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Bad Sex Literary Award shortlist: fancy a wubbering springboard?

3rd December 2012

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If I was to ask you who you thought would win this year’s Bad Sex Literary Award, a prize for the writer of the worst sex scene in a newly published novel, I can guess who you would say.

But, surprisingly, you would be wrong. E.L. James, author of the Fifty Shades trilogy, is noticeable absent from the shortlist.

As is J.K Rowling, who’s new adult novel the Casual Vacancy celebrates the writer’s release from adolescent writing to divulge into “that miraculously unguarded vagina.”

Mrs. Weasley would be shocked to say the least.

In fact, the recently released shortlist consists of a large majority of male writers. And in the 30 years since the awards were first set up by Auberon Waugh, the vast majority of the winners have been men.

Generally, whilst women like the sensuous imagery and bounding metaphors, men seem to like to jump in and then jump right out again, which as the award list seems to demonstrate, is looked upon more harshly by readers.

To demonstrate what I mean, here’s one potential winner from Craig Raine’s The Divine Comedy: “And he came. Like a wubbering springboard. His ejaculate jumped the length of her arm. Eight diminishing gouts. The first too high for her to lick. Right on the shoulder.”

Sounds like the commentator of a diving competition...

And another, this one from Paul Mason’s Rare Earth: “He began thrusting wildly in the general direction of her chrysanthemum, but missing — his paunchy frame shuddering with the effort of remaining rigid and upside down.”

Again, this does sound like bad sex. I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t want to be the woman on the receiving end of this general thrusting. And I’m also pretty sure I don’t have a chrysanthemum down there either... Maybe that’s why he was having trouble.

So what exactly makes bad sex writing? Jonathan Beckman, one of the judges, believes poor sex literature is down to good old-fashioned British prudishness.

He believes that the secret to good sex writing, he writes in the Financial Times, is to write with straightforward honesty and refuse to take part in a “diversionary pantomime of imagery.”

But whether or not this is what readers actually want is debatable, seeing as E.L James is now the greatest selling writer of all time and her heroine is described, mid-orgasm, as “coming apart at the seams, like the spin cycle on a washing machine.”

Maybe no sex in literature is good sex, and books like Fifty Shades are only saved from nomination by their extreme popularity.

And the fact that women actually like flowery metaphors and spin cycles.


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