Avoiding Bad Sex

Write what you know, is the rule. And as Margaret Atwood says, “It’s the blood in the cookie that makes the gingerbread person come alive.”  In both of the novels I am writing, there are unavoidable sex scenes, places where a closed door or a line of asterisks simply won’t do the job.

Reading the new Martin Amis novel, The Pregnant Widow, reminded me that sex started back in 1963. Well, for Amis it was a bit later than that, and for me too.  A short story themed on early sexual experiences seemed like a useful limbering up exercise.

The first problem, my early experiences would be more a source of comedy than passion. That’s realism for you, I suppose…

My first passionate kiss collapsed in a heap of my giggles and his lost dignity, when Tim the Tiger produced a series of growls. Later I learned that he had been inspired by the Lindsay Anderson film, If – but he was no Malcolm McDowell.

The next attempt to get into my knickers was thwarted by a six foot poster of Tutankhamun. Nigel was tall, dark, and handsome – but like me had drunk rather too much scrumpy. I think that huge mask hovering over us both was a little too intimidating. It didn’t help that his girlfriend came in as he pulled the zipper down on my jeans either. And no, I didn’t know he had a girlfriend.

And the seduction technique of my third suitor left a great deal to recommend it. I’m sure there must be worse ways to charm someone into bed than giving them a sociological treatise on the attitudes of teenage girls to sex – but fortunately I have no personal experience of them.

Luckily I have since then had moments of passion and abandon, not all of them interrupted by bird watching nuns. And I do have an imagination, as well. Sometimes writers just make stuff up…

Actually, it doesn’t matter what you are writing about, some readers always assume that it must be about you. I’m sure there are one or two people who would like to dig up my patio – just to make sure there aren’t any bodies under there.

So when I needed  a critique of my story, I was a bit worried. “Don’t be silly,”  said my most broad minded friend, “Just send it over and I’ll tell you whether it works or not.”

A couple of hours later I emailed her again. “Have you read it yet,” I asked.

“Sorry,” she said, “Not yet. I’ll get back to you.”

A week later she confessed;  she was too embarrassed to talk to me about it.

I’m a member of an online writer’s forum, and I discussed this difficulty on there, and a man whose stories I’d read before empathised with me. He didn’t (thank heavens) ask to read my story, but he asked if I would read his. Innocent, naive, trusting – of course I said yes.

It was toe curlingly dreadful. It was embarrassingly bad, a sort of cross between the heaving bosoms of the bodice ripper, and the emotional depth of cheap porn. What was worse were the follow up emails, asking me how it worked for me. Yes, I’d snagged myself the critique group equivalent of a heavy breather – easily dealt with by consigning him to my spam folder, where he clearly belonged.

He’s not alone, of course. Writing well about sex is difficult even for the best writers. It isn’t just Alan Titchmarsh who has been nominated for the Bad Sex awards, even Philip Roth has earned his place there.

Take a look at these excerpts from last year’s nominations, here in the Guardian – if you can stand it. I was amused that Roth felt the need for the sentence “This was not soft porn” – as if by denying it, he could somehow bamboozle the reader into thinking it is something else.  Of course, what he was meaning to say, was that this wasn’t a gentle, airbrushed scene – but instead he draws our attention to how difficult it is to write about sex, real sex, without being in some way affected by the prevalence of porn in our culture.

That’s the dilemma, isn’t it? Our only experience of sex is personal, or from these other, unreliable sources.  Our culture now is permeated by images of sex that come from that world of pornography, to the extent that researchers into human sexual behaviour have noticed that sexual behaviours that were created for their visual impact, have become the norm. Do check out Cindy Gallup’s four minte presentation at TED, Make Love Not Porn

But, in any case,  second hand sources don’t work so well. To make it real, to make it come alive, there isn’t any alternative but to open a vein.

Or is there?

Back to Martin Amis’  novel, The Pregnant Widow.

Early in the novel he says, “Sexual intercourse, I should point out, has two unique characteristics. It is indescribable. And it peoples the world.”  A few pages in, the first sexual encounter of many, is described thus – ” The nightly interaction, the indescribable deed, now too place by candlelight.”

Nice trick, that one. Call something indescribable and get out of the task of describing it. I wish I’d thought of that. His protagonist, Keith, is a twenty year old young man who hardly thinks of anything other than sex. Occasionally thoughts of nuclear obliteration distract him, but he is a young man who carries a coded list everywhere with him, an aide memoire of all his experiences.  Keith Nearing is more sympathetic than the young male protagonist of Amis’ first novel, The Rachel Papers…but it is not a stretch to assume that he is basically the same character, and very close to an alter ego of the young Amis.

Of course, most of the book is about sex and relationships, and Amis uses lots of other voices to describe sex, many of them female – sometimes we see the funny side, sometimes the tragic. There is a lot of sex in the book, but for me at least, it wasn’t really erotic. I didn’t see anything that was likely to earn Amis a nomination for the Bad Sex Awards this year, but perhaps it just passed me by.  Well, there was bad sex, in vast quantities,  in that it wasn’t much of a turn on – there wasn’t a lot of joy and passion.

So I seem to have discovered four ways of writing about sex. There’s comic realism, depressing literary, embarrassingly pornographic, and frankly erotic.

The distinction between pornography and erotica sometimes seems to be as simple as this – pornography is anything we disapprove of, and erotica is its more acceptable cousin. Or pornography is for men – distinguished by a specialised vocabulary and bad spelling; and erotica for women – leavened with emotion and intimacy.

So where does that leave the heroine of my crime novel? I want her to have some joy and passion – she’s certainly going to have enough pain and heartache.

Perhaps I’m a bit old fashioned, but I don’t think the most erotic scenes, in films or in novels, are necessarily the most explicit.  In the words of the Beautiful South, perhaps what I’m really after is that Notorious ” sun-drenched, wind-swept Ingrid Bergman kiss” – although perhaps I am thinking more of Cary Grant ;) How does that work? It must be because we are drawn into the scene ourselves, that we contribute our own desires and longing.

I’ve been unlucky enough to have a sexual encounter that was less satisfying than a good sneezing fit, and lucky enough to have my whole world lit up by a simple kiss on the cheek.

So although I won’t be resorting to asterisks or closing the bedroom door (as if that’s the only place she’s likely to have any fun) – I will be remembering that the reader’s imagination is easily as powerful as the writer’s.

Fiction is a shared dream : fiction is not autobiography. Even honest memories are stories we tell ourselves, and over time alter and become fictional.  Writers make stuff up, and not out of whole cloth. It’s always a patchwork, made of memories, dreams and imagination. But even a patchwork requires the sacrifice of a few drops of blood – yours as well as mine.

Ann

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Ann Godridge

Ann Godridge

I finally finished my first novel, a psychological thriller - A Savage Art. At least for now. I've also made a good start on a second and very different crime novel. I'm an enthusiastic amateur textile artist and the director of a software company.
Ann Godridge

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Comments

  1. says

    Oh this did make me laugh, thank you!
    I daren’t even think about my early sexual encounters – definitely a case of getting better with age.

    Please, please do not resort to asterisks – yes it’s good to use our own imagination at times, other times it’s just good to share….

    • says

      Thanks Mary, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      So practice makes perfect, then….that’s the answer. I guess I’m going to have to do a lot more writing then ;)

  2. says

    Oh this did make me laugh, thank you!
    I daren’t even think about my early sexual encounters – definitely a case of getting better with age.

    Please, please do not resort to asterisks – yes it’s good to use our own imagination at times, other times it’s just good to share….

    • says

      Thanks Mary, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      So practice makes perfect, then….that’s the answer. I guess I’m going to have to do a lot more writing then ;)

  3. Editor says

    In one vampire book (by Laurell K Hamilton) Sex is referred to as the “dirty dance”, that works on many levels and made me smile at the time :-) (and is still memorable after the 8 years have passed since I read one of her books)

    • says

      Very good example, Sarah – there’s an image that lingers with you, and without resorting to heaving bosoms or convoluted language :)

  4. Editor says

    In one vampire book (by Laurell K Hamilton) Sex is referred to as the “dirty dance”, that works on many levels and made me smile at the time :-) (and is still memorable after the 8 years have passed since I read one of her books)

    • says

      Very good example, Sarah – there’s an image that lingers with you, and without resorting to heaving bosoms or convoluted language :)

  5. says

    At first I thought a strange subject for a blog but being naturally nosey I read on, Quite Funny I thought (thinking twice in one sentence phew!).
    Is it not the word ‘sex’ that is sometimes a problem? there just doesn’t seem to be anything feminine about it ? ‘Passion’ is the word for me,
    maybe the thought is often stronger than the actual act, perhaps you only need to plant the idea and our imagination does the rest, of course I mean us women because you have to have an imagination in the first place (oh harsh)
    Very witty blog

    • says

      A lot of it is the difficulty with words, Jacqui – and I think you are right that there’s probably a way to do it well between the lines.

      There are so many ways of getting it wrong, though – coy or coarse, erotic or pornographic – these are not easy distinctions.

      Thanks for being naturally nosey :)

  6. says

    At first I thought a strange subject for a blog but being naturally nosey I read on, Quite Funny I thought (thinking twice in one sentence phew!).
    Is it not the word ‘sex’ that is sometimes a problem? there just doesn’t seem to be anything feminine about it ? ‘Passion’ is the word for me,
    maybe the thought is often stronger than the actual act, perhaps you only need to plant the idea and our imagination does the rest, of course I mean us women because you have to have an imagination in the first place (oh harsh)
    Very witty blog

    • says

      A lot of it is the difficulty with words, Jacqui – and I think you are right that there’s probably a way to do it well between the lines.

      There are so many ways of getting it wrong, though – coy or coarse, erotic or pornographic – these are not easy distinctions.

      Thanks for being naturally nosey :)

  7. Babs says

    In the days when I fancied myself a budding writer I had a go at a sex scene and just could not stop laughing, Ann. Not that I hadn’t read plenty myself, or had not improved my own experiences (does anyone have great early experience with sex, I wonder?), but perhaps my embarrassment and lack of (writing!) skill was indeed laughable. I gave up pretty quickly and thankfully no longer yearn to write my novel!

    I’ll always be glad to be a reader of your work and give you “from the hip” feedback – perhaps easier as we’ve yet to meet!

    Keep at it, and the writing ;-)

    • says

      Thanks Babs – I may well take you up on that…will have to discover some courage somewhere before I let anyone else read any of my sex scenes.

      But perhaps you shouldn’t give up so easily – perhaps you have a talent for writing funny?

      One of the most important things new writers need to be told is this – if you read what you’ve written and you think it’s dreadful – that’s a really good symptom in a writer.

      It probably is dreadful – but seeing that means you have good taste, so you are well over half way there.

      All writing is rewriting, and practice makes perfect. So have another go, if you want to. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but also incredibly rewarding, and good fun.

      • Babs says

        Oh I’m sure I’ll return to it, but for now blog posting satisfies me. And with old-ladyhood approaching, I must fill the coffers so that I can relax and follow heart’s desires without worrying.

  8. Babs says

    In the days when I fancied myself a budding writer I had a go at a sex scene and just could not stop laughing, Ann. Not that I hadn’t read plenty myself, or had not improved my own experiences (does anyone have great early experience with sex, I wonder?), but perhaps my embarrassment and lack of (writing!) skill was indeed laughable. I gave up pretty quickly and thankfully no longer yearn to write my novel!

    I’ll always be glad to be a reader of your work and give you “from the hip” feedback – perhaps easier as we’ve yet to meet!

    Keep at it, and the writing ;-)

    • says

      Thanks Babs – I may well take you up on that…will have to discover some courage somewhere before I let anyone else read any of my sex scenes.

      But perhaps you shouldn’t give up so easily – perhaps you have a talent for writing funny?

      One of the most important things new writers need to be told is this – if you read what you’ve written and you think it’s dreadful – that’s a really good symptom in a writer.

      It probably is dreadful – but seeing that means you have good taste, so you are well over half way there.

      All writing is rewriting, and practice makes perfect. So have another go, if you want to. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but also incredibly rewarding, and good fun.

      • Babs says

        Oh I’m sure I’ll return to it, but for now blog posting satisfies me. And with old-ladyhood approaching, I must fill the coffers so that I can relax and follow heart’s desires without worrying.

  9. LindaMattacks says

    A welcome respite from vacuuming, thanks, Ann!

    Sex is serious – without it we’d die out as a species.

    Sex can be hilarious: If God, Nature (or who or whatever) hadn’t intended us to have a sense of humour about it, surely she’d have designed certain parts of the human body differently?

    Come, come: I was looking at the illustration and thinking about noses ;-)…

  10. LindaMattacks says

    A welcome respite from vacuuming, thanks, Ann!

    Sex is serious – without it we’d die out as a species.

    Sex can be hilarious: If God, Nature (or who or whatever) hadn’t intended us to have a sense of humour about it, surely she’d have designed certain parts of the human body differently?

    Come, come: I was looking at the illustration and thinking about noses ;-)…

  11. says

    Oh, what a laugh, Ann!

    Working, as I used to, in business film and TV there was quite a lot of crossover between us lot doing the corporate stuff and colleagues working in the entertainment business including, of course, porn flicks.

    One voiceover artist I used to work with a lot on corporate programmes also did soundtracks for hard porn videos and would have us rolling around laughing with his stories of a huge fruit bowl in the porn recording studio.

    Apparently while they were recording to picture the director would shove either a banana, apple, lemon or other suitably sized fruit into the mouths of the voiceover artistes while they were saying their lines – which fruit depended on which particular sound effect he wanted at the time.

    But what really could have put me off sex for life was when I met a guy who has since become a well known film producer here and in California, so I must be careful not to name names…before his fame and fortune he directed a number of porn jobbies. He would often say – usually in a loud voice at a dinner party – “trust me, in my line of work there is nothing – and I mean nothing – funnier than watching someone’s hairy buttocks heaving up and down in the moonlight.”

    It will come as no surprise, therefore, that the same well-known producer admitted to suffering from erectile dysfunction.

    Is that what you’d call karma?

    • says

      I don’t think I will be able to get that image out of my head, Suze…a very different association for fruit and porn for me…

      I should perhaps add that my second job was on reception in a busy Casualty department.

  12. says

    Oh, what a laugh, Ann!

    Working, as I used to, in business film and TV there was quite a lot of crossover between us lot doing the corporate stuff and colleagues working in the entertainment business including, of course, porn flicks.

    One voiceover artist I used to work with a lot on corporate programmes also did soundtracks for hard porn videos and would have us rolling around laughing with his stories of a huge fruit bowl in the porn recording studio.

    Apparently while they were recording to picture the director would shove either a banana, apple, lemon or other suitably sized fruit into the mouths of the voiceover artistes while they were saying their lines – which fruit depended on which particular sound effect he wanted at the time.

    But what really could have put me off sex for life was when I met a guy who has since become a well known film producer here and in California, so I must be careful not to name names…before his fame and fortune he directed a number of porn jobbies. He would often say – usually in a loud voice at a dinner party – “trust me, in my line of work there is nothing – and I mean nothing – funnier than watching someone’s hairy buttocks heaving up and down in the moonlight.”

    It will come as no surprise, therefore, that the same well-known producer admitted to suffering from erectile dysfunction.

    Is that what you’d call karma?

    • says

      I don’t think I will be able to get that image out of my head, Suze…a very different association for fruit and porn for me…

      I should perhaps add that my second job was on reception in a busy Casualty department.

  13. says

    Very funny Ann, enjoyed reading this.

    I reckon sex and humour is great mix in the right context – but given it’s a crime novel, maybe the sex should be either clueless or mysterious;)

  14. says

    Very funny Ann, enjoyed reading this.

    I reckon sex and humour is great mix in the right context – but given it’s a crime novel, maybe the sex should be either clueless or mysterious;)

    • says

      I still have the book about teenage girls’ attitudes to sex, somewhere, Ida.

      And Tutankhamun still makes me break out into a cold sweat….

    • says

      I still have the book about teenage girls’ attitudes to sex, somewhere, Ida.

      And Tutankhamun still makes me break out into a cold sweat….

  15. says

    A clever stance to adopt, that of saying sex is indescribable. In fact, it is only too describable. But is it interesting…enough?

    Rather like a battle where the engagement itself is based on instinct, experience and practice, the fascination of sex really lies in its build-up, the tension of realising that the protagonists are contemplating a sexual act.

    And the post-mortem, the release of endorphins and relaxants which causes unguarded things to be said, promises to be made.

    It is the subtlety of choosing what is to be said and how to say it while leaving much to the (fertile) imagination. Leave sex’s clothes on: like nudity, it is more fascinating when something is hidden.

    • says

      It is so difficult to get the balance right, Jem – after all even what you have just described is the content of the average Mills and Boon romance – and I’m not talking about the newer, naughtier ones.

      I still like Sarah’s idea of the dance :)

  16. says

    A clever stance to adopt, that of saying sex is indescribable. In fact, it is only too describable. But is it interesting…enough?

    Rather like a battle where the engagement itself is based on instinct, experience and practice, the fascination of sex really lies in its build-up, the tension of realising that the protagonists are contemplating a sexual act.

    And the post-mortem, the release of endorphins and relaxants which causes unguarded things to be said, promises to be made.

    It is the subtlety of choosing what is to be said and how to say it while leaving much to the (fertile) imagination. Leave sex’s clothes on: like nudity, it is more fascinating when something is hidden.

    • says

      It is so difficult to get the balance right, Jem – after all even what you have just described is the content of the average Mills and Boon romance – and I’m not talking about the newer, naughtier ones.

      I still like Sarah’s idea of the dance :)

  17. Morag says

    I’ll tell you here and now that I write about sex. In the last few years, I have written more than my fair share of short stories on this theme (I don’t bother with any plot nonsense – I know what my readers like ;) ).

    Actually, having lent my book to various friends, I have discovered either how easily embarrassed they are or how shockingly unembarrassable I am. Not sure which. But most of my stories are not simple boy meets girl, and the sex is usually pretty exotic.

    However, and this is the salient fact, I never describe the sex itself, even though there is plenty of detail in the setup. I am all about providing the emotion, the background and the opportunity. I expect my readers to provide the detail to themselves, in their heads.

    According to my readers, this works, because it’s the anticipation that makes it hot.

    Ann, in the unlikely event of you wanting to read any of my stuff, to get ideas, do let me know.

    • says

      Thanks Morag, I’m always interested in new ideas, especially exotic ones…

      I am at the unshockable end of the spectrum myself, especially after the research I’ve been doing for my murder scene ;)

      Even in the fluffiest romance it is always the anticipation that makes it work, so I’m sure it’s the same when the romance veers into passion – so thank you for confirming that at least I am aiming in the right direction :)

  18. Morag says

    I’ll tell you here and now that I write about sex. In the last few years, I have written more than my fair share of short stories on this theme (I don’t bother with any plot nonsense – I know what my readers like ;) ).

    Actually, having lent my book to various friends, I have discovered either how easily embarrassed they are or how shockingly unembarrassable I am. Not sure which. But most of my stories are not simple boy meets girl, and the sex is usually pretty exotic.

    However, and this is the salient fact, I never describe the sex itself, even though there is plenty of detail in the setup. I am all about providing the emotion, the background and the opportunity. I expect my readers to provide the detail to themselves, in their heads.

    According to my readers, this works, because it’s the anticipation that makes it hot.

    Ann, in the unlikely event of you wanting to read any of my stuff, to get ideas, do let me know.

    • says

      Thanks Morag, I’m always interested in new ideas, especially exotic ones…

      I am at the unshockable end of the spectrum myself, especially after the research I’ve been doing for my murder scene ;)

      Even in the fluffiest romance it is always the anticipation that makes it work, so I’m sure it’s the same when the romance veers into passion – so thank you for confirming that at least I am aiming in the right direction :)

  19. says

    Ann

    I loved reading what you have written here and am now wondering where you get the time and energy to write so much? Clearly you understand passion in many forms!

    I’m not sure where I’m going with what follows so please bear with me because I’m keen to read your response.

    My personal experience of writing a novel stopped more than ten years ago when I reached the sex part of a piece I had started to produce under the working title, “Sex, Power and Money”.

    For years I could not work out why it was relatively easy to introduce the Power and Money elements to the storyline but writing about Sex was so difficult. Thanks to your piece above I have more of an insight (but not an answer).

    What if the three letter word Sex is not one word? By this I mean it appears to be one word that we kid ourselves has a singular meaning but instead requires several columns in a dictionary to cover a wide range of definitions.

    What if it is more like a signpost to many different and and individual levels of human experiences, feelings and misunderstandings?

    One might say to oneself, “I’m writing about sex”. A simple enough thought but might that not might mean a multitude of possible ‘internal’ interpretations? For example, do you mean descriptions about of the environment or scene, the ‘dance’ of the participants, the mechanics of sexual intercourse, the feelings of love, the thoughts of fantasy/reality, the rite of passage, the differences in the hearts, bodies and minds of the participants or something more ineffable?

    The writer may have a very clear intention about his or her meaning of ‘sex’ but the reader’s interpretation may, almost guaranteed, be very different and invoke some unpredictable responses to the written word.

    Phew! Still not sure where that came from but at least I ready to press the submit button :)

    Best wishes

    Stephen

    • says

      Thanks Stephen – now I am looking at the question from a different angle and it is more enlightening…

      Back to my four types of sex writing – of course they were just the four that seemed most obvious to me at the time and I was merely scraping the surface…

      It all comes down to the question of relationship – doesn’t it? In this case between the reader and writer. In pornography the desired effect on both sides is simple and obvious – but in other kinds of fiction it is a more complicated relationship.

      A literary writer perhaps wants to communicate their own experiences and insights – a genre writer too, although perhaps sugaring the pill with a little more story and entertainment.

      I do still feel as if the overwhelming difficulty is simply embarrasment, of course. I think it was George Bernard Shaw who said it was best to write as if for one particular person – maybe this is a case in point.

      Hmmm…. Thanks Stephen :)

  20. says

    Ann

    I loved reading what you have written here and am now wondering where you get the time and energy to write so much? Clearly you understand passion in many forms!

    I’m not sure where I’m going with what follows so please bear with me because I’m keen to read your response.

    My personal experience of writing a novel stopped more than ten years ago when I reached the sex part of a piece I had started to produce under the working title, “Sex, Power and Money”.

    For years I could not work out why it was relatively easy to introduce the Power and Money elements to the storyline but writing about Sex was so difficult. Thanks to your piece above I have more of an insight (but not an answer).

    What if the three letter word Sex is not one word? By this I mean it appears to be one word that we kid ourselves has a singular meaning but instead requires several columns in a dictionary to cover a wide range of definitions.

    What if it is more like a signpost to many different and and individual levels of human experiences, feelings and misunderstandings?

    One might say to oneself, “I’m writing about sex”. A simple enough thought but might that not might mean a multitude of possible ‘internal’ interpretations? For example, do you mean descriptions about of the environment or scene, the ‘dance’ of the participants, the mechanics of sexual intercourse, the feelings of love, the thoughts of fantasy/reality, the rite of passage, the differences in the hearts, bodies and minds of the participants or something more ineffable?

    The writer may have a very clear intention about his or her meaning of ‘sex’ but the reader’s interpretation may, almost guaranteed, be very different and invoke some unpredictable responses to the written word.

    Phew! Still not sure where that came from but at least I ready to press the submit button :)

    Best wishes

    Stephen

    • says

      Thanks Stephen – now I am looking at the question from a different angle and it is more enlightening…

      Back to my four types of sex writing – of course they were just the four that seemed most obvious to me at the time and I was merely scraping the surface…

      It all comes down to the question of relationship – doesn’t it? In this case between the reader and writer. In pornography the desired effect on both sides is simple and obvious – but in other kinds of fiction it is a more complicated relationship.

      A literary writer perhaps wants to communicate their own experiences and insights – a genre writer too, although perhaps sugaring the pill with a little more story and entertainment.

      I do still feel as if the overwhelming difficulty is simply embarrasment, of course. I think it was George Bernard Shaw who said it was best to write as if for one particular person – maybe this is a case in point.

      Hmmm…. Thanks Stephen :)

  21. says

    Interesting blog Ann. IMHO, one of the best sex scenes I've witnessed in film is in 'Enemy At The Gates', when Jude Law gets it on with Rachel Weitz amongst the sleeping soldiers in the bunker. There was only a glimpse of flesh but the act was so raw and passionate.

    I guess it was partly due to the suggestion they could die at any moment, so had to truly experience being alive. And of course, there was the build-up of anticipation / foreplay / sexual tension between them & the added complication of the love triangle with Joseph Fiennes.

    Their fingernails were filled with dirt & she placed his hand all over her face as if to completely absorb herself in him. Personally, I felt like it was a perfect combination of animalism and intimacy.

    On a personal note, I keep warning my on/off boyfriend about stroking my hair and face unless he genuinely means it because I feel such actions are more intimate than full-blown sex.

    Another powerful but controversial scene that springs to mind is from Mulholland Drive, where Naomi Watts is crying while masturbating over her lost lover. I imagine this would strike an empathetic chord with anyone who has experienced heartbreak or unrequited love.

  22. Ann G says

    Thanks Jen – two films to add to the must see list.

    I always thought one of the most interesting attempted seduction scenes was in the Wicker Man – the original – when Britt Ekland and Edward Woodward weren't even in the same room. It was very cheesy but still somehow worked…

    It's interesting though that your two examples both involve sex which is combined with intensely emotional experience – wheras the scenes in the Martin Amis novel were relatively empty of any real meaningful contact with another person…it was virtually all about the notch on the bedpost. The deepest emotional truths were about how he – or the alter ego character – was intimidated by beauty that seemed out of his reach. In many ways it was a novel about sexual ambition, not sexual connection.