It’s no secret: we love erotica and erotic fiction. We believe everyone should indulge in pleasure no matter what form it takes, be it film, book, or music…
But sometimes, it’s just terrible. Writing about sex in a way that’s actually sexy is quite hard, particularly when ‘sexy’ is quite subjective; the following are examples where authors of mainstream fiction very clearly missed the mark.
1)Down and Dirty in the Shower
David Guterson’s 2011 novel Ed King deals with an orphaned boy who becomes a billionaire internet tycoon, and his… um… ‘family jewels.’ Maybe we’ve just had too much 50 Shades of Grey but we really don’t care to hear about the soapy sex lives of billionaires.
In the shower, Ed stood with his hands at the back of his head, like someone just arrested, while she abused him with a bar of soap. After a while he shut his eyes, and Diane, wielding her fingernails now and staring at his face, helped him out with two practiced hands, one squeezing the family jewels…
2)What’s in a Name
Look, we love The Witches of Eastwick (and pretty much anything that Cher does, the woman is unstoppable) but if the sequel to the novel it’s based on is anything to go by, it is story best told in a cinematic medium. In the Widows of Eastwick by John Updike, there is a blowjob scene wherein one character seems to have a very verbose way to describe the act in his inner monologue, but words fail him when he actually opens his mouth.
She said nothing then, her lovely mouth otherwise engaged, until he came, all over her face. She had gagged, and moved him outside her lips, rubbing his spurting glans across her cheeks and chin. He had wanted to cry out, sitting up as if jolted by electricity as the spurts, the deep throbs rooted in his asshole, continued, but he didn’t know what name to call her. ‘Mrs Rougement’ was the name he had always known her by. God, she was antique, but here they were. Her face gleamed with his jism in the spotty light of the motel room, there on the far end of East Beach, within sound of the sea. The rhythmic relentless shushing returned to their ears. She laid her head on the pillow and seemed to want to be kissed. Well, why not? It was his jism. Having got rid of it, there was an aftermath of sorrow in which he needed to be alone; but there was no getting rid of her. ‘Call me Sukie,’ she said, having read his mind. ‘I sucked your cock.’
‘You sure did. Thanks. Wow.’
3)A Jack of Many Trades
The Gate of Air by James Buchan has got everything: a mysterious stranger who made his fortune on The Internet and lost it, a boorish billionaire who mistreats his wife, a ghost woman who makes your fantasies come true at night, it even has crops mysteriously failing. It honestly all seems to be ridiculous to not be in a grocery store romance novel.
He felt that if he touched her breast she might be brought down to earth. He touched the round breast and hard bead at its tip. He felt something else fall from her, like a garment, as she leaned one knee on the bed. Light billowed out of her, and warmth in damp gusts as if from a garden after a rainstorm. She did not seem to be a woman, but something altogether stronger and sweeter. A darkness engulfed him, like a wave breaking over him in the sea shallows, and when he opened his stinging eyes he saw her pretty face before him.
‘What about your husband?’
‘Sod him.’ She seemed to have forgotten she had one.
Jim felt strong, and handsome, and armed to the teeth. He felt like a barefoot runner, a wrestler, a charioteer. He felt his childhood receding from him, and he felt not the smallest regret. No more the poor fatherless orphan for him! He was an outlaw and all the better for it!
Norman Mailer was certainly bold in his choice of subject matter in The Castle in the Forest. Slated by critics, as much of his later work was, he seems to relish coarseness. But that doesn’t make him a good sex writer. Check out this extract, with its unusual use of ‘sap’. (The ‘Hound’, incidentally, is the nickname of the male characters’ penis. Yeah.)
Here’s a scene from that book:
His mouth lathered with her sap, he turned around and embraced her face with all the passion of his own lips and face, ready at last to grind into her with the Hound, drive it into her piety.
5)Stick to What you Know
We are all for authors attempting to stretch themselves creatively, but JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy shows that perhaps she is truly best at describing fantastical worlds full of wizards and beasts, where describing someone’s nose as becoming ‘snout-like’ would be more at home.
He retained a memory of her bare pink vulva; it was as though Father Christmas had popped up in their midst… he forced his way inside her, determined to accomplish what he had come for… Krystal moaned a little. Her head thrown back, her nose became broad and snout-like.
6)It’s not the Size of the Boat…
Perhaps because the main character in Amos Oz’s novel Rhyming Life and Death is a writer, it would explain why there is such a confusing use of extended (nautical) metaphor to describe this sex scene.
She holds him tight and squeezes her body to his, sending delightful sailing boats tacking to and fro across the ocean of his back. With her fingertips she sends foam-flecked waves scurrying over his skin.
The novel The Shape of Her by Roman Somerville deals with your typical ‘idyllic summer romance ruined by dark shadows from the lovers’ pasts’ but has the rather unique distinction of actually winning an award for how bad the sex scenes are, which tend to be ‘animalistic’ but not in a good way.
The wet friction of her, tight around him, the sight of her open, stretched around him, the cleft of her body, it tore a climax out of him with a final lunge. Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.
Billed as ‘Game of Thrones meets ancient Egypt,’ Wilbur Smith’s series following a demigod named Taita are apparently quite popular, perhaps in part because of how much sex is in them. We are definitely intrigued by an author who uses a clinical term like ‘pudenda’ and then euphemistically refers to the ‘sweet dew of feminine arousal’ in nearly the same breath as he did in Desert God.
Her hair was piled high, but when she shook her head it came cascading down in a glowing wave over her shoulders, and fell as far as her knees. This rippling curtain did not cover her breasts which thrust their way through it like living creatures. They were perfect rounds, white as mare’s milk and tipped with ruby nipples that puckered as my gaze passed over them. Her body was hairless. Her pudenda were also entirely devoid of hair. The tips of her inner lips protruded shyly from the vertical cleft. The sweet dew of feminine arousal glistened upon them.
9)A Lasting Impression
Winkler by Giles Coren follows a man smothered by the drudgery of urban life. This isn’t too mind-blowing of a theme, but what does blow our mind is how the following passage managed to undo all that Antonio Banderas accomplished in putting Zoro into our fantasies.
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.
10)When Words Fail Us…
Ok, we’re actually surprised that Starcrossed by A.A. Gill, isn’t an erotic fiction. The plot follows an average Joe who works in a bookstore, who somehow ends up sleeping with a Hollywood actress after her book signing, and what’s more, seems interested in him. But, can they overcome the differences of their two worlds? We’re more inclined to wonder if this is one of those ‘so intentionally bad it’s good’ sort of novels.
I pull my dress off and I’m naked. He reaches down and roughly grabs me between the legs. I can feel his long, bony finger slip inside me. His thumb slides into the crack of my bottom and lifts me like… A bowling ball? A six-pack? Like I was light as a feather.
Now, it’s easy to dismiss these authors as absolutely nuts, but let’s not be too hasty. We can all enjoy reading things that aren’t going to be up for Pulitzer Prize any time soon, just the way we can enjoy watching a cheesy romance. Sex can be a little bit silly and awkward, and maybe these authors were doing a better job encapsulating that then we realized.