by Jean Roberta
What is sexy on the page can be different from what is sexy in real life. Extreme sensations, described in some black-hanky scene involving scary accoutrements, don’t leave any marks on a reader. And as soon as a written scene stops casting a spell, the reader can simply close the book or the screen.
Touch and words are both more potent in real life, where they are both more nuanced. The gentlest touch, in the right circumstances, can send tingles all through the person receiving it. A tone of voice can convey more than the actual words.
The element of surprise, both in real life and in written erotica, is sexy for me. Even if the tension of unspoken desire has been building for awhile, an open expression of desire or acceptance is always a revelation. After all, fleeting lust is fairly common; many of us are briefly reminded of sex during a working day, or we notice an attractive stranger whom we don’t intend to approach.
When Person A says “I want you,” and Person B responds by saying, “I thought you’d never say it!” or “Not as much as I want you!” (or “Surely you jest!” or “Oh my God! But we can’t! Not here, anyway,” or “Don’t you think we should wait until your spouse leaves?”) the dynamics of the relationship have changed permanently. The burning-eyed cat is out of the bag, and things will never be the same.
There can be moments of revelation even in long-term relationships. Person A can tell Person B (with or without words): “I still want you after all this time,” or “There’s something irresistible about you when you don’t think I’m watching.” This news can be as cheesy but thrilling as a “surprise” birthday party (even if there were lots of previous hints), and delighted acceptance lets the suitor or plotter know that s/he is still on the right track.
I like to write about sexual revelations in my fiction, even though they carry a risk. If Person A and Person B rip each other’s clothes off and fall into each other’s arms too soon (and/or welcome the arrival of Person C, even though there is no previous evidence that ménage is everyone’s favourite flavour), the scene can read like a parody of more serious erotica. Pacing is important, and it’s a skill I’m still learning. Yet no matter how gradually a relationship develops, there is always a moment when someone has to jump off the diving board, not knowing if there is enough water in the pool.
Making a move is taking a risk, both in real life and on the page. The object of desire could snort with derision, and so could the reader. However, reaching a destination requires making a first move, and a second. For me, the thrill can change but never fade.