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23 Worst sex scenes in fiction — ever

It’s that time of year again: Britain’s celebrated literary award season. You guessed it: Literary Review released its coveted shortlist for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award, otherwise known as the search for bad sex in good books.

The dreaded prize is now in its 22nd year. What criteria do judges use? According to Literary Review, “The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them.”

Although the award does intend to discourage, there are no authors expressly hurt in the process. In fact, several of this year’s shortlist participants are award-winners and hopefuls, like Richard Flanagan (Man Booker Prize winner), Michael Cunningham (Pulitzer Prize winner) and Haruki Murakami (Nobel Prize favorite). Indeed, success does not save you from the occasional bout of bad writing.

What makes for “bad sex?” Possibly a matter of opinion, but in my experience, bad sex in fiction uses too many adverbs, comparisons to God, thesaurus abuse and any metaphors involving animals and/or nature. Also, just keep the word “deep” away from your sexual vernacular, thanks.

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In honor of 22 glorious years of very, very bad sex, we have compiled our favorite from 2014’s shortlist as well as past winners, going back to 1998. Read, laugh — and authors, don’t let this happen to you.

2014 shortlist: Desert God by Wilbur Smith

“Her hair was piled high, but when she shook her head it came cascading down in a glowing wave over her shoulders, and fell as far as her knees. This rippling curtain did not cover her breasts which thrust their way through it like living creatures. They were perfect rounds, white as mare’s milk and tipped with ruby nipples that puckered as my gaze passed over them. Her body was hairless. Her pudenda were also entirely devoid of hair. The tips of her inner lips protruded shyly from the vertical cleft. The sweet dew of feminine arousal glistened upon them.”

2013 Winner: The City of Devi by Manil Suri

“Surely supernovas explode that instant, somewhere, in some galaxy. The hut vanishes, and with it the sea and the sands — only Karun’s body, locked with mine, remains. We streak like superheroes past suns and solar systems, we dive through shoals of quarks and atomic nuclei. In celebration of our breakthrough fourth star, statisticians the world over rejoice.”

2012 Winner: Infrared by Nancy Houston

“He runs his tongue and lips over my breasts, the back of my neck, my toes, my stomach, the countless treasures between my legs, oh the sheer ecstasy of lips and tongues on genitals, either simultaneously or in alternation, never will I tire of that silvery fluidity, my sex swimming in joy like a fish in water.”

2011 Winner: Ed King by David Guterson

“She took him by the wrist and moved the base of his hand into her pubic hair until his middle fingertip settled on the no-man’s-land between her ‘front parlor’ and ‘back door’ (those were the quaint, prudish terms of her girlhood), she got him on the node between neighbouring needs.”

2010 Winner: The Shape of Her by Rowan Somerville

“He grasped the side of her hips, pushed her away and pulled her to him with a slap. Again and again with more force and velocity. Tine pressed her face deeper into the cushion grunting into the foam at each thrust. The wet friction of her, tight around him, the sight of her open, stretched around him, the cleft of her body, it tore a climax out of him with a final lunge. Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.”

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2009 Winner: The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell

“I was burning to lay this body down on the bed and spread its legs, to bury my nose in that moist vulva like a sow nuzzling for a nest of black truffles, then to turn the body over on its stomach, spread its buttocks with both hands to contemplate the purplish rosette of the anus blinking gently like an eye, put my nose to it, and breathe in.”

2008 Winner: Shire Hell by Rachel Johnson

“As he nibbles and pulls with his mouth, his hands find my bush, and with light fingers he flutters about there, as if he is a moth caught inside a lampshade. Almost screaming after five agonizingly pleasurable minutes, I make a grab, to put him, now angrily slapping against both our bellies, inside, but he holds both my arms down, and puts his tongue to my core, like a cat lapping up a dish of cream so as not to miss a single drop.”

2007 Winner: The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer

“So Klara turned head to foot, and put her most unmentionable part down on his hard-breathing nose and mouth, and took his old battering ram into her lips. Uncle was now as soft as a coil of excrement. She sucked on him nonetheless with an avidity that could come only from the Evil One — that she knew. From there, the impulse had come. So now they both had their heads at the wrong end, and the Evil One was there. He had never been so close before.”

2006 Winner: Twentysomething by Iain Hollingshead

“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.”

2005 Winner: Winkler by Giles Coren

“He came again so hard that his dick wrenched out of her hand and a shot of it hit him straight in the eye and stung like nothing he’d ever had in there, and he yelled with the pain, but the yell could have been anything, and as she grabbed at his dick, which was leaping around like a shower dropped in an empty bath, she scratched his back deeply with the nails of both hands and he shot three more times, in thick stripes on her chest. Like Zorro.”

2004 Winner: I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe

“Slither slither slither slither went the tongue, but the hand that was what she tried to concentrate on, the hand, since it has the entire terrain of her torso to explore and not just the otorhinolaryngological caverns — oh God, it was not just at the border where the flesh of the breast joins the pectoral sheath of the chest — no, the hand was cupping her entire right — Now! She must say ‘No, Hoyt’ and talk to him like a dog…”

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2003 Winner: Bunker 13 by Aniruddha Bahal

“‘What’s that?’ you ask. You see a designer p****. Hair razored and ordered in the shape of a swastika. The Aryan denominator… As your hands roam her back, her breasts, and trace the swastika on her mound you start feeling like an ancient Aryan warlord yourself…”

2002 Winner: Tread Softly by Wendy Perriam

“She closed her eyes, saw his dark-as-treacle-toffee eyes gazing down at her. Weirdly, he was clad in pin-stripes at the same time as being naked. Pin-stripes were erotic, the uniform of fathers, two-dimensional fathers. Even Mr Hughes’s penis had a seductive pin-striped foreskin.”

2001 Winner: Rescue Me by Christopher Hart

“Her hand is moving away from my knee and heading north. Heading unnervingly and with a steely will towards the pole. And, like Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Pamela will not easily be discouraged. I try twitching, and then shaking my leg, but to no avail. At last, disastrously, I try squeezing her hand painfully between my bony thighs, but this only serves to inflame her ardour the more. Ever northward moves her hand, while she smiles languorously at my right ear. And when she reaches the north pole, I think in wonder and terror… she will surely want to pitch her tent.”

2000 Winner: Kissing England by Sean Thomas

“It is time, time to f*** her. Now. Yes. Brupt, he rises, turns her over, flips her white body. Her smallwhite tidy body. She is so small and so compact, and yet she has all the necessary features… Shall I compare thee to a Sony Walkman, thou are more compact and more.

1999 Winner: Starcrossed by A.A. Gill

“I pull my dress off and I’m naked. He reaches down and roughly grabs me between the legs. I can feel his long, bony finger slip inside me. His thumb slides into the crack of my bottom and lifts me like… A bowling ball? A six-pack? Like I was light as a feather.”

1998 Winner: Charlotte Grey by Sebastian Faulks

“She felt Julien clench his body in desperate self-control. He moved slowly back and forth for a few minutes, then briefly stopped. ‘Dominique,’ he breathed, ‘this is so wonderful I feel I might disintegrate, I might break into a million fragments.’ She pushed against him, reclaimed him, and he began to move more vigorously, then sigh with sad rapture as though he recognized his time was limited.”

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