The Annual “Bad Sex in Fiction” Awards

It’s one of my favorite times of the year, and not just because 2006 is almost over and my Detroit Lions are almost done embarrassing an entire state for yet another season, but “Literary Review” magazine has released their annual “Bad Sex in Fiction” awards.

Here’s some brief background:

The awards were set up by Auberon Waugh with the aim of gently dissuading authors and publishers from including unconvincing, perfunctory, embarrassing or redundant passages of a sexual nature in otherwise sound literary novels. Previous winners include Tom Wolfe, AA Gill, Sebastian Faulks, and Melvyn Bragg.

Here’s my favorite from the pool of nominees. It’s a passage from the novel Twentysomething by Iain Hollingshead:

She’s wearing a short, floaty skirt that’s more suited to July than February. She leans forward to peck me on the cheek, which feels weird, as she’s never kissed me on the cheek before. We’d kissed properly the first time we met. And that was over three years ago.

But the peck on the cheek turns into a quick peck on the lips. She hugs me tight. I can feel her breasts against her chest. I cup my hands round her face and start to kiss her properly, She slides one of her slender legs in between mine. Oh Jack, she was moaning now, her curves pushed up against me, her crotch taut against my bulging trousers, her hands gripping fistfuls of my hair. She reaches for my belt. I groan too, in expectation. And then I’m inside her, and everything is pure white as we’re lost in a commotion of grunts and squeaks, flashing unconnected images and explosions of a million little particles.

Sounds like they were doing it next to the hamster cage during a thunderstorm. This pretty much sums up a backseat encounter I had in 1984. I’ll never forget that cornfield.

Here’s a bit of The Whole World Over by Julia Glass:

‘You’re a sexy lady, know that?’ Stan whispered as he unzipped her pants. She had no answer; she kept her eyes closed and sank into the music. His naked penis, when she felt it against her bare skin, was a shock, mostly for the desire it beckoned from Saga’s marrow.

I particularly enjoyed the final sentence, as I’m a big fan of combining sex and osteology.

Here’s a passage that strikes a sexual nerve with the surgical precision of The Three Stooges performing quadruple bypass on an under-anethatized Roberto Benigni. It’s from A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon:

She put her hand around his penis and moved it back and forth and it no longer seemed strange, not even a part of his body, more a part of hers, the sensations flowing in one unbroken circle.

Suggested follow-up sentence: “That’s the Playstation controller, you moron.”

And then there’s Black Swan Green by David Mitchell

Tom Yew got on her and sort of jiggled there and she gasped like he was giving her a Chinese burn and wrapped her legs round him, froggily. Now he moved up and down, Man-from-Atlantisly. His silver chain jiggled on his neck.
Now her grubby soles met like they were praying.
Now his skin was glazed in roast pork sweat.
Now she made a noise like a tortured Moomintroll.
Now Tom Yew’s body jerkjerked judderily jackknifed and a noise like a ripping cable tore out of him. Once more, like he’d been booted in the balls.
Her fingernails’d sunk salmony welts into his arse.
Debby Crombie’s mouth made a perfect O.

Yes indeed, the plugged-in hair dryer had fallen into the bathtub.

For next year’s contest, I think I’ll submit a sample from a piece I wrote years ago about how adding sexual content to books on economics would make the subject far more desirable and understandable to college-age kids.

For example, which is more interesting, this:

One can read whole reams of economic literature written by both fervent followers of John Maynard Keynes and his attackers as well and never know that there was a German language edition of his profoundly influential General Theory late in 1936, for which Keynes wrote a special foreword addressed solely to German readers.

Or this:

The British economist unbuttoned her blouse as he whispered the General Theory of Unemployment into her ear. Keynes was his name, economics was his game. She laid back, quivering from his masterful evaluation of the recession. Her Supply Curves and healthy Assets gave him Hard Currency. His Demand Durve straightened. As her Liquidity Preference became apparent as he began slowly, methodically, and gently explaining why the U.S. should go back on the Gold Standard…

At any rate, click here to further explore bad sex writing in fiction. For bad sex in non-fiction, as always, I recommend the Starr Report.

I hope you all have a healthy and prosperous 2007! See you on the other side.


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Author: Doug Powers

Doug Powers is a writer, editor and commentator covering news of the day from a conservative viewpoint with an occasional shot of irreverence and a chaser of snark. Townhall Media writer/editor. alum. Bowling novice. Long-suffering Detroit Lions fan. Contact: