"My body was her gearstick" - The 2016 Bad Sex in Fiction Awards shortlist has been announced

Compiled by The Literary Review, the awards poke holes in the worst descriptions of sex published in the last year

"My body was her gearstick" - The 2016 Bad Sex in Fiction Awards shortlist has been announced


Much like the Razzies tear apart the worst feature films of the year the night before the Academy Awards, for 23 years The Literary Review has teased and toyed with authors for their flamboyantly wordy attempts to write about sexual intercourse. Last year’s prize was claimed by Morrissey, whose List of the Lost sees two of the characters engage in the “pained frenzy” of a “bulbous salutation.” As for 2016, writers Ian McEwan and Ireland’s own Eimear McBride get (dis)honorary mentions, with Tom Connolly, Gayle Forman and former Blue Peter host Janet Ellis all making the short and curlies list.

Ellis’s debut novel The Butcher’s Hook is arguably the most-read novel on the list, with one of its paragraphs described as “the most egregious passage of sexual description in a work of fiction,” referring to the following, in which heroine Anne has sex with Fub, an apprentice butcher:

‘Anne,’ he says, stopping and looking down at me. I am pinned like wet washing with his peg. ‘Till now, I thought the sweetest sound I could ever hear was cows chewing grass. But this is better.’ He sways and we listen to the soft suck at the exact place we meet. Then I love and put all thoughts of livestock out of his head.

Other nominees for the 2016 nod include American Ethan Canin, for the following passage from A Doubter’s Almanac:

During sex she would quiet, moving suddenly on top of him like a lion over its prey ... The act itself was fervent. Like a brisk tennis game or a summer track me, something performed in daylight between competitors.

Austria’s Robert Seethaler was nominated for the following from his 1937-set book The Tobacconist:

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 ... Then he felt Anezka slide down before him to the floor, felt her hands grab his naked buttocks and draw him to her. “Come, sonny boy!” he heard her whisper, and with a smile he let go.

American novelist Gayle Foreman’s passage from Leave Me saw her named on the list, for – what the judges believe accidental – referencing a famous Madonna song:

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.

Erri de Luca, the celebrated and award-winning Italian writer, gets the nomination for the following from The Day before Happiness, the tale of an orphan living in Naples:

She pushed on my hips, an order that thrust me in. I entered her. Not only my prick, but the whole of me entered her, into her guts, into her darkness, eyes wide open, seeing nothing. My whole body had gone inside her. I went in with her thrusts and stayed still. While I got used to the quiet and the pulsing of my blood in my ears and nose, she pushed me out a little, then in again. She did it again and again, holding me with force and moving me to the rhythm of the surf. She wiggled her breasts beneath my hands and intensified the pushing. I went in up to my groin and came out almost entirely. My body was her gearstick.

And finally, American writer Tom Connolly finishes off the shortlist for his novel Men Like Air’s airport-set sex scene:

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 judging panel for this year’s award also revealed that US President-elect Donald Trump had also been nominated by several readers of The Literary Review for his infamous “locker-room talk,” but this had failed to make the cut “on the grounds that the award only covers fiction.”

The 2016 Bas Sex Award winner will be announced on November 30th.

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