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.