Q&A

How Do I Write Non-Sexist Sex Scenes?

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How can I write sex scenes where the woman enjoys herself without seeming sexist?

– Anon

Hey Anon, thanks for writing in!

Writing sex scenes is a complex topic with countless possible answers, but when trying to avoid sexism, the best advice I can give is to concentrate on how the character feels, rather than how sexy she looks. A super common mistake in sex scenes is writing the female character like she’s putting on a performance for an unseen audience by emphasizing the attractiveness of her appearance and movements. This is what’s commonly called the “male gaze,” which assumes the primary purpose of the scene is to titillate a straight male reader.

For specifics, I’d recommend reading romance and erotica written by women for women. This isn’t a guarantee, as internalized misogyny is a real problem in some of these books, but you’ll get a much better idea of how to write female characters than you will from reading most male-written sex scenes.

While romance and erotica aren’t a huge part of my reading diet, I can strongly recommend the Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold. It has some problematic elements, especially in the age and power mismatch of the lovebirds, but the frequent sex scenes are very well written to avoid the male gaze and portray the female protagonist’s feelings.

Hope that’s helpful, and good luck with your story!

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Comments

  1. Cay Reet

    One thing about a good non-sexist sex scenes is writing sex positive – meaning the characters (male and female alike, but especially the female one(s)) clearly enjoy having sex and aren’t ashamed about their lust. Also part of that: only consensual sex (role-play is allowed, but it should be clear that the ‘rape’ scene is a role-play and the people involved all agreed to this and want it – same goes for any kind of ‘kinky’ sex) and every character is adult (18 minimum, 21+ is better). Not having any virgins in the mix, but portraying sex between people with experience is also a good idea (once you’re good at writing sex scenes, you can consider having a virgin in it, but it takes a bit more skill). The relationship between the characters should also be non-toxic, of course.

    It often helps to write from the female perspective (or in a gay sex scene from the perspective of the ‘receiving’ partner) and to concentrate on the feelings instead of how hot the female character(s) look, as Oren already pointed out. I found “The Cheater’s Guide to Writing Erotica” by Morgan Hawke a good help with sex scenes (and overall writing, Morgan not only discusses how to write smut).

  2. Richard

    I can also suggest checking out Circlet Press (circlet.com) – “Erotica for Geeks since 1992” – for some examples of how to do it right.

  3. GeniusLemur

    Non-sexist sex scenes? I’ve seen all kinds of stuff about sexist, unhealthy relationships, but this is the first time I’ve seen the concern that the portrayal of the sexual act itself might be sexist. Or to put it another way, I’ve seen a million and one ways that getting to the bedroom might be sexist, but I’ve never seen anyone concerned that actual bedroom activities might be sexist.

  4. Deana

    I agree with almost everything Cay said.

    Just a few pet peeves about recently read sex scenes: please, please no make-up sex, or sex-leads-to-argument sex. The sex itself wasn’t the problem, but the books pulled out every stereotype pertinent to the gender configurations involved in the argument that preceded or followed the sex. Enough that I threw down the books (yes, books) in utter disgust and haven’t finished them.

    • Cay Reet

      I agree with that.

      Just make sex which is fun for both. That’s the reason why most people do have sex after all.

  5. Sam Victors

    I’ve been learning how to write sex scenes from Diana Gabaldon, and avoiding people like E.L. James.

    • Sam Victors

      Minus the rapey and controversial bits (such as romanticizing domestic abuse).

      My first sex scene in my first Romance novel starts with two Demisexual Virgins on their first time.

  6. Tuttle

    I typically don’t write them for fear of screwing (puns) them up. These are great tips. Thanks for sharing.

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