Bad sex in fiction: the 2015 award

The strange but intriguing website Nothing In the Rulebook has an intriguing post highlighting the “Bad Sex in Fiction” award, described by Wikipedia thusly:

Each year since 1993, Literary Review has presented the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award to the author who produces the worst description of a sex scene in a novel. The award itself is in the form of a “semi-abstract trophy representing sex in the 1950s”, which depicts a naked woman draped over an open book. The award was originally established by Rhoda Koenig, a literary critic, and Auberon Waugh, then the magazine’s editor.

The given rationale is “to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.”

But the Wikipedia entry is deeply unsatisfying, because what you want to do now is read those bad sex scenes! I won’t reproduce them here, as this is supposed to be a family-friendly website, but you can read all the winners from 1993 on at Nothing in the Rulebook‘s post “Bad sex in fiction awards: The Connoisseur’s Compendium.” (The Guardian also has a series of posts on the award.) The latest one, however, isn’t too salacious, and comes from a new novel, The List of the Lost by Morrissey, once a singer with The Smiths. And here are the lines for which he nabbed the prize:

“At this, Eliza and Ezra rolled together into the 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.”

Bulbous salutation! The otherwise central zone! Many of the other winners are just as funny, but you’ll have to see them for yourself. (As a biologist, I particularly like the 2010 winner. And 1997 isn’t too shabby, either.)

Morrissey, of course, doesn’t like the award, calling it a “repulsive horror.” Actually, the repulsive horror is his prose!


  1. Posted July 10, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    I love The Smiths. And Morrissey.

    But, this book defeated me so many times last year, I have lost count of the amount of times I hurled it across the room in shock, horror and frustration.

    Someone had given Morrissey a thesaurus for his birthday, he ate it and then evacuated his bowels onto the page.

    I love you, Morrissey; but, “I didn’t realise you wrote such bloody awful prose.”

    • frednotfaith2
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      I love the music of the Smiths and much of Morrissey’s solo career as well but I’ll have to give his novel a pass. I have enough books on my reading list as it is.

    • Kevin
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

      Smith’s were brilliant. I have no idea what happened to Morrissey’s writing ability.

  2. merilee
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 2:45 pm | Permalink


  3. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    To quote Morrissey: “Caligula would have blushed…”

    • Posted July 10, 2016 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      = )

      “What she asked of me at the end of the day…” Tiberius would have too!

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 10, 2016 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

        I bet Morrissey “…was happy in the haze of a drunken hour…” but once he received this review, “…heaven knows…he’s…miserable now.”

        • Posted July 11, 2016 at 6:56 am | Permalink

          And poor Morrissey: anyone who told him the book was good was telling him a “Miserable Lie.” 👍🏼

  4. Ken Phelps
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I certainly hope they’ve worked some Mario Puzo into the past nominations somewhere. His stuff used to strike me as the fevered imaginings of a 14 year old who had read one too many smutty pulp detective magazines from he early 60’s. That his older cousin had stashed in his aunt’s spare bathroom. Don’t ask how I know this.

  5. Jay
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me of the ‘Dark And Stormy Night” awards.

    • chewy
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

      Me, too. And since I am a great admirer of “dark and stormy night” — wish I’d written such a descriptive, cogent, precise, and brilliant line — I am also not horrified by the supposed awfulness of the sex scenes. Many of them seem quite good, actually. I’ve sure read a lot worse and far more pedestrian and boring and inserted because the publisher required it, etc. I think these awards backfire up they torrid orifaces of the fussy, hot prudish dish who clearly salivates (and more) over them, while having it off.

  6. Bric
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Bulbous salutation was quite the meme on twitter last year, often recalling Captain Beefheart’s ‘Fast and bulbous’ exhortations on Trout Mask Replica. Also, a tin teardrop.

  7. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    “Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin”

    Yes I can see why PCC would like the 2010 submission.

    That is in fact one of the more lyrical and salubrious offerings of the whole regrettable collection. The various authors really, really should have just written
    * * *
    and left it to the reader’s imagination.

    I think it will require an hour’s contemplation of x-rated sites to restore my battered libido.


  8. Newish Gnu
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    I read Morrissey’s sex scene to my wife to get her in the mood. Didn’t work.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Had Mrs. Newish Gnu swallowed something evil, so you were hoping to employ it as an emetic — was that the “mood” you were hoping to effect?🙂

  9. Posted July 10, 2016 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    His lingual lightsaber darted quickly across her herbaceous petunia until its innards released the fairy dust of ready lubrication, totem poling his manhood. Their coitus riveted them, pooling their riven souls into the undulating, savage waters of a tumultuous Turner painting.

    • Posted July 10, 2016 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      I love it when you talk dirty and arty at the same time! It makes me wanna go all Pollock on a flesh canvas!

      • Posted July 10, 2016 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

        His thick paint bestrewing her mounds of Olympus, he collapsed beside her and they sank into the elysian fields.

        • Posted July 10, 2016 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

          Maybe for more cringe effect, I could substitute “her mounds of Olympus” with “her raw and heaving horseradishes” or her “Olympic horseradishes.”

          I’d also change “elysian fields” to something funnier. . .

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

      Brilliant. I think writing like that is a lot harder than it looks. So if ever you fall upon difficult times…

    • cherrybombsim
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

      Nice try, Charlene, but you can’t really do this sort of thing intentionally. You have to be an actual clueless idiot, convinced that you are generating timeless prose.

  10. Posted July 10, 2016 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for this post. This is the “literary” equivalent of the movie “Showgirls,” which if you have not seen it, do yourself a favor and do so with a sense of urgency. It’s the most spectacularly “great” bad movie ever made. It’s a 100 minute cringe-a-thon. If you harbor an inordinately intimate affinity for fantastically turgid acting that, um, fleshes out a script of mind-blowing ineptitude, then I do recommend you watch said movie with a box of Kleenex handy. Just, please…try to keep your bulbous salutations, and any Elmer’s glue-like trails of said greetings to yourself. Or at least film it for YouTube.

    It’s a toss-up between 2010, Morrissey, and Tom Wolfe, as far as I’m concerned. (Mailer’s use of toilet functions in a sex scene makes me even happier he is both naked and dead.)

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      Yes! Oh God, yes! An all time favorite. Poor Kyle MacLachlan, first Dune, then this.

  11. Posted July 10, 2016 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Is there actually such a thing as a good literary sex scene?

    • Merilee
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

      Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, Ulysses…

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Can’t say it surprised me when Tom Wolfe won in 2004 for I Am Charlotte Simmons, the worst of his four novels, what with all the heaving and swelling protuberances and declivities. It’s an object lesson on why septuagenarians shouldn’t write about collegiate concupiscence.

    For hilariously good intentionally bad sex writing it’s still hard to beat this NSFW internet classic, a steaming mélange of dirty luv and riotous political polemic.

    • Merilee
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

      I like Tom Wolfe’s non-fiction much better than the couple of his novels I attempted.

  13. ladyatheist
    Posted July 11, 2016 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    Misnomer! Bad sex could be an interesting plot point. Badly written sex scenes are just m’eh.

  14. Posted July 11, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Morrisey. Can’t sing, can’t write.

  15. kevin7alexander
    Posted July 11, 2016 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Give the guy a break. Most authors have great difficulties with a realistic depiction of the otherwise central zone.

  16. insidephotos
    Posted July 11, 2016 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Well personally I always viewed the Smiths as a egregious little band that seems obsessed with putting out somber dirges of the “don’t mind me while a slit my wrists” variety. And Morrissey, with his range of about 10 semi-tones is less than wonderful as a lead singer. So no surprises that he’s failing in his new career as novelist.🙂

    • darrelle
      Posted July 11, 2016 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      I’ve never understood why the Smiths or Morrissey gained such a following. I’ve made several concerted efforts over the years to find something by the Smiths that I like, usually after hearing people I respect praise them. I’ve never found a single song by them that I liked well enough to download, let alone to buy a whole CD. And I came of age in the ’80s.

  17. Wayne Tyson
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    Billions and billions of chumps on billions and billions of keyboards . . . (The Internet)

    There must be a bible in there somewhere . . .


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