Whether the story is fantastical or down to earth, all literature strives to cover a wide array of human emotion and experience. One of those experiences is sex, and it can be written poorly or greatly. Fifty Shades of Grey and A Song of Ice and Fire (a.k.a. Game of Thrones) do it famously, but there are other works, smaller works that are no less greater, that should be given the spotlight. Now since we aim to shine a light on all the ways literature captures the human experience, we’re going to show you six of the steamiest, sexiest sex scenes of all time.
This isn’t smut, this is art.
6-Something Red by Jennifer Gilmore
Jennifer Gilmore’s second novel follows the Goldstein family as they live in Washington, D.C. in 1979. We have Benjamin, who’s heading off to college, and Vanessa, a sixteen-year-old living through a rocky adolescence, Sharon, a caterer for the Washington elite, and Dennis, whose government job often takes him to Moscow.
With the Cold War waning, a new era is upon them, and the Goldsteins will be forced to confront the changes the new decade will bring.
Thus, we present to you what the Salon Good Sex Award named the sixth place winner.
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They took a room in the Marriott Hotel, along East-West Highway in Silver Spring, just a few miles from where she had lived for the past thirteen years. The room was twelve floors above the conference where they had each pledged to have no relations with other LEAP!ers for thirty days in order to let the high of the tenets dissipate a bit. One needs a more solid head, the leader had said. To decide such things.
Elias opened her blouse slowly, twisting each button with his thumb and third finger, then running his finger along her breastbone. When her shirt finally fell open, he studied her, then caressed her breasts. Was he putting her on? He licked her nipples, then moved his lips slowly down her stomach, and Sharon couldn’t have cared less if he was. Elias removed her underwear, and kissing her just above her pubic bone, he slipped two fingers inside her. Sharon moved into his hands until he stopped suddenly, removing his fingers as if he’d thought better of the whole thing. While Sharon propped herself up on her elbows to see what had happened, Elias got up and opened his wallet. Was he moving to pay her? Before? Or worse—and now she thought of Midnight Cowboy, she’d been so scandalized by that film—was he expecting her to pay him? She wondered how much a man like Elias would cost.
Instead, he removed a joint from the wallet, took a lighter from his front pocket, lit it up, leaned over the bed, and passed it to Sharon, who took a deep drag. She passed it back to Elias, who, still standing, took another hit. Sharon unzipped his jeans. He wasn’t wearing underwear, and Sharon could see instantly that he had a longer, thinner penis and was far hairier than Dennis, who always felt and looked unbelievably clean. Elias smelled dusky and deep, and as she leaned in, she was surprised to discover that he was uncircumcised.
After Elias had entered her and after she wrapped herself around him as he’d made love to her, allowed herself in that single moment to be carried, Sharon stood, zipped up her slacks, slipped on her blouse, and said to Elias that since he didn’t have a house to go to, he could have the room, she was going home. But then he reached his hand out and grabbed her by a belt loop.
“Stay with me.” His mouth was at her ear. He kissed her nape. “Don’t leave,” he’d said, unzipping her pants for the second time.
Credit: Copyright © 2010 by Jennifer Gilmore from “Something Red.”
5-The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
First published in 1993, The Virgin Suicides gives us the quiet suburb of Detroit where the five Lisbon sisters commit suicide one by one over the course of a single year.
As the neighborhood boys observe them from afar, they soon start to piece together the mystery of the family’s fatal melancholy.
This modern classic is a coming-of-age story so, you know, they do things…
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He put his hands on her shoulders, and her bare skin was cool to the touch. As their faces drew closer he was uncertain enough to think she might spring away, or hit him, movie-style, across the cheek with her open hand. Her mouth tasted of lipstick and salt. They drew away for a second, he put his arms around her and they kissed again with greater confidence. Daringly, they touched the tips of their tongues, and it was then she made the falling, sighing sound which, he realized later, marked a transformation. Until that moment, there was still something ludicrous about having a familiar face so close to one’s own. They felt watched by their bemused childhood selves. But the contact of tongues, alive and slippery muscle, moist flesh on flesh, and the strange sound it drew from her, changed that. This sound seemed to enter him, pierce him down his length so that his whole body opened up and he was able to step out of himself and kiss her freely. What had been self-conscious was now impersonal, almost abstract. The sighing noise she made was greedy and made him greedy too. He pulled her hard into the corner, between the books. As they kissed she was pulling at his clothes, plucking ineffectually at his shirt, his waistband. Their hands rolled and turned against one another as they kissing became a gnawing. She bit him on the cheeks, not quite playfully. He pulled away, then moved back and she bit him hard on his lower lip. He kissed her throat, forcing back her head against the shelves, she pulled his hair and pushed his face down against her breasts. There was some inexpert fumbling until he found her nipple, tiny and hard, and put his mouth around it. her spine went rigid, then juddered along its length. For a moment he thought she has passed out. Her arms were looped around his head and when she tightened her grip he rose through it, desperate to breathe, up to his full height and enfolded her, crushing her head against his chest. She bit him again and pulled at his shirt. When they heard a button ping against the floorboards, they had to suppress their grins and look away. Comedy would have destroyed them. She trapped his nipple between her teeth. The sensation was unbearable. He tiled her face up, and trapping her against his ribs, kissed her eyes and parted her lips with his tongue. Her helplessness drew from her again the sound like a sigh of disappointment.
At last they were strangers, their pasts were forgotten. They were also strangers to themselves who had forgotten who or where they were. The library door was thick and none of the ordinary sounds that might have reminded them, might have held them back, could reach them. They were beyond the present, outside time, with no memories and no future. They was nothing but obliterating sensation, thrilling and swelling, and the sound of fabric on fabric and skin on fabric as their limbs slid across each other in this restless, sensuous wrestling. His experience was limited and he knew only at second hand that they need not lie down. As for her, beyond all the films she had seen, and all the novels and lyrical poems she had read, she had no experience at all. Despite these limitations, it did not surprise them how clearly they knew their own needs. They were kissing again, her arms were clasped behind his head. She was licking his ear, then biting his ear lobe. Cumulatively, these bites aroused him and enraged him, goaded him. Under her dress he felt for her buttocks and squeezed hard, and half turned her to give her a retaliatory slap, but there wasn’t quite the space. Keeping her eyes fixed on his, she reached down to remove her shoes. There was more fumbling now, with buttons and positions of legs and arms. She had no experience at all. Without speaking, he guided her foot onto the lowest shelf. They were clumsy, and too selfless now to be embarrassed. When he lifted the clinging, silky dress again he though her look of uncertainty mirrored his own. But there was only one inevitable end, and there was nothing they could do but go towards it.
Supported against the corner by his weight, she once again clasped her hands behind his neck, and rested her elbows on his shoulder and continued to kiss his face. The moment itself was easy. They held their breath breath the membrane parted, and when it did she turned away quickly, but made no sound—it seemed to be a point of pride. They moved closer, deeper and then, for seconds on end, everything stopped. Instead of an ecstatic frenzy, there was stillness. They were stilled not by the astonishing fact of arrival, but by an awed sense of returns—they were face to face in the gloom, staring into what little they could see of each other’s eyes, and now it was the impersonal that dropped.
Credit: Copyright © 1993 by Jeffrey Eugenides from “The Virgin Suicides”
4-Jillian Weise’s The Colony
In Jillian Weise’s debut novel, we follow Anne Hatley, who has a rare gene that affects her bone growth. As a result of this abnormality, she’s missing a leg and walks around with a prosthesis. She then accepts an invitation to the nation’s largest research colony, where DNA pioneer James D. Watson hopes to “cure” Anne of her abnormality. As the first patient to generate a new limb, Anne undergoes trial and tribulations, including a reluctant romance with a fellow colonist…
Thus, we present to you what the Salon Good Sex Awards named the fifth best sex scene of 2011.
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Nick expected me to fling open the door and receive him. And if I had? If Grayson hadn’t come? Nick wasn’t the type to sweep the floor. I thought: Why are you sweeping the floor when I’m despicable? It’s exactly like you’ve suspected. You have a reason to be self-righteous, entitled, disgusted with the world. The world is disgusting. What are you going to do? He searched through his duffel bag. Moved shirts around. Unpacked and packed. He wasn’t going to do anything. I was disgusted with him, and I knew it was fucked up to be disgusted with him, since it was me who’d been caught, and I knew too that I should’ve told him. I didn’t move an inch. I stood still. Grayson played music. It was soft, dark, piano. I decided the best move, the only move I had available to me, the only one I could think of, was letting the sheet drop and climbing onto the kitchen table.”I’m heading out tomorrow.” “Why?”
“I want to see museums in the city. I can write it off. I want to see the MoMA.”
We went to bed. I went first. I picked the sheet from the floor and tucked it into the bottom corners. Grayson puttered in the kitchen. I pulled a slip from under the bed and put it on. The piano slowed and the room was quiet. I spread the comforter over the sheet and arranged the pillows. I crawled into the bed.
“You forgot to plug in.” Hw took the cord from the floor and connected it from leg to outlet. “What would you do without me to remind you?”
He climbed into bed. He waited until I was almost asleep. I was in that place, with my eyes rolled back, that liminal state, and wherever I was headed, the night had not happened. I was lying on my side, facing the wall, when I felt him on my back. I reached behind and felt for it. I had to find it through boxers and that wasn’t right; Nick didn’t wear boxers. Oh God, it wasn’t Nick. I snatched my hand back. I opened my eyes and saw my hand beside the pillow, saw my ring finger, saw a million nights of Grayson asking permission. Why was he asking? Did I always have to invite him? What did it matter if I had two legs if I had to spend the rest of my life inviting him? I remembered the evening. I saw the evening before me, we had been asleep, Nick had woken us, Nick had stayed, and it was obvious. What else happened? Was Grayson mad? Nothing else. He played music. He was leaving in the morning.
I wondered how he’d do it, if there would be him coming, as he usually did, on my stomach. He was breathing unsteadily. I wanted him to take control. He might do it. He might can. He rolled onto his back. He wasn’t going to do anything. He wasn’t going to, after all, do anything. I thought, of course, how exactly like you you are, you don’t do anything, who did I think you were? You’re not the one who does things. I have to do things, suggest them, plead for them, all the words, all the positions, all the recommendations, I do them. You can’t possibly take control. Is that it? You rolling on your back. Are we finished? You coward. “Honey,” I said. I wasn’t sure if he had fallen asleep.
I heard the sheets rustle. He was taking off his boxers. He put his hands on my shoulders. He dug his fingers into my shoulders and turned me on my back. I thought, Of course, yes, where have you been? I’ve been trying to tell you, it’s good, we’re good, we’ll be fine, this is what I meant. I had no inclination to stop him or start him or help him or pretend. I said nothing. He hooked his thumb under the strap of my slip and pulled until it came unstitched. It made a noise. Then the other strap. He grabbed the slip at the neck and pulled it down. “Where have you been,” I said. He put his hand over my mouth. He pressed his hand over my mouth while he did it. I felt the pillow under my head. I thought, you can you can. He took his hand off my mouth. His hands were on either side of me. Palms flat on the bed. I said nothing. I made none of my usual flourishes. It was the most there I had ever been for him. His right hand moved. Where was it going? There wasn’t anything there to go to. I got up, propped my elbows on the pillow, to watch him. I saw his hand reach for it. Oh not that, I thought, not that, that’s not even there, don’t do that, it’s not even there, it’s not meant for anything, who is that, you can’t, please, not that. “You’re always into it,” he said in between. “You’re always — always — into it — why aren’t you — aren’t you — why aren’t you now?”
Credit: Copyright © 2010 by Jillian Weise from “The Colony.”
3-Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
This 1975 novel opens in 1906 New Rochelle, New York where on one lazy Sunday afternoon, the famous escape artist Harry Houdini swerves his car into a telephone pole outside a suburban home. From there, the line between fantasy and historical fact, between real and imaginary characters, disappears as historical figures from Henry Ford to Sigmund Freud and Emiliano Zapata slip in and out of the tale.
The book changed the concept of what a modern novel could be, adding in real and fiction at will, taking on a life on its own as the characters go through their own lives.
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She now stood nude in the lamplight except for her black embroidered cotton stockings which were held up by elastic bands around the thighs. Goldman rolled the stockings down and Evelyn stepped out of her stockings. She held her arms across her breasts. Goldman stood and turned her around slowly for inspection, a frown on her face.
Look at that, it’s amazing you have any circulation at all. Marks on the stays ran vertically like welts around Nesbit’s waist. The evidence of garters could be seen in the red lines running around the tops of her thighs. Women kill themselves, Goldman said. She turned back the bedcovers. She took from the top of the bureau a small black bag of the kind that doctors carried. A superb body like this and look at what you do to it.
Lie down. Evelyn sat down on the bed and looked at what was coming out of the black bag. On your stomach, Goldman said. She was holding a bottle and tilting the contents of the bottle into her cupped hand. Evelyn lay down on her stomach and Goldman applied the liquid where the marks of the stays reddened the flesh. Ow, Evelyn cried. It stings!
This is an astringent – the first thing is to restore circulation, Goldman explained as she rubbed Evelyn’s back and buttocks and thighs. Evelyn was squirming and her flesh cringing with each application. She buried her face in the pillow to smother her cries. I know, I know, Goldman said. But you will thank me. Under Goldman’s vigorous rubbing Evelyn’s flesh seemed to spring into its fullest conformations. She was shivering now and her buttocks were clenched against the invigorating chill of the astringent. Her legs squeezed together. Goldman now took from her bag a bottle of massage oil and began to knead Evelyn’s neck and shoulders and back, her thighs and calves and the soles of her feet.
Gradually Evelyn relaxed and her flesh shook and quivered under the emphatic skill of Goldman’s hands. Goldman rubbed the oil into her skin until her body found its own natural rosy white being and began to stir with self-perception. Turn over, Goldman commanded. Evelyn’s hair was now undone and lay on the pillow about her face. Her eyes were closed and her lips stretched in an involuntary smile as Goldman massaged her breasts, her stomach, her legs. Yes, even this, Emma Goldman said, briskly passing her hand over the mons. You must have the courage to live. The bedside lamp seemed to dim for a moment.
Evelyn put her own hands on her breasts and her palms rotated the nipples. Her hands swam down along her flanks. She rubbed her hips. Her feet pointed like dancer’s and her toes curled. Her pelvis rose from the bed as if seeking something in the air. Goldman was now at the bureau, capping her bottled emollient, her back to Evelyn as the younger woman began to ripple on the bed like a wave on the sea. At this moment a hoarse unearthly cry issued from the walls, the closet door flew open and Mother’s Younger Brother fell into the room, his face twisted in a paroxysm of saintly mortification. He was clutching in his hands, as if trying to choke it, a rampant penis which, scornful of his intentions, whipped him about the floor, launching to his cries of ecstasy or despair, great filamented spurts of jism that traced the air like bullets and then settled slowly over Evelyn in her bed like falling ticker tape.
Credit: Copyright © 1975 by E.L. Doctorow from “Ragtime”
2-A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter
This 2006 book is one for the ages. Part fever dream, part drama, and all around romance, this story is set in provincial France in the 1960s, James Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime is the intensely carnal story―part shocking reality, part feverish dream ―of a love affair between a footloose Yale dropout and a young French girl.
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She begins to strip like a roommate and climb into bed.
They have fallen asleep. Dean wakes first, in the early afternoon. He unfastens her stockings and slowly rolls them off. Her skirt is next and then her underpants. She opens her eyes. The garter belt he leaves on, to confirm her nakedness. He rests his head there.
Her hand touches his chest and begins to fall in excruciating slow designs.
He lies still as a dog beneath it, still as an idiot.
The next morning she is recovered. His prick is hard. She takes it in her hand. They always sleep naked. Their flesh is innocent and warm. In the end she is arranged across the pillows, a ritual she accepts without a word.
It is half an hour before they fall apart, spent, and call for breakfast. She eats both her rolls and one of his.
“There was a lot,” she says.
She glistens with it. The inside of her thighs is wet.
“How long does it take to make again?” she asks.
Dean tries to think. He is remembering biology.
“Two or three days,” he guesses.
“Non, non!” she cries. That is not what she meant.
She begins to make him hard again. In a few minutes he rolls her over and puts it in as if the intermission were ended. This time she is wild. The great bed begins creaking. Her breath becomes short. Dean has to brace his hands on the wall. He hooks his knees outside her legs and drives himself deeper.
“Oh,” she breathes, “that’s the best.”
When he comes, it downs them both. They crumble like sand. He returns from the bathroom and picks up the covers from the floor. She has not moved. She lies just where she has fallen.
Credit: Copyright © 2006 by James Slater from “A Sport and a Pastime”
1-The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson
In 2013, Winterson gave us her seventh novel where an e-mail writer called Ali offers out a service: for a price she will compose anything you like if you’re prepared to enter the story as yourself and risk leaving it as someone else. Here, you can be anything you want, but Ali learns than she too will have to pay the price.
In this book anything can happen, and something does.
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“Take off your trousers and let me see you.”
So this was the moment. All would be revealed. I no longer cared. Come death, come life, there is a part to play and that is all.
Hesitatingly, I let down the blue and gold of my trousers. There was a silence. then the princess said . . .
“I have never seen a man before.”
(You’re not seeing one now.)
“The stories I have heard . . . the fleshiness, the swelling . . . but you are like a flower.”
(This was true.)
She touched my bulbs.
“They are like sweet chestnuts.”
(Tulips, my darling, tulips.)
She stroked the waxy coating I kept fresh to protect them. The tips of her fingers glistened.
“What do you call these?”
“This one is key of pleasure, and this one is lover’s dream.” I said this quite sincerely because it was so.
“And what do you call this?”
Her fingers had reached the centre now. I had to think fast.
“I call it my stem of spring.”
She laughed delightedly and kissed the red flower, its petals fastened tight into a head. Fortunately my mother had made it quite secure and the princess could play with it all she liked.
Then a strange thing began to happen. As the princess kissed and petted my tulip, my own sensations grew exquisite, but as yet no stronger than my astonishment, as I felt my disguise come to life. the tulip began to stand.
I looked down. There it was, making a bridge from my body to hers.
I was still wearing my tunic and the princess could not see the leather belt that carried everything with it. All she could see, all she could feel, was the eagerness of my bulbs and stem.
I kneeled down, the tulip waving at me as it had done on the hillside that afternoon I cut it down.
Very gently the princess lowered herself across my knees and I felt the firm red head and pale shaft plant itself in her body. a delicate green-tinted sap dribbled down her brown thighs.
All afternoon I fucked her.
Credit: Copyright © 2013 by Jeanette Winterson from “The Powerbook”
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