Bloggy Musings: Do You Talk About Sex Scenes in Your Book Reviews?

 
 

I know this is a discussion that not everyone will be able to participate in since not everyone reads books with sex scenes, but it seemed interesting, so I couldn’t help myself.

The way I review has evolved since I first started blogging, but so has what I’m comfortable talking about in my reviews. And when it comes to sex scenes in books, I’ve seen all different ways of handling that, depending on the reviewer. Some avoid mentioning them at all, some simply state that they were there in there book, some briefly talk about what they were like (e.g. hot, awkward, passionate) or how they impacted the story, and some give you all the nitty-gritty details.

So which am I? Which one are you? How much detail is too much? Let’s discuss!

 

 

Do I Talk About Sex Scenes in My Book Reviews?

Generally, my guideline, I guess you could call it, is that I don’t talk about the sex scenes unless there’s a reason to. I don’t even mention that there are sex scenes unless there’s a reason to. I suppose it could help other readers who are trying to avoid them or who are specifically looking for books that have them, but that’s just not how I write reviews. I don’t have a list of things that I make sure to include in each one. I only include whatever I deem necessary to include, whatever spoke to me, whatever stood out for any reason, whatever was so amazing or so bad or so weird that I feel it’s worth mentioning. And that include sex scenes.

Buuuuuut there was a point in time when I didn’t really talk about sex scenes at all. I only mentioned them if I felt like there were A LOT of them and wanted to make sure people knew what they were getting into. But the more I’ve reviewed, the more comfortable I’ve gotten, and while I still refrain from going super into detail and mostly refrain from mentioning my own personal tastes, I will talk more about or mention specific things if I think they could be helpful to other potential readers.

 

Reasons Why I Might Talk About Sex Scenes in a Review

– There are A LOT of them, and I want other readers to know what they’re getting into.

– Something about them bothered me. (e.g. The characters stopped to fool around while they were running for their lives, or I didn’t feel there was proper consent.)

– They were REALLY well-written. Generally sex scenes are just part of the plot to me, like any other scene. But in my reviews I talk about the things I loved most in the book, and if the sex scenes were one of the things I loved most, they get mentioned.

– They really added to the character development and relationship.

– They were really integral to the story.

– There was a particular kink involved that other readers might want to know about.

– There were vampires involved. (I sometimes mention when books have sexy biting since not all vampire books have that.)

– There was something about the scene(s) that made it unique or made it stand out or in some way.

But again, I don’t have exact rules for this. These are just some reasons why I might talk about sex in my reviews. Nothing about my reviews is set in stone.

 

Is It OK to Discuss Sex in Reviews, and How Much is Too Much?

If we’re reviewing adult books, I think it’s perfectly ok to discuss them in whatever way with however much detail we want (assuming we’re not breaking the ToS of whatever website we’re posting to or being disrespectful/offensive toward anyone). Even though I tend to avoid too much detail or bluntness, it’s sometimes entertaining to read the reviews of people who don’t. But it’s also ok if someone doesn’t want to mention it all—nothing is required in a review. So I don’t think there is such thing as too much, and everyone should talk about (or not talk about) sex scenes however they feel comfortable in their reviews. But now I want to know what you think!

 
 
 

Talk to me!

How much do you talk about sex scenes in book reviews?
What are some reason you might bring them up?
Do you think there's a limit on what's acceptable?

 

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  1. Jennilyn Visalez

    Hmmm, this post really got me thinking! I am really not that conscious about how I talk about sex in the books that I read. From my recent reviews, the times that I brought it up were when the sex scenes were (a) graphically described so it’s sort of a warning to readers who do not want too much erotic scenes on the pages (b) sex positive because I want to promote consensual sex in books.

  2. jennrenee

    I don’t think I have ever mentioned or even thought about mentioning sex scenes in my reviews. Its just never crossed my mind. I think I might have mentioned in YA book reviews that its for more a mature teen audience. I think the only time I would think about is if its a ya book and I think it might be too much for some in that age group. Maybe I would mention it if I thought there was too much. I don’t normally read books with lots of sexy time in the books. I do like it when it’s mentioned in reviews that there is an abundant amount or over done. Just as a precaution. but really I never thought about it. interesting discussion topic.

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s always a good thing to mention, if a YA book has sex or is on the mature side. And yep, I tend to mention if there’s A LOT of sex since that can be kind of annoying when I want an actual story! Thanks!

  3. Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy

    I’m like you, I think. I will certainly mention a sex scene if it stands out in some way, especially if it’s a YA book and I feel as if the book needs a warning. But I honestly don’t read “sex” books anymore so those incidents are usually not worth mentioning. But yeah, if I come across one that makes an impression on me, I’ll mention it for sure!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I don’t think I’ve read any YA with explicit sex, but I can definitely see that as a good thing to mention. I do read plenty of books with sex, so I feel like it’d be tedious to talk about it in every review lol. I think mentioning things that make an impression is a good rule of thumb!

  4. Lola

    I mostly handle this the same way as you do, I don’t mention sex scenes usually unless I feel there is a reason to. I do sometimes add a line that there is some heat or something like that. But it mostly depends on the review and if it comes to mind to mention it when I write my review, if it does I’ll add it and if it doens’t I don’t add it.

    I don’t go in too much details about the sex scenes in my review usually either. Most of the things on your list are reasons why I would mention sex scenes in my review as well. I remember a recent review of a book that I thought had a bit too much sex scenes and I wish I had known that beforehand, so I felt it relevant to mention that in my review. Sometimes I am more in the mood for a book with a lot of heat and other times I prefer little heat, so I do think things like that can be very relevant to mention. I also have had a few books that had some particular good sex scenes that i will mention. Or with Reverse harem books I sometimes mention if there are group scenes or not. Or indeed when they really are unique or add to character development I will mention that at times.

    I guess it’s like most topics when I write my review. Whatever comes to mind when I write my review or impacted my enjoyment of the book in either direction usually ends up in my review. But there is no clear rule or anything. I also remember a series where the sex scenes where a bit meh in my opinion, but there were only a few of them and it didn’t really impact my enjoyment of the book so it never made it in any of my 3 reviews for the books in the series.

    I agree that if it’s an adult book or has sex scenes it’s okay to mention them in a review. And while I usually don’t go in too much details, I don’t mind too much if others do as it can help sometimes in deciding whether a book is for me or not.

    Lola recently posted: Sunday Post #288

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, if it comes to mind, I mention it. If not, I usually don’t.

      I do the same. If there’s something I would’ve liked to know before reading or that I think others might like to know, I try to mention that. And like you try to mention if reverse harems have group scenes, that’s like how I try to mention sexy biting in vampire books. There are some types of books where there are certain expectations or specific things someone might be looking for or looking to avoid.

      Sometimes detail does help. You never know what someone might like or dislike!

  5. Elley @ Elley the Book Otter

    I pretty much only bring up sex scenes in books if there’s something outstanding to say – either they were super hot, really well written, kind of icky, etc. I try to include in reviews if a book is a “clean romance” with no descriptive sex scenes (more of a fade-to-black situation) or if it’s VERY steamy, so potential readers know what they’re getting into. I thought about adding some sort of rating system for the romances I review for the sex scenes steam level, but it’s just so subjective I quickly abandoned that idea.

    1. Kristen Burns

      So you do the same as me :-) I also sometimes mention if a book is clean since I don’t want people who dislike sex scenes to unnecessarily avoid it. I do have a section on my book review posts that gives more info about the books, including where there was sex, violence, and strong language, but since it’s not in my actual review, it doesn’t help people on GR or Amazon. And yeah, trying to figure out a steam level seems difficult!

  6. Aimee (Aimee, Always)

    I completely agree with how you do it, Kristen! I typically don’t mention them, since I don’t mind them personally, but if there’s something problematic about it, that’s probably when I HAVE to mention it in my review. I might add it as a content warning for other reviews, but generally, I don’t think they’re worth talking about if they don’t stand out.

  7. ShootingStarsMag

    I don’t mind if people talk about sex scenes. When it comes to details, it’s kind of the rule of spoilers for me – don’t say so much that it feels like you’re really giving things away. I don’t talk about sex a ton in my book reviews, but I will mention if it’s BDSM or some other sort of kink – in case that is a hard no for people and the summary doesn’t fill you in – or if I thought there were too many and it overtook the actual story. Sometimes I mention there aren’t a lot of sex scenes, for those that aren’t as big of a fan of them – I note that the book focuses more on something else (usually with mysteries).

    -Lauren

    ShootingStarsMag recently posted: A Concert Review: Lea Michele & Darren Criss

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s true, I definitely don’t want spoilers. But I feel like sex scenes or kinks involved aren’t often spoilers. Like you said, sometimes things are mentioned in the blurb, but there are certain things that might be looking for or might want to avoid, like BDSM. Oh, yes, I also sometimes will mention that a book *didn’t* have explicit sex or didn’t have much because I don’t want people who dislike sex scenes to avoid a book they might enjoy!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh gosh, I can’t stand ridiculously, horribly unrealistic sex scenes lol. That’s definitely fair to mention! And I also will mention if it’s just an overload of sex scenes that don’t really contribute to the story.

  8. Danielle

    I don’t usually read sexy books like that, but if there is a HOT sex scene that I feel comfortable sharing on my blog, (my blog “rating” is PG/PG-13), then I’ll share it. But I wont share specific details, like how the scene(s) went. Not only is that kinda spoilery, it’s just awkward and hard to write in public haha! **insert huge blush here** I think the last YA I read had make-out scenes, and even that was too much for me to get into. So I guess it depends on the book and how much sex is in it.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I can see how it’d be a bit more difficult if you were trying to keep your blog PG-13 rate. Haha, I only blog from home, so I don’t have to worry about writing awkward things in public :-P

  9. Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky

    Hmm, I guess with adult non-romance books, I’ll might mention in passing, “there’s explicit sexual content in this book,” or something. But unless the sex is notable/strange/WTF-worthy (i.e. something involving a tentacle monster and a unicorn horn), I wouldn’t even mention it. With YA books, I’d mention it if it’s done in a positive way, because I think YA books still have some ways to go when it comes to positive depictions of teenage sex, masturbation, especially when it comes to girls. Buuut that’s a whole ‘nother topic entirely. :D

    Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky recently posted: Top 5 Wednesday – Books You Want to Read Before the End of the Year

    1. Kristen Burns

      I love that tentacles and unicorn horns were your hypothetical example since I did once read a book about a unicorn and a kraken, haha. Luckily no horns were involved though. That… that sounds quite dangerous. :-P That makes sense to mention YA books that are sex positive though! Maybe another topic, but still a great point. You should do you own discussion about that!

  10. kristina

    Oh! I actually haven’t thought of that one .. Though it’s been a while since i’ve read a sex scene so I mean .. xD

    I wouldn’t go and “spoil” too much of it, but like trigger warnings, I think it can be good to mention in case anyone is against it or anything – and again all of what you pointed out is good too ! I agree.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I guess if you don’t read many sex scenes, you don’t have to worry about it, haha.

      That makes sense! That’s why I like to mention if there’s BDSM or a certain kink or something :-)

  11. Carrie @ Cat on the Bookshelf

    I haven’t read a lot of books in a while where sex occurred frequently. It depends on the book, genre and blog audience. I think if a review was for erotic literature, I think it would have to be talked about to some extent. I might mention it for a YA book if it’s significant to plot or character development. For example, I didn’t like the message that was sent by a sex scene in Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones because I thought it changed one girl’s character in such a harsh way that it pulled me out of the story. It was hard to describe my complaint about it at the time because I was worried about how much of a spoiler it was, even though it happened about halfway through. Then how much detail do you go into?

    Carrie @ Cat on the Bookshelf recently posted: 5 YA Books Where Letters Are Important to the Plot

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s a good point, it does depend on genre. Definitely if there’s something negative, especially in a YA book, I can understand mentioning it. I’ve had that issue too, not wanting to spoil things but still feeling like I needed to discuss them. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out the balance!

  12. Crystal @ Lost in Storyland

    I agree that if the book is an adult book, especially in the (paranormal) romance department, talking about sex scenes would be more appropriate.

    I’m not a huge romance reader and I review a lot of books for younger readers (mostly YA, but some MG and Children’s), so I tend to mention sex scenes only to note that they’re present. I generally only add more detail if something really bothered me. (As you mentioned, if the sex scenes felt inappropriate to the situation or if there wasn’t proper consent…)

    1. Kristen Burns

      That makes sense! It would probably weird getting in-depth about sex scenes for no reason for YA books. But it’s definitely worth mentioning if something bothered you.

  13. Stephanie Jane

    This is an interesting discussion because I hadn’t previously given much thought to how or even whether to review sex scenes.
    Thinking back, I don’t tend to mention them unless I found something very ‘off’ about the characters’ actions or relationships. I might also say something if the scene was particularly sexy for me, or if it was so direly written as to make me cringe!

  14. Suzanne @ The Bookish Libra

    Interesting topic. I don’t really read that many books that have sex scenes in them, but even when there are scenes, I don’t really talk much about them. I honestly probably only mention them if I find them gratuitous and just in the way of the rest of the book’s plot. I definitely don’t have a problem if other reviewers talk about sex scenes in their reviews though, especially if they’re reading books where it’s more prevalent.

    Suzanne @ The Bookish Libra recently posted: Review: LETTING GO OF GRAVITY by Meg Leder

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s fair! I also mention if I feel like there were too many for no reason. And I also don’t have a problem with reviewers discussing sex scenes in whatever way they want :-)

  15. Karen

    It depends for me. Some sex scenes are pivotal to character/story development or I might have issues with them (numerous with no point – detracts from the narrative, problematic).

    If it’s just a light, sexy, fun read then I’ll mention whether it worked on that level.

    So I guess like you – I’m ok with it but depends on the book.

    Karen @ For What It’s Worth

    Karen recently posted: would you rather for book nerds

  16. Camilla @Reader in the Atttic

    Definitely is there’s something problematic involved, I talk about them, but is not like I read so many books with sex.
    A part of me, honestly, doesn’t care about sex related things or sex scenes. When I was little I read books behind my age, but it didn’t shock me. At max it made me curious but really lightly. Right now I feel neutral towards them, but sometimes I would love to read about the plot and not people doing it.

    I get that maybe younger readers are not looking for it or people with a difficult realtion to it (especially serious reasons included) can be bothered. But also it’s a part that in my life actually play a little part, so I’m probably seeing it too much from my perspective when I feel like in general, on a everyday situation, I dont’ see why it should be deeply relevant. Sometimes I even find it like an extra, meaning that I couldn’t care less. So, I end up almost never writing about it

    1. Kristen Burns

      It is good to point out problematic things.

      It’s definitely just a personal preference. I enjoy sex scenes sometimes, but then other times I feel neutral, other times I feel like they don’t contribute anything and just want them to stop. People might like or dislike sex scenes for any number of reasons. But I do agree that it seems like oftentimes writers try to force a lot more meaning and importance into sex than is actually there, and it’s not always necessary.

  17. Greg

    I do the same thing. I just mention whatever comes to mind/ moved me/ whatever, whether it includes sex or whatever. I haven’t really thought about this before! And yes I always crack up when characters have to have a little… respite, we’ll say… amidst the running and whatnot. :)

    And since everybody’s different, I pretty much agree. Whatever works for each blogger or reviewer is fine w/ me! It is funny sometimes when someone who *does* go into detail, or has a fun reviewing style vis a vis sex scenes, goes off on something. :)

    Greg recently posted: Bookcover Spotlight #160

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yep, that’s just always how I’ve done my reviews! I mention whatever seems worth mentioning. But oh gosh, it aggravates me so much when characters’ lives are in danger, so they risk getting killed to stop and get it on -_-

      I’ve definitely cracked up at some reviews in which the person just went off with details about the sex scenes lol.

  18. Sam@WLABB

    I am a HUGE romance reader, and though I don’t feature my romance reviews on my blog (it’s YA), I always post on Goodreads. I very rarely comment on the sex. I think I have used adjectives to describe the heat factor (hot, steamy, etc), but very rarely commented on the actual sex. I can think of maybe 2 times, but both were because I was not a fan of the scenes. With my YA reads, I have included commentary on a book being sex positive, but not really the actual scene.

    Sam@WLABB recently posted: Discussion: Dear Diary....

  19. Chloe @ Book Dragons

    Interesting…I don’t read a lot of adult books but the main adult series that I read and loved that has a fair few sex scenes/sexual scenes in is Chicagoland Vampires by Chloe Neill (which you should totally read if you’ve not yet ;) ) I don’t read a lot of books which have a lot of sex scenes in to be honest, despite that I do think it’d interesting thinking about how I’d go about reviewing a book with it in.

    I guess if there’s a lot of them, it’s adding something to the plot/characters etc then I’d mention it. Doubt I’d go into detail, don’t have time for that nor do I feel like I’d know how to even go into detail. xD

  20. Angie Elle

    Interesting idea for a post. I am like you – it depends on if I deem it necessary. And my reviews of sex are usually quite short and to the point – it was hot or steamy are what I’ll usually say. And if there’s too much, I’ll say that, too. I also read a book recently where I had to go back and check, because I realized that boom! Just like that they were having sex…and I missed it? That is definitely worth mentioning, especially when there’s been a huge buildup and then the event is a letdown. And like you , I think it’s for each blogger to decide how ‘in depth’ they want to go. (Pun intended.)

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks :-) Usually I don’t have much to say about them either, but it just depends! Oh gosh, yeah, that sounds like it wasn’t so well written. Lol puns are fun sometimes XP

  21. Pingback: Weekly Wrap Up #39 – Book Dragons

  22. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I don’t read as many books with explicit sex in them as I used to because I’ve migrated back to reading mostly YA (for a while I was reading some New Adult contemps or paranormals as well). I do always have a little content rating where I say something along the lines of “Nothing more than kissing” or “Characters have sex, but it’s not shown” etc. Other than that I would only mention sex if I feel specifically compelled to point out something about the way it was portrayed in the book.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted: Top 10 Writing Tips I Learned at WIFYR

    1. Kristen Burns

      I think it’s great that you give a description of the content! It’s really helpful to people who want to avoid reading or giving a kid/teen something that’s not right for them.

  23. Di @ Book Reviews by Di

    Oooh great discussion Kristen! Hmm, I don’t really have a review formula either – I just kind of write about what I thought while I was reading the book, so I guess I’d also mention sex scenes if there was something specific I loved/hated/too much etc. I don’t get to read that many books with sex in them really considering I mostly stick to YA fantasy but I think I mentioned in my ACOTAR review that it’s not a ‘fade to black’ kind of YA book. I didn’t talk much about the sex itself because, while the scenes were there it was neither here nor there for me. Not to say it was bad, but I was just putting it out there that I thought it was okay that they were included.

    I wonder how I would handle it if I reviewed a lot of adult romance or steamy books? Hmmm.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! We review the same way then :-) That makes sense, how you mentioned the sex scenes in ACOTAR.

      I’ll guess you’ll find out if you ever start reading more of them one day :-P

    1. Kristen Burns

      That makes sense! I try to mention triggers, but honestly I just don’t always remember everything in a book by the time I’m done :-/ It’s great to mention them if you can though!

  24. Danya @ Fine Print

    For me, how much I talk about sex scenes in my reviews really depends on the genre of book I’m reviewing. If I’m reviewing a romance, I consider the sex scenes to be a lot more important than they would be in a fantasy novel, and usually they’re more plentiful in that case too. I’ll mention if the scenes are particularly explicit, usually using a fun euphemism like spicy, steamy, fuego, etc. 😂And of course, like you, I’ll mention it if I think there are issues with consent. The last reason I’ll mention it is if the sex scenes are really strangely written, like the time I read a fantasy romance that was awesome…except for the frequent use of the phrase “hot cream.” WHY?!

    Danya @ Fine Print recently posted: Mini Reviews: The Eclectic Edition

    1. Kristen Burns

      That makes sense! I just usually don’t even think about it in terms of genre since I have no real method of reviewing. I just talk about whatever comes to mind or stands out. But I always point out when I have issues with consent. And oh gosh. Oh no. WHY. I… usually just don’t mention things like that lol. But in my head, I am scarred for life. One of my favorite characters once said “ripe and creamy” and that was like three years ago and I still can’t forget it 😫

    1. Kristen Burns

      That makes sense! I usually try to mention things in reviews that I would want to know cuz I figure others might also want to know that, but I don’t have an issue with sex scenes, so I just usually don’t even think about it when I write my reviews. But I know some readers don’t like them, so it is helpful to mention!

  25. Zeee @ I Heart Romance & YA

    I talk about sex scenes in my reviews since I review mostly adult romance books where sex is present all the time. I do try my very best to be as vague as possible when discussing it. Like saying that the sexytimes is super hot or that there is dirty talk present or if it’s BDSM. But I seriously don’t get into too much detail (I think). I also have a heat level rating and I use that to show how much sexytimes is present in a book.

    While I haven’t read a review yet that discusses the sex in their reviews in a detailed way, I would probably be one of those that would cringe if I read it. I mean, unless the sex is a turning point in the plot and is really important.. maybe?

    1. Kristen Burns

      Most of the time, detail probably isn’t necessary. A heat level is a smart thing to include!

      Lol, I just laugh because usually those reviewers are just like super blunt and have no shame talking about that kinda stuff, and I love it.

  26. Olivia Roach

    I do. I read a lot of NA quite a few of them seem to be explicit and that contributes to the story, so I kind of need to mention it. I find it a lot easier to talk about on the blog because well, I’m just typing and that’s that. But when it comes to youtube videos I sometimes feel a little bit more shy talking about it outright. I had to mention sex for a book I discussed for V is Virgin by Kelly Oram – and it was so much easier to talk about on camera maybe because it was YA? Although I do it for NA too on camera I’m a little bit more embarrassed and hesitant haha.

    Olivia Roach recently posted: June Wrap Up! [2018]

    1. Kristen Burns

      That makes sense! Haha, I can see how actually *talking* about it in a video would be harder. It’s always easier to talk about difficult or awkward things when you’re writing/typing for some reason.

  27. Becky@ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I read a lot of romance so you’d think I’d talk about sex scenes in my reviews but I kind of don’t that much. I mean, unless there’s a reason to talk about them then in most romance I kind of think people know they’ll be standard. The main times I’ll want to talk about them is if they’re bad, steamy hot, or if there are just too damn many of them to be necessary. I hate a romance which is overwhelmed by the sex because intimacy should never just me about physical intimacy otherwise I’ll never believe a couple is falling in love, you know?

    Becky@ A Fool's Ingenuity recently posted: The Kiss Quotient // I Loved It… You Need It

    1. Kristen Burns

      Makes sense, no point in talking about the sex scenes if you don’t really have anything to say! I don’t like when there’s too many either. It seems more and more like intimacy in books is turning into just sex, so yeah, I like to know if that’s the case.

  28. Cee Arr

    I think it’s very much an individual situation thing. If a book is marketed as, or reaches a point where I think it should be, 18+ only, then I make sure I make that clear.

    Other than that, it’s dependent on the individual book/scene, and my opinions on it.

    I also think it’s really important to mention if graphic novels have sex scenes! What with the whole *graphic* thing! For example, even though the Sunstone series doesn’t have anything, um… *going in* anywhere… on-page, there are still graphic (and extremely hot!) nudes and BDSM scenes. It’s marketed as 18+ (quite rightly) and I think it’s important I make that clear if I’m talking about it. ;)