Every year the Literary Review Bad Sex Awards shame writers of the highest calibre with a selection of intensely non-fibrillating scenes of copulation. I have yet to make their list. Not for want of trying however. I remember my early writing involved a lot of 'members' and 'openings', but now the sex act, well, for fear of falling into cliches or getting too swept away with the erotic moment, I try to take away what I might be tempted to pop in. Take last week, for example, I was setting up a sex-scene-that-fails-to-happen in a short story I am working on: when I reread I realised I had leapt to the table like Britney Spears in laced-up boots and a g-string. Yerk!
So the young man did not remove his clothing. The young man had no hard-on. I gave that piece the cold shower.
Interestingly, Rowan Pelling, the admirable ex-Editor of The Erotic Review, asks Why are male writers so bad at sex scenes? (The Guardian, Fri 25th Nov). She notes, I can only posit a theory, but I tend to blame the higher rate of mortifying sex scenes in novels by men on the nature of their fantasies.. ..Meanwhile those women authors who do apply themselves to the hard task of writing about sex tend to do so with veracity and a distinctly grown-up sensibility..
Could this be true? Are women more succinct, more investigatory, more permeating with their portraits of lovemaking?
On the Literary Review's list, we find the much-loved Haruki Murakami, whose new book sits on my table and will nonetheless probably be adored, and Australian Christos Tsiolkas, whose extract involved words such as 'gaseous bouquet' and 'churning compost' and was far too full of odours to be fully read with green tea.
What makes even the best writers go loopy over sex scenes? Can they be forgiven? Is anyone game enough to lay down some text?