Our First Sex Scenes

Kid reading under the covers

In celebration of the upcoming film adaptation of V.C. Andrews Flowers in the Attic, an infamous gothic melodrama that was dog-eared by many a shocked middle schooler (warning: incest ahead), we asked our writers to dig deep into their memory banks to tell us about the very first sex scene they ever read. Consensus: All hail Judy Blume!

Whitney Collins: In fifth grade, beneath a row of lift-top desks, a friend passed me a copy of Judy Blume’s Forever. A page had been conveniently turned down to the book’s most explicit sex scene, and what I read put the things I’d glimpsed on Cinemax to shame. This was the literary equivalent of being handed a can of Coke at a church picnic, only to find it’s been filled with Jim Beam. In both instances, you have to poker face your way through a coming-of-age seismic shift. I’d like to say I was a good 11-year-old, and what happened in class stayed in class, but that afternoon, I insisted my mother stop at Waldenbooks, where I stacked Forever between a couple of Beverly Clearys. That night, I read it cover to cover. Blume originally wrote the book for her daughter, who requested a book “about two nice kids who have sex without either of them having to die.” Judy delivers: Forever was a breakthrough book for girls of the late 70s and beyond (and it served as a steppingstone from Laura Ingalls to Clan of the Cave Bear. Because we all know that’s where we ended up next).

Melissa Albert: In sixth grade I was assigned “office assistant” duty alongside a girl named Samantha, which meant that our study hall was spent sitting in folding chairs outside of the principal’s office, trying on each other’s lip gloss. Samantha had an air of worldly sophistication and a string of older (i.e., 7th grade) boyfriends, and one day she came in reading a book with a tantalizing cover: V.C. Andrews’ My Sweet Audrina. She gave it to me with the warning that I not let my mom see it, which I didn’t get at first. But oh, it became clear eventually. Audrina is an isolated girl with no memory of either her own childhood or that of her perfect older sister, who died under mysterious circumstances. The book is a carnival of psychosexual camp creepiness, and the secret at the heart of Audrina’s sister’s death is even worse than what you’re imagining. (I hope.)

Rebecca Jane Stokes: I was rather…off as a youth. To be clear just how off, I used to get flustered and have to change channels when watching a shirtless Kevin Sorbo on Hercules, because the sight of his glistening hairy pectorals gave me “feelings.” This weirdness definitely leaked over into the books that prodded me kicking and screaming into adulthood. The first real sex scene I read was between Morgaine and her brother, a young King Arthur, in The Mists of Avalon. Yeah. That’s right. I was nine and all about incest and druid rituals involving the crowning of a Stag King. But I think the book that had more impact was far less overtly sexual. I should preface the following by saying that I do not condone bestiality. That being said, the hero of Brian Jacques’ Redwall, Martin the mouse, was a total hunk, and I used to wish myself into a world where he was my husband. I was maybe also confusing him with the helpful sexy rat from Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Yep. I just used the phrase “sexy rat” in a totally unironic way. Dear universe: I apologize.

Sara Brady: I must have been ten or eleven years old when I moved on from Judy Blume’s comedic kids’ books (Sheila the Great, you were my childhood hero) to her more angsty middle-grade novels, specifically, Then Again, Maybe I Won’t. I loved that it was written from a boy’s point of view, unlike most of what I was reading at the time—stacks and stacks of Christopher Pike and The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High—although I could not for the life of me understand why Tony thought it was a good idea to carry a “raincoat” with him everywhere. A couple of years later, I figured it out, and this is why Judy Blume deserves to be canonized.

Bailey Swilley: In elementary school, I became fascinated with the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. The books were written very honestly, and I loved, loved, loved the stuffing out of a series when I was a kid. The books start out innocently enough, when Alice is in 6th grade, but as the series progresses, Alice talks a lot about boobs, which made me start to question my own. Then, as Alice gets older, she has two different boyfriends, one of who she gets intimate with on a college visit. I COULDN’T BELIEVE I WAS READING THIS. But I thought, “Well, I found it at the school library, so it must be fine.” My teachers were right: reading is fun.

Sara Jonsson: Fade, by Robert Cormier, is disturbing and engrossing on so many levels. As a thirteen year old reading this book, I remember being horrified by how harmful and indifferent people can be to others and themselves when they think no one is watching. Throughout the novel, a teenage boy, Paul, learns he has the power to become invisible, and encounters all the nastiness in humanity that we try to hide. I was coming to terms with how upsetting the book was, when an invisible Paul sneaks into the bedroom of a popular girl he’s lusting after. She’s brushing her hair at her vanity and wearing a satin nightgown. Just when the scene is starting to feel sexy, her twin brother comes in to “say “goodnight.” What follows is a deeply detailed and innocence-shattering sex scene that Paul can neither escape from nor stop watching. What got me through this moment was that Paul seemed just as upset by the incest as I was—we both needed time to be shocked and grossed out. There should be a discreet little sticker on books like this when you check them out of the library: “Pages 101–103: Incest”

Kathryn Williams: I don’t remember what my first sexy scene/book was. My siblings are 10 and 12 years older than me, so I knew about sex from the time I was 3 (just kidding—my parents taught me in fifth grade by leaving a book on the stairs that featured paper cut-out chickens humping). But I can tell you about the first time I WROTE a sexy sex sexing scene, which I hope is emotionally affecting but is not all that titillating. It’s in my novel The Lost Summer, and it probably had more drafts than any other scene in the book. My editor and I talked about it a lawt, like was it essential to the story and to the character’s development? What would the emotional consequences be? What did I want to show and not show? What words would I use? (I didn’t want labia majora, but no throbbing members either, because I’m a classy lady, dammit.) We talked about having the characters have oral sex instead, and I just could not bring myself to write that scene, as it felt almost more intimate to me. So, to prepare myself, I reread Judy Blume’s classic novel about sexual awakening, Forever. I think she handles those scenes with such grace and honesty. So, I am counting Judy Blume as not my first but my best… sex scene writer, that is.

Alyssa Bereznak: As my father is a dedicated objectivist, my first run-in with a literary sex scene came, horrifyingly, via Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, in which railroad magnate Dagny Taggart sleeps with steel baron Hank Reardon. The two are first introduced as business partners, but their mutual admiration for one another’s work ethic evolves into something more, and soon the Reardon is “holding her body against his, as if stressing his wish to let her know that she was now only a tool for the satisfaction of his desire.” As a young inexperienced teen with bacne, this seemed like the stuff of shady AOL chatrooms. How was this not rape? As I’ve decided about all of Ayn Rand’s literature, her fictional portrayals of human nature don’t come close to translating to the real world. Let’s hope for the sake of students everywhere that any high school teacher with Rand on the syllabus will make that loud and clear to their classrooms.

Lauren Passell: I tore into Russell Banks’ Rule Of The Bone for a silly reason in the first place. When it came out, I was in middle school and was not a reader at all. But when I found out my older crush read and enjoyed Banks’ book, I read it to have something in common with my crush. Hidden inside, there’s a brief but (what at the time seemed) graphic sex scene involving the protagonist, Bone, and his mentor’s girlfriend, Evening Star. I read it again and again. I just thought it was awesome. I remember thinking that I would of course start in on my school’s required reading if it was like Rule Of The Bone. In a way, that book turned me into a reader. It made me realize I could read whatever I wanted in my free time, whether there were sex scenes or not.

What was your first sex scene?

  • patricia666

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  • Joy Wingert

    Stephen King, not sure which book, but I was in fourth grade.

  • FreshGreenKim

    I’m not sure I am ready to admit as much, but when I was about 10, I snuck my mom’s copy of The Godfather off her bookshelf. So my first sex scene was Sonny & Lucy at the wedding. I didn’t understand it for a few years, and then didn’t REALLY understand it for a few more.

  • Heather Scott-Penselin

    umm the first one I vividly remember is Shogun, which I read in 8th grade. Though I’m sure I read something with sex in it before then.

  • Awmoondah

    Living Dead In Dallas, Charlaine Harris.

    Not only was it full of sex, but it also had magical stuff and supernatural goings-on that kept me thinking it was appropriate for my age. Which was 10. The worst part is that it was the second book in the series and I never even noticed. (Just kidding–the worst part is that it was practically age-inappropriate porn. Obviously.)

    It was actually only when “True Blood” aired on HBO seven years later that I recalled the fact that I read its plot before. And it was only then that I followed up and saw there was a first book, Dead Until Dark…making me resent the 5th-grade book fair that misled me all those years ago into starting a series off wrong!

  • Val Erickson

    When I was younger we used to sneak my grandmas harlequin romance books so I’d say first or second grade. I will freely admit to loving Sandra Brown now

  • Anna Black

    Anita Blake, at age 10. (Progressing to Wraiththu, at age 12…)

    • DeaAlMon

      My goodness. Wraiththu is a challenge even for adults. I’m completely in love with it myself (at 28). It’s probably something I would have read.

      My first was Memoirs of a Geisha, in 7th grade, which my parents immediately confiscated from me. I proceeded to buy it a year later with the exact same results. xD

  • Kat

    My first sex scene was in Breaking Dawn (harp on the movie series all you want, but the books, you have to admit, were good). I was in eighth grade, I think, when I first read the series, and I remember at that point I’d actually come out of my room and into the living room (I’d hated reading for most of my childhood and feared that if my parents caught me reading and enjoying it, they’d make me read more. Also, the books were my sister’s and I hadn’t asked before I snagged them off her bookshelf). I remember sitting on the couch, fully immersed in the book, a little part of me knowing what was coming when Bella and Edward walked into their gorgeous borrowed house, but plowing on despite the fact that my mother was sitting on the loveseat a few feet away. And then we got to the sex scene, and my face flamed up, and I was looking discretely over the top of the book, trying to make sure that my mother could not see the words on the page.

    My second, however, was handled much more gracefully, and with a bit more understanding (don’t get me wrong, I haven’t had sex, and don’t plan to any time soon–I’m only seventeen, and believe in saving sex for marriage–but I could understand the characters’ feelings and what led up to and made them do it). It was in Richelle Mead’s Blood Promise, [SPOILERS] when hectic events and love long-felt but not allowed to them led Dimitri Belikov and Rose Hathaway to make love in a secluded guard house on the grounds of St. Vlad’s. And what followed soon thereafter was heart-breaking and gut-wrenching, and nearly made me cry.

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    • TM

      Little naive me didn’t even fully understand the sex scene in Breaking Dawn until my third read. I always thought Edward got upset and ripped the headboard apart. And that she was bruised because he was holding onto her so tightly trying not to get carried away that he left a few bruises.

      I must say, even though I liked the books when I read them, bought the hard-cover boxed set, fell in love with Emmett and Jasper, and went to every midnight premiere, those books are pretty poorly written. Not Shades of Gray poorly – they have some sense of grammar – but pretty poorly and lazily nonetheless.

  • Darci

    I was 13, my friend slipped me a book during band class that she had ‘stolen’ from her mom’s bookshelf. She told me to start reading on a certain page. It was just a short scene, but after I handed it back to her she informed me that the characters were actually brother and sister but neither of them was a aware of this. The book was “Ruby” by V.C. Andrews, and after discovering this shocking secret I had to read the entire book to know what the heck was going on! The one scene started my love affair with books. I read through the entire V.C. Andrews collection by the time I graduated high school. I love all genres of books, and since that day I have not been able to stop reading.

  • Sherio

    Anne Rice owns my First Sex scene as I read through her Vampire Chronicles.

  • Leigh Ann Gunnells

    6th grade-Secrets by Danielle Steel. I moved onto Jackie Collins. She definitely taught us a few things.

  • Elizabeth

    Judy Blume was my intro to sex, but the first time that I could fully appreciate what it all meant was in 9th grade when, unbeknownst to my parents, I read Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl. Talk about sexual awakening.

  • jerseygirl

    I stole my dad’s “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” from the bookshelf in the living room when I was about 12. At first I had no idea what the author was talking about, but I figured it out pretty quickly.

  • Sky Alicia D. Duran

    Juliet Marillier’s “Daughter of the Forest” was my first sex scene. I was in 10th grade. Actually it was a rape scene, and I read it in the middle of my American History class. I remember feeling so embarrassed reading it, as if I was reading it out loud. But after reading more of her books, it didn’t become as embarrassing.

    My guilty pleasure though, was “Water for Elephants”. It’s more explicit than Marillier’s work, but just as descriptive.

  • Adam Bruns

    Lol. Think my first sex scene was either from a porn clip, some sort of erotica for men, or the movie Starship Troopers.

  • Alison

    In Grade 6 I decided that the school curriculum was simply not very interesting, and so I spent much of the final years of elementary school apparently staring at my lap, where there was always some sort of novel partially hidden under my desk. My dad had been amassing a science fiction/myth fiction library since his teens, and I spent a lot of time poring over the covers of the books in the basement- particularly the ones with sexy covers. Whether he noticed this detail or not, he started to talk up various authors while I watched him sort and catalogue, and one day he loaned me the first book in Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series – Dragonflight. My best friend was scandalized by the “woman in a ripped sheet” on the cover; it was titillating (yeah, oldest pun in the book) and totally inappropriate-looking for a barely 11-year old, so the book had the added bonus of being “forbidden”, at least while at school. Math became my favourite part of the day, as it was the subject during which it was easiest to read secretly while looking studious.

    After the initial action establishing the setting and her strength of character, Lessa of Ruatha Hold unexpectedly ‘impresses’ (telepathically imprints upon/with) a hatching queen dragon. A rather loaded teacher/student relationship develops between her and the leader of the dragon riders as she adapts to her new life. When her dragon reaches sexual maturity and suddenly takes to the skies to mate, the telepathic bond between dragon and rider brings the riders of the mating dragons together in a potent cocktail of flying, dragons, sex, and passion that is responsible to this day for my confusion over fractions.

  • Gary Wyatt

    My very first was JAWS, the chapter with Ellen and Hopper, which they left out of the movie entirely. 7th grade! I read it outloud to all my cousins, at a family reunion. We were huddled all around a tree,and nobody spoke, except for me. To think, first dose of sex on the page reading about a shark! Then it was….The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon. It was passed all over my high school,and guess who read it first,and told everyone????? We were doing the musical BYE BYE BIRDIE,and we all read it while waiting for our cues during practice,inbetween doing homework,and tying people’s shoe laces together , so when it was time to run on stage, you’d trip…… It is actually a great book,and has a whopper of a surprise ending. I highly recommend it. I was a Sophomore then….not 8! Then THE LOVE MACHINE by Jacquline Susann,and LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR by Judith Rossener, which still haunts me to this day…but the sex scenes…whew! Makes me sweaty thinking about it.

  • TM

    My first sex scene was Jane Yolen’s gay sex scene in Briar Rose. Age 11ish.

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