Comics and links and sex, oh my!

Cartoonist Claire Folkman reports on why romance is a crucial element to her personality.

Then there’s this one, sent in by Shaina: An eBook Shopping Holiday Poem from Sheldon, who is sadly spot-on about the fast evolution of electronics.

And – oops – I completely forgot to mention this (blame pneumonia – I’m blaming it for everything this week!) but Penguin’s Project Paranormal, complete with really spiffy retro graphics, featured an extended interview with Marjorie M. Liu talking about the inspiration for her Maxine Kiss series, and a brief overview of the series itself. And me. In hot pink cowboy boots. Talking about stuff I’ve talked about recently here about paranormal popularity, and about the powah of the series. I also predict that faeries are the next trend – though I think I disagree with myself now. (Also, last time I wear a knee length skirt on camera while sitting on a very comfy, deep-set couch OMG. I kept waiting to see my own underwear).

Book CoverAnd finally – a few days ago the Bad Sex award winners were announced. The finalists are all online for your reading (and screaming) pleasure. One of them contains the amazing phrase, “Meanwhile, down in Vaginaland….”

The winner was Jonathan Littell for his description inside The Kindly Ones, for a sex scene that included comparison of orgasm to spooning out the inside of a soft-boiled egg.

As Jane from DA pointed out, romance authors who write sex well never get enough credit because it’s far, far too easy to write sexual scenes that make you feel utterly bewildered. I read one this week that included a reference to the heroine’s “sweet muff” that is still befuddling me – though thankfully the hero didn’t say the words out loud.

What sex scenes have been memorable for you, for good or confusing reasons? And is it just me, or do some of the things heroes say in the course of talking dirty in romances (especially erotic romances) just crack you up? Somehow my brain always imagines a computer voice saying the words out loud, instead of a male voice, which automatically makes them hilarious.


The Link-O-Lator

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  1. 1
    Gabrielle says:

    The love scene in Paradise when Meredith finally told Matt that she loved him and his IMMEDIATE response *swoon*

  2. 2
    orangehands says:

    Whenever I read one of the Bad Sex finalist I tend to wonder how good a writer they are. It’s not that sex scenes are easy to write (and yes, let’s give much credit to the writers who write them well), but how can you be a good writer and think lines like “Georgie has to roll Mr Condom down Mr Penis for him and she has to help insert him into Mrs Vagina” (don’t they do this in children books? Mr Bunny, Mr Toaster, Mr Sex?) or “stick his finger in her arsehole or something” (such uncertainty about which hole to use) is a good sentence, or sexy in any way?

    Also, is there a reason so many of them have sea metaphors? I know we’re wet down there, but come on, its not a freaking ocean you need to do backstrokes in.

    I personally find 95% of dialogue during sex scenes to be either funny or icky. (I will never understand the reason behind asking the woman you are having sex with “whose your daddy?”; like that is the man she wants to be thinking about!)

    Anyway, the best sex scene writer that is coming to mind is Jennifer Crusie. As the sex scene progresses she starts to use run-on sentences and it creates the image of a building crest. Also, in Faking It when the two characters finally get the sex right is both hilarious and sexy.

  3. 3
    Betsy says:

    This hardly counts, but when I was a preteen I loved reading Tamora Pierce books, in part because of the very short, blurry ‘love scenes’ like ‘they lay down together, and knew they still desired each other.’  Quite shocking when you’re ten!
    I still love Tamora Pierce’s books—she’s a great middle grade/YA author, highly recommended.

  4. 4

    I’m not always a disciplined romance reader; if I’m not into the characters and I know I won’t finish a book, I always at least skim through for the dirty bits (and dog-ear them for my husband) before I give it back to the library.

    Part of that’s homework, since I wouldn’t mind my readers dog-earing my dirty bits (pardon that wording), and part of it’s good old-fashioned perviness.

    That perviness goes the other way, too—if I read a really good, steamy romance, I’ll go back at the end after the HEA and reread the sex scenes. I think I read the dirty bits from Kresley Cole’s Highlander trilogy (If You Deceive, et al) at least three times per book, because they’re so damn hot, and very human. She’s not afraid to point out when sex is painful or messy or scary, which I love.

    Oh, and I read the dirty bits out of Nina Bangs’s Eternal Pleasure like five times, because I couldn’t believe I was witnessing sex between a woman and a demon-dinosaur-man. And, weird concepts or not, she knows how to write dirty.

  5. 5
    Alyssa says:

    Orangehands: I’ve gotta disagree with Jennifer Crusie being the best sex scene writer. Her scenes have a lot of irony and sarcasm and awkwardness, and while that’s realistic and works beautifully in the rest of her writing, it keeps me from really getting into a love scene.

    Christine Feehan writes some pretty decent sex scenes IMO, as does Loretta Chase, and Emma Holly’s historicals have some good ones. Oh! And Vicki Lewis Thompson.

    On the other side of the spectrum, Jade Lee’s Tigress series has some pretty hilarious euphemisms and dialogue. I read 4 of them for that alone.

  6. 6

    I wonder what it says that most of the writers on the Bad Sex list, if not all of them, are men? That’s been a running theme over the past few years…

    As far as memorable sex scenes go, I’m not altogether sure I can think of one offhand—the scenes that stick with me tend to be the ones where the UST nearly explodes, but not quite. The bit with the coat-of-arms in Anya Seton’s Katherine, for instance, or those lovely fade-to-black scenes in Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint.

    Oh, my, the security word was ‘medical68’. Medical terms in sex scenes = GENERALLY BAD.

  7. 7
    Quill says:

    Somehow my brain always imagines a computer voice saying the words out loud, instead of a male voice, which automatically makes them hilarious. 

    To stay awake during the tail-end of a four-person road trip this past summer, I coaxed my netbook into using its voice function to read some of my fanfiction collection.  Imagine an extremely mechanical voice mispronouncing half the words…we were laughing hysterically before we even got to the X-rated stuff.  Once we hit those, the driver almost steered off the road.

  8. 8
    Ros says:

    I forget which of Loretta Chase’s heroes always refers to his ‘privy councilor’ (maybe Rupert from Mr Impossible?) but it irritated me no end.  Not just because it’s an appalling euphemism, but also because it really ought to be ‘privy counsellor’.

  9. 9
    Beki says:

    Growing up I loved the sex scenes Tiffany White wrote.  Her’s seemed graphic and emotionally charged, two things I totally appreciated when I was I sixteen, and continue to appreciate today.  The kicker for me, when I finally “grew up” myself,was the addition of awkwardness and laughing, ala Jenny Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips. 

    That feeling of oh, boy, I know how that feels when something hurts or is just wrong enough to make you laugh before you go all swoony with it, that’s a good sex scene for me.  While I love Nora and covet her storytelling abilities, her sex scenes are more than a little too fairytale perfect.

  10. 10
    Scorpio M. says:

    There is one major love scene involving a chair in Judith Ivory’s, UNTIE MY HEART that I could NOT for the life of me figure out the physics of. I got so confused with all the limb positioning. I read the scene several times trying to figure it out but gave up after my head began to spin.

    IMO, Elizabeth Hoyt writes the best sex scenes, lusty, honest and REAL.

  11. 11
    gypsydani says:

    worst sex scene i ever read:  Tempt the Devil by Connie Mason.  the hero and heroine have entire conversations while they’re having sex.  and it’s stupid conversation, too.  and then, there’s more than one sex scene and they all pretty much play the same.

    best sex scene i ever read: i’ll have to agree with Bet Me.  that scene was a long time coming and it didn’t disappoint.  the funny foreplay scenes before it were awesome, too.

    Agnes and the Hitman is great as well.  there’s something about angry sex…

    honorable mentions go to Nan Ryan and Virginia Henley because while I may not be in love with their books, their sex scenes kept them on my buy list for years.

    best after sex scene i ever read:  Lord of the Scoundrels.  it was so Jessica and Dain.  there’s no other way to describe it.

  12. 12
    EmilyW says:

    I just started reading romance last year and one sex scene in particular has stood out to me. It was in Elizabeth Lowell’s Only His. It was many pages long and involved a hot spring. ooh la la.
    Elizabeth Hoyt writes good ones too. Hers are more realistic and less “dream-sequence” than most sex scenes seem to be.

  13. 13
    joanneL says:

    It cracks me up when the hero says the equivalent of “Get your clothes off, now!”—- it may be sexy to some readers but it just starts me laughing—- and wondering: or what, you buffoon?

    I’m skipping through or over more and more sex scenes because even though it must be incredibly hard to write good ones they all seem about the same. If I’m invested or interested in the characters then I’m more into what happens before and after than during.

    I seem to be way-past-all-done with the reading of explicit sex scenes.  Even though I’m still buying some (fewer and fewer) erotic romances it’s because the author writes great characters and great stories and the romance is well written.

  14. 14
    Jody says:

    Dam – I’m so glad I found this website!!  Always looking for authors with hot sex scenes!

    I particularly like Sherrilyn Kenyon, JR Ward, Lora Leigh, & Laurell Hamilton.  Christine Feehan has some hot stuff but her books all feel exactly the same so it can get boring.  Nalini Singh is pretty good. And Gena Showalter is very hot.  Hmmm… like paranormal romance much?

  15. 15
    Kate Jones says:

    For me it’s got to be Kresley Cole in general and Conrad and Neomi in particular.  That shower scene?  *sigh*

  16. 16
    Cat Marsters says:

    What is it about the bad dialogue? I have a personal thing about ‘baby’—as an endearment it’s bad enough (infantilising much?) but in a sex scene? If a man called me baby during sex I’d really have to wonder how young he wished I was.

    I second (third, fourth, whatever) Jennifer Crusie. Her sex scenes don’t work on the much-abused principle that sex between hero and heroine will always be OMGWTFAWESOME, the first time and every time. She understands that sex is funny, and awkward, and that not everyone knows what they’re doing.

    Since I write teh sexx00ring I’ve become quite used to explaining to people that it’s not just about inserting Tab A into Slot B. That’s not sexy, and neither are madly over-the-top descriptions. I’m willing to bet what a lot of romance lovers are looking for is the emotional connection throughout the whole book. If it’s not there in the sex scene, then what’s that scene for?

    I know plenty of authors (from aspiring to multi-published) who worry that there’s not enough sex in their books. Wrong attitude. Bad sex scenes are nearly always the result of someone thinking they need to sex up their book, when they don’t really want to. That shows. It always shows. I can’t count the times I’ve told people that if they’re not comfortable writing sex, then don’t do it. Sex in books is like sex in real life: it’s got to happen because you want it to happen, because it’s right for you and right for the moment. Doing it because you think you ought to? Oooh, yeah baby, that’s hot.

  17. 17

    La Reine said:

    I wonder what it says that most of the writers on the Bad Sex list, if not all of them, are men?

    That makes me wonder if most guys can’t stand reading sex scenes written by women… Maybe ours sound too touchy-feely to them. I mean, strictly stereotypically-speaking, we talk about men digging straight-up porno, whereas women typically prefer erotica when they want something explicit. Maybe all that emotional detail is a turn-off, distracting male readers from the in-and-out? I sort of doubt that, though. Maybe we ladies just write the best sex. It does make me wonder about the gender of the Worst Sex in Fiction Award judges.

  18. 18
    AM says:

    From the link to bad sex passages award winners –

    “After, we kept very still, like the only two roots of the forest.”

    It’s phrases like this that make you wonder if universal literacy is such a hot idea idea.

  19. 19
    willa says:

    What’s interesting to me is how remote and ironic and unloving all of the excerpts from the list are. They all seem to be scenes where two (or more) people do not love or even much like each other, and are not really together, emotionally—they’re clinical, almost, and purposely remote. That’s probably the purpose of those excerpts, they probably are meant to be that way, and most probably the badness is on purpose…right? Right? I really hope so.

  20. 20
    Diatryma says:

    I like Crusie’s sex scenes because they’re integrated into the book—Agnes is angry and looking for an outlet, Phin is trying to figure out what makes Sophie tick.  To my mind, a good sex scene incorporates the same things as a good breakfast scene.

    I haven’t been reading romance very long—a year and a couple months, those first few devoted to Nora Roberts—but it was weird realizing that I could recognize authors by sex scene.  Nora Roberts does hers mostly the same, Kleypas has her style, Elizabeth Hoyt is the best for me because there’s some attention paid to Mr Penis (Mr Penis in the bedroom, Mr Coffee in the kitchen, Mr Fusion in the DeLorean). 

    I agree about ‘baby’.  It bugs the hell out of me when Roarke says it to Eve.  ‘Babe’ is okay.  ‘Baby’… okay, it’s sheer race-correlated-but-not-entirely-racial prejudice (I spent a few minutes trying to unpick it just now, and I’m not any closer to something worth typing), it makes me think, “Baby, why you gotta make me hurt you?” and other semi-abusive things.  I have no idea why this is.

    What makes a sex scene bad: hymenfail.  The hymen is external.  The maidenhead is not a bulkhead in the vagina.  The penis cannot rest against it.  It cannot be pierced like a balloon.  The hero cannot say that the heroine is still technically a virgin* when his penis is in her vagina.
    If the hymen stretches across the vagina and blocks access, how do virgins menstruate?

    *insofar as virginity actually exists

  21. 21
    MelB says:

    These scenes were hilarious and really made my morning. When I’m having trouble writing my own sex scenes and think that they are awful, I know just where to turn to say “at least they’re not this bad.”

  22. 22
    Chicklet says:

    La Reine Noire said:

    the scenes that stick with me tend to be the ones where the UST nearly explodes, but not quite. The bit with the coat-of-arms in Anya Seton’s Katherine, for instance, or those lovely fade-to-black scenes in Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint.

    Yes! It’s been more than 20 years since I read Swordspoint and I still remember a love scene between Richard and Alec that began with them kissing and ended with, “First he was rough. Then he was gentle.”

  23. 23
    Buffy says:

    My favorites, not necessarily in order:

    1) It Happened One Autumn also by Kleypas. The first kiss between the hero and heroine is easily my favorite part of the book. He gets so carried away, apologizes and continues to kiss her. I’m a sucker for passion, especially passion that overwhelms your better judgement.

    2) The Raven Prince by Hoyt. The love scenes in this book are some of the most erotic outside of the genre erotica. Double points because the hero and heroine are never described as conventionally attractive. Their first encounter the hero is completely unaware that he’s doing the heroine and she wears a mask. They’re on a chair in firelight…whew HOT!

    3) Slightly Dangerous by Balogh. I have to mention this novel everytime. The book itself is fairly light on the sex scenes. Their first encounter perhaps encompasses a page and a half. It’s quick and there is no foreplay. But Christine says something to the affect of “She had been starved, it seems she had always been” Though she had been married before, the brief interlude between Wulfric and Christine bursts with more passion than all of her sexual encounters in her previous marriage. Wulfric, who believes he knows himself and his sexual preferences, faces passion for the first time. Their second sex scene is extremely romantic – stained glass illuminated dovecoat – his private sanctuary. He growls in her ear after explaining his childhood and how they shape his motivations, the duality of being a Duke and being Wulfric.

    Why can’t every novel be Slightly Dangerous?

  24. 24
    Nadia says:

    When it comes to sex scenes, sometimes I want sweet and understated, sometimes I want humorous and realistic, sometimes I want explicit and raunchy.  But never, ever, do I want the burbling fountain of female juices.  Yes, moist netherparts are indicative of her interest in the hot goings on.  Yes, the hero’s discovery of said moisture tends to amp up the intensity.  But for the love of all that is good and right in the world, I do not need to know about anything dripping down her leg.  And “flowing” mentioned anywhere cuts the mood immediately as that word has had other connotations since I was oh, about thirteen.  Gak.  Let’s please show some restraint on that particular shorthand for enthusiasm of the sexxoring.

  25. 25

    The sex scenes in Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides are some of the best I’ve read in a literary novel—especially the scene were the main character does it for the first time. Really captured the strange, exhilarating, fumbling, mess awkwardness of it all.

  26. 26
    molly_rose says:

    For me, nobody will ever write a love scene better than Lisa Kleypas. It’s just a matter of personal preference, but I like the way she does it! Her scenes are never awkwardly injected just for the heck of it, but as a way to show the building relationship between the h/h. Oh, yeah, and they’re HAWT. There are a ton of other books in their singularity, but to choose one writer, it’s her.

  27. 27

    Nadia said:
    But for the love of all that is good and right in the world, I do not need to know about anything dripping down her leg.

    Oh man, the first erotica I ever read (and I didn’t know it was an erotica when I took it out of my library) was CHOCK FULL of oozing drippiness. It’s called The Northern Devil, I believe, and apologies but I’ve misplaced the author’s name. The story was okay, but the sex scenes frequently tripped me up. The heroine’s clit was constantly referred to as a “pearl,” which made me flinch for reasons I can’t explain… I’ve got trigger words that simply turn me off, through no fault of the author. “Globes” for breasts (mine, for two, are not anywhere approaching sphericality) and I hate the term “pebbling,” which is all-up-ons like every nipple-tweaking passage I seem to come across these days. I’m tempted to add “lave,” but I think I typed it just yesterday, myself.

  28. 28
    Alyssa says:

    I don’t remember the book or the author, but I remember the hero reaching down to taste “the succulent fruit” of the heroine’s breasts.

  29. 29
    amanda says:

    Victoria Dahl’s contemporary “Start Me Up” had one sex scene that just made me laugh. The heroine asks the hero to speak Spanish to her when they’re going at it and, since I can’t understand Spanish, the entire time I was wondering if he was just saying something random, like Flight of the Conchords’ “Foux de Fa fa” or “A Fish Named Wanda”. I couldn’t stop giggling.

  30. 30
    AnnB says:

    Amanda – re: the scence in the alley behind the Spanish restaurant in “Start Me Up” – I speak some Spanish and I assure you, he was not random at all. He was quite specific.

  31. 31
    Scorpio M. says:

    re: Kleypas

    I like Lisa Kleypas. Her historicals have a sweetness that I enjoy but I can’t shake the feeling that they are editing her differently at St. Martin’s. Her work under Avon was much more daring, evocative and yes, her sex scenes were better back in the Avon days, too. Now it’s pretty ho-hum, in fact, it’s sort of boring.

  32. 32
    AgTigress says:

    …refers to his ‘privy councilor’ (maybe Rupert from Mr Impossible?) but it irritated me no end.  Not just because it’s an appalling euphemism, but also because it really ought to be ‘privy counsellor’.

  33. 33
    AgTigress says:

    Sorry, hit the wrong key and posted that quote too soon.  ‘privy councillor’ (British spelling with the double l) is correct.  A member of a council, in this case alluding to the Privy Council, is a councillor:  a person who gives advice and counsel is a counsellor.

  34. 34
    Scorpio M. says:

    Another thing that bugs me about love scenes is all the ripping/tearing of clothing “in half.” I’ll believe that a hero can rip a thin chemise in half but a gown? an old-fashioned, heavily embroidered, with layers of underthings gown? Sure. It’s so cliche. And not to mention a terrible waste of a good gown.

  35. 35
    Randi says:

    I have a hard time with words like, “slit” and “weeping”. Um…sores “weep”. People weep. My hoo-ha does, most emphetically, not weep. And “slit” just seems so derogatory. That’s my filter so I get that others may not have a problem with it, but I read “slit” and I immediately flip past the sex scene.

  36. 36
    Tara L says:

    One more hand raised here for Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I like the realism of their scenes. I figure sex is pretty good even when there’re awkward moments and it’s even better when there’s some humor thrown in. Why should it be any different in a book? And I like that their sex scenes aren’t just about sex, especially Crusie’s. The sex is always one more step in the story, the relationship, and the scene always reveals character. The characters are having sex like that because, well, they can’t not have sex like that.

    Having said all that, it doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate a sex scene that’s a little more… fantasy-based. One of the scenes that popped into my head when I read the post was from Susan Andersen’s Coming Undone. The scene just went on forever and when I was done reading it, I had to actually go back and count the pages. Eighteen pages! Okay, I get it! This guy puts the ‘control’ in ‘control freak.’

    Pffft. Eighteen pages….

    It seemed highly improbable to me. I had to go back and read it a few times just to be sure.

  37. 37
    JamiSings says:

    Not a romance and not a described sex scene but rather an implied one, but it still sticks with me. I was reading one of those more modern Nancy Drews written sometime in the late 80s/early 90s. One chapter ends with her and her boyfriend in his car and him getting “Too close.” The next chapter begins with her getting out of the car pulling her skirt back down.

    One could argue that a girl always tugs on her skirt when getting out of a car. But they were parked alone in an isolated spot and he had just been “too close” in the previous chapter. Plus a girl “tugs” her skirt back into place, not “pulls.” It was just too heavily suggested that she was yanking her skirt back down after he pushed it up while they were having sex in his car.

    I stopped reading Nancy Drew after that. Virgin Nancy is what I want. Not wanton slut Nancy.

    Anyway, I really always preferred Alfred Hitchcock & The Three Investigators.

    A wee bit more realistic, even if Alfred Hitchcock was their patron.

  38. 38
    Chani says:

    Buffy, I think you and I have very similar tastes in books and what constitutes a good sex scene because I agree both with your author and book selections and reasoning!

    I also fourth (fifth?) Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips as great examples.

  39. 39
    Kati says:

    Don’t throw rotten veggies at me, but I have to admit, JR Ward’s first three books all had love scenes that worked for me. None more than Bella’s Needing in Lover Awakened, which I still find to be incredibly hot. Probably because Z was for all intents and purposes a virgin, and it was heady that she was initiating him.

    *ducks tomatoes*

  40. 40

    The worst sex scene?  I read one in which the hero basically told the heroine that when she was finished jerking him off, he was going to kill her… yeah, sexual assault is really hot.  Also, a certain mega-author who consistently writes about how tiny her main character’s cooch is, and how enormously endowed all the males she bones are, drives me right up the freaking wall.  I’m sorry, but if your nooni is that small, it’s not going to accommodate a ween the size of a two-litre pop bottle.  Yet another author wrote a sex scene between a geisha and her client and used the phrase, “Most honorable penis,” which made me wonder if it had won some sort of contest, and if the penis wore a little pageant sash around.

    The best sex scenes I’ve ever read were in a book called “Taboo,” but for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the author.  Which is pretty sad, because it was a very recent book.

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