Every year, the Literary Review makes the decision to honor great moments in bad sex writing, because there is so darn much of that in literature, and it needs to be celebrated! This year’s most high-profile nominee is none other than Stephen King himself, for his horrible sex writing in his latest release, 11.22.63, which featured a passage about whispering jeans. What? And that’s why we have awards!
We haven’t read it, but here is the full passage that qualified King for this dubious honor:
“She was wearing jeans. The fabric whispered under my palm.”
Now, that’s just stupid. Jeans don’t communicate! King’s fellow nominees include James Frey (The Final Testament of the Holy Bible), Haruki Murakami (1Q84), as well as Sebastian Barry, Peter Nadas, David Guterson, and Jean M. Auel. Oh, it’s true: these authors and more are now eligible to win an award for the Best Bad Sex Writing, because such an award actually exists in this world we live in.
Past nominees have written things like this:
From Rhyming Life and Death by Amos Oz:
She holds him tight and squeezes her body to his, sending delightful sailing boats tacking to and fro across the ocean of his back. With her fingertips she sends foam-flecked waves scurrying over his skin…
Attentive to the very faintest of signals, like some piece of sonar equipment that can detect sounds in the deep imperceptible to the human ear, he registers the flow of tiny moans that rise from inside her as he continues to excite her, receiving and unconsciously classifying the fine nuances that differentiate one moan from another, in his skin rather than in his ears he feels the minute variations in her breathing, he feels the ripples in her skin, as though he has been transformed into a delicate seismograph that intercepts and instantly deciphers her body’s reactions, translating what he has discovered into skillful, precise navigation, anticipating and cautiously avoiding every sandbank, steering clear of each underwater reef, smoothing any roughness except that slow roughness that comes and goes and comes and turns and goes and comes and strokes and goes and makes her whole body quiver.
You had me at “seismograph,” Amos Oz. (Nerd.)
From A Dead Hand by Paul Theroux:
Her hands were all over me, four hands it seemed, or more than four, and as she touched she made me weightless, lifting me off the table in a prolonged ritual of levitation. She went lower, her hands and lips – multiple mouths – taking possession of me, not giving what I wanted, but offering urgent promises.
Mmmmm, hot, hot octopus sex. Also:
‘Baby.’ She took my head in both hands and guided it downward, between her fragrant thighs. ‘Yoni puja – pray, pray at my portal.’
It should be noted that these do not come from current nominees. Past winners include such illustrious scribes as Norman “Coil of Excrement” Mailer, Tom “Otorhinolaryngological Caverns” Wolfe, and lifetime achievement award winner John “Spurting Glans” Updike. Last year’s best bad sex writer was Rowan Somerville for The Shape of Her. It should be noted that there have only been two female winners of the Bad Sex Writing Award: Rachel “Moth Caught Inside a Lampshade” Johnson and Wendy “Dorsal Subluxation” Perriam, and only two nominees this year are women.
Jezebel seems to be upset — maybe facetious — about the lack of women being singled out for their glorious achievements in bad sex writing, but maybe it’s a matter of women being burdened with the utter inability to write a completely ridiculous sex scene. Feel sorry for us! Or we are just better in touch with our emotions and sexual feelings and are better able to express ourselves in writing than men are. Or, if you want to be a downer about it:
I’d like to think that the overwhelming presence of male authors on the lists of winners and nominees has more to do with the fact that, since women had (and often still have) to actively wrest control of their own sexuality away from a patriarchy that often determines how the female body is used and represented, they are able to speak with greater comfort and authority about sex when they achieve sexual autonomy.
I’m sure this is exactly what romance novelists think about when they write about heaving bosoms, throbbing members, and erect nipples. The patriarchy. Actually, I think they’re thinking, “I’m probably not going to talk about excrement when I write a sex scene because I’d really like to sell books.”
And that’s why boys are different than girls.