In many stories, we have male heroes who go on their adventures and while they travel have several sexual encounters, loveless sex, and being generally free when it comes to sexuality.

I think it can be used well and serve the characterization, but the problem is I want to try doing so with a female hero. And as a male author, I fear I will just make it look rude, insulting, or “fanservicing”.

Have you any advice to help me depict this seriously and with the due respect?

– Chris

Hi Chris,

That’s a great question. I totally support your goal of having a female protagonist that has a series of casual sexual encounters. That will feel liberating for many women.

Even if these scenes have a male protagonist, they can still come across as what I call “gratuitous male wish fulfillment.” That’s not always bad, but the problem is that this kind of fanservice just for men permeates stories that are supposedly for everyone to enjoy. It feels extra bad when the protagonist is a woman, because stories about women should at least be welcoming to women readers.

So let me go over some of the things that tell readers who the sexual encounter is written for. You can apply that to your writing regardless of the gender of your protagonist.

Who’s hot, and who’s not?

Forgive me my retro web reference there. But one of the biggest indicators is how much attention is paid to showing how a character in an encounter is sexy or otherwise attractive. Straight men have a tendency to go into great detail about all the hot hot hot physical features of women in their stories. But the guy she has sex with? Barely described, and not particularly attractive as far as readers can tell. Maybe he’s way older than she is, or he is a socially awkward nerd. This makes it impossible for women readers to believe the female character would want to have sex with him at all, much less enjoy hearing about her encounter.

Attraction doesn’t necessarily have to focus on the sexiness of someone’s body, but it should feel like the woman has a strong reason to be into the person she’s with, one that women readers would actually find compelling. If her encounter is with a man, maybe he loves puppies and talking about his feelings. Maybe he’s dark, angsty, and mysterious. There’s plenty of material written by women for women out there that can give you examples of what women find attractive in a partner.

Are we watching them do sexy things or focusing on how they feel?

If the narration focuses on all a woman’s movements during a slow strip tease, it prioritizes her as an object of attraction over the experience she’s having during that moment. If the narration is for women, it’ll focus on what she is getting out of the experience, not what titillation she is providing to her partner. How does she feel while this is happening?

If this is a scene between women, it’s okay to describe how the love interest is attractive, but I would keep the description of how sexy her body is to a minimum and focus on the connection they are making and how they are making each other feel.

Who’s empowered?

Last, just remember that a protagonist should be proactively solving the problems of the story. If you have a male character who’s super badass and fixes everything and a female character that just trembles in a corner while he does, and then they get it on, it’ll feel like this is a story for men but not for women. To be clear, woman writers make this mistake too. A male character who is competent is more attractive, but if that goes too far, he can steal the spotlight from the main character.

Happy writing!

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