Call me prudish, but a sex scene is something you will never, ever see in one of my books.
Why not? Well, for openers, they don’t belong. Anything you put in a book has to move it forward. I don’t see that happening with a sex scene.
I’d say the closest I’ve come is the last third of The Cross and the Badge, when a terrifying rape occurs at gunpoint. I never said what happened while it was going down. Instead, I have Will and RJ walking through the crime scene the following day, putting together what happened by reading footprints and physical evidence.
What I didn’t count on was this was more terrifying than trying to write about it. One of my Beta Readers had been sexually assaulted as a young woman, and her mind filled in the blanks. She had to skip past that entire section it was so painful. She compared it to what Hitchcock had done in Psycho. We never ever see Janet Leigh actually murdered. All we see is the knife moving back and forth, her reaction, blood going down the drain, and the curtain pulled off the rings. It’s stage managed in such a way our imagination fills in the blanks. Her murder becomes a deeply personal thing to different people.
In this case, the simple police work was much terrifying than actually writing about it.
Another reason is it’s none of my business what happens behind closed doors with my characters. This may sound a little crazy (but then most authors are a little crazy. To a degree, I suspect we all think of our characters as real) but I certainly wouldn’t want anyone coming into my bedroom and writing about my love life. I don’t think they’d want that either. Like I said, it’s none of my business.
What is my business is the consequences. In that case, I take a cue from the Bible. All I need to know is something happened between these two people and what the fallout is they have to deal with (besides, that’s way more interesting).
Going into detail on the act does nothing to move the story forward or influence it in any way. It’s what happens afterwards that moves things forward. We also need to ask does it even belong there. While I’m all for romance between characters, even there it has to move the story and characters forward. Otherwise it’s a waste of paper.
The final reason is a matter of faith and ethics. I believe I’m a good Christian man, and to commit to paper something so personal and graphic would be violation of those core beliefs. Jesus took the definition of adultery, and took it out of the bedroom and placed it firmly between our ears. He said that if you even look at a woman or man, and have sexual thoughts about that individual, then you’re guilty of the act. Don’t believe me, check out Matthew 5:28.
Now while these characters by definition, don’t exist, if I’m writing about, then I’m fantasizing about it. To me, that fits the definition.
I will never compromise ethics just to make a story more alluring in the holy name of selling a book.
Or as another favorite Biblical quote goes (and I’m paraphrasing here), “What good does it do if you gain the world, but sell your soul to get it.”