Writing Naked

I am critical of badly written sex scenes. I want, therefore, to be able to write an emotionally singular scenario that scorches as it burns through the heat of unfolding events; a scene that twins joyous abandon with losing one’s self in a blazing physical coupling of passion and sweat.

I read various authors with incredulity, wincing as the scene offers gravity-defying pyrotechnics, then misfires the emotional pay dirt. Intuitive connection with the beloved, often after a courtship of hours, and accentuated with words that I could not use without giggling.

No matter whether the protagonists are sweet country lovers, dangerous co-assassins, or neurotic/erotic dominant/subs, they always have the moment. Mostly interesting, some others not so much. Credibility, people! Can I identify, could it be real? The animal within, I find, is often a voyeur.

In determination to set matters right, I sat myself down some months ago to begin to write one story that would be better than average, a rediscovery tale between older, more experienced lovers, an amalgam fusing a wild ride with wisdom, saucing up a certain street cred garnered as the fruits of mistakes made, life's challenges overcome. I envisioned their passion as I wrote, intensely graphic enough that the reader could sniff the pheromone-filled night air, feel the sweat of anticipation, the gnawing fears of disclosure, and the physical tension of imminent discovery.

My lovers poised on the aching cliff of desire before the magnetic pull of their coupling reached, well, climax. Within four pages, I had become what I was, a former Catholic schoolgirl, incapable of writing, thinking, or expressing the rawness of my own sexuality, embarrassed that my dead mother might somehow read my pornography through the mists and purse her lips in disapproval.

Where had this come from? I wondered, although in truth, the entire question was hypocritical. I knew the answer. My mother, that strong Victorian-minded woman, had taken my thoughts hostage.

Independent thinker? PFFF! I’m a sham, a fraud, a charlatan. In any language, a fake. Inside my beating defiant heart is a compliant girl who can't create for public consumption what she would think acceptable in private. This self-censure is disturbing, pitiful, even humiliating, as I would fashion myself a woman who is creative, provocative, and occasionally daring.

I still can't write a sex scene popping with volcanic fire, a scene that sweats with lust, romance, and passionate imminence, including, of course, the actual act, whether mitzvah or transgression, either zipless or zipped, with or without toys, depraved or transcending.

Others can pen with ease what my stingy heart will not allow me to write. A poet friend describes skin with such reality that desire emanates through the paper, damp with sensual energy. You can feel it. You can smell it. You can lap sustenance at the fountain of desire. I look beyond my own body, play God with character creation, and find only myself in disguise. A split personality battle ensues between the characters for dominance. Will the bitch win, or the diplomat; the siren or the cloister; the giver or the user. Does that even matter that I am trying to write not an intellectual treatise on sex scenes, but heart-pounding, breath-catching sex, for God's sake!

It isn't like I haven't had experience to draw upon; it isn't like I don't know how the mechanisms work. Everyone over the age of 11 has at least the same technical knowledge. I must admit here, to myself, that I haven’t committed to sharing those most personal of thoughts and that I lack the courage to smudge on paper. I flinch at physical descriptions of body parts in ecstasy, feeling myself a Kinsey researcher, a voyeur, an exhibitionist. Yet, my characters are driven by sex, with longing, hapless, hopeless need, and I want to give them their due.

Can I write steamy sex scenes? Will I be able to step out from behind my own curtain? I have no idea. I will no doubt continue to criticize badly written sex scenes, and I will also read them with purpose—but, for today, perhaps only for today, I remain a literary virgin, frozen in desire and fear.


Judith Lavezzi considers herself a novice writer, with one book completed after several years of working on the craft. She’s written several newspaper and magazine articles, which were published before she gathered enough courage to tackle a novel. Her book is set in 19th century Italy and is a story of one man's journey through the sometimes violent and always changing landscape that was Italy before the capture of Rome. She’s partially through the second book, another stand-alone novel set in Italy and America, chronicling the same descendants of that family as they face the threat of an incurable disease in a race against time and hope. She belongs to the 93rd Street Irregulars critique group, and they, with exquisite patience, have kept her from writing a thousand-page novel to impose on all her friends. You can learn more about Judith on her website.

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9 thoughts on “Writing Naked

  1. Judith! What a great post!

    I know exactly how you feel, because I had similar issues. Back in 1997 I had an idea for a novel…but in order to do it right I also had to break the same barriers you’re dealing with: writing sex scenes. The novel, Voice, which was released in 2015 (yes, it took me THAT long to have to guts to actually release it!) isn’t *about* the sex, but I still had to “write sex.” I figured, if I could write about sex, I could write about pretty much anything else, so I pushed myself to do so. I read and studied how other people wrote sex scenes…then just sat down and wrote out what I needed to write. It’s been so long, now, but as I remember it, I jut wrote them out using all the clinical terms…then I poured over the prose and reworked it until I had the effect I wanted. I don’t know how to show someone how to do this, short of it’s something you just have to dig into and discover yourself. You have to sit down and write this stuff out. Period. You have to see how others have done it. You have to figure out what YOUR style is. What your book is about and how you need to portray what each scene as it pertains to your story as a whole. Do you need/want to just show the physical explosion of the interaction? The emotion? Some abstract version of it? Are you trying to stimulate and excite readers? Maybe you just need to descirbe the shadows on a wall as they go at it. What is your goal in writing these scenes? And are you brave enough to go where you need to go in order to write these scenes? Do, indeed, pull from your own experiences and emotions and reactions when you write–you don’t have to tell anyone that what you wrote was exactly how you behaved or felt, but if you do it right, you don’t have to–it’ll show on your page. But you have to be willing to go where you scene needs to go. Do you need them explicit or implied? Heck, write the scenes of someone “frozen in fear” of having sex! Maybe start out with that. There is a lot to consider, but ultimately you have to sit down and write. Even if bad, you just have to do it, then edit the heck out of them like everything else you write. If you have some trusted friends, give them what you’ve written and see what they say.

    In the end, I looked at it like this: no one has problems with explicit violence and gore in literature, so why should they have problems with explicit sex? If consentual, it’s not hurting anyone, is nonviolent, and is flat-out FUN, so get over it! Why is it we have such “sticking points” with sex? You are obviously aware of your own issues with it, and that is the place you need to start first: addressing your issues with writing sex scenes. I’d start by reading (or studying) more such scenes–in fact, why don’t you start by writing out at your keyboard/on paper sex scenes others have already written? Get used to just writing the “sexy words.” :-] Then work on writing your own…or rewriting what you just wrote in your own words? You really have to face your fears…and push through them. Believe me, I know what you’re going through!

    I wish I had more concrete advice to give, and I hope what I’ve written here will help you break through your own barriers! I wish you all the best in doing so!

    • Thank you so very much for your suggestions. I hope that I can improve with time, and with practice get more real, more willing, more ‘naked’ emotionally. I expect that if I had had any sense I would have begun writing at 30, when I could have improved for the next 50 years, but alas…
      It is most kind of you to take the time to offer your wisdom.

      • You’re most welcome!

        Judith…everything happens for a reason, this I truly believe. Try not to focus on the past—just the present. You have it within you and it will manifest when it—and you—are ready! I sincerely wish you the best! Just keep writing and enjoying what you ARE writing!

  2. I, too, struggle with this age-old dilemma. Luckily, I write mystery novels, where the protagonists take care of things themselves without my intervention. 🙂 But it’s hard.

    All I can tell you is, lady, you can WRITE! So where is your novel? Have you shopped it to agents? Are you going to self-publish? Are you at the beta reader stage yet? Count me in if you need one.

    Move forward and share who you are with the rest of the world. You’ve got the gift!

    • Thank you so much for your encouragement. To answer your question, I am a couple of weeks away from final, final editing. Then I have a novel that will have been edited and ready for beta readers. I would be delighted to have a writer as a beta reader. Please let me know where you are so that I could contact you. I hope that with time, I will improve, as I am not yet the writer I would like to be, someday.

  3. Good morning, Judith. Frank gave some great advice! The sexual experience is as varied and fascinating as are the people enjoying it. Some are strictly missionary and old school, while others may experience joy caressing soft, beautiful feet. For some, the thought of such intimate physical union itself sends them to glory. Others may be selfish, demanding control throughout.
    Emotionally, sex is just as versatile. It can be the ultimate expression of love, or trust. Or one of experimentation, to see how differently others are built or perform. I suggest you shift your focus from your own feelings, and decide how you want your readers to feel, the dominant emotion you want to create during your characters’ sexual experience.
    Reading other love/sex scenes can help you as you study what’s on the page, how you feel as you read it, and whether it’s a joyful experience — or not satisfying to you. Find the ones that please you, that please your characters. You’re a gifted writer. Now, go have fun with it!

    • Thank. You – I am listening with awe at the encouragement and experience that you all have so generously given me. I do read sex scenes, that is good advice. I have much to learn. Fun it is!!

  4. Excellent post, Judith! There’s an author up here in Northern Colorado who gives a workshop from time to time on writing sex scenes. I’ve never taken it because, there’s no way I’m trying to write a sex scene in any of my stories. I’m old-school…my sex scenes will take place behind closed doors so readers will just have to use their imagination. 😀

  5. I would love to know about that author, as I don’t easily write such intimacy, that is true. I am not trying to write porn, but also not trying to be a voyeur, or a nun, so I haven’t yet found my own acceptable style. Thanks for your thoughts.

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