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Bad Sex in Fiction: 2020 scuppers literary booby prize

The literary world's most notorious booby prize, the Bad Sex in Fiction awards, have been postponed. So Nothing in the Rulebook are running a 'best of the best' (or 'worst of the worst') competition especially for 2020

Spasming muscles, groans, whispers, licked ears, sweat, bucking, otherwise central zones: if you hear those terms, you know you can be only be reading about one thing: the Bad Sex in Fiction Award, a prize established 27 years ago by the Literary Review.

Each year, it’s an award that brings cheer to millions of book lovers across the world (though perhaps not so much cheer to the recipients of the literary world’s most famous booby prize).

So you can imagine the disappointment that has engulfed those readers holding out hope that a smidgen of joy could be found in this most depressing of years, with the news that 2020 has pulled the plug on this year’s Bad Sex in Fiction award.

The judges took the “difficult” decision after weeks of painful deliberation. In a statement, they said that they ultimately felt the public had been subjected to too many bad things this year to justify exposing it to bad sex as well. They warned, however, that the cancellation of the 2020 awards should not be taken as a licence to write bad sex. A spokesperson for the judges commented:

“With lockdown regulations giving rise to all manner of novel sexual practices, the judges anticipate a rash of entries next year. Authors are reminded that cybersex and other forms of home entertainment fall within the purview of this award. Scenes set in fields, parks or back yards, or indoors with the windows open and fewer than six people present will not be exempt from scrutiny either.”

According to the spokesperson, the judges reached their decision at an emergency meeting in the Hyde Park rose garden. All are now self-isolating.

Filling the bad sex shaped hole in your literary life

We know the news about the 2020 Bad Sex in Fiction award will fill you with despair. First the Olympics; and now, this! Yet all is not lost. Readers can have their fill of bad sex right here through the pages of Nothing in the Rulebook. Not only have we put together the ultimate ‘connoisseurs’ compendium’ of all the Bad Sex winners since 1993, we’ve also been capturing all the shortlisted extracts since 2016, too.

This year, we decided to go one better, and provide you with the ‘winner’s winner’ of Bad Sex in Fiction through the ages, picking out a shortlist of six of the best (or worst, depending on your perspective) examples of Bad Sex ever written.

You can read the excerpts below. And vote for your favourites in the comments. We’ll be announcing the winner on New Years’ Eve. So that 2020 goes out with a, err, bang…

“The eager clitoris” – Melvin Bragg’s A Time To Dance (1993 winner)

“We came together, do you remember, always tenderly, at first standing, like a chivalric introduction to what was to be a voluptuous sensual battle? Just stood and kissed like children, simply, body to body, skin to skin, you slightly stirring against me, myself disregarding for those seconds the ram of sex aching below.

And then we would be on the bed and I touching you, hungry. Eyes closed, fingers inside you, reaching into the melting fluid rubbered silk – a relief map of mysteries – the eager clitoris, reeking of you, our tongues imitating the fingers, your hands gripping and stroking me but also careful not to excite too much. […] and so I would fuck you gently and then more strongly and finally thrust in hard and suddenly let everything go. “Slam into me,” you used to say. “how you just slam into me!”

“Sucks up your machinery” – Aniruddha Bahal’s Bunker 13 (2003’s winner)

“Her breasts are placards for the endomorphically endowed. In spite of yourself a soft whistle of air escapes you. She’s taking off her trousers now. They are a heap on the floor. Her panties are white and translucent. You can see the dark hair sticking to them inside. There’s a design as well. You gasp.

‘What’s that?’ you ask. You see a designer pussy. Hair razored and ordered in the shape of a swastika. The Aryan denominator…

As your hands roam her back, her breasts, and trace the swastika on her mound you start feeling like an ancient Aryan warlord yourself…

She sandwiches your nozzle between her tits, massaging it with a slow rhythm. A trailer to bookmark the events ahead. For now she has taken you in her lovely mouth. Your palms are holding her neck and thumbs are at her ears regulating the speed of her head as she swallows and then sucks up your machinery.”

“Like Zorro” – Giles Coren’s Winkler (2005’s winner)

“And he came hard in her mouth and his dick jumped around and rattled on her teeth and he blacked out and she took his dick out of her mouth and lifted herself from his face and whipped the pillow away and he gasped and glugged at the air, and he came again so hard that his dick wrenched out of her hand and a shot of it hit him straight in the eye and stung like nothing he’d ever had in there, and he yelled with the pain, but the yell could have been anything, and as she grabbed at his dick, which was leaping around like a shower dropped in an empty bath, she scratched his back deeply with the nails of both hands and he shot three more times, in thick stripes on her chest. Like Zorro.”

“Wet as a waterslide” – George Pelecanos’s The Martini Shot (2015 shortlist)

“We kissed some more and had a few laughs. While we talked, I slid my hand beneath her sweats, pushed the crotch of her damp lace panties aside, slipped my longest finger inside her, and stroked her clit. It got warm in the room. She lay back on the couch and arched her back, and I peeled off her pants and thong. Now she was nude. I stripped down to my boxer briefs and crouched over her. I let her pull me free because I knew she liked to. She stroked my pole and took off my briefs, and I got between her and spread her muscular thighs with my knees and rubbed myself against her until she was wet as a waterslide, and then I split her.”

“The otherwise central zone” – Morrissey’s The List of the Lost (2015 winner)

“At this, Eliza and Ezra rolled together into the one giggling snowball of full-figured copulation, screaming and shouting as they playfully bit and pulled at each other in a dangerous and clamorous rollercoaster coil of sexually violent rotation with Eliza’s breasts barrel-rolled across Ezra’s howling mouth and the pained frenzy of his bulbous salutation extenuating his excitement as it whacked and smacked its way into every muscle of Eliza’s body except for the otherwise central zone.”

We’ve chosen the extracts, now it’s over to you! Vote for your favourite example of Bad Sex in the comments below, or via our Twitter poll.


  1. I must admit this is my least favourite literary award, indeed I think it is positively unpleasant.

    It isn’t clear to me what the jury each year think good sex looks like, the whole thing has a schoolboy sniggering flavour and I was very disappointed to find that the authors aren’t prewarned of their appearance, let alone asked for their consent. (as I found out when I turned out to be the bearer of bad tidings to a shortlist author one year, and for a passage that, in context rather than quoted in isolation, made perfect literary sense)

    Hopefully the award never returns post pandemic.


    1. Interesting! We tend to think these awards are rather silly and intentionally poe faced and funny. But some do disagree!

      What was the shortlisted excerpt you refer to? And what makes perfect literary sense? Nearly all the shortlisted entries feature some of the same characteristics of bad writing; stretched similes and metaphors, unrealistic (or even impossible) biology & biological feats.

      We agree though that there should be a good sex in fiction award – to show writers examples of how they might do it.


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