Serious literary prizes like the Booker and the National Book Awards are all very well, but we’ll be honest and say that the award we really look forward to every year is the Literary Review ‘s Bad Sex in Fiction award. This year’s winner was announced this week — it’s David Guterson, for his novel Ed King, which described the titular character having sex with, um, his mother as follows: “It didn’t take long for the beautiful and perfect Ed King to ejaculate for the fifth time in twelve hours, while looking like Roman public-bath statuary. Then they rinsed, dried, dressed, and went to an expensive restaurant for lunch.” Right. But anyway, the whole sorry business got us thinking that there really should be an equivalent for film — after all, Hollywood has been responsible for some of the most hilariously awful depictions of sex you’ll ever see. Like the ones after the jump, for instance. (This is all hugely NSFW, by the way.)
Eyes Wide Shut
For whatever reason, it was the ’90s that gave rise to some of cinema’s most dreadful sex scenes — perhaps because of the unexpected success of Basic Instinct, which meant Paul Verhoeven was still allowed to make films, and the subsequent glut of “erotic thrillers” that were neither erotic nor thrilling. It wasn’t just Verhoeven’s fault, though — even the Greatest Director of All Time™ got in on the act (as it were). The Kubrickians probably won’t take this well, but if conclusive proof was ever needed that Xenu and group sex don’t mix, then look no further than the orgy scene from Eyes Wide Shut, which aims for “erotic” and “edgy” and ends up with something that looks like the participants are components of some weird flesh machine operated by deviants in Kabuki masks.
Body of Evidence
Also from the dark history of ’90s “erotic thrillers.” Younger readers may find it hard to believe, but there was a time when Madonna was widely considered both edgy and sexy. (Not by this writer, we hasten to add — but still.) Happily, Body of Evidence put paid to any such ideas, unless the idea of her having “kinky” sex with Willem Dafoe is your idea of a good time, in which case we feel for you.
Paul Verhoeven. Of course. OK, not actually Paul Verhoeven at all. Curses. Thanks to the commenters who pointed out that we got director Verhoeven mixed up with writer Joe Eszterhas, who was responsible for all of Sliver, Basic Instinct and Showgirls (the latter two were directed by Verhoeven, in our defence). Anyway, we’re still going to stick to our write-up, which went something like this: “A fantasy pornworld where pneumatic positions are the norm, women like nothing better than to be shoved up against stone columns (while wearing high heels, of course), and scratching someone’s back with your fingernails elicits moans of pleasure (as opposed to a bewildered “Um… what the fuck are you doing?!”).”
Younger readers may also struggle to believe that at a certain moment in the ’90s, the idea of Denise Richards and Neve Campbell getting it on was widely considered basically the hottest thing ever ever ever. Until, of course, it was actually filmed, at which point it emerged that it was a) unfeasible, b) not actually particular sexy, and c) completely ruined by the presence of Matt Dillon anyway. Boo.
Shoot ‘Em Up
Not even James Bond tried this move — having sex while shooting people — although we bet Ian Fleming is turning in his grave for not having thought of it. The thing is, though, if this had been a Bond film, this whole ludicrous scene would have been carried off with a hearty sense of its own absurdity. In the hands of Michael Davis, however, it’s less high camp and more flat-out ridiculous. Which, of course, makes it all the funnier.
The Matrix Reloaded
The only thing sillier than this sex scene is the pseudo-rave footage with which it’s intercut. What was it with turn-of-the-century sci-fi films and weird rave culture approximations, anyway?
“It’s turkey time.” Oh, boy, is it ever.
9 1/2 Weeks
The way that Mickey Rourke runs at the start of this scene is hilarious enough (he looks like a man dashing for the toilet after a questionable curry the night before), but it pales in comparison to what transpires next. There’s the whole silly premise of being so consumed by passion that you have sex in a back alley — a practice that’s usually something that men in stained raincoats pay for, to quote Jarvis Cocker — and then there’s the fact that the two paramours appear to be right next to a part of said lane that’s completely under cover, thus obviating the need to get it on in the “rain” (or, more accurately, the garden hose that the best boy is dutifully aiming in the two leads’ direction).
This scene is tragically out of place in the most gloriously homoerotic movie ever made, and frankly, it’s not convincing anyone that Leonidas isn’t as camp as a tent city. And as for “Your lips can finish what your fingers have started”…
The all-time, undisputed champion of ridiculous sex scenes. Agent Cooper, how could you?!