Penny Fletcher

What’s the Difference Between Writing a Sex Scene and Porn?

June 1, 2017
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What’s the Difference Between Writing a Sex Scene and Porn?

By Columnist Penny Fletcher

June 2017

 

Back in the day, the movie Pillow Talk created quite a stir because Doris Day and Rock Hudson were seen getting into the same bed and turning out the light. Until that movie, which I saw in the 1960s, even husbands and wives were never shown getting in bed together on television or in a movie.

Romantic KissOf course, Pillow Talk didn’t take it any farther than that. The only kissing shown in movies back then was the type between Rhett Butler and Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, where at the end of the movie the hero held the heroine in his arms and kissed her in a very romantic way as the light faded to black.

Things have changed a lot since then, and sex is often a very real part of the plot in stories, books, movies and television shows. So how’s an author to handle it?

“That depends upon whether the scene is necessary for plot or character development . . .” —FLETCHER

That depends upon whether the scene is necessary for plot or character development or just thrown in to attract voyeurs. My first book, If I Should Die before I Wake, was a true story about domestic abuse and was published by a Christian publishing company, Rainbow’s End, headquartered in Pennsylvania. It was my first book, and I was writing it as an inspiration to people in the same abuse situation I endured with my first husband when he returned from the Vietnam War. So, I was careful to leave out any “dirty” parts. The sexual injury I suffered did not get addressed in the book. Shortly after leaving that situation I served as a peer-counselor to women in similar situations and soon learned sexual abuse was the very thing that had hurt them most emotionally; the things they most wanted to talk about so they could feel  as if they  weren’t alone in their pain.

I realize now that I never should have left those parts out- even if I’d had to wait and go to a secular company or self-publish it. You see, what was left out was imperative to telling the real story. My children have since read what I wrote and called it “a tremendously sanitized version of the truth.”

I made up my mind never to let that happen again. I would never sacrifice a character’s integrity – or lessen his or her pain- because I was afraid to “shock” readers.

I learned to write about sex while writing eBooks for Secret Cravings Publishing Company. They rate their books as 1,2,3,4, or 5 Flame. One being “sweet romance” and five being “way over the top.”

My books were always rated a four. Four is realistic and intense, with graphic sex, but never crossing the “porn line.” Let’s face it, sex is a part of life and if you’re writing about real life and have realistic characters, sometimes you have to write about sex to tell a full and complete story.

I learned a lot while writing in that genre that I can now incorporate into the suspense thrillers I love to write. I prefer writing “what-ifs” about government cover-ups and “political espionage” but again, the characters involved will from time to time, engage in sex.

So how do I write those scenes realistically without ever crossing over into porn?

“I don’t use the common “dirty” street names for body parts. In fact, I try not to name body parts at all.”
—FLETCHER

The rules are rather simple. I don’t use the common “dirty” street names for body parts. In fact, I try not to name body parts at all. I create my “level four” sex scenes by using a technique I call “slow-mo-sex,” which is my shortcut term for slowing down a scene and portraying it in slow motion. Every breath, every hand movement, every heartbeat or stirring of blood is described. The way the lighting falls across a person’s face (or other body part); the main character’s pulse rate; the softness (or hardness) of a kiss. It’s all part of the scene, which should rise as the passion of the characters would rise in real life, and can be used to show a character’s strength or weakness as well as just “how they have sex.”

How many times have you heard that the eyes are the windows of the soul? The eyes can react to the other person in many ways: heavy lidded, half-closed, wide-as-saucers, or “with head thrown back, eyes closed, (he) or she, barely able to take in air.”

You get the point.

My thoughts are that calling a male body part a co*k or di*k or calling a female body part by any of the street names used in pornography isn’t anywhere near as “hot” as saying something like “as his fingers lightly tripped across her chest, she could feel the warmth start spreading…” or  “she ached for him to the point of pain,” or even, “pushing into her until she began to shudder into a magnificent crescendo that finally hit a long, lingering apex of pleasure, let up for just a second, and then poured forth again, causing her fingers to wring the sheets and her head to push down hard against the pillow.”

Now honestly, isn’t that better than using a string of four letter words?

Penny FletcherAbout Regular Contributor
Penny Fletcher
Author, Editor & Coach
Penny Fletcher is the author of both traditionally published and self-published books; has been a journalist and bureau editor for several large companies including Media General Communications Inc., Sunbelt Newspapers and The Tampa Tribune. She has also taught at a local college and through her Florida county library system, as well as worked as an outsource editor for Amazon’s first publishing division, BookSurge. For more information visit: www.pennyfletcher.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Linked-In. Her suspense-fiction book, The Sumerian Secret, is based on fact and can be found on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

 

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