The nominations for the Literary Review Bad Sex awards
are always dominated by men, says Rowan Pelling.
Why are women so much better at writing about sex?
QUOTE: When I was editor of the Erotic Review there was a distinct difference between the genders when I was beseeching authors to write something sexy for the magazine. If women acquiesced they would generally apply themselves to the task with determination and sincerity, mining their own experience and desires in pursuit of genuinely erotic prose. Men, on the other hand, often trembled at the thought of applying themselves with that degree of naked sincerity. One well known author and broadcaster was fairly representative when he told me: "I can write about sex, but only if it's bad, comedic, absurd, embarrassing or downright disgusting. I can't begin to write about 'making love' because the very thought makes my toes curl."
He protested that Anglo-Saxon men just don't feel comfortable with that degree of exposure – which is exactly why the late Auberon Waugh instigated the Literary Review Bad Sex in Literature Awards, to punish those who don't show such reticence.
Perhaps this helps explain why, year after year, the number of male nominations for the Bad Sex awards far outstrips those by female authors. This year's list is no exception. There are only two women on the provisional long list of 12 – Jean Auel and Dori Ostermiller – while there are plenty of well-known male offenders, such as Stephen King, Lee Child, Sebastian Barry and David Guterson.
I read Guterson's book Ed King and I have to say the sex scenes (and every part of the book, come to that) were so mortifyingly awful that I wiped them from my memory and chucked the volume in the bin. Just as I thought my mind and soul were purged, here comes the Literary Review to remind me of the horror: "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." All I can say is that this is the lightest and most tasteful of the excerpts.