When I was in junior high, my best friend and I used to scope out racy romance novels at discount stores and read the introductory passages aloud. At 12 or 13, we didn't have a clue about sex, but we knew overwrought writing when we saw it. I only wish I could remember some of the howlers we unearthed back in the day.
Many a fiction writer/writing coach has talked about the difficulty of writing about sex well. Much like the act itself, it can be a risky enterprise — and there are so many ways it can go wrong. When I encounter a cringe-worthy passage in an otherwise decent book, I tend to skip past it because I'm so embarrassed for the writer, the characters, and myself.
We have the U.K.-based Literary Review to thank for shedding light on this important topic with its annual Bad Sex in Fiction award. According to the Guardian, the award is designed "to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it."
These passages were among the 2007 nominees, and they range from "Ew" to "WTF?" My favorite line: "But inter-species sex is illegal."
By the way, the late Norman Mailer won.