I just finished writing my first full love scene for my new novella (more on that coming soon). So far, most of my writing has been work I felt was too short for a sex scene, as I prefer to build character first. Writing sex scenes is tricky, period—getting the tone right to match the rest of the story, making sure it doesn’t sound cheesy or clinical. Even major writers have a hard time—just see the bad sex awards for that. But as I’ve discovered, when you’re dealing with same sex partners it adds a whole other layer of complexity.
In a traditional m/f scene it’s pretty easy to tell who is doing what when using pronouns (he, she, his, hers) but as soon as you start referring to members of the same sex, the scene can quickly become confusing. He caressed his body. Who did what to whom? So in order to clarify things you have to start using names: Steve caressed Joe’s body. But an extended scene gets repetitive if you keep repeating this over and over again and it pulls the reader out of the moment. I now understand why so many m/m writers chose to write in the first person; of all the alternatives, this makes it the easiest to write sex scenes. I caressed his body—much simpler. Of course you still have to be creative not to repeat yourself over and over again.
In a traditional m/f scene you have a variety of different body parts to describe—his and hers. But in a scene with people of the same sex you have double the body parts but only the same limited vocabulary to describe them (nouns and adjectives). There are only so many ways to refer to a penis. Yes I know there are dozens of euphemisms and slang variations, but really there are only a few terms that can be used in a modern, romantic context. Cock and dick are the most popular of course. Penis can sound clinical, member, prick and (heaven forbid) manhood, sound a little old fashioned and are fine for historicals, shaft is okay if used sparingly, repeated “erections” become annoying, “boner” is a no-go for anyone over thirty. See my point? And that’s just the nouns. When you start to add in the adjectives like thick, fat, flaring, glistening etc. you kind of have to divvy them up between your two characters.
I have a whole new respect for writers who are able to write natural sounding sex scenes and make it seem effortless. I know the next time I read a steamy scene I will be a little more appreciative of the hard work that went into it.