Bad Sex by Barbara Nadel

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I wonder if ex-prime minister Tony Blair will ever just go away? I like to think of him cowering in a tower block somewhere, eaten up with remorse and the hideous embarrassment of having once been George W Bush’s best buddy. But I know that in reality he is actually feted by statesmen across the world and has enough money to be able to buy me, St Paul’s Cathedral and Mexico.

Superlatives about this man who took my country into an illegal war, still abound. Even his book A Journey is a bestseller and now, apparently, he is in line for a literary award. Happily it is of an ironic nature. It is the Bad Sex Award (BSA) and, as far as I can see, Mr Blair really deserves this one. Anyone who describes himself as an ‘animal’ in the sack with his wife (or anyone else) is on the road, if not at the terminus, of the bad sex journey. I’m impressed that he’s risen so high (if you’ll excuse the expression) in such a short literary career but then if you use the word ‘animal’ in relation to human sexual contact then you’re almost guaranteed a BSA.

It’s all down to words really or rather certain words. There’s a fair bit of sex in my Çetin İkmen books, but I’m always very careful about the words I use to describe it. I don’t actually fear winning a BSA, one can argue that the publicity would only do my career good. I think that what I fear is being bad at something in a very public arena. Literature, even if one is not a best-seller, is out there for anyone and everyone to read should they so choose. I’d like to keep my failures to myself thank you very much!

So what are the words I think that those not wishing to end up with a BSA should avoid? A very thin line, I believe, has to be walked between the risible and the anatomical and so, right from the off, I think it best to avoid terms that your doctor might use. I may be wrong but I don’t think that a sex scene really benefits from a minute anatomical investigation of a woman’s vagina. There are, or should be, emotions and even perhaps romance involved. We really don’t need a literary tour of the organs of reproduction. This just leaves the risible.

Everybody’s idea about which words, when used to describe sex are funny, may differ. ‘Animal’ as I have said before, is one of them for me. Others include: throbbing, member, shuddering climax, tumescence, huge, feasting, proud. When applied to the sex act or to ‘tumescent’ sexual organs these words can reduce me to a heap of mad giggling. I guess I just find it all too over-blown and too serious by half. Even in a crime novel, sex need not necessarily be desperate and joyless. Some of the characters may have sex because they love the person they’re having sex with or for fun or on a whim or for any reason that may not necessarily be connected to any sort of crime. Criminal sex, as in rape or abuse, is something else entirely and is beyond the remit of this current discussion.

Of course I have to accept that not everybody laughs at the word ‘throbbing’ in the way that I do. I have a particularly childish sense of humour at times which, during the late 1980s was honed to perfection by a mad comic for adults called ‘Viz’. This publication had comic strips about all sorts of vaguely and not so vaguely lavatorial subjects and characters including ‘Johnny Fartpants’, ‘Nobby’s Piles’ and ‘The Fat Slags’. Now a rather venerable magazine here in the UK, it still makes me laugh until I cry and I still feel about fifteen years old whenever I do.

So use words like ‘animal’ and ‘proud’ at your peril. Not just because they will make me laugh but because they also, it would seem, make the Bad Sex Award judges laugh quite a bit too. Sadly for those who still find words like that useful in a sexual context, I fear that the judges may very well, like me, have read far too many copies of ‘Viz’ comic back in the 1980s. I suspect Mr Tony Blair did not read that publication, hence his new and this time very funny, run in with notoriety. The rule of thumb therefore for Mr Tony Blair in the future is read more smut, laugh a bit more and for God’s sake stop taking yourself so bloody seriously! Oh and of course, learn what the word ‘humility’ means – if that’s ever really possible.

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