I picked up my yearly copy of Cosmo this weekend I love Anna Faris and paged through what seemed to be acres of cheesy sex advice and attempted bawdy talk. First of all, girls don’t do sex talk well. We tend to giggle and shy away from the proper names of things. Anyway, the back pages are reserved for excerpts of romance novels, and being unfamiliar with that particular genre, I had to read it. I don’t understand how women read those things without laughing. All that talk of “his length” and “member” and “ravishing her” is just terrible. I’ve read good sex scenes and that ain’t it. I know that if I could only swallow (ha! ha! “swallow” I’m a 16 year old boy at heart when it comes to these things) my pride, I could make a lot of money writing that crap.
Bad sex scenes, however, are hardly confined to the romance-novel genre. Jonathan Littell’s Les Bienveillantes (The Kindly Ones), a memoir of a fictional SS officer, contains this howler:
Her vulva was opposite my face. The small lips protruded slightly from the pale, domed flesh. This sex was watching at me, spying on me, like a Gorgon’s head, like a motionless Cyclops whose single eye never blinks. Little by little this silent gaze penetrated me to the marrow. My breath sped up and I stretched out my hand to hide it: I no longer saw it, but it still saw me and stripped me bare (whereas I was already naked). If only I could still get hard, I thought, I could use my prick like a stake hardened in the fire, and blind this Polyphemus who made me Nobody.
It gets worse after that. The Literary Review was pleased, or at least amused, to present its seventeenth annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award for this very passage. The list of previous winners suggests that mere romances don’t stand a chance against the furiously-awful concoctions of ostensibly “literary” fiction.