Tuesday, May 12, 2015

When is there too much of a good thing? by J.P. Bowie

When I started writing erotic novels, I used to wonder how much sex is too much. Years a go it seemed there never could be enough. Nowadays though I notice that a lot of reviews contain opinions like, 'one sex scene after another with no plot to speak of' or 'I started skimming over the sex scenes, there were just too many of them'.

Strange, I thought, if you're reading an erotic novel, how can there be too much sex? Lately though I've come to the same opinion. I'm not opposed to the number of sex scenes, but OMG it's the length of some of those sessions that boggles the mind, and makes me start counting the pages to find out when the protagonists will finally collapse from sheer exhaustion.

Sex is sex, and there are only so many variations on the theme. Some authors have come up with several more that are, quite frankly impossible, and I would imagine extremely painful. And how quickly the guys recover after spilling their load. Maybe at age twenty, but not men in their mid thirties and forties no matter how gorgeous their partner is or how fantastic he is in the sack. There still has to be recovery time, and those who are ready to go again while still 'sheathed' just want to make me laugh, not gasp with awe or envy.

I love writing erotica, and I love reading it too, but I do want a decent story and believable characters at the same time. Is this too much to ask? I don't think so. Sometimes in on line interviews I'll be asked what advice I'd give to a fledgling author. Well, I'm not arrogant enough to believe my pearls of wisdom have any merit. I only have several years of writing experience and you do learn some stuff along the way. So I'm not afraid to say, 'Love what you do, learn your craft and write about characters that people can like, believe in and ultimately wish the best for'. I could add I suppose, don't just write sex scene after sex scene with only a few lines for everyone to take a deep breath.


  1. Interesting how the Grove/Olympia/Ophelia Press stuff from back in the 60's *were+ essentially wall-to-wall sex, but somehow managed to carry interesting story lines as well.

    Jeez? Are characters supposed to be likable? Maybe that's my problem. :>)

    1. I like your characters. Well, some of them, anyway. I adore Lilya. And Gwennie, the horny fifty foot woman. Who wouldn't?

  2. Hi, JP,

    I think there was a reaction, maybe ten years ago, to the sudden ability to write publicly about sex. It was like, "Wow, all this stuff that used to be forbidden is okay now!" So an explosion of sexually explicit work appeared, often very hot because of the previous frustration.

    Now writing about sex has become so accepted that it's ho-hum. I really do think context has a lot to do with it. Of course, writing skill also plays a big role. A talented author can still pull me into a sex scene, even if it involves activities I've read a hundred times before, by giving me a fresh perspective on the experience or the characters' internal states.

    Many writers new to the game, however, think that "hotter" means "more". To be honest, I think the publishers are partly responsible for this misconception, with their "flames" ratings. When Totally Bound introduced their "sexometer", I objected strenuously (though I was overruled). I don't think counting sex scenes tells you anything about a book's erotic content.

    Meanwhile, I've had romance authors guesting on my blog apologize to me because their work wasn't explicit enough. Jeez! I tell them, if it's what your story needs, it's enough.

  3. I agree with Lisabet that new erotica writers--who may well be new at reading explicit sex, too--get carried away with pouring out whatever they can imagine in their wildest fantasies without building a frame and context for what they're writing. And that's what they see so many other writers doing, often for free, online, so they figure that's how it's supposed to be. As an editor I do sometimes find myself skimming the sexy bits--especially if they're very long, protracted bits--to see if there's anything else there to interest me.

  4. I don't read much erotica, but what appeals most to me is a story where the sex drives the plot. Sometimes sex IS the plot. I like that. But I also love porn and hate romance, so who the hell am I?

  5. I've been reading these two huge antholigies by Alberto Manguel called "The Gates of Paradise". Those are exactly the kind of stories I aspire to write, and the thing is they don;t have a lot of sex scenes. Some not at all. I think its because the stories have more to do with the mystery of erotiism, how people experience that longing rather than endless plumbing. I guess it just varies from person to person.


  6. I think the key is, as Giselle says, for the sex to be meaningful. I like it to drive the plot or be the plot, and then I'm happy with as much of it as there is. I also enjoy regencies, as I've said before, which often have very little sex. I get the sense that some authors include pages and pages of sex because they think they have to. Personally, I feel like I can tell the difference between sex an author is excited about and sex that's "doing their duty." Just like a lover can tell...

  7. In the movie Idiocracy, the lead lectures everyone at the end of the movie, that in the future, when you go to an Oscar-winning movie called "Fart", you will at least know whose ass it is, and why it's funny. (If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it.)

    That's what I think about sex scenes. I don't like to put up "hot" excerpts on blog chats or loops, because to me the important thing is the lead up to the sex, and the personalities of the people who are having sex. If you don't have any of that, all you have are descriptions of tab A fitting into slot B, and that's totally boring. Even when all I want is a quick one-handed read, I want more than that.


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