Deadly Sex

Yesterday, Sisters in Crime (Brisbane Chapter) met to discuss a topic dear to our hearts and loins: sex in crime fiction.

I’m sure State Library patrons were wondering what the hell was going on behind the QWC acoustic curtain! As the Sisters shared sexcerpts from our works-in-progress, there were moments of graphic or inventive terminology (acroposthion, anyone?), as well as plenty of laughter, from shy giggles to howls of hilarity.

Some SinC writers prefer their fictional sex explicit, while others enjoy the tension more than the consummation. Some like it romantic, others deviant, or both! Most like it female-driven. We all agreed it was important that sex scenes worked as hard as any other scene to develop conflict (i.e. plot) and character – in most crime fiction,  a sex scene that existed purely to titillate would fall flat (apart from in some crime/erotica*).

We discussed the challenges in writing about sex:

  • finding fresh and non-objectifying ways to evoke sex scenes,
  • meeting readers’ generic expectations about the level of detail,
  • knowing when to resolve/consummate the build-up of URST** (especially tricky for writers of series titles – who else lost interest when Stephanie Plum finally got it on with Ranger?).

Of course, the Bad Sex in Fiction Awards got a mention: everyone agreed the 2010 winner was well-chosen for this line: ‘Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.’


We also reflected on how difficult it was for us to share our sexcerpts. The women around the table were all mature, confident and experienced. And SinC is a supportive environment of skilled and encouraging critique buddies. Yet most of us felt a level of embarrassment when reading our sex scenes.

The meeting was a wonderful and empowering forum for better Deadly Sex.  I’d be really interested to know what crime writers you think write sex scenes well – please let me know in a comment, so I can check them out!


* which I hereby dub “Crimrot”. Not because it’s rotten – I’m all for it! But people who know me know I just have a thing for inventing portmanteau words.

**Unresolved Sexual Tension

Plum genre-bender

Crime fic is at the top of my reading lovelist, no doubt about it. But spec fic is a close second. Usually hard sci fi, but fantasy sometimes does it for me, too.

So I’m very interested to see Evanovich’s brave experiment in crossing the streams. I’m halfway through Plum Spooky: I’m loving her intentions, and the execution ain’t half bad! Fantasy has just that floaty softness that crime fic doesn’t usually deliver. A tasty read indeed–and this from a palate suffering Plum-fatigue!

Of course, there’s the whole hard sci fi tradition of genre-bending with the time cop, space cop, continuum cop, et al. And TV audiences are familiar with the joys of the psychic detective. But these stories tend to take themselves So Very Seriously! Evanovich’s dash of riot grrrl – lipstick feminist slapstick – makes for a new breed. She puts the lovechild of Kinsey Milhone and Bridget Jones into the Forbidden Forest, with pleasing results.

The dash of genre-bending also helps overcome the dramatic gridlock of the Plum series. Now that Stephanie’s slept with both Ranger and Morelli , do we really care if she ends up with either of them? I’m afraid the cork has popped on that one for me. The pressure for bigger and better crimes has made for weaker plots, too. But “between the numbers” there is space to open up new love interests, and new spooky plotlines. Brilliant!

Can anyone offer other examples of feminist crime fic fantasy?