Bad Sex Fiction Prize

In 1993 LITERARY REVIEW magazine started the BAD SEX FICTION PRIZE to highlight  “the crude, tasteless, and often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in contemporary novels.”

This year’s winner is author,  Rowan Somerville, author of  THE SHAPE OF HER, a novel about desire and memory set on a Greek island.  The judges enjoyed his insect imagery and apparently were impressed by the description comparing making love to “a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect.”

Somerville, who was born in Britain and lives in Ireland, commented with good humor that “there is nothing more English than bad sex.”

Good for him!  It got me thinking about my own sex scenes in fiction writing.  Have I ever used animals to enhance  ‘the mood?’ How about a deer?  After all, I did grow up fishing and hiking in northern bush country.  Here’s a scene with Nikki and Brannagh on the bird count in LET THE SHADOWS FALL BEHIND YOU:

Two minutes into their first survey stop, Nikki finally caught on to her. Unless they were solely listening for whippoorwills (who sound just like their name), Brannagh was up the creek.

“You’ll have to be our eyes, and I’ll be our ears,” he concluded, as he gazed off into the horizon through binoculars. “Besides, there’ll be times when we have to conduct our survey a little differently from the rest because you have to get the drawings done.” He sighed here, and she knew that not confessing about the white lies on her job application had been the right thing to do.

Every day at lunchtime, they settled into a cubby Nikki created in the brush. After a lecture, he ordered her to listen carefully and then he fell asleep; all she heard was faint snoring in the afternoon breeze.

Despite this, Brannagh eventually learned that a musical queedle, queedle of the blue jay, was not to be confused with the zhreek zhreek of the scrub jay; that a nuthatch crawled down a tree trunk while a creeper crawled up it; that robins were cranky, chickadees fearless.

Sometimes when the deer flies were biting, or there were miles of dense bog to slog through, they argued. Nikki lectured her on the need to concentrate and she yawned in his face while he explained the difference between a bird bobbing, fanning or flicking its tail.

“Thank you for imparting that scintillating information,” she’d say, and yawn again.

“It’s all in the field guide,” he’d continue, losing his patience. “And you better study it tonight, because if you don’t know it come morning, I’m fining you two rations of chocolate.”

It didn’t help that the rain had let up, and that Mother Nature had loosened her stranglehold on summer’s blossoming, allowing it to assume full gallop, until the days slowly gave in to an indolence illustrated in still, expectant cobalt skies and warm feathery breezes. The scent of pine sap and peppery wildflowers hung in the air. Brannagh imagined that she could hear the life juices of the surrounding flora flowing from root to stem to leaf. All around her was an unfolding, a lazy rich mellowing.

When Brannagh lay on the bracken in the cubby that Nikki cleared at lunchtime, she could almost feel the earth humming in her belly, could recognize the trembling of it beneath her.

She welcomed the warmth of it, the lushness, the energy of all the creatures of the earth gleaning sustenance from it and reaching up, up towards the sun.

One afternoon, while Nikki snored softly, Brannagh heard a snapping of twigs, a crackling of brush. She turned away from him and watched the leaves of the poplars in the distance flipping lazily in the wind, as if an invisible hand ruffled the nap of the landscape. Further back, the clouds spilled shadows onto the hills.

Into the clearing stepped a creature that at first glance looked like a large dog with a reddish-tan coat and long, thin legs. Brannagh rose on her elbow, noticed the puff of a tail, the over-large ears, the spotted flank. There was a cracking sound. The young doe paused, its ears perked. A buck with large antlers galloped out of the brush, nostrils quivering. The doe stood silently upon his approach. He ran his nose along her flank. There was a thick bald patch on his rump where the fur hung in clumps.

Loosestrife, fireweed and bright yellow sow thistles waved round them in the summer breeze. While horse flies and hornets droned in the heat, the buck attempted to mount the doe. She lowered her head, seemingly oblivious, sniffing at the undergrowth.

The buck reared and with an awkward lumbering grace straddled the doe’s flanks, the tip of his swollen shaft rising from the long thick casing. His hind legs stumbled as he pushed against her. The doe’s head rose and she stood perfectly still, ears cupped forward, large eyes glistening.

Their thrusting, quivering, staggering dance held Brannagh spellbound.

Suddenly the doe bolted, crashing through the trees.

Brannagh turned around. Nikki stared, unblinking. He ran his fingers through his sweat-slicked brow and plopped his hat back onto his head. “It isn’t rutting season.”

Brannagh gathered her papers and secured them to the clipboard. “Guess they neglected to study their field guide,” she quipped. “So fine them, why don’t you?”

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