Let's Celebrate Sex in Literature

Why the 'Bad Sex in Fiction Award' is a prudish disgrace

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 30, 2010 2:43 PM CST

(Newser) – Every year the Literary Review of Britain hands out its Bad Sex in Fiction Award, and every year it draws loads of press and snarky giggles at the expense of big-name nominees (who have included Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, and, this year, Jonathan Franzen). Well, Laura Miller of Salon is sick of it. “The Bad Sex Award poses as a knowing blow against literary pretension,” she writes, “while embodying the most retrograde prudery.” The award is essentially shaming writers into avoiding sex altogether.

But what’s wrong with sex? “Is there any reason why the literature that makes us laugh, cry and rage shouldn’t also, occasionally, turn us on?” Miller asks. Sex, after all, is an essential human experience. The Literary Review should be praising books that get it right, not shaming those who falter. Of course, that “amounts to admitting you’ve found something arousing, and thereby risking the British equivalent of the ninth circle of hell: embarrassment.” (Click here for the full column and here for this year's winner.)

I can't be aroused! I'm reading here!   (Shutterstock)
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It doesn't take much nerve to stand up in front of a boozy crowd and read sex passages from other people's books in a mocking tone of voice while everybody sneers and groans. - Laura Miller

Is there any reason why the literature that makes us laugh, cry and rage shouldn't also, occasionally, turn us on? - Laura Miller

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