We Asked a Dominatrix to Review Some of this Year's Worst Sex Writing

A quick sample: "I entered her. Not only my prick, but the whole of me entered her, into her guts, into her darkness."

|
Nov 24 2016, 5:10pm


This article originally appeared on VICE UK

As a dominatrix I often experience unusual sexual encounters – some interesting, some hilarious and some transcendent. As a writer, my work is to find the right words to describe them. Every year, the Literary Review magazine rounds up some of the worst sex writing in fiction, awarding a "winner" the honour of having the most cringy approach to describing a shag.

Last year, sex scenes from Morrissey's first novel won. Today, I took a break from the Trump horror show to rate and review the bad sex writing nominees, before a victor is announced next Wednesday. And I'm American, so I've used that grading system to rate the entries.

Leave Me by Gayle Forman

Once they were in that room, Jason had slammed the door and devoured her with his mouth, his hands, which were everywhere. As if he were ravenous.

And she remembered standing in front of him, her dress a puddle on the floor, and how she'd started to shake, her knees knocking together, like she was a virgin, like this was the first time. Because had she allowed herself to hope, this was what she would've hoped for. And now here it was. And that was terrifying.

Jason had taken her hand and placed it over his bare chest, to his heart, which was pounding wildly, in tandem with hers. She'd thought he was just excited, turned on.

It had not occurred to her that he might be terrified, too.

I can't figure out what's supposed to be bad about this. It's exciting to feel the lust, terror, tension and fulfilment of these two coming together, to be honest. The fragmented sentences convey urgency and immediacy without sacrificing clarity, and they amplify the power of the passage where the narrator discovers that her partner is also afraid. It's a little hackneyed, but not awful.

Mark: A

Men Like Air by Tom Connolly

The walkway to the terminal was all carpet, no oxygen. Dilly bundled Finn into the first restroom on offer, locked the cubicle door and pulled at his leather belt.

"You're beautiful," she told him, going down on to her haunches and unzipping him. He watched her passport rise gradually out of the back pocket of her jeans in time with the rhythmic bobbing of her buttocks as she sucked him. He arched over her back and took hold of the passport before it landed on the pimpled floor. Despite the immediate circumstances, human nature obliged him to take a look at her passport photo.

This is actually fairly good, aside from a terminal walkway without oxygen and a pimpled floor. Good sex writing is all about visceral, specific imagery, and this has it. The act of grabbing the passport tells us more about the character than paragraphs of interior babble could.

Mark: B

The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca

She looked at me, her eyes wide open, and brought her bloody lips to mine, pushed her mouth inside mine until I could feel it in my throat. My prick was a plank stuck to her stomach. She eased the pressure of the kiss, broke off. With a swerve of her hips, she turned me over and I was on top of her. She unwound her arms from my shoulders and guided my hands to her breasts. Opened her legs, pulled up her dress and, holding my hips over her, pushed my prick against her opening. I was her plaything, which she moved around. Our sexes were ready, poised in expectation, barely touching each other: ballet dancers hovering en pointe.

We stayed like that. Anna looked down at them. She pushed on my hips, an order that thrust me in. I entered her. Not only my prick, but the whole of me entered her, into her guts, into her darkness, eyes wide open, seeing nothing. My whole body had gone inside her. I went in with her thrusts and stayed still. While I got used to the quiet and the pulsing of my blood in my ears and nose, she pushed me out a little, then in again. She did it again and again, holding me with force and moving me to the rhythm of the surf. She wiggled her breasts beneath my hands and intensified the pushing. I went in up to my groin and came out almost entirely. My body was her gearstick.

Right, here we have bad writing about a good screw. Even someone being penetrated can be the one running the shag, and that's what's depicted in this passage. It can be unbelievably hot, but here I can't tell if the narrator has some sort of engulfment or devouring fetish, or if he's really scared of having sex with this woman. Neither prick nor sex are engaging words for genitals, and the ballet metaphor inspires a ridiculous vision of two Tinkerbell-sized dancers in place of a pussy and cock.

Mark: C-

A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin

As she talked Andret would make gentle, two-fingered tugs all the way around the hem of her dress to expose the lacy parts of her undersuit, like a child pulling candles from the rim of a birthday cake. Then he would begin kissing the frills. This she found beguiling. During sex she would quiet, moving suddenly on top of him like a lion over its prey. Her eyes stayed wide, Andret liked to keep his own closed; but whenever he opened them, there she would be, staring down at him, her black pupils gyroscopically inert. Again: leonine. He couldn't help thinking that her gaze, even as she bent over him and strained her shoulders like a collared beast, was in fact an indictment.

The act itself was fervent. Like a brisk tennis game or a summer track meet, something performed in daylight between competitors. The cheap mattress bounced. She liked to do it more than once, and he was usually able to comply. Bourbon was his gasoline.

I read the first sentence of this and liked it. It captured the wonderful anticipation in foreplay. But the rest was a series of jarring images in conflict. Is she a lion with prey, or a collared beast? A random collection of images does not build sexual tension or engagement. If we are meant to understand that the characters' sex is odd, detached and unsatisfactory, it succeeds, but the passage fails to arouse. Nope.

Mark: D+

The Butcher's Hook by Janet Ellis

I slide my hands down his back, all along his spine, rutted with bone like mud ridges in a dry field, to the audacious swell below. His finger is inside me, his thumb circling, and I spill like grain from a bucket. He is panting, still running his race. I laugh at the incongruous size of him, sticking to his stomach and escaping from the springing hair below. All the while, we stifle our noise and whisper like a church congregation during the sermon. He pinches my lips when I yelp, I shove my fingers in his mouth when he opens it to howl.

"Anne," he says, stopping and looking down at me. I am pinned like wet washing with his peg. "Till now, I thought the sweetest sound I could ever hear was cows chewing grass. But this is better." He sways and we listen to the soft suck at the exact place we meet. Then I move and put all thoughts of livestock out of his head.

Four prissy, jarring and inaccurate similes in two short paragraphs completely do my head in with this excerpt. I have no sense of what kind of sex they're having at all, and I'm left with the notion of an author who likes the sound of her own voice. To get into some of the practical details, I wonder if the narrator squirted when she "spilled like grain from a bucket", and that's why there was a sucking noise? Either way, the writing is comically confusing – and even if the narrator put livestock out of her lover's head, the author, unfortunately, put it into mine.

Mark: D

The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler

She looked him in the eyes, and, very slowly, brought her face up close to his, and when he felt her breath on his mouth and saw the delicate trembling of her puckered top lip, a shudder of joy passed through him with such force that he would almost certainly have fallen backwards into the cigar rack if Anezka hadn't caught him at the last moment and pressed him firmly against her body.

He closed his eyes and heard himself make a gurgling sound. And as his trousers slipped down his legs all the burdens of his life to date seemed to fall away from him; he tipped back his head and faced up into the darkness beneath the ceiling, and for one blessed moment he felt as if he could understand the things of this world in all their immeasurable beauty. How strange they are, he thought, life and all of these things. Then he felt Anezka slide down before him to the floor, felt her hands grab his naked buttocks and draw him to her. "Come, sonny boy!" he heard her whisper, and with a smile he let go.

A few lines in, the images in this passage coalesced into an Robert Crumb cartoon grotesque. A shudder of joy, trousers falling to the floor, a gurgling sound? He sounds like a few of my clients, so caught in their own private joy that I'm just a prop. For me, that is fine – I'm getting paid – but I pity the woman with a puckered lip who's just a backdrop to the narrator's philosophical musings. Maybe she tells him to "come, sonny boy" because he's such a lousy lay. And if the author thinks this is good sex, I pity his partners.

Mark: F

@mistress_magpie

(Photo via)

More on VICE:

Everything I've Learned Making a TV Series About Sex

We Asked a Load of People About the Last Time They Faked an Orgasm

What the New British Porn Bill Means for You

Stories