The annual Bad Sex in Fiction Awards seeks to “draw attention to poorly written or redundant passages of sexual description in otherwise decent novels.” In all honesty, though, it appears to just want to poke fun at some outrageously bad sex writing. However, terribly written books like Fifty Shades of Grey or nonfiction books like Call Me Dave which details David Cameron’s alleged sexual encounter with a dead pig are not eligible.
Despite this, there are some absolute crackers of bad sex throughout the 25 years of these awards, and after hours of trawling through them, I have hand selected some of the best…
Some of these entries are hot and the first extract is literally boiling. May-Lan Tan describes sex in Things to Make and Break as: “God. It’s like sticking your cock into the sun. I fuck her deep and slow, watching her mouth and feeling her move. When I get too close, I pull out and let my dick cool.” Likewise, The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet details this extreme heat, “Bianca grabs Simon’s dick, which is hot and hard as if it’s just come out of a steel forge, and connects it to her mouth-machine.” If you’re wondering what a “mouth-machine” is, I’m afraid I cannot shed any light there.
While so far the extracts appear to be just badly written, if you’re being generous, there are some, frankly, just disturbing portrayals of sex among these other nominees and winners. Janet Ellis lets us in on a rather intimate confession in The Butcher’s Hook as she states, “‘Till now, I thought the sweetest sound I could ever hear was cows chewing grass. But this is better.’ He sways and we listen to the soft suck at the exact place we meet. Then I move and put all thoughts of livestock out of his head.” Another animal-themed, maybe fetish-y, portrayal of sex is in Erica Jong’s Of Blessed Memory: “at last he ejaculates, shuddering and growling, making the noises of a seal baying at the Arctic moon. “‘My slippery seal,’ I say, ‘my salty sweetheart, my kingdom of the three slipperies.’”
The quality of writing makes you wonder if these writers are trying to be nominated for the prestigious Bad Sex Award or just living vicariously through their disturbed protagonists. I can only hope that no one has had a sexual experience like Christos Tsiolkas in Dead Europe. Tsiolkas describes how “she smelt of farting and diarrhoea, shitting and pissing, burping, bile and vomit. I forced my tongue into this churning compost. Her blood was calling me.” 2013 Bad Sex nominee Jonathan Grimwood takes a note from this as he wrote The Last Banquet, in which he asks the reader: “You know the peasant saying? If you can’t imagine how neighbouring vineyards can produce such different wines put one finger in your woman’s quim and another up her arse, then taste both and stop asking stupid questions…” I can only apologise if you’re faint of heart and stomach.
With limited space left, I’ll rattle through some more hilarious excerpts ranging from the incredibly vivid, “she grabbed at his dick, which was leaping around like a shower dropped in an empty bath” (Giles Coren, Winkler) to the downright bizarre, “You see a designer pussy. Hair razored and ordered in the shape of a swastika. The Aryan denominator” (Aniruddha Bahal, Bunker 13). But the one I really want to leave you with is perhaps my favourite from John Updike’s The Widows of Eastwick where the following post-coital conversation occurs: “‘Call me Sukie,’ she said, having read his mind. ‘I sucked your cock.’ ‘You sure did. Thanks. Wow.’”