Bad sex appears to be unavoidable—in life and fiction. Some passages of erotica are in fact so cringeworthy that the UK’s Literary Review has given out a Bad Sex in Fiction Award since 1993.
The award, Literary Review writes, honors “an author who has produced an outstandingly bad scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel,” a scene that is “poorly written, perfunctory, or redundant.” (Expressly pornographic or erotic literature is not considered.) This year’s winner will be announced on Dec. 3 at the aptly named In & Out Club in London, but some nominees have already been announced. And spoiler alert: Every one of them is a man.
That’s hardly unprecedented; 22 of the 24 past winners were also men.
If you’re interested in reading the semen-filled, cringeworthy, and sometimes amusing nominated passages, The Guardian has compiled them all—and competition is tough. Take, for instance, this scene from Scroundels: The Hunt for Hansclapp, a comedic historical fiction novel by Major Victor Cornwall and Major Arthur St John Trevelyan. Not only does it manage to use the phrase “vaginal ratchet,” but there are sexual metaphors about boa constrictors and pepper mills thrown in for good measure:
“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.
Even some of the world’s most celebrated authors, such as Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, made the list. From Murakami’s Killing Commendatore:
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.
Some of the nominees, including Irish authors Julian Gough and William Well, have even welcomed—albeit sarcastically—their inclusion on the list. “I hope I win,” Gough told the Irish Times. “For years some of the best and most interesting writing about sex has been shortlisted annually by the sniggering mutual masturbators of the Literary Review. It’s an honor when a piece of writing which is intended to depict bad sex is identified as depicting bad sex.”
You can read all the nominated passages here.