Authors of “literary fiction” usually avoid writing sex scenes, thereby banishing from the lives of their characters a key aspect of human experience. I suppose one could argue that the mechanics are the same every time, so there is no need to describe it. But that shows a distinct lack of imagination, does it not? If there is something to be learned about the characters by looking in more detail at their sexual selves, it seems to me that to drop a veil of discretion over a sex scene (“Afterwards…”) is a failure of nerve. People vary greatly with regard to their physical, emotional, and moral responses as sexual beings. Admittedly, in many stories this information may be irrelevant. But if the story deals with the mystery of two people’s attraction to each other, it is (or can be) a key to character.
This chapter contains explicit content.
The Voynich Affair: Chapter 11
They decided to do a circuit, tracing a path from the ancient cathedral to the Vieux Marché where they bought a generous selection of cheeses, charcuterie, bread, berries and chocolate to snack on later, and then continuing back around the old town to the abbey.
She preferred the airy, well-lighted interior of St. Ouen, filled with stained glass, to that of the older but gloomier cathedral. The abbey façade sat right on a busy street, but behind it were extensive gardens with scarcely a tourist to be seen. They strolled a long way out to a low stone wall, where they could sit side by side, looking back at the abbey’s buttresses and nave. It stood out against a cobalt sky and a sea of lush grass and trees. Here and there, a few touches of floral red set off the emerald colors of the greenery.
“This is my favorite place so far,” said Lynn.
“Mine too. The church organ is one of the best in France, and the gardens are lovely. If you like the outdoors, we could visit the Forêt de Roumare tomorrow.”
“A real forest? Right by the city?”
“Yes, it was formerly part of the estates of the Dukes of Normandy. The trees are old. Unfortunately, there’s logging from time to time.”
She turned her head to ask whether there were any ancient monuments in the forest, and he turned at the same time, about to say something more. Their faces were a few inches apart, and suddenly he put his lips to hers. His mouth felt warm and tasted good. She opened her lips and their tongues met, gently, as he took her in his arms.
Within seconds, Lynn was overwhelmed by the most powerful surge of desire she had ever felt. They broke the kiss so that they could draw a breath; she was already beginning to pant with excitement. West stood up, pulling her to a standing position so he could press her body against his. The kiss went deeper. Her heart was pounding. Finally their mouths parted again.
“My god, what was that?” she said. She felt dizzy, as though all the blood in her body was rushing to her crotch. Without realizing it, she had put her hands around his neck, and her fingers were caressing the hair on the back of his head. Her breasts felt swollen, and her nipples were almost painfully hard. He put a hand on each side of her face and pushed her away a little so they could look into each other’s eyes. “You feel it too?” She nodded, speechless, and kissed him again, groaning involuntarily when she felt his erection pressing against her like a bar of iron.
“Let’s go. Now,” she said. He didn’t need any further persuasion. They started back toward the cathedral at a fast walk. Halfway there, he took her hand, and the renewed contact was so arousing that she gasped. They almost ran the rest of the way to his room. Once the door closed behind them, they performed a comical dance, alternately kissing, moving their hands over one another, and tearing off their clothes. All she could think of was joining with him, feeling him with her, on her, in her.
At last they were naked and a sudden thought occurred to her. “West. Do you have any condoms? I don’t!” She felt panicky at the possibility they might have to stop, but he was already tearing the foil on a packet he drew from his wallet. She watched with hungry eyes as he rolled it on, thinking that his penis was well proportioned to the rest of him. Then they were on the bed, and she was opening her legs to him. The first sensation as he entered her was electric, as though someone had flipped a switch inside her vagina. His strokes were not hurried, and he moved his hips in a way that was unfamiliar to her, circling around so that his angle was always slightly changing. He held himself above her on his palms, not resting his weight on her except where their lower bodies met, and he looked into her eyes, watching her reaction. She tried to meet his gaze, then finally closed her eyes and turned her head, crying out softly. She wanted it to go on forever, but within a few minutes he grimaced and made a low, open-mouthed sound, and then another. She clasped him from the inside as he came, wringing every last ounce of pleasure from him. He rested his weight on her then, breathing hard, and after a time, slowly pulled out of her, carefully holding the end of the condom to prevent it slipping off. They lay side by side, dazed and staring at the ceiling.
“Perhaps it’s time you called me Theo,” he said.
“And I’m Lynn.” She was still highly aroused, thinking of how firm the cheeks of his rear end had felt in her hands as he surged into her. He rolled onto his side, leaning on his elbow and placing a hand over her lower belly as he looked down at her. His head rested on his other palm, and she noticed he still had his watch on, just as she still had the pearl necklace and bracelet she’d worn with her outfit.
His fingers gently trailed down to her pubic hair. “I’m not finished with you, Lynn. I don’t think you’ve reached the pinnacle yet.”
She shook her head, wanting to avoid anything that would spoil the glow she felt. “It’s OK. I hardly ever do. It takes me a long time, and even then sometimes… nothing happens.” Memories came to her mind of a frustrated Richard, rubbing her vulva roughly with a dry hand, as though increasing the pressure might hasten her climax. That time, he’d been so insistent that she finally faked an orgasm, just to get him to stop. Another time, he kissed her between the legs for what he said afterward was at least twenty minutes. His jaw was sore. She enjoyed it, but didn’t come. He rarely tried to pleasure her again after that.
But West was not so easily put off. He kept stroking her belly and thighs, brushing up lightly, as if by accident, against the tender folds between her legs. “The average woman requires somewhere between twenty and thirty minutes of direct stimulation to the clitoris to reach a climax,” he said. “Most women are just like you.”
This was news to her. She’d always assumed that there was something wrong with her, perhaps some inadequacy in her sexual response, because it was so different from the ecstatic heights she read about in novels and magazines–vaginal orgasms, reached simultaneously with a partner. “I didn’t know that,” she whispered. Now he was sliding a finger lower, and moving it firmly back and forth over an area about three inches inside her. “Can you feel that?” he said. “Do you like it?”
“Oh yes.” He was pressing hard against the upper wall of her vagina. It felt heavenly, and the sensation drew a moan from her. “That’s actually the back of your clitoris, or so the anatomists say. It’s a very complex little organ. Much more complicated than the penis. And with about twice the number of nerve endings.” He moved the wet finger higher between her legs and started to circle her clitoris, not touching it directly.
“Oooooh. I feel lightheaded.”
“You’re hyperventilating. That’ll make it more difficult. Try to breathe slowly and deeply.” He continued the motion, distracting her with increasingly pleasurable sensations.
“You really don’t have to do this. It feels wonderful, but I’m afraid it’s going to take too long.”
“Then think of it this way. After you come, I’m going to fit my key into your snug little lock again. But I need time to recover. I can’t perform well for at least thirty minutes, if not more. So the longer you take, the better. Just relax. I’m not going to stop unless you tell me to.”
The finger kept moving, and she thought about the sight of his naked body before they made love, and the kiss in the abbey garden, and the nearness of him when they slept in his bed at the chateau, and the prospect of feeling him inside her again this very evening. It was like traveling up a mountain road with a lot of switchbacks, but slowly and inexorably, she felt herself nearing the peak. Once a couple walked past the door, talking loudly, and she had to retrace part of the mountain road. At last she began to whimper and squeeze his arm hard, hoping he wouldn’t stop. He didn’t, and even increased the pace, but only very slightly. Her back arched off the bed and her chin rose as the orgasm engulfed her. She even felt her toes curling. Still he continued the motion steadily, as another wave hit her, and another. Finally she moved her hand down to hold his still, as the sensations were now too intense.
“That was unbelievable,” she said, sniffling a little. Her nasal passages were wet, as though she’d sneezed several times, and a single tear ran from the corner of each eye.
“Mmmm, yes,” he said. “The sounds you make… Roll on your side.” She could hear him tearing the foil on a second condom, and then he fitted his body to hers like a pair of spoons, as when they were together in the chateau. The pressure against her rear end and thighs was delicious, and the angle felt completely different. He made love to her more slowly this time, kissing her neck and moving a warm hand up and down her abdomen, along her flank, and over her breasts. Eventually he pushed her so that her torso was closer to right angles with his, and grasped her hips so that he could thrust with more force. Her inner muscles contracted in what felt like a miniature climax, and her body twisted as it happened. She wondered how much noise they had been making, and whether anyone in the adjoining rooms had noticed.
Afterward, he held her in his arms for a while, his free hand playing casually with her left breast. It was only then that she realized she hadn’t even had time to worry about her scar, or what he thought of it. They got up and used the bathroom in turn. She put on a terrycloth robe provided by the hotel. He tried the larger one, but it wasn’t big enough, so he wore his pajama bottoms and a T-shirt. He picked up the phone and ordered a bottle of Champagne, and they made an indoor picnic of the food they’d bought at the Vieux Marché. Lynn thought about what West had told her of his dating habits, how he cut women off after a month to prevent “relationships” from forming. She decided not to worry about the future. She didn’t want to miss a moment of the present.
Copyright 2015 by Linnet Moss
Notes: West is a scientific man, which is apparent in his somewhat clinical approach to sex. But he’s also a passionate man and a generous lover, which helps to balance his less endearing qualities. For me it was important to make the sex realistic by showing that obstacles can be involved. I wanted Lynn to discover something new about her body and herself, which will be of value even if she never sees West again.
Ohh, nice. Not quite unexpectedly – after the initial suspicion – West turns out to be a great lover. I am glad for Lynn 🙂 And only hope that she’ll get more opportunity to enjoy him 😉
As for your intro – sex scenes in novels are very tricky indeed. The distinction between (soft) porn and high lit seems to be decided there. And yet, as you say, sex is part of human life and the different experiences with and approaches to sex of a character do define their character, too. Here, it does add light to Lynn’s character to know that she has previously been sexually unfulfilled, she may even be somewhat inexperienced. Knowing that, it alters our perception of her attitude towards West and how she might cope with (or not) or preempt a possible later rejection. So in short, I am glad you have the courage to write a sex scene, and a very nice one at that!
What a great comment! Many thanks. Besides my goals for the story, I will admit to pure sensual enjoyment of the scene between them. It puzzles me that it’s OK in our culture for people to enjoy the depiction of physical pleasures like food or athletics, or even to enjoy images of violence. But with sexual imagery, there is this feeling of shame. I think that’s a big part of what inhibits authors of “literary fiction”–that and being afraid people will ridicule them. John Updike certainly was ridiculed for his sex scenes, but I’m glad he had the courage to go there.
That whole dichotomy of allowing the graphic depiction of violence (=hate) but shamefully hiding the depiction of sex (=love) really gets me. I certainly do not mean to say that sex has to feature in every part of our daily lives (a little bit too distracting *ahem*), but it just makes me sad that it is still such a taboo. How can we let the expression of love, intimacy and nearness become something embarrassing and shameful? One of the benefits of becoming a fan for me, btw, was discovering fan fiction which has a much looser (read: more liberal) attitude to sex scenes. I have to admit that I learned a few things there *coughs* and I certainly also feel much more free to discuss sex because of it.
I could not agree more. Interesting how the internet has created whole new communities of readers and writers, producing what we want to see in a story, and not commercializing it. It’s really a beautiful thing.
Personally, I enjoy a well-written sex scene, and I loved this chapter. It does frustrate me, the attitude that sex and romance in a book somehow eliminates it from being “true literature”… a great piece of writing is a great piece of writing. A story doesn’t have to have sex to be good, and I enjoy plenty of books where the sex is either only alluded to, or not presented at all, and that’s fine. But that feeling of shame about enjoying a work of fiction that does have sexual content is certainly real. I remember one time I posted a complimentary comment on an author’s facebook page about a REALLY well-narrated historical romance series- I’d devoured all three in the series, then listened to all three again for a second time immediately afterward. Unfortunately, the way facebook is now, my aunt saw this, and immediately asked me if I’d recommend the books to her, and there I was in this big dilemma. The books had hot sex, my aunt is gay, plus she’s my aunt… I was very embarrassed and didn’t know what I should recommend! lol
That’s a great story. What were the books, if you don’t mind sharing?
Probably nothing your aunt hadn’t run across before, but it’s true that when dealing with elder relatives, one sometimes struggles with differences in sensibility!
Not at all- the books were the MacKinnon’s Rangers trilogy by Pamela Clare, narrated by Kaleo Griffith, who does an amazing job. Takes place during the French and Indian wars in colonial America, which is a favorite time period for me due to my abiding love for Last of the Mohicans, which has long been my favorite movie! In fact, the audiobook took me back to the time period so well that when I was listening via my earbud/cell phone/audible app a couple of times, I didn’t even realize my mom was trying to call- I have her ringtone set on the beautiful Last of the Mohicans music, and it didn’t register that it was a call- just background music! lol
Back to my aunt- I did end up recommending the books, with the warning that they had explicit content! lol I didn’t follow up on whether she took the recommendation…
Thanks! That’s a great setting for a romantic story, as we know from LoTM. I can still remember the thrill of Daniel Day-Lewis in that film: “I’m looking at you, miss” and “I WILL find you!” I was disappointed that he didn’t do more romantic leads. He definitely knew how to turn on the charisma.
Very nice and spot on regarding the average female response – direct vs. indirect contact to the clitoris, to not enough stimulation vs too much, and then the stresses in general that distract and inhibit the female orgasm. Most women do not know this about themselves and many more men are completely unaware as well. This is why “faking it” in anyway is so damaging. But I think many women do just so that men discontinue doing something uncomfortable or painful. These are the kind of scenes that are so needed in novels that represent honest loving/sexual relationships between people.
I think I have gotten to the point where I stop reading a book where the sex scenes are skipped over as if unimportant. But I also now stop after scenes where a woman orgasms and there has been no clitoral stimulation mentioned whatsoever.
I don’t know the age of your character, Lynn, but it’s just really, really rare that the vaginal orgasm happens without such stimulation first and it’s not likely not until a woman matures more.
So glad you posted this and that you are writing scenes like it in your books.
Thanks Crystal! It makes me feel great to hear that. You know, I have read that there are highly orgasmic women who don’t need clitoral stimulation, but I wonder how common that really is. Whoever they are out there, I hope they realise how lucky they are!
That was a problem with older romance literature when it first began to include explicit sex in the 70s. It really misled a lot of young women (including me) about what they were supposed to be feeling.
I have have never met such a woman, so I have always believed vaginal stimulation alone = orgasm to be a myth. So yes, lucky to be so blessed is right!
I should also elaborate that I like very much that your writing here does not perpetuate the fantasy/myth that women will orgasm on a dime if they are simply aroused and/or deeply attracted/in love, and that you both include condom use and write it well in the scene.
Thanks! There’s debate on the condom thing, with some feeling that in a fantasy situation, it distracts and detracts. But this was less an erotic fantasy than an attempt to portray great sex realistically.
So glad to read a well-written sex scene !I usually skip these scenes in books (all the same…..)
I do agree with Chrystal too.
Thanks for reading! I admit that I sometimes skip the sex scenes if they don’t hold my interest. But I sympathize with authors who try, because they are extremely challenging to write.
I sympathize too because I ‘m not good at writing those scenes ^^
Here’s something I thought you might find of interest – http://www.elle.com/culture/news/a25442/how-to-make-the-perfect-sex-scene/
Oh, this is fabulous. I don’t have Starz, so I am dying because I can’t see the show yet. I knew that when they finally made it, it would be a winner. I read “Outlander” all those years ago, and recognized the sexual politics in it–she’s older, he’s a virgin. It deliberately broke all the rules, and was sexier than any other romance book.
I was never so addicted to a series of books in my life. The show really stepped up. Good article on the women involved, especially for that particular episode. because you haven’t seen it yet, I don’t want to give anything away, but the show’s producers trick us a little in the episode. (It’s all in fun) And very well done.
Arrrgh, no more or you will have me subscribing to cable!!!!
I did see the first episode, which they streamed free on their website. I could tell it was going to be great.
So well written and honest. None of that unrealistic ‘wham bam thank-you ma’am’ crap. It’s is true that we see violence depicted in so much of our media and even children’s video games yet sexuality is such a taboo.
Thanks Cheer. I will never understand the video game thing. I attribute it to “The Why??? Chromosome.”