Bad Sex in Fiction Writing

05789387_SexyReading_xlargeReading is sexy, yes? Reading sexy scenes is even sexier. What are your favorite sex scenes in books? No trash, no erotica, now, I’m talking just sexy scenes between two characters (or three?) that relates to the story and flow of plot, that entertains and deepens the characterization.  While there probably is no such thing as good literary sex (hmmm, what would that be exactly?), there is bad sex in lots of books out there. And you pretty much know it when you read it.

This blog is a supernatural mystery/horror fiction site with lots of classic shorts, but many of these stories have little or no sex in them. As a writer, I am always on the lookout for good examples of sex scenes in literature, modern and classic. I’m not finding many these days.  So when I found “Bad Sex in Fiction Award,” I had to explore. Today, I’m sharing with you what Literary Review Magazine has to say about bad sex in fiction.

Because my own novel Night Sea Journey on Amazon has a couple of very mild sex scenes, and because in my current work-in-progress (Greylock) there’s several sex scenes leaning into the hot zones, I really need to see how other authors are writing their sex scenes—who is doing it well? who is doing it badly?

Here is a list of critically acclaimed authors cited for writing bad sex scenes.

From The Literary Review Magazine:

“The 22nd Bad Sex in Fiction Award for the most egregious passage of sexual description in a work of fiction will take place on Wednesday 3 December 2014. [Can’t wait!]

The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them. The prize is not intended to cover pornographic or expressly erotic literature.

The 2014 shortlist includes:

  • The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham,  Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan , Man Booker Prize winner
  • The Hormone Factory by Saskia Goldschmidt
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami , Nobel Prize Winner
  • The Age of Magic by Ben Okri
  • The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Loyd
  • Desert God by Wilbur Smith
  • Things to Make and Break by May-Lan Tan
  • The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh
  • The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark

Last year the prize was won by Manil Suri for The City of Devi, published by Bloomsbury.

Last year’s list:

For a confessional account on Bad Sex judging by Literary Review‘s senior editor Jonathan Beckman, read his piece in the Financial Times. You will also be able to read a more detailed report on this year’s shortlist in Literary Review‘s December / January double issue – subscribe now. For snippets from the shortlist, follow Literary Review‘s twitter account, @lit_review. The tweets are tagged as #BadSex.”

Read more (with a video) at Literary Review.

From Wikipedia: Winners of the Bad Sex in Fiction award include:

Here is the Guardian’s choices for Best Literary Sex Scenes:

How to Write a Sex Scene:

If you’ve read a sex scene that you think is quality in nature, please post the story or novel title and author. Have a Happy (and sexy) Thanksgiving!


Filed under fiction, tales of terror

3 responses to “Bad Sex in Fiction Writing

  1. Reblogged this on Ancient Guardians Novel Series and commented:
    Very interesting! I’ve done quote a bit of research on how I will a approach this in my third book. I’m going with the 5 senses…no vulgar words, nothing embarrassing to me, the readers and characters!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jay, to me, as a writer, it’s reassuring to know that even the esteemed writers and Pulitzer prize winning authors have their weaknesses in writing. . Here’s what John Banville said in an interview: “I am never quite sure what bad sex is. I am not sure that I have ever any bad sex. It has always seemed to me wonderful. I always felt incredibly lucky that a woman would consent to engage with me in this extraordinary act.”
    The author said that sex is so hard to write about because the “sublime” feeling of engaging in the act is so different to the undignified physical spectacle of actual love-making.

    Here is link to his interview with BBC:


  3. Jay

    Ha! I never even knew there was such an award! “The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them.” That’s great! The only one of the nominees I’ve read is Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and I have to agree Murakami’s sex scenes are starting to feel all the same, now that I’ve read a bunch of his writing (the exception maybe being 1Q84, I guess).

    And Updike? A lifetime achievement award? That’s quite funny. Something to be proud of… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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