Far more than the actual physical act of sex, emotions give erotic scenes their poignancy. I’m not referring to your characters being turned on with simple upswelling of lust. Happiness, guilt, sorrow, and fear can infuse your sex scenes with extra vitality.
Yes, I know I mentioned more seemingly negative emotions than positive ones in that last sentence. But your characters need to bring their baggage into everything, including the sex. It can turn a hot moment into so much more that serves the whole story.
Let’s look at guilt and fear. I use that emotion extensively in my novels, notably in the Clans of Kalquor series because Earth and Kalquor don’t get along. The human heroines experience these emotions in spades because they’re turning their backs on their home planet to be with the alien men they love. And in many cases because Earth is so sexually repressed, the women are going into their first sexual experiences with the Kalquorians as virgins, which lends its own terrors. Lindsey McInness in Alien Salvation has a lot of guilt and fear after offering herself to Bacoj’s clan in exchange for food, especially when she sees what Nobek Japohn is packing in his pants:
The first stab of fear since Bacoj’s bite hit Lindsey as she looked at the looming Nobek. Perhaps the intoxicant was wearing off, because the sheer size of the man was overwhelming.
“You’re extremely endowed, Japohn, much more than I expected when I made my offer. I’m not sure a girl my size can handle you.” She tried not to stare at his burgeoning sex but found it hard to take her eyes away. She looked him in the face with difficulty.
His face lit in a smile, shocking Lindsey with its sudden absence of ruthlessness. She hadn’t realized how truly savage he seemed until the predatory expression he wore was wiped away. It amazed her to recognize Japohn could actually be charming.
The bass rumble of his voice was just as alluring. “No fear, Matara. No hurt. Much pleasure.”
Lindsey was getting tired and starting to ache down below. But it wasn’t fair to have struck a trade, have sex with Japohn’s clanmates, and then deny him the same privilege. She had every intention of living up to her word if possible.
“You’re sure? It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that—”
Her voice died out as he approached her. Japohn’s mere presence was enough to steal her ability to speak. Lindsey felt every bit of strength flee.
He stroked her hair, his touch as gentle as a father soothing a child. “Bigger Kalquorian men with smaller Earther female than you. Make good sex, no pain.”
“There are even bigger men than you?” Lindsey was aghast.
Bacoj and Vax laughed at her expression, but their hilarity wasn’t mean. Bacoj nodded. “Japohn big, no biggest. Japohn careful to Lindsey.”
Well, she’d have to trust them on this, she supposed. She’d made an agreement. “Okay. If you’re sure.”
Japohn’s arms gathered around her, pulling her carefully off Vax. “I bite, if help?”
Lindsey thought about it. She was curious to learn if sex would be as good without the intoxicant, but with its influence waning, fear was making giving in to the Nobek hard. “That might be best.”
Bacoj helped Vax off the bed. “Bite part normal sex for Kalquorians. Make pleasure more.”
Japohn held her close, her back to his chest. His sexes curved up tight against her buttocks. Lindsey swallowed to feel the immense, throbbing flesh beneath her. “Yeah, I’ve had no complaints so far. It was pretty — ow, darn it, that smarts!”
The bite came suddenly, and again the pain began to fade before she could finish her complaint. There had to be some kind of anesthetic in the aliens’ saliva, she guessed. Good thing, because the brief flash of agony was more than enough to bear.
Her attitude about being bitten started to change within seconds. Euphoria settled its warm embrace around her, and Lindsey relaxed in Japohn’s arms. The hot flesh of his erections was more titillation than a dreaded prospect now. Oh yes, she definitely looked forward to having this man too. She squirmed against him to let him know he was most welcome to take what he wanted.
Other excellent opportunities for guilt in sex would involve the misgivings of cheating on a lover (even if that lover is dead or cheating too) or perhaps the character feeling as if they don’t deserve a fun sexual romp. Fear responses can include something as benign as a character being uncomfortable about their less than perfect body to the thought that the person they’re with is something of a threat. The feared lover was a major theme I covered in Unholy Union, in which the anti-hero is a demon.
Sorrowful sex is perhaps the most difficult to pull off while keeping the physical part feeling good. How can people in agony possibly engage in a sensual encounter that simultaneously delights and pulls at the reader’s heartstrings? It can be handled in two different ways. First, the characters can use sex to escape the despair they’re in, even if only for a few minutes. Many of us have used lovemaking in this fashion at some point in our lives. Like drinking, it offers momentary solace, but when it’s over, the problems are still there. Desperate sex is hot, and the underlying emotional storms can feed it to the boiling point.
The second way of handling sex in sad situations is to treat it as honestly as possible. Think of it in this way: After Romeo killed Tybolt, he and Juliette had one night of lovemaking before he had to run away. They knew seeing each other again would be far into the future. Shakespeare didn’t share the details of their one night together, but imagine the mingled ecstasy and mourning their tryst would have entailed. One moment euphoric with the delights of joined bodies; the next moment, devastation to know it would end with the dawn. How amazing that sex scene would have been!
This is the mindset I had when I wrote the following in Alien Salvation. I don’t want to give away the important plot point that ends with Vax and Lindsey making sorrowful love. Suffice to say something bad has happened before this scene:
The whisper of her name on the breeze turned her towards the base camp. A dark silhouette approached, and in the soft glow of the camp’s outdoor lights, she recognized the shape of the man. With a ragged cry she ran to Vax and threw herself in his arms.
He clutched her close, his mouth feeding at hers like a starving man. They fell to their knees in the sand, grasping and pulling at each other’s clothing, desperate to claim warmth.
The instant their sexes were naked, Vax sat her on his lap, his livid cocks claiming her inner recesses in one stabbing thrust. Lindsey grunted with the welcome force, the instant of pain unimportant in the relief of being melded with him. The moment she was fully impaled on him, they both went still.
Lindsey barked a harsh cry, and Vax answered her in kind. Forehead to forehead, the lovers cried unashamedly, tasting each others’ tears. Lindsey’s arms wrapped around Vax’s neck, and he clutched her to himself, his arms iron bands against her back. They broke down completely, emitting gulping sobs that left them shaking. For a long time there was nothing else to do but wallow unselfconsciously in their shared misery, their weeping carried over the sand on the shivering night breezes.
Even the greatest grief can be clung to for just so long before the emotions must rest, even if for only a moment. At long last their tears dissipated, leaving them hiccupping with deep, shuddering sighs. The glow of where their bodies combined beckoned, and they let it draw them into its sweet shelter. Vax rocked back and forth on his knees, making his sexes shift within Lindsey with the slightest of motions. She burrowed her face against the firmness of his chest, taking the temporary comfort of his strength. It seemed impossible she could be aroused when her heart hung so heavily in her chest, but the delicate rubbing of his groin against her clit, the infinitesimal shifts of him inside brought quivering tickles throughout her core. She grasped his hips with her legs, caging him as if she could contain him forever in the sweet prison of her desperate embrace.
The best sex means a hefty dose of emotion. Make sure your characters have a lot invested before climbing between the sheets.