Craft & Culture

Bad sex in fiction: read extracts from the 2019 shortlist

It’s the most notorious ‘booby’ prize in the literary world; something designed to bring joy to readers and horror to writers; which has become something of a world-wide phenomenon since it launched in 1993.

That’s right: it’s the annual ‘Bad Sex in Fiction’ award, which has just announced the shortlist for the 2019 ‘prize‘.

While all eyes are now on the judges of The Literary Review, which founded the award, to see who will be crowned this year’s winner – we’ve listed the full set of shortlisted authors below, along with their literary extracts. Do have a read and see how they stack up compared to past winners (whose ‘winning’ excerpts you can read in our long-running connoisseur’s compendium.

“Crowded organ cavities” – The River Capture, by Mary Costello

“He clung to her, crying, and then made love to her and went far inside her and she begged him to go deeper and, no longer afraid of injuring her, he went deep in mind and body, among crowded organ cavities, past the contours of her lungs and liver, and, shimmying past her heart, he felt her perfection.”

“Open-lipped genitals” The Office of Gardens and Ponds by Didier Decoin

“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. Miyuki felt as though she was manipulating a small monkey that was curling up its paws.”


“She continued crawling over him. It was the turn of her breasts to brush against Katsuro’s face. They were small, round, full and supple; they skipped over the obstacles of the fisherman’s chin, his nose and the arch of his eyebrows, exposing small furrows in his hair, like the tracks of hare through millet fields. Then it was her slightly rough bush that rasped against his chest, and her open-lipped genitals that slid over the man’s face, immersing it in warm balms, sticky and musky.

He moaned for a third time while Miyuki, a lock of whose hair had come adrift (she grabbed it and held it between her teeth in the way that courtesans do), spread her thighs wider and impaled herself on Katsuro’s nose. On contact with this pistil of warm flesh, cyprine tears appeared on the labia minora of her vagina; sliding onto the fisherman’s cheeks, they were trapped on the stubble of his beard, and his face became starry-eyed and began to sparkle as it did when he walked through the curtain of foam of the waterfall at the Shuzenji weir.”

“As if I was being run over by a train” – City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

“Then I felt it. There was a sensation occurring here that I didn’t even know could occur. I took the sharpest inhale of my life, and I’m not sure I let my breath out for another ten minutes. I do feel that I lost the ability to see and hear for a while, and that something might have short-circuited in my brain – something that has probably never been fully fixed since. My whole being was astonished. I could hear myself making noises like an animal, and my legs were shaking uncontrollably (not that I was trying to control them), and my hands were gripping down so hard over my face that I left fingernail divots in my own skull.

Then I screamed as though I were being run over by a train, and that long arm of his was reaching up again to palm my mouth, and I bit into his hand the way a wounded soldier bites on a bullet.”

“Loving her bush” – Pax by John Harvey

“She gave a yet deeper, moaning sigh. Like breathing in he saw the word he had said shiver and expand inside her. Her arms moved now, and flexed: out of here, Venus de Milo. He watched the death-life fill her growingly. She grabbed and caressed him with more muscle, more zest, than ever before. Her long lean arms were spider arms, while her kisses roved and dug.

‘I see it,’ he said. ‘You are the female praying mantis, devouring her

‘I am. You are. I shall eat every shred of you.’

‘Mouthful by mouthful.’

‘Exactly. Ah. But boy, you taste good.’ She licked her lips, and pulled him close, but now he was clasping too. It was a kind of slow wrestling, they were knitting each other into a loose slipping knot. He was upside down over her, loving her bush and lick-kissing like eating her inner thighs. Till at last they loved fully and later lay back. She did not chatter. Their arms stirred in a luxurious desultory twining.”

“A series of cryptic clues” – The Electric Hotel by Dominic Smith

“The actual lovemaking was a series of cryptic clues and concealed pleasures. A sensual treasure hunt. She asked for something, then changed her mind. He made adjustments and calibrations, awaited further instruction.

For most of the proceedings he felt his own desire as if it were tethered to a wire, a bright red balloon floating in his peripheral vision, but eventually he burst through. It was toward the end, as their breathing quickened. Her stage directions had stalled out into silence. He looked to his right and noticed the scene in the smoky lens of the mirror above the bureau, saw his own body move with the steady rhythm of a bellows blowing air at the base of a fire. It brought back the early experiments at the photographic society in Paris, the wiring of a bird’s feet to a cameragun, the mounting tension and uplift before a surge of exasperated flight. His own face looking back in the mirror – open-mouthed, flushed, euphoric – was a wild, strange thing to him. A beguiled stranger he’d never met, held in place by an infinite loop.”


  1. The winner is Didier Decoin by a mile, for sticking a nose in a vagina with no warning if nothing else. On the other hand, that snippet from The Electric Hotel looks just fine to me.


    1. I agree the last one was odd as a description but not so much atrociously penned as it was “not the porns I was looking for”

      Personally I rather liked it, as it seemed less inspiration for wank material and more poetic and a little detached

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Holy Gods of my Ancestors, that was painful to read.

    I officially NEVER need to worry about whether or not my trashy erotica scenes are realistic enough EVER AGAIN…

    Liked by 2 people

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