More Good Bad Sex

This entry is part 10 of 15 in the series The Art and Craft of Writing Sex Scenes
[asa left]0312983824[/asa] I’m not sure if men will find this scene funny, but I’m pretty sure most women will. It’s one of those laugh-or-cry situations, and laughter is usually the better option.

This is the story of Tilda, a good woman, an artist from a family of artists and art dealers with a long history of questionable practices. A very long history. Tilda is a seething mass of worries, angers, guilts, and corresponding asthmatic symptoms. In spite of her many worries, her difficult relationship to her (now dead) father, her concern for her mother, she has managed to hang on to the things that make her likable and interesting. She doesn’t get close to people outside the family because she is loyal and honest, two things that don’t really go together well in her situation. Which means she is also lonely, though she doesn’t see it that way.

Enter Davy Dempsey, who is also from a family known for its less than amiable relationship with the law. He’s attracted to Tilda, she’s attracted to him, but her fear has definitely got the upper hand. When they embark on this first sexual encounter, she’s so worried about her asthma, a missing painting, and the possibility that they may lose the family business that there’s really no way for her to relax, and thus things are doomed from the start.

A few notes: the references to her inner Louise have to do with her attempt to model herself on her sister, who is able to have a fulfilling sex life because she compartmentalizes successfully. When she’s out on the town, she’s Louise. Tilda would like to have access to an inner Louise. Steve is her dog.

Faking It. Copyright Jennifer Crusie.

She began to move with him, trying to pick up his rhythm, which was hard because she kept slipping down the couch. Oh, hell, she thought, and moved her hand to brace herself on the back of the couch and caught him across the nose.
Don’t have a nosebleed, she thought, please don’t have a nosebleed, but he just said, “Ouch,” and kept going.

Single-minded, she thought. Okay, there is no Louise, Louise is like the Easter Bunny, so just breathe heavy and get this over with and never go near this man again.

She took deep breaths, not even trying to match his because they were never going to be in sync, and once she stopped trying and started breathing, things got better. He picked up speed, and Tilda tried to imagine the tightening of her muscles and did a damn good job with those moans as the minutes passed and her pulse picked up. Then he shifted against her and hit something good, and she sucked in her breath and thought, Wait a minute, this could–but even as she had the thought, he shuddered in her arms and that was it. Just hell, she thought, and finished off with an oh-my-god-that-was-good moan-sigh combo.

So much for channeling her inner Louise. He was semi-mindless on top of her now, so she held him, patting him on the back while he caught his breath and Pippy Shannon sang “I Pretend” on the jukebox. Our song, Tilda thought.

Steve dozed on the rug beside the couch, oblivious to both of them. He had the right idea. She should have taken a nap instead.

Then Davy pushed himself up on one arm and looked in her eyes, nose to nose. “So what was that?” he said, still breathing hard, looking mad. “A fake or a forgery?”

Jenny’s trademark witty banter is here, though it’s limited to interior monologue. Which is one sign that things aren’t going well — if you remember the scene from Welcome to Temptation, when things are good, her characters are quite chatty. In her panic and distress, Tilda is intellectual. She’s trying to figure out how to handle the situation; she’s worried about Davy’s reaction, about what she should be doing, about how to make everything okay. It doesn’t occur to say to him, hold up, bub, this about as exciting as a televised golf game. She’s the fixer in the family, and she’s trying to figure out how to do that here, as well; the only option that occurs to her is — well, faking it.

Most women and I assume, most men can think of times when things have gone Very Wrong much like this. The scene in Welcome to Temptation starts like this — the encounter isn’t working for Sophie, but Phin takes things in hand and turns them around. Here Davy seems not to notice that Tilda is mentally absent and physically unresponsive. She’s pretty sure she’s fooling him, at any rate, and thus it comes as a surprise to her when he makes it clear that he was indeed paying attention, and he doesn’t like what happened. The line “A fake or a forgery?” summarizes the theme of the whole novel, which is lovingly complex and carefully constructed and really worth reading.

It’s very hard to write bad sex well. Scott Spencer did it by subtle revelation of David Axelrod’s inner demons in his first person observations of less than erotic details. Jenny does it with humor and also with sympathy. Tilda is funny, but she’s also tragic in ways that take time to make themselves clear.

I’m coming to the end of my examination of sex scenes. I may drag out one or two more, and then wind things up. In a week’s time I’m off to Europe until the end of the month, but I’ll see what interesting bits might be hanging around between now and then.

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