What My Go-To Guy Taught Me About Writing Sex by Anne Tenino

Welcome to the next stop on the Frat Boy & Toppy Blog Tour Extravaganza! *confetti*

The tee!

This is the last stop on the tour and at the end of this post I’ve announced the winner of the Frat Boy & Toppy Blog Tour Extravaganza! Contest.

On this tour, I wrote a series of pieces on how I cook up a story. Not a how-to manual, just a how-I-do manual, wherein I revealed all the dirty little secrets about how I approach a story, using Frat Boy & Toppy as an example.

For a schedule—with links—of all the places I’ve been visit my site, http://annetenino.com. There you will also find information on the tour contest prize. It’s too late to enter now so how about we make this stop a giveaway? I thought you might like that. Today, I’ll be giving away the grand-daddy of all swag . . . The Frat Boy & Toppy T-shirt!

To win said lurvely shirt (size XL), please leave a comment with your email address at the end of this post, and I will pick one random winner at the end of the day (that’s midnight, GMT -7:00/PDT for me).

Enjoy!

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What My Go-To Guy Taught Me About Writing Sex

The way I see it, there are three audiences I can write for. I can write for me, I can write for other people, or I can write for a combination of both.

If I wrote for myself, I wouldn’t try to publish. I might post it on the internet, but that’s likely as far as it would go. If I wrote for other people, I probably wouldn’t write gay romance—regardless of the current buzz about “the money being in M/M,” there’s definitely more money in “mainstream” romance if you become moderately well-known. If I wrote for others (and likely for money), why bother writing what I want?

I want to write gay romance, and I do it for myself and others. I chose what to write and where the story’s going based on what I want, but the whole time I’m painfully aware other people are going to read it. Sometimes it seems like they’re reading over my shoulder.

This is never more true than when I’m writing sex scenes.

I gotta tell you, it’s daunting. I’m a woman who writes about two guys getting it on (in explicit and loving detail), so not only am I thinking “Okay, is this hot or squicky? Am I a pervert? Is being a pervert a bad thing?” I’m also thinking, “Shit, can that actually happen?” or “Do guys even feel that? How long does the average male orgasm last, anyway?”

I think every female writer of M/M has at least one go-to guy. After all, the hands-on research we can conduct is limited (other than, you know, actual sex). Oh, sure, I watch porn1, but having seen straight porn before, I feel confident in saying gay porn is not an accurate depiction of what goes on in the bedroom (or wherever) between two men.

So, when I write a sex scene, I send it immediately to one of my go-to guys. When I wrote Frat Boy & Toppy, my go-to guy had a major influence on the sex scenes, and ultimately on all future sex scenes I would/will write.

I emailed back and forth with my go-to guy (can we just call him a GTG?) regularly, and he had a new boyfriend he was really, really into (like, the “L” word was discussed). Naturally—using my handy-dandy “I’m an author and this is research” excuse—I pumped him for lots of information about the relationship. As I got to know my GTG better I realized he was exactly the type of character I would write. I didn’t model Brad (Frat Boy) after him, but I let his preferences and opinions inform Brad’s character. This might be why there’s more of Brad’s POV in the book than Sebastian’s (Toppy’s).

At one point we were discussing Nik from Whitetail Rock. I had some worries Nik might be seen as a CWD (chick with a dick) by some. This is what my GTG had to say:

That smart, strong, tall man who oozes confidence and authority may well prefer his partner dominate him in bed to give him a break from his public life as the eternal champion. His partner could be just like him out of bed and prefer to keep it that way in bed because he wants to take care of his man like he takes care of everyone. And both of them might appreciate that struggle to win before one gives in like they both knew he would. Somebody’s got to be on top and, usually, that doesn’t require a conversation beyond “what do you want?” to figure it out the first time.

I’d heard this before, but it was the fact that my GTG said it that made it sink in. I write relationships with dedicated tops and bottoms. I try to change it up, but it keeps turning out that way. I’m insecure about this, because I know it doesn’t always happen that way in real life. But I felt a little bit better about it after that. I had the stamp of approval of someone I trusted and liked.

(Just for your edification, my GTG had this to say about Whitetail Rock: “Handcuffed over a desk in a university office? Brilliant. Thank you.”)

It was in the actual beta-reading that my go-to-guy made the biggest impact on my insecurity about the dom guy/subby guy thing. I sent him an early version of Frat Boy & Toppy in which, near the end, Brad tops Sebastian. I wrote it because I thought I should, and it was about as short as a sex scene can get without being a fade-to-black. This was my GTG’s comment:

As detailed as you’ve had Brad be during each encounter, this one feels like an outline despite being another first. I would’ve thought Brad would have a lot to think/say about doing this. The brevity here makes me think he might not actually like it–which is entirely possible as I don’t–but he says it’s good.

Frat Boy & Toppy by Anne TeninoWhen I read that it was a light bulb moment for me. Brad wasn’t into it, I wasn’t into it, Sebastian wasn’t into it and guess what? Neither was my main beta-reader. I forgot something when I wrote that scene: good sex is always emotional. Sometimes the emotions aren’t your favorite, but they’re always there. In writing erotic romance it’s my number one rule.

I need to feel the emotion or I can’t write an erotic scene. It won’t connect with my readers because I’m not connecting to it. A good sex scene is satiating–not necessarily physically, but mentally. A sex scene in a book needs to result in mental satisfaction so the reader feels emotionally invested in the characters or the storyline.

There are people out there who won’t ever get that sense of connectedness to what I write, and I’m okay with that. I still wonder how people are going to perceive what I come up with when writing sex, but because of my GTG I changed that scene–and many other details–that kept Brad from being the way I really saw him. I’m grateful for that, and I’m glad I had my friend’s help. Since then, I’ve been consciously writing what feels right, and living with the people reading over my shoulder.

Thank you, GTG! You know who you are.


To purchase Frat Boy & Toppy, visit Riptide Publishing.


1. Note that when women writers of M/M use the word “research”–especially in quotes or italicized–they’re usually referring to watching porn.


Anne TeninoRaised on a steady media diet of Monty Python, classical music and the visual arts, Anne Tenino rocked the mental health world when she was the first patient diagnosed with Compulsive Romantic Disorder. Since that day, Anne has taken on conquering the M/M world through therapeutic writing. Finding out who those guys having sex in her head are and what to do with them has been extremely liberating.

Wondering what Anne does when not writing? Mostly she lies on the couch, eats bonbons and shirks housework.

Check out what Anne’s up to now by visiting her site. http://annetenino.com

25 thoughts on “What My Go-To Guy Taught Me About Writing Sex by Anne Tenino

  1. Is being a pervert a bad thing?

    No. :D .Great blog tour, Anne. And I want to steal your GTG.

    By the way, talking about “top & bottom” reminds me of a conversation I read a while ago, I forgot where, about most straight guys who’re asking about gay sex in open minded ways actually curious about being penetrated. I think to a lot of guys, sex is very visceral thing & they’re usually more adventurous too. I get the feeling to a lot of guys what matters is what make them feel good. My gay friend admitted to me he used to be a top but nowadays he preferred to bottom. So, sometimes the “top & bottom” thing isn’t just about power exchange, but just 2 (or more) horny guys getting it on. Do I make sense? I hope I do. LOL!

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    • Hey, I read that one, too—about most straight guys being interested in being penetrated. I wonder where we read that…It makes sense to me, it’s this thing they basically don’t get to experience unless they ask for it, you know?

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  2. I didn’t post this last night because I was too tired (what idiot ends a contest at midnight?), but the winneris….

    Kassandra!! *cheers and confetti* Congratz, Kassandra! I’ll be emailing you.

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  3. You’re definitely right it won’t make since if the characters aren’t emotionally involved in the sex scenes. I don’t want to feel like the characters have to “prove” anything. Thanks for the great post.

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  4. I had noticed the trend toward having guys switch to ‘prove’ something, and while it works in some cases/characters really well, it doesn’t work in all, so I’m not sure I approve of the trend. Great points there. =)

    Thanks Anne!

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    • It’s an interesting thing, isn’t it? We did a survey in November on Chicks & Dicks, and one of the questions was “Top, bottom or switch?” The answers were pretty evenly split between dedicated tops/bottoms and switches.

      I figure I’m just writing the dedicated guys. Someone else can write the versatile ones, for now, at least. :-)

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  5. What great advice you were given by your GTG, Anne, and it shows in the books you write. I particularly like the point that if *you’re* not into the scene as a writer, it almost always means the reader will have trouble accessing it as well.

    Congratulations, Helen!

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    • Thank you, mc!

      I want to take the opportunity to tell everyone here that mc was instrumental in helping me put this tour together, and I don’t think I would have made it without her. If she wasn’t always urging me to have another drink to deal with the stress…I just don’t know…

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  6. Great article Anne! (i have Frat Boy on my Nook, and dying to read it!)

    I think when one character is the usual top and one the usual bottom, the idea of “switching” (at least once in the story) has become popular as a way for the top to “prove” how much he loves his partner or “show” that he is fully committed/wants to “give” himself to his lover. And a lot of times that can be a wonderfully emotional, romantic moment, and I’m sure that does happen in real life with a lot of couples. But it’s good that we remind ourselves that a scene like that doesn’t always have to happen, especially if it doesn’t fit the characters.

    Hmmm… now I’m imagining a wonderfully humorous scene where a couple tries to switch it up and it is horribly awkward and uncomfortable, and they realize they never want to try that again, LOL :)

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    • LOL, Cheri! Write that scene! I know we’ve had some really funny moments during sex that would embarrass the heck out of me if anyone other than him knew about them. Him knowing, though, makes it special. ;)

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      • I’m filing that scene away, maybe it will show up in something some day. :) And you can be my GTG for it, how’s that? ;)

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    • I was TOTALLY going to steal that from you, but I guess I can’t now *pouts*.

      But seriously, I think it’s an area that has so much potential. There’s not much new under the sun for sex scenes, is there? But embarrassing moments is an unexplored wilderness. We need to be pioneer chicks…

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      • Aw, LOL. We can totally share the idea Anne. :) Like you said, it’s an unexplored wilderness and I’m sure there’s a 1001 different ways the sex can get awkward and embarrassing. :)

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        • I should totally not be telling this, but in my next Task Force Iota book (after Turning Trick, which comes out in May), there’s an “embarrassing moment”. I wrote the scene a year ago, and I’ve been planning on keeping it not matter what. It’s different than what you described—and yeah, there are 1,001 different possibilities for them. LOVE that idea.

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  7. Wow, I envy you having a GTG. I don’t, so any errors in my sex scenes are all my own fault. I love the way you describe your realization about what Brad wants. Sometimes it does seem to be the hard-to-write scene that gives you a handle on a character.

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    • Isn’t that the truth? I love getting through that insightful, problematic scene and knowing it’s all worked itself out somehow…

      Maybe you can advertise for a GTG?

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      • Ooh I like that – “Wanted – gay man willing to read explicit sex scenes written by a middle aged woman and comment on same. Complete lack of inhibitions helpful, experience a plus, sense of humor vital. Reply to Kaje.”

        It would be a public service, guys, really. In the interest of more realism and less purple prose??

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  8. For some reason, even though Thorny set it up so I could, I can’t edit this post, so I’m announcing the winner of the Frat Boy & Toppy Blog Tour Extravaganza Contest *confetti* in the comments.

    And, the winner is… Helen M!!!! *cheers & more confetti*

    I’ll be emailing you with details, Helen. Congratulations!

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  9. I am sure there are relationships out there that switch top and bottom as often as they change their condoms ;) And I have seen them written well. But I’m not sure I could ever see Brad as a top or Sebastian as a bottom. Not necessarily due to their “types” or even their personalities (love it that Collin pops wood when he hears Brad actually bottoms!!) The reason it would be hard for me to believe is due to just how much they enjoy the roles they have with each other. Brad craves Sebastian’s dominate nature. It’s one of the many aspects of their bed play that rings true and shows their personalities in my opinion. *shrug*

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    • I’ve always believed that the sexual relationship is the essence of the couple’s larger relationship. Not necessarily the most important part, but something of an indicator of the nature of it. I don’t think I said that very well, but hopefully it’s quasi-understandable.

      At any rate, no, I can’t see Brad ever topping Sebastian. It’s just…weird.

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