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Author says women write better sex scenes than men

Sheryl Nadler
Shine On
June 13, 2012

Do women write about sex better than their male counterparts? At least one well-known male author purports they do. And he has an interesting theory to support his claims.

Martin Amis, the British author who was, at one time, considered to be a "hip young gun­slinger of British fiction," according to the Telegraph, tells an audience gathered at the Hay Festival that women write sex scenes with more sincerity than men.

"As a novelist, you are in God-like relation to what you write," he says. "You are omnipotent and the question of potency is embarrassing for men. It is the great hidden weakness in men, that potency can fail. Yet potency is not something that troubles women. They have a lot else to worry about, but not that.

"When a man is writing a sex scene he is feeling omnipotent and he's forgotten about all those fiascos and no-shows. But women don't, and they write better about it."

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Susan Swinwood, senior editor of Harlequin MIRA, thinks there may be other factors at play. While she acknowledges she doesn't know what it's like to be inside a man's head or experience male performance anxiety, she says that if women do write better sex scenes than men — and she's seen great and horrendous copy from both sides of the gender pool — it's because women are often better able to communicate the emotion of sex.

"I think women know what they want," she says. "And because our desire for romance is there, too, we know how to inject the emotion and the romance of the moment. Even if it's a scene of sex between strangers, if it's just a hookup, there's still something there for the woman that has to be present beyond just the physical act. "

Which raises the question: How important is the issue of potency to male writers of sex scenes?

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Garry Leonard, a professor of English literature at the University of Toronto says in western culture, "a sex act hasn't fully taken place wherever a climax does not occur."

"This may speak to the quality of the sex scenes as men write to the climax, and women do not construct the narrative solely around that," he says.

He cites the raging popularity of 50 Shades of Grey as an example of this style of writing.

"It's basically three books that feature all the contractual tensions around sexual desire — you can write forever about the sex act as long as you don't climax," he says.

To test their readers' mettle, the Guardian offers a fun, little sex scene quiz. Can you tell which scenes were written by a man and which were written by a woman?

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