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IKEA Erotica

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Some Assembly Required. Insert tab P into slot V.

"Then he put his thingie into my you-know-what and we did it for the first time."
Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way, My Immortal

IKEA Erotica is the tendency of badly written sex scenes to be very mechanical descriptions of who sticks what into where. It's named after the Swedish big-box store, which is famous for selling furniture that requires assembly with instructions along the lines of "insert Tab A into Slot B". IKEA Erotica is a sex scene written in basically that style, which end up being about as interesting as assembling furniture.

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. In writing, sex isn't about sex, it's about the people having it and what they're feeling. But some writers don't get that, and they end up describing the physical mechanics of the sex. Sometimes it's a sign that the writer didn't want to include a sex scene but got overruled and initiated a Writer Revolt. More often, though, it's a sign that the writer is sexually inexperienced — they don't know anything about how sex feels, but only how it works, and that only from a biology textbook (sometimes likened to a description of "plumbing"). And sometimes not even then, which leads to poorly written Anatomically Impossible Sex. IKEA Erotica is one of the hallmarks of Fan Fiction by 14-year-old girls, examples of which are too numerous to list and too forgettable to remember.

It's also a common feature of Porn Without Plot. If the writers only really care about writing the sex scenes and think everything else is filler, they're going to put all the emphasis on the sex scenes. If they're not particularly good at writing the sex scenes, you end up with prose like this. The extreme form is "verbing the noun", in which the scene is written almost entirely without adjectives or adverbs — all "he [x]ed her [y]" or "she [w]ed his [z]", where you could replace the keywords with anything and the reader wouldn't notice.

But as always, Tropes Are Tools, and there are a number of reasons why IKEA Erotica might be deliberately included. It can be a parody of bad writing. It can be a way of Getting Crap Past the Radar. It can be an interesting insight into the psyche of a character who isn't good with emotions or has no human experience in the matter (a Humanoid Alien, for example, may well be more interested in the logistics than the loving). It can also be a way to show that the character feels no emotional connection to their partner, is enduring the act rather than enjoying it, or believes that Sex Is Evil and/or dehumanizing.

It gets really weird when combined with The Body Parts That Must Not Be Named and/or Technical Euphemism.

The best way to avoid falling afoul of this trope is not to describe the sex at all — by all means show the characters and the emotional lead up to the act, then pull a Sexy Discretion Shot and come back when it's all over. What the characters feel about each other is more important than what they're doing to each other, and they should still be feeling it before and after they have sex. Alternatively, you could try Lewd Lust, Chaste Sex, when all the events leading up to the act are described in lascivious detail, but the deed itself is elided; it has the same effect but makes it more titillating.

See also Fetish Retardant and Narm, common consequences of IKEA Erotica, and Show, Don't Tell, which is a related piece of writing advice. Contrast with Mills and Boon Prose.

Dishonorable mentions:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Used intentionally in Speed Grapher, considering its unhinged look into sexuality and fetishes. If a sex scene isn't Fan Disservice, it's this trope.

    Fan Fiction 
  • The notorious (and now, notoriously hard to find) fanfic 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 is full of this in its sex scenes. The first sex scene has the line, "Then he put his thingie into my you-know-what and we did it for the first time." It reads exactly like it was written by a teenage girl who knows nothing about sex. In later chapters, it drifts into Anatomically Impossible Sex territory with the line, "He put his boys thingie in mine" (spoken by a girl).
  • 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 post on is with Aqualad, but he feels little for her, and she deliberately suppresses all emotion so as not to blast him with her powers, leading to a creepily clinical piece. A later time with Beast Boy (whom she does love) is a definite aversion.
  • One night of the drop of rain: "It inserted its body into the other one."
  • Spanish fanfic writer Perla Shumajer is infamous for this, particularly in her Harry Potter fanfics. In one, she describes Snape taking "his" penis out of Harry's pants (without magic), and in another, she describes characters as "married in marriage". It's not really rich in its depictions, but it makes up for it in its bizarreness.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The Earth's Children series (with the exception of the first book) has pages and pages of this stuff. The sex scenes average about six pages long, 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 sometimes like to watch horses do it, or mammoths.
  • The last few Anita Blake books devolve into exactly this sort of dialogue. Author Laurell K. Hamilton wasn't interested in writing about stories so much as writing about sex, and it's usually this kind of thing. Sometimes she avoids it by describing some weird mystic event affecting all the characters, who wake up hours (or days) later having had insanely hot orgies that they don't even remember, which saves her from having to find new words to describe obscenely large werewolf genitalia to 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!" It turns out the participants are Al and Tipper Gore — neither of whom knew who the other was, at least at first:
    HunniBunni: It feels like when you break a tie vote in the Senate?
    Born2Bone: Umm, listen, what I meant was...
    Born2Bone: Tipper?
    HunniBunni: Whoops.
  • 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 thing. 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 "techno-thriller", with awkward word choices and phrasing taking any hint of eroticism out of the scenes.
  • John Varley's novel Mammoth contains an IKEA Erotica scene that includes the cringe-inducing description of "his stiffness into her wetness".
  • How NOT to Write a Novel has a section devoted to this entitled "Assembly Instructions: Wherein the sex is drained of sex". It attributes this to 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. As Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology, Beginnings to 1600, Abridged restated the Donald L. Philippi translation, shortening names like Izanami-no-Mikoto to just "Izanami":
    "Izanagi asked his spouse Izanami, 'How is 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.'"
  • 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 the Ceremony (ritual sex involving a Handmaid), for Offred, is now nothing more than a duty. She even refers to the act as "fucking", as no other word describes what is happening to her. This language, and much of the rest of the book, often leads to controversies over its use in high school literature classes.
  • 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 IKEA erotica. And IKEA gorn. And IKEA social interaction. And IKEA human life. All deliberate, as a means of evoking the correct atmosphere.
  • 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."
  • Used to great effectiveness in The Bluest Eye when Cholly rapes his daughter Pecola. The Beige Prose does absolutely nothing to detract from the Squick.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey falls victim to this routinely. It also uses some very bizarre metaphors for sex and sexual organs, which are then extended to the breaking point in the sex scenes. Most infamous is the "Inner Goddess", which the narrator uses repeatedly to refer to her vagina; an oral sex scene is described by the "Inner Goddess" doing a salsa merengue, and another sex scene has her jumping up and down like a cheerleader waving pom-poms. Even though it tries to avoid IKEA Erotica, the metaphors are so blunt and transparent that it has the same effect. There's also this dialogue describing period sex, which is much more "traditional" IKEA Erotica:
    "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."
  • Michael Grant's Gone: "She sighed as he entered her."
  • 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.
  • In Colm Tóibín's Brooklyn, the narrator Eilis describes her first sexual encounter quite clinically, thanks to feeling guilty and quite uncomfortable about it.
  • Used deliberately in John Green's Looking for Alaska, when Pudge receives oral sex from Lara, in order to demonstrate their lack of an emotional connection.
  • British magazine The Literary Review has an annual Bad Sex Award. Examples can be found in the linked page.
    "Each year since 1993, the Bad Sex in Fiction Award has honoured an author who has produced an outstandingly bad scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel. The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction. The prize is not intended to cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature."

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 resident pervert, just gave him a look and said, "You'd be surprised."
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look:
    • A recurring sketch on That Mitchell and Webb Situation has the characters describe a new invention that we're all familiar with, in a way that makes it sound really stupid. One such invention is the human body itself, with Webb trying to convince Mitchell that one kind should have "a bit that goes out" and 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?
    • A man who writes porno movies describes routinely receiving a basic outline of the relationship between a man and a woman, with large blank spaces containing only the words "they have sex" written several times over. His job is to fill in the blanks.
  • In the Dharma & 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 thus:
    "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."
  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver plays a clip of New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English narrating the world's saddest exercise video. Oliver then jokes that he wants to see English make a sex tape, speculating that he would provide narration that would be a hilarious example of this trope.
  • Discussed in Resident Alien: When he shares a cup of coffee with her in the morning, Harry describes everything he and his wife are going to do in the sack in meticulous, mechanical detail with a deadpan tone, gradually boring her. Then the sedative kicks in and Isabelle crashes to the floor.


    Tabletop Games 
  • F.A.T.A.L. is infamous for this. It ostensibly wants to be an erotic tabletop RPG, but it does this by employing formulae for calculating the exact measurements of a character's primary and secondary sex characteristics, and more formulae for working out the results of a sexual encounter. It's technically optional, but there's no other point to playing the game, especially given the manual's emphasis on this kind of sex.
  • The infamously bad third-party Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 Book of Erotic Fantasy wound up with this, due to trying to link a character's sexual ability to a skill check.

    Visual Novels 
  • Kinoko Nasu, writer of Fate/stay night and Tsukihime among others, is infamous for his inability to write sex scenes, to the point that making fun of TYPE-MOON's sex scenes is a Running Gag amongst the fans. There's some evidence that the sex was forced into the story in order to make the games sell better, as later stories and remakes of the old games tend to lack any sex scenes at all (to the point that certain plot events had to be retconned into happening a different way).
  • 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 obvious 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 translators.
  • The Ace Attorney fangame Phoenix Drive is full of lines that play it straight. The horrible English makes things worse. Examples of erotic lines in this game:
    • May I do onanism?
    • I wash down your pipe. I investigate the inside.
    • This stick is energetic... I melt it.
    • It's... milky cock... cumimg (sic)?
    • Aaah... Juice hangs down from a cock...
    • And that's not even all the examples.
  • Used deliberately in two separate scenes in Katawa Shoujo:
    • In the case of Hanako's route, it's to highlight their focus on the physical aspect, and the uncertainty they have over their feelings for each other. Neither of them seems to enjoy it very much (especially Hanako, whose scar tissue limits her flexibility), and they are painfully awkward in each other's presence the next morning.
    • In Shizune's route, if you choose to comfort Misha, it's to emphasize the wrongness of Hisao and Misha's behavior through their mechanical and passionless act, especially in contrast to the previous sex scene with Shizune. Both are overcome by guilt afterwards, and it leads to the Bad End.

    Web Originals 
  • 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."note  Often, Ludicrous Precision ensues, which only intensifies the Narm.
  • Fate/stay night: "Please put your...that! Y-your pOnOs! To! ...My vagOOO!!! And J-J-JAM IT IN!" Memes ahoy.
  • The SCP Foundation fic "Union" (which is no longer on the site due to complications with the author) uses this for effect, since it's based on SCP-217, a virus that converts organisms into clockwork, both literally and figuratively.
  • 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.
  • The Internet Oracle was once asked by a supplicant, "What is sex". The oracle used the "Tab A into Slot B" example, continuing the description about certain situations where Tab F wants to insert itself in Tab R and finalizes in how corrugated cardboard boxes are made.
  • The Sword Art Online webnovel had a pretty infamous one. The phrase "glopping sound" is used, and semen can apparently be measured in years. It's widely believed this was an example of Stylistic Suck. One can understand why this scene was left out when the series was remade for publishing.
  • Terrible Writing Advice: Discussed in "Lovemaking Scenes": It is stated that this trope could be used to show a character who is just going through the motions, but is better used as a crutch for novice writers to write a sex scene without describing it in an entertaining fashion or just fading to black.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama:
    • Bender is a robot and naturally thinks of sex this way:
      Bender: Come on, it's just like making love. Y'know... left, down, rotate 62 degrees, engage rotor.
      Amy: (angrily) I know how to make love!
    • 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.
  • Family Guy
    • In the movie Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story:
      "Get in there! Get in there and... (while reading from The Joy of Sex) insert your pen-is into her vag-in-a!"
    • The episode "Peterotica" spoofs the whole concept. Peter gets an erotic novel and is disappointed by its writing style because it tries to avert this trope, so he decides to write one himself. He becomes a best-selling author and lauded as a genius of erotic literature, even though he writes the same way he talks — that is, a rambling, disjointed, stream of consciousness:
      "...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.'"
  • South Park:
    • A literal schoolboy's 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.
    • Butters' parents describe sex to him this way, in keeping with Butters' twisted crazy upbringing:
      "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."
  • In Tuca & Bertie episode "The Deli Guy", Bertie describes her love life with Speckle as being so routine that it might as well be this. Her description is accompanied by an Art Shift which portrays them in the style of furniture instructions.

Alternative Title(s): IKEA Porn