The Literary Review Bad Sex award was set up by the literary critic Rhoda Koenig and the late editor of the Literary Review Auberon Waugh in 1993 "to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it."
First-time author Iain Hollingshead won this year's award for his novel Twenty
Something, beating Irvine Welsh, Will Self, David Mitchell and American
literary maverick Thomas Pynchon. Judges were moved by his, as they put it, evocation of "a commotion of grunts and squeaks, flashing unconnected images and explosions of a million little particles."
But it was his description of "bulging trousers" that sealed the win
"Because Hollingshead is a first-time writer, we wished to discourage him from further attempts," the judges said in a statement. "Heavyweights like Thomas Pynchon and Will Self are beyond help at this point."
This year's runner-up was Tim Willcocks's medieval action novel The Religion, for a scene in which characters grapple passionately in a forge "across the cold steel face of the anvil." and in the pit of the protagonist's stomach, " a cauldron boiled and some seething and nameless brew rose up through his spine and filled his brain with the Devil's Fire. Willcocks praised the Bad Sex prize as "a much better guide to a good read than those purveyors of powerful sleeping drugs, the Booker, the Pulitzer, the Goncourt et al."
The award-winning entry:
Twentysomething by Iain Hollingshead (Duckworth)
She's wearing a short, floaty skirt that's more suited to July than February. She leans forward to peck me on the cheek, which feels weird, as she's never kissed me on the cheek before. We'd kissed properly the first time we met. And that was over three years ago.
But the peck on the cheek turns into a quick peck on the lips. She hugs me tight. I can feel her breasts against her chest. I cup my hands round her face and start to kiss her properly, She slides one of her slender legs in between mine. Oh Jack, she was moaning now, her curves pushed up against me, her crotch taut against my bulging trousers, her hands gripping fistfuls of my hair. She reaches for my belt. I groan too, in expectation. And then I'm inside her, and everything is pure white as we're lost in a commotion of grunts and squeaks, flashing unconnected images and explosions of a million little particles.
The Religion by Tim Willocks (Jonathan Cape)
He took his lips from hers and looked at her again. She was immaculate. She was, in all things, true. He slid his hands on to her breasts, moisture lingering in the creases beneath them, and his memory of their magnificence was shamed by the beauty they embodied now. Love and desire became one, each as overmastering as the other, and he pulled the red surcoat over her head and sucked her nipples and stroked her swollen vulva until she trembled and clung on to him and mewled with pleasure in his ear. He turned her about, her eyes bedazed and rolling with transport, and he bent her across the cold steel face of the anvil. He unfastened his flies and unlimbered himself and she rose up on tiptoe to receive him. He bent his knees to get beneath her and entered her from behind and her feet left the floor and she called out to God and convulsed with each slow stroke, her head thrown back and her eyelids aflutter, and her cries filled the forge until she squeezed him from inside and he exploded to a prayer of his own within her body. They fell to the surcoat on the ground and Tannhauser held her in his arms and he stroked her hair while her body was racked by sobs.
She kissed him and he surrendered his virtue without further ado. He discovered afresh her nimble, flickering tongue. Her black hair had grown longer and fell about her neck in uncultivated curls. He slid a hand beneath her arse and guided the tip of his organ between the folds of her matrix. The first half-inch was cold, and moist only with brine, and he encountered stiff resistance which, while not without appeal, made him fear for a moment that he might do her an injury if he pressed on with excess zeal. Amparo grabbed the edge of the tub behind him and anchored her heels around his thighs and launched herself down. She cried out with a passion that stoked his own as he gained another crucial inch of entry and paused. She hovered suspended, her limbs as taut as bow-strings, catching her breath. She opened her eyes and looked at him. He took her weight in his hands and straightened his legs, the barrel rim chafing the skin on his back as he stood upright and invaded her to her core. She cried out again, but from somewhere much deeper within, and her eyes rolled back under fluttering lids. He kissed her throat, the salt tart on his tongue, and realised he had more to give, and that it would not be unwelcome, and he grabbed her by the nape of the neck and held her tight as he shunted the last inch home. Her bones banged into his hips and he kissed her full on the mouth and he heard her yowling echo through his skull as he pierced her, long and slow, with lubricious strokes. In the pit of his stomach a cauldron boiled and some seething and nameless brew rose up through his spine and filled his brain with the Devil's Fire. He was deaf to the rage of the siege guns and the frenzied tintamarre of the alarum horns. He was oblivious, for once, to the foaming spate of rancour from the circle of barbarity beyond. He was aware only of Amparo clinging to his bulk, her nails clenched deep into his loins, her body at once frail and indestructible, her teeth bared in a rapture that looked like pain, his drenched hair plastered to her skin as he sucked her teats.
The ground beneath the hogshead trembled and lurched, as if some subterranean beast of mythical proportion had rammed it from below. This hardly seemed fantastic in the circumstance, nor did the stupendous percussive blast whose force drew the air from their lungs. She let go of him and lay back and gripped the iron-shod rim, half-floating, splayed and convulsing, and whimpering 'Yes', over and over and again, as if her only fear was that he'd stop. He suppressed his own explosive wave, gentleman that he was, and she felt this and it incited her to spasms more frantic yet. He stood stalwart and immobile while she helped herself to her fill, or at least until she arched her back and shuddered and began to slide back down into the water. It was a spectacle to behold, and fortunate he considered himself to witness it. He withdrew and she squirmed. He turned her about to face the parched garden and he entered her from behind and below. Her ardour was far from exhausted. With a sigh he felt the welcome gust of his second wind and, the proprieties duly observed, no obligation to hold back further.
Other short-listed passages
Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon (Jonathan Cape)
"Mouffette? She's a papillon ... a sort of French ladies' lapdog."
"A - You say," gears in his mind beginning to crank, " 'lap' - French ... lap-dog?"
Somehow gathering that Ruperta had trained her toy spaniel to provide intimate "French" caresses of the tongue for the pleasure of its mistress.
"Well! you two are ... pretty close then, I guess?"
"I wuv my ickle woofwoof, ess I doo!"
His thoughts taking wing. The day alone with a French "lap" dog! who might be more than happy to do for Reef what she was obviously already doing for old 'Pert here! who in fact, m-maybe all this time's been just droolin' for one-them penises for a change, and will turn out to know plenty of tricks! A-and- ...
It took a while for Ruperta to get her toilette perfect and her bustle out the door. Reef found himself pacing and smoking, and whenever he took a look over at Mouffette could've sworn she was fidgeting too. The dog, it seemed to Reef, was giving him sidewise looks which if they'd come from a woman you would have had to call flirtatious. Finally after an extended farewell notable for its amount of saliva exchange, Mouffette slowly padded over to the divan where Reef was sitting and jumped up to sit next to him. Jumping on the furniture was something Ruperta seldom allowed her to do, and her gaze as Reef clearly assumed that he would not get upset. Far from it, what he actually got was an erection. Mouffette looked it over, looked away, looked back, and suddenly jumped up on his lap.
"Oboy, oboy." He stroked the diminutive spaniel for a while until, with no warning, she jumped off the couch and slowly went into the bedroom, looking back now and then over her shoulder. Reef followed, taking out his penis, breathing heavily through his mouth. "Here, Mouffie, nice big dog bone for you right here, lookit this, yeah, seen many of these lately? come on, smells good don't it, mmm, yum!" and so forth, Mouffette meantime angling her head, edging closer, sniffing with curiosity. "That's right, now, o-o-open up... good girl, good Mouffette now let's just put this - yaahhgghh!"
Reader, she bit him.
It did not take nearly as long as Cyprian would have wished. He had grown fond over the years of preliminaries but now was able to get in no more than a few trailing tongue-kisses, a quick electrifying blink or two from his long eyelashes to the underside of the heated organ before hearing Yashmeen's command, "Quickly now. Into his mouth Reef in one stroke, no more, and then you must be perfectly still and allow this wicked little fellatrice to do all the work. And you, Cyprian, when he spends you must not swallow any of it, you must keep it all in your mouth, is that understood?" By now she could barely maintain the tone of command, having aroused herself with kid-gloved fingers busy at clitoral bud and parted labia now sleekly framed among the foam of lace around her hips. "You are both my ... my..." She could not quite pursue her thought, as Reef, having lost all control, came bursting in a great pungent flood, which Cyprian did his best to accommodate as he had been ordered to.
"Now come over here, Cyprian, crawl to me, and heaven help you if you try to swallow, or let a drop fall, bring me that impudent little face, put your mouth here, yes just here," as her strong thighs closed pitilessly on his head, his scented wig askew, her own adored hair, and her hands at the back of his neck keeping him where he was. "Now use your tongue, your lips, whatever you must, but I want all of it, out of your mouth and inside me, yes for you are nothing here but a little go-between, you see, you shall never, never, enjoy the privilege of having anything but your wicked mouth where it is now, and I do hope Cyprian you are not touching yourself without my permission, because I shall be ever so angry if you ... yes, dear creature ... exactly... " She was wordless for a while, and Cyprian lost track of the time, surrendering altogether to her scent, her taste, Reef's taste, the muscular enclosure of her thighs, until she parted them briefly and he thought he heard footfalls on the carpet behind him, and then large lawbreaking hands were lifting his gown. Without being told he arched his back and felt Reef, ready to roll once again, pull down the exquisite drawers Yashmeen's seamstress had stitched together all of Venetian lace from Melville & Ziffer, praying that nothing would tear, and then the hard hands on his bared hindquarters as Reef laughed and slapped him there. "Well if this ain't just the sweetest thing." In one painful, well, not really painful slow lunge, Reef entered him... But here let us reluctantly leave them, for biomechanics is one thing but intimacy quite another, isn't it ..
Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs by Irvine Welsh (Cape)
Things are getting weirder with Shannon. Last night was more like a square-go than a shag ... I fucked her as hard and relentlessly as I could and clamped her nipple in a callous vice-like pinch between forefinger and thumb. Then she dragged her nails down my back and the side of my body and violently pushed me away as she twisted out from under me. She ordered me to roll over as she gets on top, shouting - I'M ON TOP, I'M ON FUCKING TOP OF YOU, SKINNER, YOU CUNT, and she fucks me, but she's really just fucking herself into a bitter orgasm. When she's done, she tears away from me like we were two strips of Velcro, leaving me to jerk off so as to come; my spunk shoots all over the couch and some on to her thigh, which she brushes off with scorn, rubbing it on to the cushion.
It was uncomfortably hot in Mary's flat, but Skinner took a seat opposite the fat old woman. - Can you help me? He said earnestly.
- What's your problem?
He told her that he believed that he had put a spell on somebody. He wanted to know if this was possible, how he could have done this, and how it could be reversed.
- Oh aye, it's possible. Mary regarded him cannily. - I can help you, but I need payin first, son. Money's nae use tae me at ma age. Her eyes wrinkled. - You're a fine-lookin laddie, she said harshly. - A good cock, son, that's the payment I need!
Skinner looked at her, and shook his head ...
- Take oaf yir clathes then, let me see the goods, Mary rasped in lecherous cheer.
As Skinner undressed, the old woman removed her coat and began to struggle out of a series of cardigans, pinafores and vests. Lying on the bed, she looked smaller but still monstrous, wrinkled rolls of flab spilling over the mattress. Foul aromas rose from the putrefying pools of sweat and dead skin trapped within the folds of her flesh. - Thoat ye'd be bigger, Mary pouted as Skinner removed his Calvin Klein briefs.
Fuckin cheeky auld clart ...
- Next time ah'll bring a strap on, he said bitterly.
Ignoring him, Mary lay back on the bed and pulled away at the sagging corrugations of her body until she was able to locate her sex. - Ah've nae cream tae lubricate this. Ye'll huv tae use spit. Howk it up, she commanded. ...
Work it in, Mary urged, as Skinner took his thick green slime and spread it like a chef might glaze some pastry, at the same time slowly breaching and exploring. A ludicrously distended clitoris popped out from nowhere like a jack-in-the-box, the size of a small boy's penis, and disconcertingly strangulated groans coming from the bed told Skinner that he was hitting the spot. After a while she gasped, - Pit it in now ... pit it in ...
The Book of Dave by Will Self (Viking)
Dave licked between Phyllis's shoulder blades and drove his tongue down her grooved back. She shuddered and, grabbing his thigh, pulled it up and over her own so that he half straddled her. In the confusion of their bodies - his hairy shanks, her sweaty thighs, his bow-taut cock, her engorged basketry of cowl and lip - there was clear intent; so that when he penetrated her, they moved into and out of one another with fluid ease, revving and squealing, before arriving quite suddenly.
Dave and Phyl were having sex in her cottage outside Chipping Ongar.
Their sex was conducted right there on the living-room floor, assisted by cushions grabbed from chairs and the sofa. Through her haze Michelle was pleased that Dave wasn't repellent, although since it wasn't him who she was fucking, but the other she was fucking over, it hardly mattered. With him there was no need to worry about any uncalled-for embryo - he's had the 'snip-snip' - and so for vital moments, as she gagged on the cabbie's shoulder, Michelle forgot who it was who was bearing down on her. As for Dave, he muttered, 'You on the pill, luv?', took her silence for acquiescence, then approached Michelle as he would call over a run: leave on left tit, comply throat, comply mouth, left shoulder, right hip, forward cunt ... The junctions of her body were well signed, and his Knowledge was sufficient to hold her.
Yet in the friction of their final lunge there was an anticipation of more than arrival. Their jerking bodies prefigured the bondage of shackled partners. They both sensed this and struggled to avoid it - backpeddalling into the present. Dave came in desperation ... While the mere cessation of bucking was Michelle's end.
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (Sceptre)
If Dawn Madden's breasts were a pair of Danishes, Debby Crombie's got two Space Hoppers. Each armed with a gribbly nipple. Tom Yew kissed them in turn and his saliva glistened in the April sun. I know watching was wrong but I couldn't not. Tom Yew slipped off her red panties and stroked the cressy hair there.
'If you want me to stop, Madam Crombie, you have to say now.'
'Oooh, Master Yew,' she croodled, 'don't you dare.'
Tom Yew got on her and sort of jiggled there and she gasped like he was giving her a Chinese burn and wrapped her legs round him, froggily. Now he moved up and down, Man-from Atlantisly. His silver chain jiggled on his neck.
Now her grubby soles met like they were praying.
Now his skin was glazed in roast pork sweat.
Now she made a noise like a tortured Moomintroll.
Now Tom Yew's body jerkjerked judderily jackknifed and a noise like a ripping cable tore out of him. Once more, like he'd been booted in the balls.
Her fingernails'd sunk salmony welts into his arse.
Debby Crombie's mouth made a perfect O.
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon (Jonathan Cape)
She put her hand around his penis and moved it back and forth and it no longer seemed strange, not even a part of his body, more a part of hers, the sensations flowing in one unbroken circle. And she could hear herself panting now, like a dog, but she didn't care ...
And she realised that it was going to happen and she heard herself saying, 'Yes, yes, yes,' and even hearing the sound of her own voice didn't break the spell. And it swept over her like surf sweeping over sand then falling back and sweeping up over the sand again and falling back.
Images went off in her head like little fireworks. The smell of coconut. Brass firedogs. The starched bolster in her parents' bed. A hot cone of grass-clippings. She was breaking up into a thousand tiny pieces, like snow, or bonfire sparks, tumbling high in the air, then starting to fall, so slowly it hardly seemed like falling at all ...
He waited for a couple of minutes.