Commentary, Criticism, Snark

WORST SEX SCENE IN A MODERN NOVEL – A Special, Rotting Post Competition

Just how horrible can a sex scene in a contemporary novel get?

This is the critical question we at The Rotting Post intend to answer.   We will offer two of the worst descriptions of sex ever recorded in a serious novel as our finalists.  And you the reader can choose for the winner!

worst sex 2


Needless to say, there are many ways to write a bad sex scene.  Before we get to our more current examples, let’s see how David Guterson did it way back in 1994, in his hugely successful, “Snow Falling On Cedars”:

He held her tightly in the curves of her waist, and after a while lower, at her hips…

Then his hands left her hips and traced the line of her waist and traveled along up under her dress to  the clasp of her bra…He undid the clasp without struggling and pulled the shoulder straps down…

His hands traveled down her body, coming out from the dress to hold her neck under her hair, and then her shoulder blades…Ishmael kissed the front of her austelle dress and then began, from just below the embroidered collar, to undo its eleven buttons…

Whew.  Just a sec.  Gotta cool off.

There, I’m back.

I cannot speak for others, but for me this scene had all the thrill of an Ikea Chair assembly manual.  “Tighten Phalange Nut over Jowel Screw at (A).   Next, insert Bevel Joist (see figure 7) into Slot (E) at…”.   Do we really need to know the exact route of travel of our protagonist’s hands?  Or the number of buttons that required unbuttoning?  Are we going to be tested on this?  Still, clumsy as this scene is, it is possible, as we will see, to do far worse.

Our next approach to writing a bad sex scene is the one chosen by Tom Wolfe in his most recent, “Back to Blood”:  Apply your famous writing style of repetitions and rhythms completely mindlessly where it does not belong.   Then, most important of all, do not reread what you have written, because you are a genius and there is no need.

From “Back to Blood”:

His body impinged on hers, and his hand was stroking her here…and there…and there and there and there, and she despaired.   She was a whore for the Korolyov Museum of Art in the body of an oligarch…

Now his big generative jockey was inside her pelvic saddle, riding, riding, riding, and she was eagerly swallowing it swalloing it swallowing it with the saddle’s own lips and maw – all this without a word…

He seemed to be able to last forever, so long that sounds finally came from her lips…”Ah…ah…ahh…ahhh…Ahhhhhh”.

Math Question:  Consider the series of ‘Ah’s above.   How many ‘h’s would be in the next ‘ah’ in the series?

a)  9
b)  2(ah)^4
c)  4a/(h+2)
d)  twelve…Twelve….TWELVE….

Now, apart from the ‘ah’s, we have a couple of issues.   To begin with, what, exactly, is a ‘big generative jockey’?   We’re not getting it.  Aren’t jockeys really small?   And how are they generative?  Shouldn’t it be ‘his small, non-generative jockey was inside her…’.  Also, where would a saddle’s maw and lips be exactly?  We’re just not swallowing it swallowing it swallowing it.   Call me crazy here, but wouldn’t the galloping steed itself be a better symbol symbol symbol for the guy’s equipment equipment equipment than the jockey?

Our next finalist (and I will admit that I am really rooting for this one) comes from, “The Portable Veblen,” by Elizabeth Mckenzie – a former fiction editor at The Atlantic.  This book is fresh off the presses, and has garnered loads of attention, rave reviews in the Timeses (LA and New York), and a starred Kirkus review.   I have two issues with this book, which, to be fair, has its virtues.  The first issue is that it gets kind of slow in the middle.  You know where it is going and it takes a long time to get there.  The second issue is page 293.  Did everyone else miss this page?   This is a flashback scene, where we find the young, virginal Millie undressing her young, virginal lover, Paul:

And there it was, there it was.  A silky-skinned penis so much larger than a dog’s, and so much more colorful!  It was purple on one side, with green stripes and red stripes and small black paisleys around the base, and shiny and shapely, like a tall ride at Tomorrowland.

Okay, is Paul wearing some sort of Christmas-themed penis-stocking?  Because otherwise…we at The Rotting Post are rather confused.  Is young Millie tripping?  Also, do we really need the dog penis comparison?  I mean…how should I say this?  It’s not like the dog penis was a potential object of desire.  Or was it?  Definitely, I would have remembered my first time a lot better if my girlfriend had said to me, “Wow, yours is way bigger than a dog’s!”   Amazingly, we have not yet gotten to the horrible part.  A couple of sentences later we get things from Paul Paisley-Penis’s perspective:

She began to giggle, and he felt the vestigial remains of his baby fat in her hands, and saw himself as a master Tillamook Cheddar Log, Millie as the pliant grater beneath, a Cheddar who wanted to be grated, a grater who wanted to be Cheddared, and even still he managed it, until he was melting all over her as Cheddar will do…


Where to begin…

Graters, in general?  Not very pliant.  A pliant grater?  Against a man’s….cheddar?  Sounds painful.  Very very very painful.   Trust me on this one, Elizabeth.  I know you sport an MFA from Stanford, and I’m an alumni of Taco Bell, but I feel confident in what I am saying here:  A cheese grater is a very bad symbol for the female genital.  Very, very, very bad.  Only thing worse would be a chainsaw.

Okay, now about the whole Cheddar thing?  Cheddar is not a verb, Elizabeth.  A cheese grater cannot get Cheddared.  Not even a really hot and bothered cheese grater can.

Next, dappled-dick Paul felt like, “A master Tillamook Cheddar Log”?   Huh?  What does that feel like?  Did he brag to his buddies after,  “Oh man!  I felt like a Cheddar Log!” “A what?”  “Like a master Tillamook Cheddar Log!”  “Dude, are you sure you did it right?” “She was, like, totally Cheddared”.  “Huh?”

And one more thing, Lizzie hon.  What exactly makes a Tillamook Cheddar Log a “master” one?   Is it intellect?  Genius?   Physical skill?   Stamina?   Personally I find most Cheddar logs to be about equal in terms of brain-power and athletic ability.  But maybe it’s just me.

Well, we are done reading…readingREADING.  And we are feeling nothing in our big, generative jockey (so much larger than a dog’s).

READERS:   Please vote on Worst Sex Scene in the comments section.    Results will be published, along with results from our Worst Sentences competition.

And now, for your FINAL EXAM:

Reading Comprehension.   Consider the images below.  Choose which ones represent which genital – male or female.  Draw a line from Each image to each symbol.

worst sex 3


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114 replies »

  1. Wolf deserves the ding on this one. Do men really get to be that old without understanding how to bring their women to orgasm? For God’s sake, man, at least plagiarize a romance novel for the sake of the humanities. As for the dog cheese melt, they get a pass for being virgins, although I think he lied about being a virgin because it sounds like he’s got an STD.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As an alternative to the Christmas sock and acid trip theories, I’d like to add the possibility that Paul is a humanoid from the soon-to-be-announced earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri.


  3. I’m a new writer and I write sex scenes (good ones) and I’ve never read ANYTHING as bad as those examples -or as funny. I laughed til I cried -not exactly the effect you want from your readership, is it?


  4. So… in order to sell tons and tons of books and make tons and tons of money (see what I’ve done here? I’m taking advice from those authors) I’ll have to write rubbish-like drivel-filled sex scenes instead of something that will actually get another person turned on and full of desire?


    • hmmm….i wouldn’t go quite that far. not sure elizabeth mackenzie is making tons and tons of money. and of course, the vast majority of people who write bad sex scenes (or no sex scenes, or great sex scenes) make no money. kind of the state of the industry, sadly. thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My vote is for Wolfe. Lazy, limp and ludicrous. The phrase “all this without a word” implies the character’s previous partners unleashed a ceaseless stream of patter along the lines of “Sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh,” “Wake me up when you’re finished,” “If I were you, I’d head over to the Korolyov Sex Center for some remedial work,” “Have you ever done this before?” and “What the hell is that thing?” (Oops, sorry, I slipped down to the Mckenzie piece.)


  6. My vote is for “The Portable Veblen.” “Back To Blood”‘s scene may be dreadful, but at least it’s physically possible and doesn’t imply that the protagonist has fucked a dog and the love interest is slowly dying of genital rot. Plus, just… /cheese grater?/ Smh, Elizabeth Mckenzie, smh.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on Candace Vianna Writes and commented:
    In fairness to Ms. McKenzie, Rotting Post’s update on her win.

    “Out of a welling sense of guilt, I emailed the author and asked if she wanted to comment on winning the award. Her reply was both funny and deserved.

    Elizabeth McKenzie’s response :

    “Winning the Worst Sex Scene in a Modern Novel competition is truly a great honor. I would like to thank my parents, my wonderful agent and editor, my first boyfriend, his dealer, and mostly, all who read the scene out of context and were thus unable to determine that the hideous, burlesque hallucinations rose out of an accidental acid trip visited on the youths by Paul’s hippie parents!”

    Ugh! Mrs. Post read this and started giving me that horrible “tsk, tsk” look. So, mea cupla! And good luck to you, Ms. McKenzie, with, “The Portable Veblen and all your future writing endeavors.”


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