I was once reading a racy romance novel (Yes, I had a romance novel phase. I am properly filled with shame over it so we needn't discuss it further) and just as the characters were going to fall passionately into bed, the author lapsed into a lengthy description of the apartment decor. I would argue that it's difficult, nay, impossible to be in the throes of passion while simultaneously noting the delightful upholstery pattern on the curtains. It completely ruined the moment. And moment-ruining, my friends, is what makes for a bad literary sex scene.
Each year, The Guardian honors the worst of bad literary sex with the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. The lucky winner in 2009 was Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones: A Novel. A sample line: "I came suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg." Ugh! Can we all just agree--right here, right now--that there should be no talk of soft-boiled eggs during sex? Here are excerpts from some of the other contenders in 2009, if you can stand it.
One of my favorites is 2008's To Love, Honour and Betray, Till Divorce Us Do Part by Kathy Lette. (see others from 2008 here.) Writes Ms. Lette: "His towel fell away. Sebastian's erect member was so big I mistook it for some sort of monument in the centre of a town. I almost started directing traffic around it." Thankfully she did stop herself from directing traffic around Sebastian's "erect member" because I can't imagine that going over well even under the best of circumstances.
Have you ever come across a literary mood-killer? Well, send it on in. We love that stuff around here.