Sex Scenes

How much sex can your novel have before it becomes a romance, erotica, or just plain blue?

The other night, over drinks with authors, I was asked whether my novel had a sex scene in it. It seemed the women at the table were more apt to write sex than the men.

Yes, I said, and my sex scene has a beginning, a middle, and an end—then a "let's go another round".

Now, it's not graphic—certainly not pornographic—and yet I recall feeling intimidated the first time I let beta readers see what I had written. My beta-reading women friends (a good twenty years younger than me) likely wondered why I was so hesitant to let them read it, tame as it was. Thing is, sex and the way we view it is so personal, so intimate, that even when we're telling it through a character's eyes (especially if it's sex-with-meaning, whatever that is), a lot of writers struggle with laying it all out there.

I haven't experienced the same hesitation sharing sex-on-the-page in short stories. I'm even toying with the idea of trying my hand at female erotica. The thought of writing it kind of turns me on, I guess. Besides, if I'm going to include sex in novels that will be read by women, I need to get beyond the locker-room tales of conquest that too often pass for titillation among men.

Perhaps it's the deeper connection I form with the protagonists in my novels, that makes me want to draw the curtain before the sex happens—to allude but not disclose. For my readers' sake, though, I  have to be more revealing.

As I contemplated this post, I did a quick mental scan of my first novel and realized there were a couple of additonal sex scenes that involved secondary characters. And when I went a little deeper, I remembered more. Finally, I wrote a list of all the characters (major, minor, extras) and discovered nineteen either had sex, described having sex, attempted to have sex, or fantasized about it somewhere between the covers of my book.

Could it be it's not crime fiction, after all?