Bad Sex Awards Showcase the Worst the Literary World Has To Offer in the Bedroom

Ever since Fifty Shades of Grey , there’s been a lot of talk about sex in books and whether or not the scenes are realistic — or, in the case of Fifty Shades, remotely plausible to even the most naïve of virgins. Of course, erotica novels aren’t about realism any more than pornos are; it’s all about the fantasy. So perhaps they are excused. But what about sex scenes found in between the covers of more conventional novels? Because there are some… questionable passages to be found, make no mistake. And it’s rather bothersome since the “serious” novelists have no excuse to be ridiculous.

So what to make of all of this? Well, the London-based magazine The Literary Review decided to put a humorous twist on the whole issue and create an award, namely the Bad Sex Award. The award does not consider erotica — probably because no one wants to try to narrow them all down — and is intended to “draw attention to the crude, badly written, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.” To which we say “Here, Here!”

It will come as no surprise that since its inception (or should we say conception) in 1993, most of the winners have been male. Because yeah. This year’s eight finalists are almost all male, with Susan Choi being the only exception, nominated for a passage in her novel My Education which included the line “the devastation of my pleasure surged outward and outward again, like an ocean-floor tremor.” Good for you, narrator.

But really, why is it that novelists who can make such great observations about seemingly everything else, who can write such original passages and create vividly realistic characters, so often produce stale or unrealistic descriptions of sex? Are they letting pornographic fantasies get in the way of realism? Are they embarrassed or worried people will make assumptions about their own sex lives? Are they just not getting laid?

Well, who knows. But at least the Bad Sex Awards have our backs. Fighting for truth, justice, and realistic orgasms everywhere.

I imagine everyone has some ideas about who should be nominated for this prestigious award – I know I could think of a few titles – but the actual short list is as follows:

House of Earth by Woody Guthrie

Motherland by William Nicholson

The City of Devi by Manil Suri

Secrecy by Rupert Thomson

The World Was All Before Them by Matthew Reynolds

My Education by Susan Choi

The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood

The Victoria System by Eric Reinhardt

You can find excerpts from the qualifying passages here. See if they stack up to the worst you've encountered.

Image: Wikimedia Commons