Sex Scenes in Novels and Film

by | Jul 18, 2016 | Karna Small Bodman, The Writer's Life | 5 comments

By Karna Bodman … We’ve come to expect some pretty graphic love scenes in movies (and even on some adult TV shows),  and though some of my “Rogue” colleagues have mentioned him before in these posts, what better place to start a summary than with Ian Fleming’s character James Bond and his ever-present “Bond girl” where the film always ends with a terrific moment “cementing” their relationship. One of the most talked about scenes involved the first Polish born Bond companion, Isabella Scarupco in Golden Eye. 

Isabella Scarupco

Over the years, each new exciting Bond exploit featured a new exciting love interest (How the man could keep “loving and leaving” so many gorgeous women remains a mystery, but of course, a key characteristic of this particular hero.)

A movie to look for in November of 2017 will be the adaptation of Jason Matthews’ thriller, Red Sparrow about a lovely young Russian woman forced to work in the post-Soviet Intelligence Service as a trained seductress. The novel includes many graphic descriptions of her “training” and subsequent use of these “talents” when prying information out of many dangerous and nefarious contacts.  Jennifer Lawrence has been cast in this demanding role and I’m sure the reviewers will go nuts rushing to watch the film as soon as it becomes available.

Jennifer Lawrence

Okay, so those were male authors perhaps inspired by a combination of personal experience and wishful thinking.  After all, Ian Fleming was a rather dapper  Naval Intelligence Officer. During WWII he was involved in planning something called “Operation Goldeneye.” 

Jason Matthews

Ian Fleming

As for Jason Matthews, he too worked in service to his country — for him it meant over thirty years in our CIA.  Talk about first hand experience for both of these authors.  When I met Jason at Thrillerfest when this, his first novel came out, I did not consider asking him if he had any “personal experience” with one of these “Red Sparrows” though.

What about women thriller writers? Do we include graphic scenes in our novels? I attended a panel discussion of a number of them at our recent conference and here are a few of their comments:

Meg Gardiner, the bestselling author of twelve thrillers: “I do include sex scenes, but the door closes before you read the details.”

Heather Graham, bestselling author of over 200 books in many genres: “Some of the best sex scenes are described just in conversation.”

Allison Brennan, New York Times  and USA Today bestselling author of over two dozen thrillers: “Women focus more on emotion at the time — the interior struggle. Men focus more on the action of it — the exterior struggle.”

What about you? When you pick up a thriller, do you want to read a “detailed description” of the hero and heroine’s bedroom (or wherever) scenes? Or would you rather not interrupt the action and simply close the door and move on? Please share your thoughts with a comment and check out the scenes I have written (yes I did write them) in the novels on

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  1. Francine Mathews

    I usually plump for emotional engagement in my books. Never bothers me to encounter it as a reader, either. And emotional engagement usually leads to physical grappling. I don't think either is out of place in thrillers.

  2. S. Lee Manning

    I like both emotional engagement and physical action in the books I read – and write. For me, one without the other is a little boring.

  3. Gayle Lynds

    Great choices, Karna. A wonderful trip down memory lane.

  4. Jamie Freveletti

    I like a bit of detail but not what you'd find in a romance. Thriller writers could learn a lot from authors in that genre!

  5. Chris Goff

    I tend to fade to black. Maybe we all need to go to RWA and sit in on some classes!