Bad Sex In Fiction Award

Each year since 1993, the British literary magazine Literary Review has presented the annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award to the author it deems to have produced the worst description of a sex scene in a novel. The award is symbolically presented in the form of what has been described as a “semi-abstract trophy representing sex in the 1950s”, depicting a naked woman draped over an open book.

The award was established by Rhoda Koenig, a literary critic, and Auberon Waugh, then the magazine’s editor. The aim of the award is “to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it”. The enduring relevance of this rationale has been questioned, based on concerns about censorious public shaming (including online) of authors of serious literary fiction.

In 2018 the award was presented by the singer Kim Wilde at London’s In and Out club. The winner that year was James Frey for a scene in his book Katerina. The judges were especially convinced by an extended scene in a Paris bathroom between two of the book’s characters, Jay and Katerina that features eight references to ejaculate.

During the ceremony, Kim commented “What a kinky little gathering this is” and “I do feel slightly turned on”.