Professor Wu's Rulebook

Bad Sex in Fiction: extracts from the 2017 shortlist

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Have you noticed it in the air? Perhaps it’s something etched onto the faces of passers-by, or the fuzzy feeling in your stomach that lifts you up and puts a smile on your face. That’s right – it’s that time of year again – the literary period that brings one of the greatest gifts of all to so many people around the world. In case you haven’t guessed by now, it’s time for the annual Bad Sex in Fiction award, which has just released its shortlist of nominated entries, even as further nominations continue to pour in.

If you’re a fan of spasming muscles, shooting blobs of “lo-cal genetics”, sighs, moans, groans and general limb-flying raunchy madness, then you’re in for a treat.

All eyes are now on the judges at The Literary Review, which founded the award, to see who will be crowned this year’s winner – and whose name will be added to our long-running connoisseur’s compendium.

We’ve listed the full set of shortlisted authors below, along with their literary extracts. Enjoy!

The Seventh Function of Language – Laurent Binet – “fuck me like a machine”

“He tips her back and lays her on the dissecting table. She takes off her skirt, spreads her legs and tells him: ‘Fuck me like a machine.’ And while her breasts spill out, Simon begins to flow into her assemblage. His tongue-machine slides inside her like a coin in the slot, and Bianca’s mouth, which also has multiple uses, expels air like a bellows, a powerful, rhythmic breathing whose echo – ‘Si! Si!’ – reverberates in the pulsing blood in Simon’s cock. Bianca moans, Simon gets hard, Simon licks Bianca, Bianca touches her breasts, the flayed men get hard, Gallienus starts to wank under his robe, and Hippocrates under his toga. ‘Si! Si!’ Bianca grabs Simon’s dick, which is hot and hard as if it’s just come out of a steel forge, and connects it to her mouth-machine. Simon declaims as if to himself, quoting Artaud in an oddly detached voice: ‘The body under the skin is an overheated factory.’ The Bianca Factory automatically lubricates her devenir-sexe. Their mingled moans ring out through the deserted Anatomical Theatre.”

The Destroyers – Christopher Bollen – “the billiard rack of my penis and testicles”

“Do me a favor,” she says as she turns. 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. “Let’s not tell Charlie and Sonny about us. Let’s leave them out of it. You know how this kind of thing can become a telenovela for everyone else.”

Mother of Darkness – Venetia Welby – “diabolical torso”

“They lie beneath molten sunrise, head nestled in inner elbow, mould of muscle mingling flesh with flesh, one body, soul within soul. The green grass curls around Tera’s left breast as she curves her sleek physique around Matty’s diabolical torso like a vine. Paralysed, complete, the marble statue of the lovers allows itself to be painted by the dawn’s lurid orange spillage. Shards of innocence, they lie in the sweet, sweaty chill of the morning light. Darkened by the sun and dust, Yang curls round s-curved Yin, a perfect fit.”

As a God Might Be – Neil Griffiths – “getting to bed would be awkward”

“The kiss was an order and a disguise. She pushed her hand into his jeans and felt for his cock. She was experienced enough to prepare for disappointment. Her tongue sought out his tongue and whipped around it, teasing it out. There was the taste of whisky, the fresh basil from the salad. Both knew that from where they were standing, getting to the bed would be awkward; he still had his boots on.”

The Future Won’t Be Long – Jarett Kobek – “hypercharged by orgones”

“We made love and we had sex and we had sex and we made love. But reader, again, I implore. Mistake me not. I am not your Pollyanna, I am not your sweet princess. We fucked, we fucked, we fucked, we fucked, we fucked, we fucked. We fucked in the effluvia of our bodies, we fucked in the scent of it, in the sheer stench of it, in the garden of our human flowering. Stained sheets, stained clothes, stained souls, stained towels. Fucked until my pussy ran dry and was rubbed raw, fucked until the Captain yowled outside my door, his gray paws smacking against the wood, fucked until Jon’s daily erections withered into nothingness, unable to support a third or fourth condom, fucked until the arrival of my period, pausing only until the heavy flow ceased, then fucking as Jon’s penis turned cartoon red with my discharge, fucked until celestial bodies rotated on their axes and reversed course in the Heavens, until the bed broke, until the building itself became hypercharged by orgones. Our fucking was a pulsing wave, a holy burst of scared geometry, a congress of wonder.”

War Cry – Wilbur Smith (with David Churchill) – “like Dr Livingstone and Mr Stanley exploring Africa”

“‘Yes…’ he said, taking the robe off her, without the slightest resistance on her part, and laying her down on the bed. ‘I want to explore you, like Dr Livingstone and Mr Stanley exploring Africa…’ He gave her a little kiss on the lips, but then his head moved down her body, following his right hand as it ran down her breastbone and then around each of her breasts in turn. They were not large, but they were pretty and in proportion to the sleekness of the rest of her; the long, flowing lines of a body that was naturally athletic, gifted with speed and strength but still entirely feminine.

Her nipples were a delicate shade of coral pink and they were standing up for him as proudly as little guardsmen on parade. ‘Here for example,’ he whispered, taking her left nipple between his finger and thumb, squeezing it slowly, gently, just to the point where she gave a little gasp and arched her back, and then he ran the palm of one hand over that same nipple touching it as faintly, delicately as he possibly could while his other hand squeezed her right nipple so that she was engulfed by two totally different feelings at one and the same time. Then, still working her right breast with his hand, he lowered his head over her left breast and started playing with it with his lips and tongue and teeth: sometimes kissing her skin, sometimes flicking the nipple with his tongue, then very gently biting it, taking infinite care to apply just the right amount of pressure. Her hands were running through his hair and then stroking his back and then, as he brought his head over to her other breast, she moaned and shuddered with pleasure, her fingernails tore at his skin and her buttocks began to writhe as the need for him took hold.”

Here Comes Trouble – Simon Wroe – “he remembered his parents were in prison”

The details of what happened in that bed, while engrossing, have no business in this report. Nor is it certain that, put into words, they would survive the imprisonment. But it is worth noting that when people shed their clothes they lose certain trappings and conventions. A clothed body is always human or human-like, a naked body always animal or animal-like. Only at close quarters is the full extent of a body’s wildness revealed, like when a bird gets trapped inside a house. One is moved to not entirely human thinking then. One goes towards its animalness.


Sometimes during he would think about where he was and feel a start of fright at doing this in his father’s place of work – until he remembered his parents were in prison and couldn’t catch him and this would fill him with relief.


So, what do you think? Which of these writers deserves to join Morrissey and co on the full list of winners since 1993?

For more information about the award, visit the Literary Review website.


  1. In War Cry if you remove “like Dr Livingstone and Mr Stanley exploring Africa” and the “as little guardsmen on parade” it could be a generic description of sex and a ok one. (sorry english not my native language).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hated that one. It seems written by a man who thinks he knows exactly what women want in bed but has never actually sexually satisfied one. Try to practically do what he describes – pinching one nipple, moving your head randomly around her body – and your SO won’t be “arching her back with pleasure”.

      It’s written so far from a man’s perspective of sex that its almost painful.


  2. Don’t really see what’s the big deal about the excerpts from “As A God Might Be” and “Here Comes Trouble”. The winner is certainly either “The Seventh Function of Language” or “The Future Won’t Be Long”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’re in agreement I think – there’s certainly a huge gap between the ‘worthiness’ of these shortlisted authors. Some are truly terrible; others a little soft in comparison.

      For our money, nothing beats 2015’s winner. Morrissey.


  3. You do realize that Binet is a parody and that it’s intentionally funny and weird, right?

    Also, it was not written in English, so, if anything, it would be the “worst translation of a sex passage”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be fair, the ‘it was funny/ironic/satirical’ is an excuse that is trotted out a lot by writers – such as Tom Wolfe who want the award in the early 2000s. I guess the question the authors have to ask themselves is – are readers laughing with them, or at them?


      1. Well, French readers were certainly laughing *with* him. The use of deleuzian concepts (body-machine, devenir-sexe) to describe sex is delightful here (and makes sense in the story), and the book has been very well received by French critics also. I understand that it can be completely lost in translation, though…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s interesting to note! Also worth mentioning that British people’s attitudes toward sex are very different to those of French people and Europeans! (I think Brits generally find the whole thing incredibly awkward at the best of times)


  4. I really believe that some of these dudes see the Bad Sex in Fiction Awards as a valid means of self promotions. Of pushing their tentative vessels into the glory hole of internet infamy, so to speak.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. These aren’t even that bad. If you want to see bad sex scenes you’be gotta check out Sandra Hill’s work. ‘Rough and Ready’ is a great place to start.

    Liked by 1 person

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