The Literary Review has been handing out the infamous Bad Sex in Fiction award since 1993, every year highlighting those authors behind the most “egregious passages of sexual description”.
Previous nominees have included a famous horror author (Stephen King), an Oscar-nominated actor (Ethan Hawke), an Ivor Novello award winner (Nick Cave), a former Prime Ministers(Tony Blair), and – perhaps most famously of all – Morrissey. “I have many enemies,” the former Smiths singer said of winning the award in 2015, “and their biggest motivation, as you know, is to try to use all your achievements against you.”
Others have been more gracious in accepting the award (Giles Coren said of winning in 2005: “I wish I’d written them all”) while some famously racy writers have never been nominated at all (EL James failed to land on the shortlist for the Fifty Shades trilogy “because the prize’s rubric explicitly excludes pornographic and erotic literature” and she “didn’t need any more publicity”).
While there is no exact criterion for being nominated, there are multiple common themes across those who end up on the list. These include: climaxing with a terrible last sentence, using the description “a triangle of pubic hair” and the word “panties”, and failing to punctuate sentences properly (no doubt because the characters are too into the love-making).
This year, two entries were so bad that the Literary Review decided to give both writers – Didier Decoin and John Harvey – the award. "Faced with two unpalatable contenders, we found ourselves unable to choose between them," the judges said. "We believe the British public will recognise our plight."
Below are the 23 extracts that came out on top:
1. The Office of Gardens and Ponds by Didier Decoin – 2019
Katsuro moaned as a bulge formed beneath the material of his kimono, a bulge that Miyuki seized, kneaded, massaged, squashed and crushed. With the fondling, Katsuro's penis and testicles became one single mound that rolled around beneath the grip of her hand. Mikyuki felt as though she was manipulating a small monkey that was curling up its paws."
2. Pax by John Harvey – 2019
She was burning hot and the heat was in him. He looked down on her perfect black slenderness. Her eyes were ravenous. Like his own they were fire and desire. More than torrid, more than tropical: they too were riding the Equator. They embraced as if with violent holding they could weld the two of them one."
3. Katerina by James Frey – 2018
I’m hard and deep inside her fucking her on the bathroom sink her tight little black dress still on her thong on the floor my pants at my knees our eyes locked, our hearts and souls and bodies locked. Cum inside me.
Cum inside me.
Cum inside me.
Blinding breathless shaking overwhelming exploding white God I cum inside her my cock throbbing we’re both moaning eyes hearts souls bodies one.
I close my eyes let out my breath.
I lean against her both breathing hard I’m still inside her smiling. She takes my hands lifts them and places them around her body, she puts her arms around me, we stay still and breathe, hard inside her, tight and warm and wet around me, we breathe. She gently pushes me away, we look into each other’s eyes, she smiles.
4. The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen – 2017
She covers her breasts with her swimsuit. The rest of her remains so delectably exposed. The skin along her arms and shoulders are different shades of tan like water stains in a bathtub. Her face and vagina are competing for my attention, so I glance down at the billiard rack of my penis and testicles.
5. Men Like Air by Tom Connolly – 2016
The walkway to the terminal was all carpet, no oxygen. Dilly bundled Finn into the first restroom on offer, locked the cubicle door and pulled at his leather belt. “You’re beautiful,” she told him, going down on to 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.
6. The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca – 2016
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. I went in with her thrusts and stayed still. While I got used to the quiet and the pulsing of my blood in my ears and nose, she pushed me out a little, then in again. She did it again and again, holding me with force and moving me to the rhythm of the surf. She wiggled her breasts beneath my hands and intensified the pushing. I went in up to my groin and came out almost entirely. My body was her gearstick.
7. List of the Lost by Morrissey – 2015
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.
8. Infrared by Nancy Huston – 2012
In a delirium of restrained desire, I weigh, stroke and lick Kamal’s balls, then take his penis in my hands, between my breasts, into my mouth. He sits up, reaches for me and I allow him to explore me in turn. He runs his tongue and lips over my breasts, the back of my neck, my toes, my stomach, the countless treasures between my legs, oh the sheer ecstasy of lips and tongues on genitals, either simultaneously or in alternation, never will I tire of that silvery fluidity, my sex swimming in joy like a fish in water, my self freed of both self and other, the quivering sensation, the carnal pink palpitation that detaches you from all colour and all flesh, making you see only stars, constellations, milky ways, propelling you bodiless and soulless into undulating space where the undulating skies make your non-body undulate.
And orgasm — the way a man’s face is transformed by orgasm — oh it’s not true they all look alike, you have to be either miserable and broke or furiously blasé and sarcastic to say they all look alike — to me, every climax is unique.
9. Ed King by David Guterson – 2011
She gave him this particular sign, this clear permission, and he began a careful prodding of her perineum, which was as good a starting place as any for Diane, because it instigated those processes of memory her sexuality required. It triggered memories with the uncanny force of déjà vu, and what she thought of, as Ed slaved away, was a boy from her village who had fingered her adroitly in a greenhouse thick with green tomatoes.
The boy in the greenhouse was flawlessly adolescent and shockingly beautiful, and in his innocent way, he’d made her come resoundingly – Apollo with his modest marble membrum virile, otherwise known, in her village, as a skin flute. This memory sparkled as Ed intently suckled. They were both on their left sides now, Ed behind, where he’d pried her right shoulder back while deeply inserted and twisted his head so he could suckle away madly. He freed himself from her nipple after a long attachment so as to kiss her on the mouth at length – as if seeking to set the world record for kiss duration – and she smelled her breast on his breath, which was otherwise piquant with saliva, a little tart, a little bitter, and humid with the churning underworld – the raw metabolism and generative heat – beneath the flawless exterior. Jim Long’s odor had been a little like Naugahyde, and his mouth, lips, and tongue had often tasted metallic (or, just as often, steeped in vermouth), whereas Ed smelled vulnerably digestive, warm-blooded, moist, and, just now, breast-fed.
10. 11.22.63 by Stephen King
She said, “Don’t make me wait, I’ve had enough of that,” and so I kissed the sweaty hollow of her temple and moved my hips forward ... She gasped, retreated a little, then raised her hips to meet me. “Sadie? All right?”
“Ohmygodyes,” she said and I laughed. She opened her eyes and looked up at me with curiosity and hopefulness. “Is it over, or is there more?”
“A little more,” I said. “I don’t know how much. I haven’t been with a woman in a long time.”
It turned out there was quite a bit more … At the end she began to gasp. “Oh dear, oh my dear, oh my dear dear God, oh sugar!”
11. The Shape of Her by Rowan Somerville – 2010
Naked from waist to toe, a faint wedge of paleness from a few hours of sun, streaked with shadows in the candlelight; the triangle of pubic hair, blond, a thin line bunched darkly, like desert vegetation following an underground stream. He placed his hand on the concave stretch that was her belly, letting two fingers rest in the yawn of her navel. He slipped downwards, grazing the tight skin of her waist with his fingertips. He reached her hair line and the muscles of her belly hardened as she raised herself up onto her elbows. She stayed his hand and drew him, yanked him, into a smothering kiss. She released his hair from her fingers and twisted onto her belly like a fish flipping itself, her movement so brusque his chin bounced off her head.
He grasped the side of her hips, pushed her away and pulled her to him with a slap. Again and again with more force and velocity. Tine pressed her face deeper into the cushion grunting into the foam at each thrust.
The wet friction of her, tight around him, the sight of her open, stretched around him, the cleft of her body, it tore a climax out of him with a final lunge. Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.
12. The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave – 2009
He slips his hands under her cotton vest and her body spasms and slackens and he cups her small, cold breasts in his hands and feels the hard pearls of her nipples, like tiny secrets, against the barked palms of his hands. He feels the gradual winding down of her dying heart and can see a bluish tinge blossoming on the skin of her skull through her thin, ironed hair.
“’Oh, my dear Avril,’ he says.
He puts his hands under her knees and manoeuvres her carefully so that her bottom rests on the edge of the settee. He slips his fingers underneath the worn elastic of her panties that are strung across the points of her hips, slips them to her ankles and softly draws apart her knees and feels again a watery ardour in his eyes as he negotiates a button and a zipper. It is exactly as he imagined it – the hair, the lips, the hole – and he slips his hands under her wasted buttocks and enters her like a fucking pile driver.
13. The Humbling by Philip Roth – 2009
He had let Pegeen appoint herself ringmaster and would not participate until summoned. He would watch without interfering. First Pegeen stepped into the contraption, adjusted and secured the leather straps, and affixed the dildo so that it jutted straight out. Then she crouched above Tracy, brushing Tracy’s lips and nipples with her mouth and fondling her breasts, and then she slid down a ways and gently penetrated Tracy with the dildo. Pegeen did not have to force her open. She did not have to say a word – he imagined that if either one of them did begin to speak, it would be in a language unrecognizable to him. The green cock plunged in and out of the abundant naked body sprawled beneath it, slow at first, then faster and harder, then harder still, and all of Tracy’s curves and hollows moved in unison with it. This was not soft porn. This was no longer two unclothed women caressing and kissing on a bed. There was something primitive about it now, this woman-on-woman violence, as though, in the room filled with shadows, Pegeen were a magical composite of shaman, acrobat, and animal. It was as if she were wearing a mask on her genitals, a weird totem mask, that made her into what she was not and was not supposed to be. She could as well have been a crow or a coyote, while simultaneously Pegeen Mike. There was something dangerous about it. His heart thumped with excitement – the god Pan looking on from a distance with his spying, lascivious gaze.
It was English that Pegeen spoke when she looked over from where she was, now resting on her back beside Tracy, combing the little black cat-o’-nine-tails through Tracy’s long hair, and, with that kid-like smile that showed her two front teeth, said to him softly, “Your turn. Defile her.” She took Tracy by one shoulder, whispered “Time to change masters,” and gently rolled the stranger’s large, warm body toward his. “Three children got together,” he said, “and decided to put on a play,” whereupon his performance began.
14. Will by Christopher Rush – 2007
O glorious pubes! The ultimate triangle, whose angles delve to hell but point to paradise. Let me sing the black banner, the blackbird’s wing, the chink, the cleft, the keyhole in the door. The fig, the fanny, the cranny, the quim – I’d come close to it now, this sudden blush, this ancient avenue, the end of all odysseys and epic aim of life, pulling at my prick now, pulling like a lodestone.
Anne Hathaway’s cow-milking fingers, cradling my balls in her almond palm, now took pity on the poor anguished erection, and in the infinite agony of her desire, guided it to the quick of the wound. At the same time I searched wildly with the fingers of my left hand, groping blind as Cyclops, found the pulpy furred wetness, parted the old lips of time and slipped my middle finger into the sancta sanctorum. It welcomed me with soft sucking sounds, syllables older than language, solace lovelier than words. She pulled my hand away, positioned the prick, slid her buttocks deep into the grass, raised her thighs back high, crossed her legs behind my back, dug her heels into my spine and hauled at me savagely and hard. I fell into her.
15. The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer – 2007
Klara turned head to foot, and put her most unmentionable part down on his hard-breathing nose and mouth, and took his old battering ram into her lips. Uncle was now as soft as a coil of excrement. She sucked on him nonetheless with an avidity that could come only from the Evil One – that she knew. From there, the impulse had come. So now they both had their heads at the wrong end, and the Evil One was there. He had never been so close before.
The Hound began to come to life. Right in her mouth. It surprised her. Alois had been so limp. But now he was a man again! His mouth lathered with her sap, he turned around and embraced her face with all the passion of his own lips and face, ready at last to grind into her with the Hound, drive it into her piety.
16. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell – 2006
If Dawn Madden’s breasts were a pair of Danishes, Debby Crombie’s got two Space Hoppers. Each armed with a gribbly nipple. Tom Yew kissed them in turn and his saliva glistened in the April sun. I know watching was wrong but I couldn’t not. Tom Yew slipped off her red panties and stroked the cressy hair there.
‘If you want me to stop, Madam Crombie, you have to say now.’
‘Oooh, Master Yew,’ she croodled, ‘don’t you dare.’
Tom Yew got on her and sort of jiggled there and she gasped like he was giving her a Chinese burn and wrapped her legs round him, froggily. Now he moved up and down, Man-from Atlantisly. His silver chain jiggled on his neck.
Now her grubby soles met like they were praying.
Now his skin was glazed in roast pork sweat.
Now she made a noise like a tortured Moomintroll.
Now Tom Yew’s body jerkjerked judderily jackknifed and a noise like a ripping cable tore out of him. Once more, like he’d been booted in the balls.
Her fingernails’d sunk salmony welts into his arse.
Debby Crombie’s mouth made a perfect O.
17. Winkler by Giles Coren – 2005
And he came hard in her mouth and his dick jumped around and rattled on her teeth and he blacked out and she took his dick out of her mouth and lifted herself from his face and whipped the pillow away and he gasped and glugged at the air, and he came again so hard that his dick wrenched out of her hand and a shot of it hit him straight in the eye and stung like nothing he’d ever had in there, and he yelled with the pain, but the yell could have been anything, and as she grabbed at his dick, which was leaping around like a shower dropped in an empty bath, she scratched his back deeply with the nails of both hands and he shot three more times, in thick stripes on her chest. Like Zorro.
18. Young Turk by Moris Farhi – 2004
I am stretched out on a sofa. My beloved is determined to assess my age. She has an infallible method for doing so: the way they ascertain a tree’s age: by counting the rings in its trunk. Consequently, she has my member in her mouth. Her lips are thick with lipstick. Starting from the base of my penis, her mouth ambles upwards. At each half-centimetre, her lips imprint a red ring around the shaft. She continues until she runs out of length. She counts the rings. On this occasion they add up to thirty-six. (An hour ago, the number had been forty-one.) She cuddles up to me. She coos. “Thirty-odd rings. What a mature oak in one so young!”
We embrace. She smears her breasts and vagina with rose-petal jam. She squats above my face so that I can imbibe her splendour. She lowers herself on to my mouth and lets me lap up every bit of the rose-petal jam. Then she mounts me and, as she begins to rock, she rubs her breasts all over my face. I am in such ecstasy that I am ready to die. In fact, I want to die, because I know I shall never again find this heaven, the Seventh Heaven.
19. I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe – 2004
Slither slither slither slither went the tongue, but the hand that was what she tried to concentrate on, the hand, since it has the entire terrain of her torso to explore and not just the otorhinolaryngological caverns – oh God, it was not just at the border where the flesh of the breast joins the pectoral sheath of the chest – no, the hand was cupping her entire right – Now! She must say “No, Hoyt” and talk to him like a dog.
The fingers went under the elastic of the panties moan moan moan moan moan went Hoyt as he slithered slithered slithered slithered and caress caress caress caress went the fingers until they must be only eighths of inches from the border of her public hair – what’s that! – Her panties were so wet down. There – the fingers had definitely reached the outer stand of the field of pubic hair and would soon plunge into the wet mess that was waiting right. There-there-
20. The Crime Tsar by Nichola McAuliffe – 2003
‘It’s all right, I won’t break,’ she whispered.
She felt him aware of his size and weight. His care not to hurt her. She moved to accommodate him and felt the blind probings before he slipped inside her. He was bigger than she had remembered. She tilted her hips and felt the weight of his balls on her... what? Small expanse of skin between vagina and anus. Perineum – was that it? Her mind screamed: Shut up, Lucy! You’re not doing the Cosmopolitan crossword now.
21. The Stranger at the Palazzo d’Oro by Paul Theroux – 2003
The softness of her skin in the dark, far softer-seeming because of the dark, was irresistible. And the aroma of her lily-fragrant perfume mingled with the cat smell of her steaming cunt made me salivate and pant like a lion, my nose tormented by damp fur and hot blood. Still I could not tell where her soft skin ended and her silk began, and the complexity of her vaginal lips was like another elaborate silken garment she had put on for me to stroke. I adored the gleam of her body in the light from the streetlamps and the blistered moon... She knelt and worshipped my cock with her mouth and her gloved hands and she cried out louder than I did when I came, spattering her face as she licked.
22. Bunker 13 by Aniruddha Bahal – 2003
She’s taking off her blouse. It’s on the floor. Her breasts are placards for the endomorphically endowed. In spite of yourself a soft whistle of air escapes you. She’s taking off her trousers now. They are a heap on the floor. Her panties are white and translucent. You can see the dark hair sticking to them inside. There’s a design as well. You gasp.
‘What’s that?’ you ask. You see a designer pussy. Hair razored and ordered in the shape of a swastika. The Aryan denominator. As your hands roam her back, her breasts, and trace the swastika on her mound you start feeling like an ancient Aryan warlord yourself.
23. Starcrossed by AA Gill – 1999
His tongue is long and hard and tastes of mint. We don’t say anything, but he pushes me to my knees in the middle of the shop. It’s difficult to undo his flies. I put my hand in. It’s hot and damp, and then, Christ; it’s amazing, huge. It just goes on and on, as thick as...
“As a magnum? A jeroboam? A methuselah? A bitter pump?”
“A fucking salami. Shut up, John.
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