The Bad Sex in Fiction Award – Britain’s most dreaded book prize
The winner of this notorious award is destined for a full-frontal flurry of teasing and jibes. But it’s a lot of fun too!
The Bad Sex in Fiction Award has been running for 24 years. Created to expose the clumsiest descriptions of sex in recently published novels or stories, it’s a firm fixture on the literary calendar – and something for us all to chortle over.
The editors of the Literary Review introduced the prize “to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction.” They don’t include pornographic or distinctly erotic literature in the selection process.
The winner of last year's award…
Morrissey won the less-than-coveted award last year for this particular sentence, extracted from his debut novel, List of the Lost:
“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.”
Morrissey did not attend the awards ceremony, telling an international newspaper that it would be “best to maintain an indifferent distance”.
The nominees for the Bad Sex Award, 2016…
Inevitably nominations that came flooding in included US president-elect Donald Trump’s notorious ‘locker-room talk’. But the competition only covers fiction, so had to be excluded in the selection process.
This year’s shortlist of six features passages so excruciatingly cringeworthy it’s hard to imagine what these writers were thinking. Perhaps they wrote the scenes hoping to bag the award?
A leading contender is Blue Peter veteran Janet Ellis, with a muddled episode involving tugged ribbons, a rutted spine and envious feet.No Blue Peter badge for her!
Grunt, gasp and giggle at the extracts below and pick your own winner.
A Doubter’s Almanac
By Ethan Canin
As a lover she was somewhat demure – maybe this was her prairie upbringing – and like Olga, she required conversation. With Annabelle, though, it was always about him. His work. His plans. The detailed narration of his endeavors, both professional and quotidian. In this way she reminded him of Cle Wells, constantly fitting him to an ambition that seemed somehow to have become her own.
In bed, she liked to start out prone. He would begin by kissing her spine through her dress as he answered queries about his life, moving slowly to the neighboring regions – her smooth shoulder blades, the moist rise of her neck, the hot sides of her breasts as he released them from the fabric. Her skin smelled of mint.
By Robert Seethaler
She looked him in the eyes, and, very slowly, brought her face up close to his, and when he felt her breath on his mouth and saw the delicate trembling of her puckered top lip, a shudder of joy passed through him with such force that he would almost certainly have fallen backwards into the cigar rack if Anezka hadn’t caught him at the last moment and pressed him firmly against her body. He closed his eyes and heard himself make a gurgling sound. And as his trousers slipped down his legs all the burdens of his life to date seemed to fall away from him; he tipped back his head and faced up into the darkness beneath the ceiling, and for one blessed moment he felt as if he could understand the things of this world in all their immeasurable beauty.
Men Like Air
By Tom Connolly
The walkway to the terminal was all carpet, no oxygen. Dilly bundled Finn into the first restroom on offer, locked the cubicle door and pulled at his leather belt. ‘You’re beautiful,’ she told him, going down on to her haunches and unzipping him. He watched her passport rise gradually out of the back pocket of her jeans in time with the rhythmic bobbing of her buttocks as she sucked him. He arched over her back and took hold of the passport before it landed on the pimpled floor. Despite the immediate circumstances, human nature obliged him to take a look at her passport photo.
The Butcher’s Hook
By Janet Ellis
‘Little beast,’ he says to me, his hands on my thighs. ‘Here are your flanks, all plump and sweet.’ And then, sliding his hand over my hips to my waist: ‘Your rump, your loins. But you need flaying.’ He tugs at my ribbons.
‘Clothes are foolish! Curse the snake in Eden that put them there!’ I laugh as I speak; he stops me with his mouth. We struggle from our garments, half helping, half fighting the cloth and the challenge of sleeves and buttons. And when there is nothing there, his arms replace them and his fingers go all about me. When his hand goes to my breasts, my feet are envious. I slide my hands down his back, all along his spine, rutted with bone like mud ridges in a dry field, to the audacious swell below.
By Gayle Forman
Once they were in that room, Jason had slammed the door and devoured her with his mouth, his hands, which were everywhere. As if he were ravenous.
And she remembered standing in front of him, her dress a puddle on the floor, and how she’d started to shake, her knees knocking together, like she was a virgin, like this was the first time. Because had she allowed herself to hope, this was what she would’ve hoped for. And now here it was. And that was terrifying.
Jason had taken her hand and placed it over his bare chest, to his heart, which was pounding wildly, in tandem with hers. She’d thought he was just excited, turned on.
It had not occurred to her that he might be terrified, too.
The Day Before Happiness
By Erri De Luca
Anna buried her head between my neck and shoulder, nuzzling me with her lips and teeth. Heat passed from her to me: moist, burning. In my nose I smelled blood mixed with the cinnamon of her marron glacé hair. The deeper she buried her head against my neck, the more I gave in. I’d stopped noticing that I was hardly breathing. My prick swelled. I stretched my neck to make more space for her inside me. For a space of time I couldn’t measure, she was a climber winding around the balcony. Our sexes were separated by her dress and they fitted together. Hers went wild. She held me in her arms; they cracked. A few short snarls escaped her before a bite that called the pain from my nose to make it course through my neck. Then she licked me there.
The winner will be announced on Wednesday 30 November, following in the embarrassed footsteps of literary doyens-turned-dunces including Melvyn Bragg, Sebastian Faulks, Rachel Johnson, Ben Okri and Morrissey.
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