It’s an old truism that sex can reduce even the most erudite among us to blithering idiots, our normally functional brains foundering upon the shores of erotic stimulation, mental capacities temporarily slowed. But look on the bright side: At least we’re not trying to write about it.
It’s time once again to cast our eyes, engorged and throbbing with anti-lust, on the shortlist of nominees for the 2018 Bad Sex In Fiction Award, the annual honorific bestowed upon the worst sex scenes found in non-pornographic, non-erotic fiction. And holy hell, they’re not joking about the “non-erotic” part: The excerpts listed in the Independent’s rundown of the nominations are the kind of cringe-inducing nightmares you would more likely associate with that creepy guy in your sophomore English class who likes to tell girls he’s turned on by philosophy, not looks.
This year’s nominees are all men, not because women can’t write shitty sex scenes, but because dudes were the “primary offenders” this year, according to Literary Review contributor Frank Brinkley, who said the women included on the original longer list of nominees simply hadn’t written scenes “bad enough” to merit consideration for the big award. Also, while there’s a few nominees here that won’t shock you (James Frey, anyone?), the standout is obvious: Internationally acclaimed author Haruki Murakami, whose new book Killing Commendatore includes a scene so unsettlingly unsexy that—well, see for yourself:
My ejaculation was violent, and repeated. Again and again, semen poured from me, overflowing her vagina, turning the sheets sticky. There was nothing I could do to make it stop. If it continued, I worried, I would be completely emptied out. Yuzu slept deeply through it all without making a sound, her breathing even. Her sex, though, had contracted around mine, and would not let go. As if it had an unshakeable will of its own and was determined to wring every last drop from my body.
As bad as that one is, it’s far from the worst one here. There’s the sample from James Frey’s Katerina, which includes the line “Blinding breathless shaking overwhelming exploding white God I cum inside her my cock throbbing we’re both moaning eyes hearts souls bodies one.” Or consider how the excerpt from Julian Gough’s Connect has the clunky third-person description end with an isolated “Wow,” as though Anastasia Steele had wandered in from Fifty Shades Of Grey.
Still, the real contenders here aren’t just bad writing, but hilariously bad, the kind of thing you would concoct if you were to attempt a satire of sex scenes. Luke Tredget’s novel Kismet includes a description of oral sex that makes the screenwriter of Insane Ass-Eating MILFs Vol. 6 look like Rudyard Kipling: “They stay in this position for a long time, Anna sucking and slurping with the same lazy persistence you’d use on a gobstopper or a stick of rock.”
But if The A.V. Club were to choose a winner among these luminaries, it would have to be Major Victor Cornwall and Major Arthur St. John Trevelyan, whose excerpt from Scoundrels: The Hunt for Hansclapp is worth including in full, because it is almost transcendently bad, writing so memorably repellant that you’ll be able to tell your grandchildren about it decades from now, when they’re old enough that it won’t psychologically scar them for life:
“Empty my tanks,” I’d begged breathlessly, as once more she began drawing me deep inside her pleasure cave. Her vaginal ratchet moved in concertina-like waves, slowly chugging my organ as a boa constrictor swallows its prey. Soon I was locked in, balls deep, ready to be ground down by the enamelled pepper mill within her.
Best of luck to this year’s nominees.