By Katherine Sharma
One of my favorite “literary” awards, the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award, has announced this year’s winner! The award was established back in 1998 by the British Literary Review’s then-editor Auberon Waugh, with the hope of discouraging authors from penning laughably bad fictional sex scenes. It just underscores the challenge of writing erotic and emotionally resonant sexual descriptions that the award hasn’t run short of nominees, and that nominees often include otherwise acclaimed writers.
Despite shaming examples of failed eroticism with a booby prize, authors still stumble into porno slang, off-putting anatomical terms, or strained metaphors of a natural (otters and butterflies), mechanical (plows and pistons), or cosmic (supernovae and black holes) kind. The unintended reader response to poorly written descriptions of sexual intimacy is wincing, gagging or giggling–and sometimes all three.
A case in point is the 2015 winner, the debut novel List of the Lost by former Smiths vocalist Morrissey, which includes this awful sex romp: “At this, Eliza and Ezra rolled together into one giggling snowball of full-figured copulation, screaming and shouting as they playfully bit and pulled at each other in a dangerous and clamorous rollercoaster coil of sexually violent rotation with Eliza’s breasts barrel-rolled across Ezra’s howling mouth and the pained frenzy of his bulbous salutation extenuating his excitement as it whacked and smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body except for the otherwise central zone.”
Nominees for 2015 include The Martini Shot by the celebrated screenwriter of TV’s “The Wire,” George Pelecanos (“I rubbed myself against her until she was wet as a waterslide”); Joshua Cohen’s Book of Numbers (“her breasts were like young fawns, sheep frolicking in hyssop”); and Before, During, After by Richard Bausch (“When she took him, still a little flaccid, into her mouth, he moaned, ‘Oh, lover.’”). For a sampling of fiction’s worst sex scenes by previous winners