Good Writing, Bad Sex: The Best Sex Scenes About the Worst Sex

If we’re being honest: Sometimes sex is bad. It’s not always fireworks. It’s not always trumpeting and transcendent. Cosmic couplings, two-bodies-as-one, those sorts of rolls in the hay don’t happen every time you hit it. Thundering mind-annihilating orgasms are elusive.

And sometimes sex is bad in books — but we’re not talking the Bad Sex in Fiction of the infamous award. We’re not talking nipples like rodent noses or penises like pile-drivers (thanks, Rowan Somerville and Nick Cave). Nope, we’re talking about sex scenes in literature that explore the times when sex is sad, when it’s mournful, melancholy, desperate, violent, lonely, regrettable, necessary, inevitable. The times that leave you emptier than you’d started. These passages eschew the air-brushed fantasy for the messy truth (which is not to say these scenes aren’t erotic in their own ways). Below, the best of bad sex.

From The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender

Aimee Bender’s surrealist stories edge up against fairy-tale and fable, but her sex scenes are grounded in recognizable human moments. This comes from “Quiet Please,” about a librarian who goes on a sex spree.

“She has him in the back room; he makes one tentative step forward then he’s on her like Wall Street rain, his suit in a pile on the floor in a full bucket, her dress unbuttoned down, down, one by one until she’s naked and the sweat is pooling in her back again. She obliterates herself and then buttons up. This man too wants to see her again, he might want to marry her, he’s thinking, but she smiles without teeth and says, man, this is a one-shot deal. Thanks.”