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Guide for erotic writers: these are the worst sex scenes in literature

The success of the 50 Shades of Gray saga (Grijalbo) by EL James has meant that the supply of erotic literature has multiplied exponentially. But before Anastasia Steele met Christian Grey, that subgenre was already plentiful in bookstores, only hidden in the hardest-to-reach corner, far from the best-selling shelves. However, more and more narrative books, especially since Henry Miller opened a large number of doors with novels such as Tropic of Cancer (1934), can boast of breaking the old sexual taboos.

With the aim of rewarding –or, rather, punishing– writers who have dared to detail sexual relations in their works, the Bad Sex in Fiction Award was created in 1993, and which has It continued to be awarded every year until the current one, when the award went to The City of Devi (Bloomsbury Publishing) by Manil Suri. Literary Review, the magazine that awards the award, aims to "draw attention to the crude and tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant sexual depictions in the modern novel, in order to discourage their use."

The Bad Sex Award is given to the worst descriptions of the sexual act in a novel

Not even the great names of the narrative of recent decades have managed to escape the bad idea of ​​the magazine edited by Nancy Sladek. Tom Wolfe won the award in 2004 for I am Charlotte Simmons (Zeta), in which he portrayed the uses and customs lovers of American college students. John Updike, author of Run Rabbit (Tusquets), enjoyed the privilege of obtaining the first of these awards dedicated to a career. And Norman Mailer became the first to receive the award posthumously in 2007 for his description of the intercourse that gave birth to Adolf Hitler in The Castle in the Forest (Anagram). Nothing new under the sun, therefore. The rise of the erotic novel has simply provided a greater number of candidates for the British jury.

The actress Joan Collins was the one who, on December 2, was in charge of discovering this year's winner at the London club In & Out. But, what are those fragments that caught the attention of the jury so much as to stand out among millions of competitors? Below we present the excerpts selected by the jury from the last six winners, which exemplify quite accurately that “bad taste” that encouraged literary critics Rhoda Koenig and Auberon Waugh to create the award.

2013. “Statisticians Rejoice” (The City of Devi by Manil Suri)

Guía para escritores eróticos: estas son las peores escenas de sexo de la literatura

“Surely there were supernovae exploding at that time somewhere, in some galaxy. The hut disappears, and with it, the sea and the sand; only Karun's body, locked up with mine, remains. We fight like superheroes across suns and solar systems, diving into banks of quarks and atomic nuclei. In celebration of our breakthrough to the fourth star, statisticians around the world are rejoicing."

If your male protagonist is a physicist, you better apply the story and transfer the scientific language to the description of the sexual act, Suri seemed to think, author of this novel that takes place in a Bombay in curfew before the possibility of a nuclear attack . Sex and atomic bombs, an explosive cocktail.

2012. “An undulating space with undulating skies and undulating non-bodies” (Infrared by Nancy Huston)

“I will never get tired of that silver fluidity, my sex swimming in joy like a fish in water, my being freed from myself and from others, the trembling sensation, the carnal and pink palpitation that separates you from all colors and from all flesh, making you see only stars, constellations, milky ways, propelling you disembodied and soulless into undulating space where undulating skies turn your non-body undulating.”

Hyperbole is the resource most used by writers to define the wonderful sexual encounters carried out by their protagonists. For this reason, references to the stars, the afterlife or the transcendent are common among the winners of this award, as is the case with this novel that recounts the life of Rena Greenblatt, a photographer based in Florence. Art, especially Renaissance art, seems to get along with intense sex.

2011. “The Family Jewels” (David Guterson's Ed King)

“In the shower, Ed stood with his hands behind his head, like someone who had just been arrested, while she manhandled him with a bar of soap. After a while, he closed his eyes, and Diane, using her fingernails and looking at her face, helped him with her two experienced hands, one of which was crushing the family jewels”.

The constant tension between the literal and the figurative, between the explicit and the implicit, can cause some authors to incur certain unfortunate euphemisms. Of course, calling the testicles “the family jewels”, as David Guterson does in Ed King, is not the height of literary refinement.

2010. “Her nipple of hers was like a beautiful nocturnal animal” (The Shape of Her by Rowan Somerville)

“He unbuttoned the front of her blouse and opened it to reveal her breast, her nipple pushed out, turned up like the nose of the most beautiful nocturnal animal, sniffing the night. He took it between her lips and sucked on her salt.”

The jury wanted to remember in 2010 that "there is nothing more English than bad sex", for which it appreciated the effort made by Rowan Somerville in his second novel to portray it in his pages. That year Alastair Campbell was disqualified, since his passage had been written on purpose with the aim of winning the contest.

2009. “I would use my penis as a stake” (The benevolent ones, Jonathan Littell)

“I came suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping through the inside of a boiled egg. If I could still get hard, I thought, I would use my penis like a fire-hardened stake, and blind this Polyphemus who turned me into a Nobody. But my cock remained limp, and I seemed to have turned to stone."

The only book of those presented here published in our country –specifically, by RBA Editores– and one of the great novels of recent years, both for quality and quantity, as shown by its generous 1,200 pages. Littell, winner of the Goncourt Prize, received the award in good spirits as the jury recognized, however, that his work was "a work of genius". This is the exception in a list in which novelettes abound.

2008. “Like a cat sucking on a plate” (Shire Hell, Rachel Johnson)

Almost screaming after five minutes of agonizing pleasure, I grab him to put him, now furiously bumping our bellies, into me, but he grabs my arms and puts his tongue in my center, like a cat sucking on a bowl of cream with the aim of not waste not a drop."

“You think it must be a mistake, but indeed, he refers to his penis as 'he,'” recalled the jury that ruled in favor of Rachel Johnson in the 2008 edition. The author also took the award with a good face, and He recalled that "perhaps men with literary reputations to polish find it insulting, but if you publish a book, any kind of attention is welcome." Something that all the winners of recent years know well, who usually accept the award with a half smile, aware that they will enjoy a large amount of free publicity.

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