Turning Up The Heat | The Different Levels of Sex Scenes

Last week, I shared some of the things I take into consideration when deciding whether or not to include a sex scene in a story (find it here).

This week, as promised, I’ll be discussing the different levels of sex scenes.

There are two ways I label a sex scene. The first is on a more general basis known as my Spiciness Scale. Second is a more specific scale of 1-50 Shades. I’ll be using both throughout this article.

Reader discretion is advised.

Sweet | 0-10 Shades

Sweet scenes are on the mild side. These are the kinds of sex scenes that will typically appear in Young Adult fiction, with a lot of the details hinted at. They might not even explicitly say the characters are about to have sex, though it may be alluded to.

These scenes commonly end by fading to black, meaning that they cut off before too much happens.

Steamy | 11-20 Shades

Steamy scenes go into more detail than Sweet ones, but also limit themselves in how far they go. However, there is typically confirmation of where the scene is headed.

The details may get a little more specific but often leaving a lot to the reader’s imagination and assumptions.

Spicy | 21-30 Shades

Scenes on the spicy side take the plunge and delve into the action beyond where Sweet and Steamy scenes end. When broaching the subject of various body parts, euphemisms might be used like “Phallus” for men and “Folds” for women, or metaphors like “Rod” or “Delicate flowers”; this depends on the preference of the author.

In Spicy scenes, the sex takes place on the page rather than between chapters, though the details might be limited in comparison to the highest ranking on these scales.

This is where I would place the sex scenes in my own books, averaging around 25 Shades.

Scalding | 31-50 Shades

Right up here is where the majority of erotica falls, but that is often the intent. In short, anything goes. These are intended for the daring writers and readers.

The details in these scenes get tremendously specific and direct, especially in the terminology used to describe what is happening.

I personally begin to get uncomfortable¬†reading past the 32-ish Shades mark, so I admittedly don’t have a ton of experience with this zone.


It can take some trial and error to figure out what you’re comfortable writing when it comes to sex scenes. Like I wrote last week, don’t go past your comfort zone or force yourself to write something you don’t want to. It took me a while before I felt at ease with writing these scenes, but that’s because I practiced and experimented with a few zones before establishing my comfort zone and boundaries.

As for how to actually write a sex scene, that’s a topic for another day.

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