“You like that?”

Because release week combined with vacation week doesn’t play all that nice with one’s ability to concentrate or get anything done, naturally I had no idea what to post about when I sat down with my morning panic coffee and a blank doc. So I did what any self-respecting procrastinator would—I delegated. I asked Twitter, what should I blog about? And blessings be upon @JuliaEdits for offering an excellent suggestion—dialogue during sex scenes. Yea or nay? Hot or cheesy? Hot and cheesy and wrong and yet still weirdly delicious, like Velveeta?

It’s so subjective. Two people could read about a hero murmuring, “Good girl,” to the heroine, and one would get all clenchy and overheated and the other would roll their eyes and DNF the book.

Anyone who’s read just about any of my stories knows I’m pro-filth-talk during sex scenes. With very, very few exceptions, I write noisy heroes. I wrote one who had to be asked by his wife even to moan during sex, but aside from him, I think all my made-up men are talkers. I also write a lot of horny, cocky guys, the types to demand feedback and even praise. I also write doting heroes, the kind who ask for instructions. That all adds up to a chatty stable of fictional lovers.

I think I’m also just aurally fixated, as a person. Hot snippets of dialogue do it for me as much as—even more than—dynamic actions or a beautiful visual or a vibrant description of sensation. I don’t feel what the hero is doing to the heroine with his body, but when I read his spoken words, it hits me with more weight than any other thing going down between the characters. I read those bits over and over. Or replay them in my head again and again, if it’s from a movie or TV show’s sex scene. For example, I can tell you every last creepy-hot word Fassbender utters during that super sketchy thing that happens in Fish Tank. They are burned into my brain-loins.

But I know some readers aren’t fans of dialogue during sex scenes, which I can empathize with. I could see simply not having sex-talk in one’s personal turn-on coding. I could also see sex-talk done badly as a major mood-killer. One of my favorite quotes I ever pulled from a review came from Sarah at Smart Bitches, who said, “I dislike when characters start porntalking, when there is endless discussion of who is what for whom (I’m hard for you, you’re wet for me, she’s humid for the mailman).” Co-sign. Better to not do it at all than to do it horribly. I mean, I love clam chowder, but when it’s bad, it’s so, so bad.

On Twitter, the consensus seemed to be that most of us love dirty-talk-done-well. Obviously, it’s a skewed sample, as most of the folks I fraternize with are militantly pro-dirty. But anyhow, here are some thoughts that came my way:

“Oh I love good dialogue in sex scenes. Those are the very best books.”

“I like spontaneous dirty talk but I like when it’s also super awkward like in Charlotte Stein’s books.” Amen, sister.

“Context context context. Dirty talk for the sake of—no sexy.”

“For me, it’s more intense the closer I feel/understand the characters and their motivations. The words are a huge part of that. […] It only gets p0rny when sex scenes don’t lift their weight, story-wise—they must advance plot, character or conflict.”

“I love dirty, real, gritty talk coming from the characters during sex. That includes humor. Sex is funny. Dirty-funny.”

“Ever read any Tessa Bailey? That woman does dirty-talking heroes like none other.”

“I like the dirty talk in books. Never experienced successful dirty talk in real life though.”

“Strong talk combined with strong feelings. Language should illustrate the overcome-with-desire state.”

And of course, “DIRTY PLZ 4EVA.”

[Aside: I’ve always felt that there should be a thriving industry that produces audio-porn mp3s of sexy-voiced dudes saying horny shit. I’d pay like, hundreds and hundreds of dollars to listen to Richard Armitage whispering nasty things for an hour. I would wear that album out.]

Okay, the following bits are for the 18+ crowd only. Minors, kindly close this tab.

Both my books that came out on Tuesday feature dirty-talking heroes. Here’s a little slice from Hard Timethe convicted felon romance [context: she’s going down on him].

His hands were neither pushy nor gentle. Warm fingertips in my hair, following the motions, urging but not forcing. His breath had grown harsh, and every little grunt and gasp lit me from the inside. I eased him out, meeting his eyes.

“Let me hear you.”

His face was flushed, lips parted, eyes at once burning and glassy. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. Moan for me. Or talk to me.” Just that voice, transformed by what I made him feel.

“I don’t want to say the wrong thing.”

“You couldn’t. I want to hear whatever you’re thinking. Whether it’s romantic or nasty or mean or any other thing. Whatever comes out.”

He nodded.

I took him back inside, rewarded immediately with a long, deep groan. It vibrated through the length of his big body, and the room felt darker, the taste and scent of his excitement sharper.

“Yeah,” he murmured, fingertips guiding once more. “I haven’t felt this in so long. Nothing this soft, or sweet. Nothing that made me feel this close to anybody.”

And from Her Best Laid Plans [context: he’s touching her]. For best effect, brain-read the hero’s parts with an Irish accent.

She let the logistics go, melting back into the present and the contact. And into his words, when he next gifted them.

“Are you close?”

“Not yet, but I will be.” Especially if you keep talking.

“I can’t wait to be inside you.”

And just like that, she was at the edge.

“Connor.” Her hand was wrapped around his wrist, lost in the feel of bone and skin and muscle—the sensations of him serving her—and the heat knotting tight and urgent in her sex.

“Like that?” he asked.


“Good…” Then, “Say it again.”


“Say it when you come.”

And it was that—that order, that taste of his cocky, selfish side, that tipped her.

“Connor. Fuck.”

“Good. Good.” His circling fingertips raced, concentrating the friction, and the room was gone; the air, everything, gone. There was nothing but his touch and his breathing and his teeth rasping her skin as her world unraveled.

So clearly, I’m pro. So are most members of the Wonkoverse, I’d imagine, but I could be wrong—any folks who skim dirty talk? Find it corny, or unrealistic, or straight-up unsexy? Prefer the fraught, strained, subtler sounds of sex? Or if you’re pro, do you have any favorite filth-talking authors or books or characters or whispered lines?

About Cara McKenna

Cara McKenna writes smart erotica—sexy stories with depth. Read more >
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15 Responses to “You like that?”

  1. What? I can’t answer you, I’m too busy trying to recover from the idea of an Armitage dirty-talk tape while simultaneously googling for the sketchy-thing clip from Fish Tank.


    • Cara McKenna says:

      Frankly I’m shocked I can’t tell you the exact minute and second it goes down. If Netflix were a VHS library, I’d have stretched out that bit of the Fish Tank tape beyond repair with my furtive, compulsive rewinding, and ruined that copy for everyone.

  2. Mia West says:

    Totally pro. Extra-pro when it’s part of the characters’ discovery of each other. Super-extra-pro when the hero is taciturn in non-smexy situations.

    Now I’m going to go weep that Armitage Talks Dirty will probably never happen.

    • Cara McKenna says:

      “Super-extra-pro when the hero is taciturn in non-smexy situations.” Oh, TOTALLY. I adore horniness as an approximation of intoxication, making otherwise stoic characters lose track of their filters.

    • YES. When the hero is normally unflappable and strong-but-silent, then the sex switches some toggle over in his brain and he becomes a goddamn filthy-babbling idiot because he just can’t help himself.

      I love it when they just can’t help themselves.

      I also love it when they are so emotionally guarded that it’s a massive expression of adoration for them to stand at a window, yards out of earshot from the heroine, and quietly mumble, “Look back. Look back at me.” As if even that almost imperceptible step towards admitting a preference for somebody is causing the hero physical pain.

      Now imagine what will happen when they actually have sex. And…yeah.


  3. I love sex talk… The things a hero says during sex or even during nonsex, like a sexy threat? Yum. I get turned on in my brain before I get turned on in my body. Or maybe it’s at the same time? But hearing something hot — or reading it –always gets me ;)

  4. MM Jaye says:

    For me, less is more. If the guy goes on and on with what he wants or what he sees before him, I’m not there with them. I kinda like the last minute urge, and that’s what Greg, the hero of my (yet unpublished) book, Fate Accomplis, goes for: “She couldn’t take any more, but still she needed something, a trigger to set it all off. As if on cue, Greg’s lips were touching her ear. ‘Come. Now.’ Her mushy mind didn’t register a thing, but her body instantly obliged” … that sort of thing.

    As for a super dirty talker who knows no limits (and a super hot quick read) try Reasonable Doubt #1 by Whitney Garcia. Andrew is next to impossible, but Aubrey deliciously stands her ground. Loved it.

    Going to check out your new material, Cara! I’m, umm, fasting from naughty reads, as here in Greece, we take the Good Week seriously (so why am I here?!) but next week I’m devouring what I’ve missed of you.

  5. Nicola O. says:

    “I think I’m also just aurally fixated, as a person…”

    Well, I think those of us who love these kind of books are all kind of “word-fixated,” don’t you think?

    It’s funny, but it seems like real sex-dialog is kind of a new thing in the romance genre. I think authors worried about throwing readers out of the moment; everybody has different deal-breaker words; words that make them feel self-conscious or whatever. Better to just sigh and moan and maybe tighten up that grip on whatever part.

    I love the evolution. It’s riskier, for sure. I think it’s also a sign of women and readers becoming more comfortable with their bodies and their sexuality. At least the ones who are reading these particular books!

    I imagine it’s hard for authors to write fresh dialog for different scenes and different books — when you find a good phrase, don’t you want to just keep using it?

    IDK. For sure, when it’s bad, it’s terrible. But when it’s good, it’s so worth it.

  6. I *love* dirty talk in books, but I’m hella particular about it too. :) If it rings false, like dialogue from a bad porno, it doesn’t work for me at all. Makes me cringe. But when it’s done right, holy shit, yes…

    I’ve got a dirty talking phone call in my next HarlequinE book that, when I read it, feels SO much dirtier than anything else in the book. I mean, they’re not even in the same room, but when she makes a joke to a guy she thinks of as being sexy but a little uptight and he comes back at her with an absolutely filthy description of putting her on her knees and making her blow him…I can barely reread it, I was blushing so hard. And my editor had WAY fewer line edits on those pages than in the rest of the book. I think we were both a little: O_O

    Dirty talk. Bring it on. It requires a different level of intimacy to say things out loud than just to reach out and grab someone and DO them. No one wants to be laughed at or thought weird, so the level of trust for a nervous person is intense. And the person who is so into you that they don’t care about any of that stuff at all because they just want to tell you every single thing that is turning them on? HOT. HOT. HOT.

    • Mia West says:

      And the title of your book will be…? ;)

      I love scenes that play with that trust, but in a fun way, e.g., the characters try dirty talk and it’s totally awkward, but they acknowledge it and have a laugh.

      • Yes! I think it’s awesome when authors acknowledge that things don’t always go smoothly during sex, or that someone can slip up and say something they *mean* to be sexy, but it just comes out goofy. That’s a moment to be enjoyed also because it’s real. :)

        And the book is called When the Lights Go Down. September 17th! I expect to have several friends call me with, “Um, so we’re getting a lot dirtier with the new books, hmmm?” phone calls.