Natural porn killers: why do men screw up writing sex scenes?

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Natural porn killers: why do men screw up writing sex scenes?

There's a good reason male writers clean up at the most dreaded literary awards with their saucy stinkers

Rowan Pelling

I heaved a sigh of relief as the results of the 2019 Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction awards were announced at London’s In and Out club last week. It was a joint win for Didier Decoin and John Harvey (a teasing reference to the Booker Prize judges’ inability to pick a single winner), who had equally offended in terms of penning “the year’s most outstandingly awful scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel”.

This meant neither of the women on the six-strong shortlist were saddled with the prize. I had some skin in the game, as I’d given one of the novels – Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls – a rave review, on the grounds her sex writing was so witty, wise and true-to-life. It would have been embarrassing for me, a supposed expert in erotic lit (I’ve edited two sex-themed literary magazines), if Gilbert had won.

The statistics were on my side: in the past 26 years only three women have carried off the Bad Sex trophy...

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