I was doing some re-reading of my keeper shelf books recently, and I realized something: almost all of my keeper shelf books have at least one awkward, imperfect sex scene where things don’t go according to plan. I guess you could say I’m a connoisseur of awkward smut 🙂
There’s a lot of societal pressure for sex to be perfect, especially first time sex. Songs, movies, a lot of books, and even porn make it seem like if you’re with the right person, the heavens will open up and sing every time. In Hollywood romance-land, things never go badly. But real life is full of awkward fumblings and stubbed toes and uncooperative zippers and inopportune interruptions.
Sometimes too, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if we can’t get it “right,” that sex isn’t worth having–if we aren’t perfectly showered and groomed, if the house isn’t quiet with mood music playing and candles lit, if both people aren’t perfectly rested and hurdling towards simultaneous orgasms, we might as well wait for the perfect moment. In other words, if we can’t be having Hollywood style ideal sex, why bother?
And this is where my keeper shelf of awkward smut comes in. I celebrate the writers who keep it real and who remind us that sometimes fabulous sex has a very shaky start. Sometimes you meet “the one” and the first time isn’t all that. Sometimes people are tired or in bad moods or sick with the flu. Real life is full of ringing phones and waking babies and setting off car alarms by accident. Sex is full of funny, squicky, cringe-worthy, beautiful moments. And what I love is fiction that reflects that and indeed, celebrates it. Life is short and we should seize joy wherever we can–even when it comes in a less-ideal-package, there is still beauty and purpose and meaning to be found.
Some of my favorite novels with endearingly written imperfect sex include Cara McKenna’s Ruin Me and her Unbound (pretty much everything she’s written could be on this list too. She’s the reigning queen of awkward smut. ) Heidi Cullinan’s Dance with Me is the perfect example of practice makes perfect and how what’s right for one couple can take some time to figure out. AM Arthur’s Stand By You is also full of this message as her two heroes figure what works for them. Lisa Henry and JA Rock’s Brandon Mills vs. The V-Card has the best, most realistic first-time scene ever. Daisy Harris’s David’s Selfie manages to make the flu downright sexy.
What are some of your favorite awkward sex scenes or scenes where things go haywire? Do you like realistic love scenes or do you prefer more idealized escapism? And that has its place too! I have a whole different part of the keeper shelf devoted to earth-shaking, transcendental love scenes. And sometimes the perfect book has BOTH. Sometimes even in the same scene! If you’re a writer, which do you enjoy writing more?
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