JOANNA ELM, Author, Journalist, Attorney

News Squib#10 – The Bad Sex Writing Award


Extra News TodayIt’s Squib Saturday. Time to share the best, most interesting (or most entertaining, or most outrageous) tidbit of information I’ve gleaned from all the stuff I’ve read this week. Today: Writing Bad Sex Scenes Gets You an Award — in the UK.


It’s called the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. It is supposed to discourage authors from writing an “outstandingly bad scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel.”  The Literary Review, an upscale British magazine started giving out this annual prize 23 years ago in 1993.  This year, nominees, initially selected by readers,  included best selling authors Ian McEwan, and Jonathan Safran Foer who was nominated for the following gem from Here I Am:

“He jerked off with the determination of someone within sight of Everest’s summit, having lost all of his friends and Sherpas, having run out of supplemental oxygen, but preferring death to failure.” Foer failed to make the short list determined by a panel of five judges from the magazine.

119784866So, you may be wondering, how bad does the writing have to be? Well, here are some of the contenders who did make the short list:

American author, Ethan Canin (teacher of creative writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop) for this passage in 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 meet, something performed in daylight between competitors. The cheap mattress bounced. She liked to do it more than once, and he was usually able to comply.”

Airport Sex

Tom Connolly, in Men Like Air wrote this airport sex scene: “You’re beautiful,” she told him, going down on 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.”

Erri De Luca (winner of the European Prize for Literature) in The Day Before Happiness authored this nominated excerpt: ” 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.”

Audacious Swell

js87638657_clara_molden_-large_transi2ctj82rcjy3qoqq5vojvv3z4-ipm5ft0_dsb68aqlcIn The Butcher’s Hook, Janet Ellis ( a former TV presenter of a popular British children’s show) wrote : “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. His finger is inside me, his thumb circling, and I spill like grain from a bucket.”

In The Tobacconist, Austrian author, Robert Seethaler wrote : “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 […] 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.”

Last Year’s Winner?

According to a British newspaper, The Guardian, a spokesperson for the judges, said some of the nominated extracts  “fall into the classic bad sex mistake of overwriting, with mixed metaphors, uncomfortable similes, or becoming so hyperbolic they strain credulity.”

In my opinion, however, none of the finalists outdo last year’s winner, Morrissey (former lead singer of indie rock band, The Smiths) who wrote this winning passage in List of the Lost : “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.”

The winner of the 2016 award will be announced on November 30.

Photocredits: Top two photos: ; bottom photo of Janet Ellis credit: Clara Molden



  1. Would rather have your SQUIPS,SORRY SQUIBS,about YOUR GARDENER!

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