Using All 5 Senses In Erotica (Or Sexy Scenes In General)

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Recently a post popped up in Kindle Boards about tips for using all five senses when writing erotica, or just erotic scenes. I ended up writing a fairly detailed reply, and thought I’d bring it over to my blog and expand on it for everyone else out there!

First off, if you’re somebody looking for advice in this section, I want you to think about the #1 sense you associate with sex. (Or flirtation, if it’s buildup.) For a lot of people, it’ll be a different answer. But I’ll bet you’re thinking either “sight,” or “touch.” If you’re writing scenes focusing on only two (or less) senses, however, you may find that readers aren’t connecting as much to these physically and emotionally charged scenes as you want – and in erotica, that’s not good!

So how does one try to work in every sense into sensual scenes? Whether harmless flirtation, or wall-bangin’ fun, here are my top tips I hope will help and will ultimately tell you what a perv I am. (Please note that this is a bit more graphic than my post over at KB. Fair warning!)


Sight – What do the characters look like both clothed and unclothed? How do their bodies visually react to stimuli? How sweaty is it getting, and how does that affect make-up, hair, and clothing? What parts of the body do your POV characters love the most and therefore focus on? Do your characters have body mods or birth marks that can only be seen when they’re nude?

Touch – Seems like a given, but some things seem to get forgotten besides the, uh, mechanical feelings. What tickles? What’s cold? What’s hot? If you’re going for realism, sometimes things might (unintentionally) hurt. Or, if you’re going for hurt, what makes it so attractive? How do people feel compared to one another? Nails? Teeth?!!? 

Sound – Even if you have the quietest couple (or solo, or more) vocally, there’s still gonna be sounds. Physics kinda demands it. Do you have a moaner? A squeaker? A screamer? Are the characters worried about people hearing them? Think of how the erotic acts are affecting the environment. Things falling off? Furniture adding itself to the chorus? Also, skin makes sound when slapping into other skin. (And don’t forget the funny sounds if that’s what you’re after.)

Taste – Besides the obvious*, don’t forget how outside factors may affect the taste of things. Diet and body chemistry affect everyone’s “flavor” differently. No two people taste the exact same. Also, if you’re not looking to get into THAT much detail, there may be other ways to approach this sense. Maybe it’s time to bust our the chocolate strawberries.

*Wait, you don’t know the obvious? Uh, just read this link. (NSFW, textually.)

Smell – This one seems the most forgotten anywhere that isn’t dead bodies or Thanksgiving dinner. And I think in erotic scenes there’s a fear, sometimes, of grossing people out with smell. But like taste, everyone has a different diet and chemistry that will contribute to smell. But I also think you can get away with really vague descriptions here, because most readers will have their own scent-related memories they can call up. Scent is one of the most powerful memories so I think it’s important to play with. (If you need some ideas, try calling up environmental smells that may set the mood, such as candles, flowers, soap, shampoo, perfume/cologne, and yes, even the smell of sweat in these circumstances can be sexy!)

A total package offering all five senses on your sensual platter is a great way to involve your readers in ways they may have never been expecting. Try a sense you often forget the next time you’re writing and see where it takes you and your audience!
Are you particular to any particular sense when writing, whether a sexy scene or not? Would you add any other tips to this list?