You may have heard of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award, but isn't it about time we started rewarding good sex in literature? That's exactly what Erotic Review decided, prompting them to create the Good Sex in Fiction Award. And while the Bad Sex in Fiction long list is certainly worth a few laughs, let's all be honest: It's the Good Sex in Fiction long list that you're going to want to go out and read.
People have been calling for a Good Sex in Fiction Award for years now. The Guardian has published several pieces calling for someone to implement one going as far back as 2010. And in fact Salon even did briefly host a Good Sex in Fiction Award in 2013. The Erotic Review magazine, however, has decided to step up to the challenge.
Erotic Review publisher Lisa Moylett told The Times that the Bad Sex in Fiction Award, which was first founded by the Literary Review in 1993, is certainly amusing, but it's time for something more.
“We have laughed enough,” Moylett said. “We are throwing down the gauntlet. No more ‘bad sex’ writing. That is not something we should be celebrating.”
As Moylett points out, we shouldn't be making authors afraid to write about sex lest they wind up mocked — perhaps even with a nomination for a Bad Sex in Fiction Award. But even if you aren't singled out as the height of bad sex writing, writing about sex in literature is often looked down upon. Sex scenes are seen as the domain of erotica (and, to a lesser extent, romance), two genres that are often looked down upon by the literary establishment.
When sex scenes appear in more literary works, on the other hand, authors often seem to want the sex to in someway take on a metaphorical or symbolic quality. Which both lends itself to "bad sex" nominations, and doesn't really do anything to explore sex as its own subject. In fact, given that sex is a fairly important part of the human experience, it's received surprisingly little exploration in literature.
Erotic Review hasn't laid out which, if any, genres they might be focusing on in handing out awards or accepting nominations. Will there be different categories for different genres? Would that defeat the whole point? Will erotica titles be included — and if they, will they just wind up running the table? However the contest is set up, though, the idea of rewarding good sex in literature is certainly something we need.
As Moylett and Mariella Frostrup, editor of the recently released Desire: 100 of Literature’s Sexiest Stories , pointed out in announcing the award, right now the most ubiquitous and popular representation of sex in our culture is porn — which is probably not ideal. Whether you love porn or hate it, I think we can all agree that most porn doesn't present a particularly balanced or nuanced view of sex. And having literature that provides a different perspective could be very valuable to our society.
“There are some very serious issues about pornography and the way we can access it,” Frostrup said. “We need to man up about sex and start talking about it more openly."
Moylett added that she hoped this award would help "“bridge the gap between the horrible world of porn and what we all chat about and enjoy."And setting aside this idea that porn is automatically horrible, normalizing sex and depictions of sex is would probably help counteract a lot of the messed up ideas about sex found in our society. And celebrating good examples of sex writing in literature is a good place to start.
Images: Elizabeth Minch/Bustle