Sex and PB&Js Or… Let’s Call a Nipple a Nipple

BY KARIS WALSH

When I was at the Lone Star LesFic Festival in Austin, I was fortunate enough to be on a panel discussing one of my favorite topics—sex. A question from an audience member got me thinking about the sex scenes we write and the vocabulary we use for them. She wanted to know if the authors on the panel kept lists of phrases and words we used to describe actions and body parts, crossing them off as we used them in books and making sure we came up with new imagery for every scene. The question is an interesting one, and the responses to it were as varied as the panelists, but my short answer is no. I was intrigued enough, though, to want to write out a longer explanation.

 

I spent an enjoyable chunk of time with a thesaurus while I decided what would be on my list, were I to write one. Scrumptious mammarian nugget, mouthwatering womanly chasm, and moist wormhole of rapture (the last in case I decide to write sci-fi). Needless to say, these would be immediately edited out of any document I submitted and would never see the light of publishing day. The fact is—without introducing items from a sex store—there are only a few body parts that play a significant role in sex. I say, call a nipple a nipple. So how do we, as writers, come up with fresh and unique sex scenes for each book, without resorting to the giggle-inducing euphemisms?

 

PB&JLet me pause for a moment to explain the second half of my title. I’m not talking about bringing PB&Js into the bedroom for some sex play, since the thought of the resulting mess kicks my OCD into overdrive. I’d have to throw out the sheets—and possibly the mattress as well—the next day. Yech. Okay…my anti-anxiety medication is kicking in and I can continue… The question in Austin made me think of an analogy of sex to the sandwich we all know and love. The ingredients are simple, few, and easily procured. But ask five people how they prefer to construct this basic sandwich, and I’m sure you’ll get at least five different answers. Crunchy or smooth peanut butter? Raspberry jam or apple jelly? White bread or full-of-fiber-seven-grain-with-flax-seeds? What’s the reason for this seemingly infinite variety of combinations? Personality. Character. Personal taste, personal history, personal appetites.

 

Character is the key to making a sex scene ring true, feel erotically charged, and affect the reader (and the writer, I must add). When the two characters involved (or more, if you’re MJ Williamz) bring their pasts, their needs, and their varying degrees of ability to understand each other into the bedroom, the resulting scenes feel authentic and different from any other scene with any other characters. The basic act can be straightforward and the vocabulary can be simple, but no other characters would have the exact same experience.

 

How did this come into play in my latest book, Mounting Evidence? In this instance, the location was the most important variable. The two characters, mounted police lieutenant Abby and wetland biologist Kira, have spent a lot of time and effort building walls around their personal lives and protecting their home space, for different reasons. Their first sexual encounter is outside and in a neutral place, where they can let their guard down for a brief moment. The two later scenes are in places that have greater emotional impact and represent a true sharing of their inner lives. The parts involved are lips and fingers and thighs. Nothing as fancy as a moist wormhole, but the events are significant to them and will seem to the reader—I hope—to be genuine expressions of the emotions specific to them.Mounting Evidence 300 DPI

 

So…sex and PB&Js. What are my personal preferences? As far as sandwiches go, I like smooth peanut butter and cherry jam, with a ratio of 1.5:1 jelly to peanut butter. Even though I like most sandwiches cut on a diagonal, PB&Js should be cut across the middle. And, although I prefer artisanal breads with good chew as a rule, peanut butter and jelly belong on the soft, mass-produced bread of my childhood. As far as sex goes? Well, I prefer having it to not having it, and that’s all I’ll say about that…

20 Responses to “Sex and PB&Js Or… Let’s Call a Nipple a Nipple”


  1. 1 Aurora Rey June 30, 2015 at 10:46 AM

    Reblogged this on Aurora Rey and commented:
    I like different sandwiches based on my mood. That’s what makes sandwiches so great.

    Like

  2. 3 benigee59 June 30, 2015 at 10:51 AM

    Now that’s what I call a good fade to black😉

    Like

  3. 5 Carol June 30, 2015 at 11:09 AM

    Great blog. Great book, Mounting Evidence, too. I love the analogy, Karis. Many varieties of Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches.🙂

    Like

  4. 7 Beth June 30, 2015 at 11:29 AM

    LOL…..the blog title is intriguing and the fade to black ending is perfect……

    Like

  5. 9 Mary June 30, 2015 at 2:22 PM

    Loved the book, Karis! Hope to see more of Abby, Kira & the rest of the gang.

    Like

  6. 11 Marion Dries June 30, 2015 at 8:14 PM

    Congrats on another great book in Mounting Evidence and this cracked me up! If you get a chance, check out the Voices of Lesbian Literature: Andi Marquette podcast on the Women and Words website. Andi gets into a stand-up comedian funny discussion on why to avoid certian “terms”.

    Like

  7. 13 Devlyn June 30, 2015 at 9:51 PM

    Karis, a fun blog. I am currently reading Meghan O’brien’s latest and just yesterday was thinking to myself how unique and awesome her sex scenes were. Even though the characters are having sex frequently, the scenes seem fresh and the reader is able to engage.
    I am looking forward to reading Mounting Evidence and engaging with y,our characters.
    Nice fade to black BTW.

    Like

  8. 15 S.A. July 1, 2015 at 10:20 AM

    Great blog; fun way to start my morning! And interesting points about how best to deliver sex scenes in writing. (I hear you about the OCD tendencies, btw. And how is Texas treating you since your move from the PNW?) I’m looking forward to reading this book, as I’ve enjoyed your others; will be revisiting Mounting Danger to wet my whistle.

    Like

    • 16 kariswalsh July 4, 2015 at 8:27 PM

      Texas is an experience, S.A.!! I’m enjoying and adjusting, but it’s a different world here🙂 Luckily, the people are amazingly friendly, and I love seeing the sun shining most days.
      I hope you have fun revisiting Mounting Danger. It was fun to bring Cal and Rachel back in Mounting Evidence.

      Like

  9. 17 Kate July 1, 2015 at 9:02 PM

    I completely agree with your assessment. In fact, reading a love scene where the authors is obviously trying to find new ways to say the same thing pulls me out of the moment and makes me cringe. I’m much more interested in the characters’ personal experiences that lead them to the moment and how they interpret the act individually than in new ways of wording it.

    Like

  10. 19 imgovtdrone (@imgovtdrone) July 1, 2015 at 9:49 PM

    ” moist wormhole of rapture” will be the name of my Cure cover band.

    Like


  1. 1 Guest Blogging at Bold Strokes Books Today! | Exercising My Muse Trackback on June 30, 2015 at 6:42 PM

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