It’s a question of…. bad sex scenes

The “Bad sex in fiction” award 2009 has just been announced. The winner this year is American-turned-French writer Jonathan Littell for his book The Kindly ones (originally published in French as Les Bienveillantes). Now this is not just any writer or any book. It’s the one that won the Prix Goncourt and the Grand Prix de l’Académie française in 2006. Supposedly a good piece of literature (I haven’t read it), but the sex scenes in it are really bad (I have read some of those – well I had to, didn’t I?).

I’m not pouring water on a drowning man. Littell has sold thousands of books and will probably sell even more after this. And writing good sex scenes is very difficult, even for the best of authors. Be honest, how many times have you sat in the middle of page-turner to find yourself suddenly cringing over some over-explicit and often totally unrealistic sex scene?

Danielle Steele provided me with my first literary sex. It was OK – except men were always “exploding” in the heroines. I remember being extremely disappointed when I started having sex because I never felt the “explosion” (all I felt was the body on top suddenly going heavy and crushing me). But I suppose what’s bad (or impracticable or downright laughable) literary sex for some, is good for others.

I can safely say that my “awakening” came with The Godfather and the scene at the wedding where Sonny’s having stand-up sex with his mistress and she walks away from there with the aftermaths still between her thighs. I haven’t re-read it for many, many years, but it really had a great  effect on me in my early teens. (In the film it doesn’t come  across nearly as arousing). I “stole” the book time and time  again from my parent’s shelves as some forbidden fruit.

Why exactly? I have no idea. Maybe if I had already had  sex at the time and had known how difficult perfect stand-  up sex really is, it wouldn’t have captivated me so much…

It’s hard to say what makes a sex scene good in writing. Recently, I came across an author who pens down sex massively and explicitly but gets away with it fine: Adele Parks. But there are many more. For some strange reason (and despite The Godfather), most are women. I’m not making this up; it’s a fact. Women writers are better at it, maybe because they are more truthful. You need proof? Amongst the short-listed authors for the “Bad sex in fiction” award there was only one woman for nine men…

3 Comments

Filed under The sinner in me

3 responses to “It’s a question of…. bad sex scenes

  1. Jicé

    Maybe women are better than men in sex wrtiing because they’re simply better than us in sex anyway…
    We practice more “animally” (of course I’m not talking about all the mens around the world) for they practice more “spiritually” which is, seems to me, more compatible with writting.

  2. Stand Up Guy

    Can I diverge a moment and go into the realm of bad sex scenes in movies?
    Team America – puppet porn.

    Enough said.

  3. roberto

    Well I’m a little shocked that such a book got such a prize! I may have missed the sex scenes or didn’t quiet understand I was actually reading one. All I can remember is that I had to put the book down, felt like vomiting, and I was getting very agressive with people around me.
    However I still remember many other scenes and I often think about this book but can’t find the strength to open it and finish it.
    I just read the last page and the last lines and vaguely understood everything ends up in a zoo!

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