Friday, February 17, 2012

Should Characters Scream During Sex?

At my Maryland Romance Writer's meeting last night, the guest speakers were sex therapists (yup, I love my job!).  They were thoroughly engaging, educational and entertaining.  But one of their points rubbed me the wrong way, as an author.  Apparently most people don't scream during sex.  Who knew?  If you want the gory details, there's something called a glottal reflex in the throat, and closing it (i.e. holding your breath) actually makes an orgasm better.  So screaming is self-defeating.

Good to know and all that, but not at all romantic to write about.  Which is sexier:

"Now, Nate.  Take me now," she panted.


As he thrust into her, her glottal reflex kicked in.  Callie held her breath.

Do you see my problem?  Of course, authors want to portray things as truthfully and realistically as possible.  If I wasn't writing science fiction and my heroine suddenly sprouted a third breast, it would be ridiculous.  On the other hand, it is an unwritten romance convention that women never have their periods as they are being romanced in a book - no matter how much time a book spans. 

Call me a die hard romantic, but I'm going to continue to write a little...oral enthusiasm, shall we say...into my books.  But what do you think?  Should characters scream during sex?  Or by doing so, are we horribly short-changing their orgasms, therefore being very mean authors?


  1. LOL, Christi. Uh, yeah...I think I'd have to vote for the line where she pants.
    Funny! :)

  2. I'm glad I wasn't drinking when I got to the line about periods. *snort* Very fun post!

  3. Panting, groaning, oohs, ahhs, and OMGs all work for me, but actual screaming might scare the poor man.

  4. This is what I think about when people talk about how you can't thrust into the womb or the cervix. Well, of course... but if I say "He thrust into her so deeply, he pressed against her cervix" people will know what's being said. When you start introducing new concepts that go against common ground, it can throw readers off as well.

    Though I do think her holding her breath in an erotica can be well done as well ;)

  5. First time I every read about a character screaming during sex was in--wait for it--a Ken Follet novel called Triple, if you want to go look for the scene.

    To me, screaming during sex has always come across as strange. Not the way I'd write it.

    Sorry I missed the meeting last night.

    Rebecca York

  6. LOL, Christi! Love it!! Personally, I am still recovering from the "OMG there's a teenager in the house--and she knows what we're doing" stage, so I tend to keep it hush hush! But I like it when fictional characters express themselves verbally during sex--whether panting, whispering or screaming!

  7. Ok, I'll chime in with from Mars here since I read and enjoyed the post.

    Admittedly, I have not really delved much into the realm of the romance novel (sans a brief period as a curious pre-teen who was looking for answers between the cover of the book with the long-haired blonde and Fabio), but the "screaming" can be very subjective.

    Not everyone screams, and not everyone who screams will always scream. In the sane vain as "You can please all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, and...." the screaming can be just as selective. At the heart of the matter, I'm not sure the question should be "can characters scream," but rather "would/should THIS character scream."

    Providing just a literary visual is fine, but any noise (as Paige stated) adds to the experience for a reader. A piece of literature, regardless of the genre, that can arouse multiple aural sensations in a reader is doing its job. Science may say that holding one's breath provides for a better experience, but at the end of the day, we aren't writing for the ultimate pleasure of the characters.

    Good post, and great topic. Keep writing!

  8. I have to agree about the "Sounds of Sex" in comparison to the "Sounds of Silence" (sorry Simon and Garfunkel). At least in romantic fiction we need the visual stimulation of noises to understand what is taking place in the orgasm between characters--whether it is a gasp, moan, sigh or scream--depends on the situation and the topic of sub-genre you are writing/reading. Not everything in fiction is real--even though we want our characters as real as possible, it's fiction.

    Great blog, Christi!

  9. Hold on a second, let me catch my breath. I was holding it, you know, just for a little glottal stop.

    Great post, Christi.