This is about reading them, not writing them. I’ll save that post for another day.
Scintillating sex scenes come out of the emotions of the characters involved. Everyone understands how part A fits into or with part B, but it’s how they feel about doing it that gets me hot or not, and I admit I want them to get me hot. Can I read a story without them? Sure; not all stories require the sex be spelled out or even present, but if they’re there, then make me pant!
I read a book recently that contained several sex scenes and they were dry as hell. The word used exclusively was ‘dick’ (never cock, erection, hard-on, or even magic wand of ecstasy), and there just wasn’t any variety in the lovemaking and little to no emotional input. I started skipping them to get on with the story. Never a good sign, and it convinced me not to read more from this author when there are so many other books with great sex scenes in them.
I know several fanfic writers who do them so well, I can’t wait until they post something new. I’m not even sure how they manage it, but the sex is exciting, relevant, emotional, and very arousing. They take their time setting it up, they describe things thoroughly but not clinically, and I know how each character feels all the way through. Sometimes there’s angst but often there is also humor, and by the time they get down to the sex, you can’t wait for it to happen! You anticipate it, and that’s part of the heat.
On the other hand, when a writer sets up a situation where two characters are pining for one another and you finally reach That Moment after a couple hundred pages…and the sex scene doesn’t happen, well, that’s just as disappointing. That’s a huge let-down for me, and it makes me feel cheated. I read two books recently where this was the case, and while I enjoyed the stories, I really missed the sex. I wanted heavy breathing and instead, the writer drew the curtain.
In the ‘old days,’ readers didn’t expect actual sex in their romances, but these days, well, I won’t speak for others, but I do. Sex is a serious part of relationships, and we finally live in a time when you can write about it as graphically as you like. If you spend an entire book building up to fireworks and then there’s just a sorry fizzle in a hard rain, it sort of ruins the whole thing.
There is no sex scene bible to guide the neophyte writer along. You learn by doing and then by writing, and if you find out you can’t write hot sex, then don’t. It’s not required or demanded of you. But if you discover you have a gift for it, then indulge and take the reader along. Many of us will (ahem) appreciate and enjoy it.