What is that sex scene doing in my book?
The obvious answer is... well... obvious. The real answer is a little more difficult to find.
I'm sure everyone's seen the trend where there must be some kind of sex scene in every book. Perhaps not surprisingly, the obligatory sex scene usually ends up with big author-flags around it saying "Look! It's the obligatory sex scene! Nothing plot-related here at all. If you're a bit sensitive about these things you can skip a few pages and you won't miss a thing. I'm really only doing this because my agent/editor/writer's group said I had to, anyway."
I have - and sadly, this isn't that rare - read books where the obligatory sex scene was actually rather a lot of sex scenes and took up more than half the book. It really doesn't take long to read a book when you skip most of it, and before anyone starts thinking I'm a prude (I'm AUSTRALIAN. Of course I'm not a prude. Australian prudes and wowsers are scarily relaxed about matters sexual by US standards), I skip them because they're boring. We're talking about IKEA sex here, insert tab A into slot B and wiggle a bit until tab A goes limp or someone goes to sleep, usually the reader.
Sometimes the writer gets inventive, and you get the whole IKEA catalog, with every conceivable combination, pairing, tripling and, well, you get the idea. Yet it's still boring.
Let's face it, sex is a lot of fun to do, but difficult to write well. Just about all the sex scenes I've read are in the land of purple prose, where throbbing manhoods thrive and banana and peach metaphors are always in season, or they're at the other extreme, building IKEA furniture and making the exercise about as interesting as IKEA furniture, except you've got to wait up to 9 months for a result then look after said result for the next 20 years - something conveniently neglected by most of said books. Possibly everyone in IKEA-sex land and purple prosalia have magical contraception? (Don't laugh too loud. I knew someone whose role playing game campaigns always included stashes of magical contraception. They were needed, too.)
When I try to think of someone who writes the sex scenes well, I don't get very far. Most of the writers I admire (modern writers afflicted with the need for their characters to get it on or at least threaten to at some point in the book) manage to slip things in offstage or with a convenient scene break after making sure we all know what's going to happen.
So who does do really good sex scenes? Ones that actually belong in the plot and aren't a case of "skip 10 pages and you won't miss a thing"?
I'm not asking for the bad because I've read way too many of those and I don't need any more.