I feel like you’ll be unsurprised to know that I have opinions about this. All kinds of opinions, so let’s get to it. I also
probably definitely have Poldark gifs.
Okay so for me, the best sex scenes are full of…thoughts and emotion. It doesn’t matter if it’s a low heat scene or an absolutely filthy, erotic scene. I want to be so deeply inside that character’s head that I know what they’re thinking and feeling.
And what they’re feeling doesn’t need to be love–especially not in the beginning–but they need to be thinking and feeling something. This is true of any scene–not just sex scenes. Without the characters’ thoughts and feelings, it’s impossible for a reader to connect emotionally to a character. And if a reader can’t connect emotionally to a character, they’re not going to care what happens to them. And if they don’t care what happens, they’re not going to care if they finish the book or not. And it’s highly unlikely that they’ll want to get your next one. And I don’t want to be told what the character is feeling, I want to be shown.
I also want all the details. Now, I’m not just talking about detailed descriptions of body parts or actions. These characters aren’t just getting it on in the vacuum of space. There are things to consider like weather (if they’re outdoors–or hell, even if they’re indoors), surfaces–bedding, hay bales (just say no), grass, carpet, alleyway, etc., clothing texture and how much stays on or comes off, light–how little or how much can they see? Scents–and not just arousal/perfume/cologne. Sounds, tastes. You get the picture.
Those are the bigger details, but there are little things, too. For instance, having sex on a dresser? Where is your character putting his or her feet. I used the drawer pulls for a character. It’s a little detail, but it grounds the reader in the scene. It’s important to find the the right balance of details in a sex scene. Not so many that the reader is wondering if the heroine is paying attention to the guy going down on her but enough that the reader is basically there with the character.
Also, I really love dirty talk in sex scenes. But, that’s not as crucial for me as thoughts, feelings, and details.
Moving on to the worst sex scenes, I have a list.
Rapey sex scenes are way, way out. If the POV character is saying or thinking “no” and the other person/people continue(s), I’m out. Now, I’m not talking about saying “no” because it’s part of a scene and the character has a safe word. But literally, if the characters aren’t into it, nether am I. I’m also not into a scene where a character basically browbeats another into a sexual encounter. Even if the character decides they enjoyed it afterward. I’m still out.
Stilted dialogue. Nope.
Sex scenes that are antithetical to the characters established. You know that old adage, “start as you mean to go on”? This holds true for sex scenes, too. It drives me nuts when authors have established their characters. And they’re they’re in the middle of sexytimes and out of nowhere–literally nowhere–they start kinking it up. What I mean by this is you have a couple who heretofore showed zero interest in anything kinky. There’s been no talk of adding kink elements into the relationship or even experimenting. And then bam! It’s a case of SUDDEN ONSET BDSM™. It’s all riding crops and latex hoods up in there. It’s obvious that the elements are being included because of perceived popularity. But, if those things don’t fit the characters, they don’t belong in the book. Period.