Writing Sexual Description


The work of all description, sexual or otherwise, is to allow the reader to “see” the details of the world you have created in your story. Description can be sparse or abundant, but well-written description paints a vivid picture that enables each reader to employ her own imagination and enter as seamlessly as possible into the fictional world you, the author, have created. Description may be used to establish setting/location, build character (physical as well as emotional), and show action as non-dialogue portions of scenes. Making sure your descriptive prose are tight and concise will only improve the over all quality of your writing. In order to write strong and effective description you should keep the following things in mind:

Action verbs and descriptive nouns. Whenever possible, replace adverbs with strong action verbs:
Stroke hard with ram, thrust
Lick lightly with tickle, tease

And use the most descriptive nouns possible to reduce adjectives:
Pickup instead of truck, mule instead of open backed high heel, pick Cashmere sweater instead of soft, fuzzy pink sweater.

Five senses. We experience the real world through our five senses. For something to be perceived as real by the reader, you must include at least three of the five senses in your description of it. Description involves constructing information about the five senses — seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching — in an interesting and meaningful way so that the reader is being shown, and not told, and will believe what you are describing is “real”. By that, I mean you cannot simply list three, or for that matter all five, of the sense descriptors and expect your character or place setting to spring from the page in 3-D for the reader. Description is not merely a list of facts involving the senses, but is a complex, intertwined, layered account of not only the physical reality, but also the emotional and symbolic realities of what is being described.

Karen let herself into Mary’s messy dorm room. Mary wasn’t there. Mary always burned cinnamon and apple candles and they littered the flat surfaces in the room. Old pizza boxes and soda cans were on the floor and a dirty laundry was piled up in the closet. Mary had not made her bed, put away her clean clothes, or returned a pile of over-due library books. Karen had left her dildo by accident last night when she had impromptu sex with Mary after a few drinks. She desperately wanted to retrieve it and get out of here before anyone saw her. What had she been thinking last night?


As Karen let herself into Mary’s dorm room, it was clear Mary wasn’t there. The smell of cinnamon and apple from the 15 or so pillar candles placed on top of every available flat surface did little more than mask the smells of old food and body odor. Pizza boxes and crushed soda cans litters the floor and a pile of over-due library books served as a night stand next to the bed. A mountain of dirty laundry loomed out of the closet threatening to collapse onto the clean folded clothes piled in front of the dresser. The pink flowered comforter, in need of washing, lay rumpled in a ball on the bed. Somewhere it its folds was Karen’s dildo. She had accidentally left it last night after a few beers had lead to an impromptu sexual adventure with Mary. She desperately wanted to retrieve it before someone saw her or, worst yet, Mary returned. What had she been thinking last night?

Both examples provide the same basic information; however, the second description layers the information. This creates a much more complex and fulfilling paragraph to read. This physical description of Mary’s room provides us with details that allow the reader to draw their own conclusions about her character traits and to visualize the actual room.

Specific original details. Give specific original details that make the images come to life. Specific original details allow your reader to see what you see instead of requiring them to create their own details. Here are a few examples:

rusted, blue 1965 Ford pickup instead of the blue truck
small black and white, kitten healed sling-back instead of the tiny shoe

what’s more, if we add a detail that personalizes the items we describe it makes them that much more vivid and will also allow them to serve double duty. Consider the addition of one detail to the examples below:

rusted, blue 1965 Ford pickup with flames painted on the hood
small rhinestone-studded, black and white, kitten healed sling-back

Now consider specific original details at work in a passage:

1. The tires of the truck kicked up dirt as Sharon slowly made her way down the bumpy country road. The gun rack mounted on the rear window of the truck was empty.

2. The tires of the rusted, blue 1965 Ford pickup with flames painted on the hood stirred up a cloud of dirt as Sharon slowly made her way down the pothole riddled country road. The gun rack mounted on the rear window of the truck was empty.

3. The tires of the rusted, blue 1965 Ford pickup with flames painted on the hood stirred up a cloud of dirt as the rosary beads and rabbit foot hanging from the rearview mirror rocked wildly hitting the windshield as Sharon slowly made her way down the pothole riddled country road. Her concentration was repeatedly drawn from the task of getting the pickup safely down the obstacle course of a road and to the reflection of the now empty gun rack mounted on the rear window.

Consider how by adding additional specific original detail to the first sentence I have not only painted a more vivid description, but I have also allowed the reader to gain insight or interest into Sharon’s character. Why is the truck rusted yet adorned with flames on the hood? Is she religious or superstitious or covering all her bets? Why is the gun rack empty and why is that of importance to her? All of this establishes interests and will, hopefully, make readers continue reading.

Stay true to your description. Avoid turning your description into an interactive word puzzle for the reader. Avoid overly colorful description of the mundane. The large ball of fire slinking its way towards the watery depths should be the sun setting into the ocean. The curvy specimen of Sapphic loveliness with a golden mane should be the voluptuous dyke with long blonde hair.

Avoid autonomous body parts. Parts of a character’s body cannot act independently of the character. Examples of this are: I let my hands wander to her breasts; I occasionally set my feet in the bar; Kathy’s nipples perked up in the cold air; Susan’s breast bounced a crossed the dance floor; and my eyes popped out of my head when I saw how hot she looked in that dress.

Symbols. When creating symbols it is important to remember that a door must be an actual physical door before it can become the symbolic door to the future or some girl’s heart. A good rule of thumb is that anything you are using as a symbol must be described twice as a real object before introducing the symbolism.

Describing sex. Whenever possible everything you write should serve a dual purpose. This is true of sexual description also. Be sure your sexual description accounts for body part location, physical possibilities of the human anatomy, removal of clothing or access to the naught bits, descriptions of those parts and how the sexual acts are affecting them, emotional and psychological reactions of a least one of the participants, and the actual sex acts taking place. It should describe the physical sexual acts in a way that is arousing and advance characterization and/or plot. Characterization can be developed by giving the reader insight into the true nature of the character through describing emotions and actions during sex. Two great examples of this are: the power femme who is a service bottom in bed or the shy, butch who is a master in the bedroom. However, character traits revealed during sex can also reinforce established character. For example, the dyke who is shy and naive can be shy and naive in bed or the calluses self centered lesbian can continue to behave that way in the sack. Likewise, key plot elements can be revealed or hinted at during or after sex. A personal conflict can start in the sack. Your sexual description should pull together multiple elements and sever double duty.

Not only genital are sexy. “Non-sexual” body parts are sensual too. Don’t forget to include erotic descriptions of them. I’m an arm girl myself. I like a butch with strapping muscular arms in a tank top doing something that shows those arms off. Asses, ankles, necks, wrists, collar bones can all be sexual if described as such.

Sexual acts knowledge. I write gaymale erotica, so it would be hypocritical of me to suggest you cannot write about sex acts you haven’t experienced first hand. However, do read up on an act before attempting to write about it. I recommend one of the “How to” sex books as a source for information on the details of different sexual acts.

This is especially important if you are writing about S/M/B/D acts. You might not know the difference between a clove hitch knot and a square knot, but a bondage nut will. Nothing will wreck the heat of reading an erotic encounter then incorrect or unrealistic information.

I personally use Hanne Blank’s Big Big Love: A Sourcebook on Sex for People of Size and Those Who Love Them. It is a great all-purpose reference book. If you can get past the heterosexual purity of Screw the Roses, Send me the Thorns by Miller/Devon; it’s a good S/M/B/D reference book.

Emotions. Insight into what the character feel can be hot. Don’t forget to describe emotions. Sex happens in our heads as much if not more than our bodies. Make sure the emotional heat isn’t over looked by your writing.

Impossible situations and improbable situations. Let’s just review impossible situations and improbable situations. It is physically impossible for two women to have strap-on sex in the seat of a crowed commercial airplane; it is improbable but not impossible that they would finger fuck under a blanket in the same seat of the same crowded commercial airplane. An impossible situation will stop your readers in their tracks and throw your sexual credibility as an erotic writer out of the door. An improbable situation may do the same if not handled correctly. Some things to keep in mind with this are (1) logistics of the sex acts (finger fucking vs. dildo sex for example); (2) location (open cubicle vs. office with a door that locks, for example); (3) elements of the character’s personality (how timid, sexually adventures, etc.); (4) elements of opportunity (sex in a museum when one of the partners is a night watchmen at the museum seems more possible then two guests at the museum having sex). The fewer improbable elements you have the less likely your improbable sex scene will be dismissed as impossible.

If there is an issue you would like me to address in Two Girls Kissing, please email me, Amie M. Evans, with the column title as the subject line. To be added to my confidential monthly email list, please email me with subscribe as the subject line.

Amie M. Evans
July 2006

“Two Girls Kissing: Writing Lesbian Literary Erotica” © 2006 Amie M. Evans. All rights reserved.

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