfortable with. If you are writing romance you should be familiar with the categories and the requirements for those categories. You can take a look at Mills&Boon and Harlequin to get an idea.

But not all genres have such specific guidelines when it comes to sex scenes so let’s break it down. Firstly, you will need to decide how much you are comfortable with sharing. Here are some options:

🔥The Implied Sex Scene

This scene stops before the act and the next scene will perhaps reference the sex scene, but there will be no or very little detail. The act need only be mentioned by the characters.

🔥Telling The Sex Scene

You can avoid writing the sex scene as an action scene by telling instead. Should you choose to tell, the challenge is always to tell beautifully, but when it comes to sex scenes be careful of euphemistic description which could lead to confusion and cringing.  

🔥🔥Closing The Door

This scene will take you and your readers right up to the bedroom, but you do not need to accompany them into the bedroom. This could include the build-up to the act but not the actual act. You can resume the scene with a character collecting their underwear for example. That is more than enough and your readers will know what happened.

🔥 🔥 🔥What Door? 

This scene will take you, not only through the door, but right into bed with the characters. You’ll be there when the clothes come off and for whatever happens after that.

Tips For Writing Sex Scenes:

  1. You don’t have to have a sex scene. It’s your story, you get to choose.
  2. What is the function of the scene? To add conflict, to offer relief and/or closure. Be wary of sex scenes that don’t add to the plot.
  3. Focus on emotion, or the lack thereof. Most of these scenes show us a different, more intimate side of the characters. How does it influence their emotions?
  4. It shouldn’t read like an instruction manual. To become comfortable with writing sex scenes you should read sex scenes.
  5. We don’t need to know where every limb is placed at every moment. Readers tend to be pretty smart. They‘ll get it.

The Last Word

I hope this post, helped you decide how much sex you need in a sex scene. A well-written sex scene can add so much to a story. It shows us who the character is and, at the most primal level, how they relate to the world. Use it, but use it wisely.

P.S. And then of course you can have some fun and read the excerpts from the Bad Sex in Fiction Awards, which are always a treat – adults only.

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Mia Botha by Mia Botha

Buy Mia’s book on how to write short stories: Write the crap out of it and other short story writing advice

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Top Tip: Find out more about our workbooks and online courses in our shop.