Some Assembly Required
"There is nothing duller than dull pornography."
Named after the Swedish
big-box store, IKEA Erotica
describes the tendency of badly written sex scenes to be nothing more than "insert tab A into slot B" ad nauseam
, as though the readers actually didn't know what goes where
. The result is that the participants might as well be doing nothing more interesting than assembling a flat-pack wardrobe, the kind of affordable, Swedish, some-assembly-required furniture IKEA is known for.
The point of erotica is to make the reader feel something of what the characters do, which in most cases should be arousal rather than boredom. It's often a sign that the writer didn't want to have a sex scene here but got overruled
, or that the writer is sexually inexperienced and writing with the aid of a biology textbook (a lot of Fan Fiction written by 14-year-old girls
comes into this category, often minus the biology textbook), making it less of a case of You Fail Sex Ed
and more You Haven't Even Taken The Course Yet. Examples are too numerous to list, and too forgettable to remember in any case.
However, it can be used properly
. IKEA Erotica has its merits as a tool of parody or simply as a means to fool the censors
. If used from the POV of a certain type of character
, it can be an interesting insight into their psyche — provided, of course, that the rest of the writing is enough to make this Stylistic Suck
apparent. It can also be used if the character simply thinks that the sex sucks (and not in a fun way
An extremely common feature of Porn Without Plot
. An example of IKEA Erotica is the line, "He pressed his hard sex against her soft sex and they had sex". A frequently usable antidote: lead up to the act, then pull a discretion shot
at the end of the chapter, coming back in during the next chapter when it's all over. It works in cinema, and it can work for you, too!
The extreme of IKEA Erotica is "verbing the noun", in which the scene is given mostly or entirely in subject-verb-object sentences in which the key words could be replaced by anything and you'd have difficulty noticing.
Not to be confused with furniture porn
. Or The IKEA Fancy Dress Dinner Party
. Also not to be confused with a Cargo Ship
Or furniture porn
See also Fetish Retardant
, common consequences of IKEA Erotica, and Show, Don't Tell
, which is a related piece of writing advice. Contrast with Mills and Boon Prose
. Also contrast Hentai
, which may be loving and sweet or go fully into the opposite
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Anime & Manga
- The notorious (and now, notoriously hard to find) Badfic "Celebrian" was filthy. But as said by one who got all the way through it...
Harley Quinn hyenaholic: ...and I know why it's such a challenge to read. It's not that it's so disgusting, but it goes ON AND ON. And it's so BORING. How can torture, S&M and all that other crap be so irrevocably BORING? Half the time I don't even go 'ew'. I just look at the scroll bar and think, "What? Not even halfway through? GOD!"
- My Immortal. An actual quote from the story reads "He put his thingy in my you-know-what and we did it for the first time."
- Done deliberately by Lamont Cranston in the Teen Titans fic Love in Shades of Green and Gray. Raven's first time (described in a separate posting on adult-fanfiction.org) is with Aqualad, with him having few feelings for her, and her deliberately suppressing all emotion so as not to blast him with her powers. It is a creepily clinical piece. A later time with Beast Boy (whom she does love) is a definite aversion.
- The Clan Of The Cave Bear series (with the exception of the first book) has pages and pages of this stuff (the sex scenes average at least six pages each) largely devoted to the fact that Ayla and Jondalar have genitals of a complementary size, and are in fact, the only people with genitals of such a size. Also, they like to watch horses do it. And mammoths.
- Laurell K. Hamilton, whose last few books have devolved into exactly this sort of porn.
- And when Ms. Hamilton isn't utilizing this trope, she typically just has some weird mystic happening affect all the characters so they wake up hours (or days) later having had insanely hot orgies that they don't even remember. This really saves her from having to find new words to describe obscenely large werewolf-genitalia (which then get inserted into slot B).
- Bill O'Reilly's book Those Who Trespass provides an (in)famous example involving an Author Avatar.
- Played for Laughs in Dave Barry In Cyberspace, with a "cybersex" session including the ridiculous line: "I AM THRUSTING MY MASSIVE KNOCKWURST OF LOVE INTO YOUR PASSION PERSIMMON!"
- And then it turns out that the guy is Al Gore. No, really.
- It gets better. The woman he's doing it with? Tipper Gore. And neither of them knew at first.
HunniBunni: It feels like when you break a tie vote in the Senate?
Born2Bone: Umm, listen, what I meant was...
HunniBunni: This is you, isn't it, Al? ISN'T IT?? YOU BASTARD!!! YOU TOLD ME YOU WERE ATTENDING A STATE FUNERAL THIS AFTERNOON!!!
- The sex scenes in Greg Egan's novels are so frighteningly banal and usually misjudged from the characters' perspective that he's clearly subverting the whole idea of the things. Yes, people bump naughty bits together from time to time. They also urinate, get cramps, digest food, and flake off skin; there's no tradition of putting scenes specifically depicting those activities into novels.
- The sex scenes in Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series are nowhere near as well written as the explanations of technical details of the hardware that puts the "techno" in "technothriller", with awkward word choices and phrasing taking any hint of eroticism out of the scenes.
- John Varley's novel Mammoth contained an IKEA Erotica scene cringe-inducingly unerotic. "His stiffness into her wetness" or something like that.
- How NOT To Write A Novel points out in a section entitled "Assembly Instructions: Wherein the sex is drained of sex" that this is the likely result of a writer being uncomfortable with the scene; "The result will be something that reads like a medical brochure about erectile dysfunction. What's more, it will read as more perverse than a straightforward 'They fucked all night', and in a disturbing Norman Bates-y way."
- Older Than Print: An awesome scene early on in the Japanese creation myth Kojiki:
"Izanagi asked his spouse Izanami, 'How's your body formed?' She replied, 'My body, formed though it be formed, has one place that is formed insufficiently.' Then Izanagi said, 'My body, formed though it be formed, has one place that is formed in excess. Therefore I would like to take that place in my body which is formed to excess and insert it into that place in your body that is formed insufficiently and give birth to the land. How would this be?' Izanami replied, 'This would be good.'"
- A rare example of IKEA erotica being used on purpose, for a reason: in Greg Bear's novel Slant, a couple of sex scenes are described with clinical precision, but it's clear that there's not meant to be any sort of romance or passion. In the first scene, a call girl has sex with a client: she doesn't enjoy it, of course, and he's only doing it to infect her. In the second scene, a man is jumped by his very horny wife, and doesn't really get a chance to enjoy himself either. The obsessively detailed style is repeated throughout the novel to create the feeling of being bombarded by information.
- Used in The Handmaid's Tale, in order to emphasise the fact that sex, for Offred, is now nothing more than a duty.
- Kramer's War by Derek Robinson mentions IKEA erotica, but doesn't indulge in it. One character actually thinks the words "Insert Tab A into Slot B" ironically; luckily we are spared the sex scene. Other novels by Robinson prove immune to IKEA erotica.
- The Subject Steve has this. And IKEA gorn. And IKEA social interaction. And IKEA human life. All deliberate, mind you.
- Done for comedic effect in one of Michael Moorcock's "Dancers at the End of Time" novels. The characters are often described as "making love" in a nonspecific manner, but when they actually decide to do it for real (in order to conceive a baby - Jherek Carnelian, the central character) they have some difficulty working out "what goes into where, and so on."
- Both averted and played straight in Fifty Shades of Grey. The words inner goddess and subconscious are used as metaphors for vagina and erection or enormous length for penis. E.g. the IG doing a salsa merengue (used to describe an oral sex scene), or the inner goddess jumping up and down like a cheerleader waving pom-poms (And it gets worse than that, even).
- This trope is also played to the hilt in a scene where period sex occurs. "He reaches between my legs and pulls on the blue string what?! and gently pulls my tampon out and tosses it into the nearby toilet. Holy fuck. Sweet mother of all Jeez. And then he's inside me."
- Micheal Grant's GONE. "She sighed as he entered her." Really?
- Every sex scene in American Psycho is written like this, with interminable prosaic descriptions of every position. It all goes to show Patrick Bateman's unique outlook on everything.
- Episode 6 of Garth Marenghis Darkplace opens with a piece of hilariously bad IKEA Erotica. Later, Dean Learner gets to rant about the standards of modern erotica writing, which ends up veering straight into Purple Prose.
Learner: I read modern writers, and it's "screw this", "he licked her", "she sucked that", "he bit the other", you know, "someone put it there", "he held it", I mean, where's the sensuality?
Marenghi: Where's "he glided in liquid smooth"? Where's "her wispy mound"?
- Night Court parodied this once. Mac was discussing assembling a train set, saying "Insert tab A into slot B. Who can't do that?" and Dan (the in-house pervert) just gave him a look and said "You'd be surprised."
- The Mitchell and Webb Situation has a series of sketches where they play two guys who are in the process of inventing something we're all familiar with, discussed in a way that makes it sound really stupid. In one, the thing they're inventing is apparently the human body, and Webb is trying to convince Mitchell that where one kind has "a bit that goes out," the other should have "a bit that goes in."
Mitchell: What, to help stacking?
Webb: Yeah, it would help stacking. They'd really tessellate well.
Mitchell: I'm not sure it would, actually. I'm not sure it would go in that easily. I think you'd have to sort of work it in, because it's got no purchase, because it's floppy.
Webb: No it wouldn't, because the thing that sticks out, that could change shape. It would go sort of rigid.
Mitchell: What, when you need to stack them?...
- In the Dharma and Greg episode "The Story of K", Kitty turns out to have been writing some pretty steamy, Romance Novel style erotica- However, in one of her stories, read aloud by Dharma, the sex is simply described as "They kissed. They kissed a second time. It was time for sex. She knew what he wanted, he knew what she wanted, so the sex was pretty good."
- FATAL has formulae for calculating the exact measurements of a character's primary and secondary sex characteristics. Thankfully this part is optional, but it's there.
- Well, theoretically optional, but given the rest of the manual's emphasis on the least arousing sex this side of a court-ordered chemical sterilization, you might as well just do it. You're already a sex offender just for agreeing to play the game; just as well hang for a sheep as a lamb.
- And the parts about the act itself have even more numbers. No link because decidedly NSFW, but these rules are examined in detail on page 24 of the troper liveblog.
- Considering the purposes for which they're purchased it's amazing just how bad the writing in most English (translated) hentai games is when it comes to sex scenes. In most cases, the writers probably either:
- Have much more interest in writing a story than shoehorning in what the executives consider to be the selling point of these games. Game requires adult content to sell? Fine, here's a stupid sex scene, now let me get back to the interesting bit. In some of these games, you can cut the sex completely without missing anything in the plot, and probably make it better - these may get an all-ages console releases.
- Know exactly how silly the games for which they're writing are, so why bother making it good? They Just Didn't Care anyway. In fact, why not make the sex even dumber than it already is. They may even garner some cheap laughs from how bad it is.
- Got some ghostwriters involved somewhere in the process. You can tell from the clear difference in writing between the erotic scenes and the rest of the game.
- Divi-Dead takes it to a whole other level with such gems as "shove your eggplant up to my ribcage!", and the hero always, always, always finishes with "I'm BLASTING!"
- Considering the rest of the game's bad translation job and clear editing (rewriting what is obviously a rape scene by the voice acting to a consensual one), it's hard to say who is at fault - the original writers, or the the translators.
- It can probably be explained mostly with poor translation job by people who had little to no actual experience, since those games were originally in Japanese.
- Sometimes even when the translation is good, it's often too clinical, and marred with strange sound effects.
- Another literal example: There is a certain IKEA bed called "Gutvik"◊, and caused quite some amusement in Germany (Where it's pronounced goot fick - identically to the German words "gut fick", which means "good fuck" or "good screw"). This trope naturally followed.
- The Porn Without Plot of certain fixations and fetishes can turn into matherotica, when the author decides that the best way to spark the reader's libido is by rattling off measurements. A blend of IKEA Erotica and a failure to Show, Don't Tell, it misunderstands the thrill of the impossible which fuels these fantasies as "her breasts had become even bigger and heavier, growing five pounds and a full two inches in diameter in the course of one day, making her a 62FF."
- "Please put your...that! Y-your pOnOs! To my...my...Here! ...My vagOOO!!! And J-J-JAM IT IN!" Memetic Mutation ahoy.
- The SCP Foundation fic (which is no longer on the site due to complications with the author) "Union" actually uses this for effect, since it's based on SCP-217, a virus that converts organisms into clockwork, both literally and figuratively.
- "I Just Had Sex" by The Lonely Island. The chorus is "I just had sex/And it felt so good/A woman let me put my penis inside her". Other lines include "It felt so good when I did it with my penis" and "When I had the sex/Man my penis felt great".
- This song is that rare and wonderful thing, a successful attempt at deliberately creating something so bad it's good.
- Shows up frequently in the sex scenes in Sonichu. At one point, Rosechu actually says "Insert Rod A into Slot B" without the slightest hint of irony.
- In Linkara's review of The New Guardians #1:
Linkara: "Considering your team's mission statement is only about procreation, you really don't need to know all that much. Insert A into B, repeat as needed."
- In the short story "Yes, It's True--I Had an Affair with Our Maid Amelia Bedelia" by Spencer Ham, this is the only sort of sexy-talk that their Literal-Minded maid understands.
It was like reading an instructional pamphlet for sex out loud. There was nothing romantic about it.
- With Bender: "Come on, it's just like making love. Y'know: Left, down, rotate 62 degrees, engage rotor."
- Zoidberg can only think of sex in this manner. Knowing what happens to his species when they have sex, he's probably the better off for it.
- Also shows up in the Family Guy movie. "Get in there! Get in there and... (while reading from The Joy of Sex) insert your pen-is into her vag-in-a!"
- And in the episode where Peter tries his hand at writing erotica, resulting in such timeless classics as The Hot Chick Who Was Italian or Maybe Some Kind of Spanish. As read by Betty White.
- This is a bit odd, as Peter managed to make it both this and Lemon.
- Here's few perfect example from the same episode: a science-fiction type story.
(Reading aloud whist cuddling with Lois) "...and then Captain Leeroy Hot Dog Zanzibar and Gina from my work
got in the backseat of his really cool spaceship. Gina was finally wearing that tank top I got her and nothing else. Zanzibar knew he couldn't control his space horniness
any longer, and then they totally did it. And if I'd have been there, I would've been like 'Aw, sweet.'"
- "It was past midnight when the blonde smokin' hot lab assistant, who looked a little like Heather Locklear, only with bigger jugs, was thrown onto the lab table. He ripped off her lab coat and she grabbed his metallic extension. Oh. Did I mention he was a robot?"
- Even weirder is that Lois was impressed and said that it really painted a picture for her. Also how he became a bestselling author through writing these. But when you look at the next example, it might be a statement about erotica in this show. It'd be unsurprising if Brian was actually good at writing descriptions, even if he isn't good with plot.
- "He rubbed her shoulder sensually." That's not sexy! You can't do someone in the shoulder!
- This gem from South Park (which also sounds like it might be a schoolground rhyme):
It's a man's obligation to stick his boneration in a woman's separation. This sort of penetration increases the population of the younger generation.
- Another South Park example showing both the sheer terrifying wonder of Butter's twisted crazy upbringing, and perhaps a little Truth in Television:
You see, Jimmy, when a man's penis becomes hard, the man puts it into a lady, into her vagina. Then, the hard penis sneezes milk inside the lady's tunnel and after it's all done sneezing milk the penis stops being hard and the man loses interest in the lady