I will begin with a little confessional. I decided to take a nom de plume—Sébastian Gerard (you already know who I really am)—back in 2004 when I commenced my first novel because my mother still had six years of life in her and I didn’t want to right anything that might shorten that. You see, mom was a little bit of a prude and I figured she would probably want to read my first novel. I also figured that I might have to write a scene of sexual intimacy somewhere in my story and I might be able to slip the book past with a pen name. As it happened, the narrative did call for a legitimate (as opposed to gratuitous) sex scene and the one I wrote (see below) would have, I think, easily passed maternal censorship.
A second confessional: I use my video remote to fast forward through sex scenes on movies that I watch on my television (I hardly ever go to the movie theater anymore because they do not issue you a remote). I am not imparting any new information to anyone who has ever seen a porn flick or two that sex––at least for the observer––quickly becomes boring. There is almost nothing that movies can come up with, even now that the lid is completely off anything that ever restrained sex on film, that you haven’t seen before, imagined, or even done yourself. [Here I except some Japanese and Korean films that will manage to come up with some concoctions of sex and violence that will cause you to think you have eaten some bad fugu sushi. But it still deserves the fast-forward button.]
Why? You might ask. Has Sebastian lost his mojo? Should you should send him some of those blue booster pills? Nah. I have become parsimonious with my time in my senior years and I have little patience with reading through passages, or watching scenes that I find tedious, annoying, and only occasionally with some redemptive hilarity. Why bother. So, I skim past the ripping of bodices, throbbing phalluses, sweat, fluids and ecstatic moans (bored yet?), or fast forward through their depiction in shadowy rooms with tit flashes and occasional full frontal.
Sex is, of course, part of life, and arguably its cause, and it figures in almost all of its aspects. So, it is often difficult in the artistic representation of life to avoid it, although a pile of verbal horseshit like Fifty Shades of Grey (I sampled a passage or two) is merely porn. Sex is also one of life’s great pleasures, although we all know that there are some people who are good at it and some people who definitely deserve the description of “fuck-up.” There is a good chance that included among the latter––at least as evidenced by their descriptive abilities––are a selection of the authors from the Guardian’s “Bad Sex Awards of 2018.”
Here is an excerpt from Scoundrels: The Hunt for Hansclappby Major Victor Cornwall and Major Arthur St John Trevelyan:
“Empty my tanks,” I’d begged breathlessly, as once more she began drawing me deep inside her pleasure cave. Her vaginal ratchet moved in concertina-like waves, slowly chugging my organ as a boa constrictor swallows its prey. Soon I was locked in, balls deep, ready to be ground down by the enamelled pepper mill within her.
Jesus, “enameled pepper mill”? One of these guys must be Japanese and the other Korean.
Katerina by James Frey (this is just freaking pathetic)
I’m hard and deep inside her fucking her on the bathroom sink her tight little black dress still on her thong on the floor my pants at my knees our eyes locked, our hearts and souls and bodies locked.
Cum inside me.
Cum inside me.
Cum inside me.
Blinding breathless shaking overwhelming exploding white God I cum inside her my cock throbbing we’re both moaning eyes hearts souls bodies one.\
I close my eyes let out my breath.
The spacing gives it that poetic affect, doesn’t it? And that beautiful imagery about his pants around his knees.
Connect by Julian Gough
He drops the bra to the floor, looks up, into her eyes, it’s too much. He kisses her chin, her mouth, and their tongues touch, oh, too much, he slips his lips free with a soft suck. Moves up to kiss her strong nose, on one side, then the other, it’s hard and soft at once. He moves back down, till he is level with her breasts.
‘They’re small,’ she says, surprisingly shy, apologetic.
‘They’re perfect,’ he says.
He kisses them. Teases a nipple with his lips. It’s so soft; and then, suddenly, hard.
He sucks on the hard nipple.
He has never done this before, and yet; no, wait, of course, it is totally familiar.
The first thing he ever did.
He feels the huge change in meaning, in status; it is as though he had grown up in a single suck. Everything transformed. And yet nothing has changed at all; he sucks at a nipple as he lies on a bed, and it’s eighteen years later, and he sucks at a nipple as he lies on a bed, and his childhood falls away from him like a burned-out booster stage from a rocket. Its fuel used up. He is now in orbit around a different planet.
This is what happens when parents do not give up their babies a pacifier.
Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami
My ejaculation was violent, and repeated. Again and again, semen poured from me, overflowing her vagina, turning the sheets sticky. There was nothing I could do to make it stop. If it continued, I worried, I would be completely emptied out. Yuzu slept deeply through it all without making a sound, her breathing even. Her sex, though, had contracted around mine, and would not let go. As if it had an unshakeable will of its own and was determined to wring every last drop from my body.
At last, a Japanese, and a best-selling one at that, not a premature ejaculation. Can you believe there is actually been talk about this guy as a possible Nobel literature laureate?
Kismet by Luke Tredget
She shuffles her head closer to his cock, close enough to smell her own residue, and then takes it in her mouth, with the vague idea of cleaning it. Geoff mirrors this gesture by burying his head between her legs, and gradually she can feel his cock pumping up with blood, one pulse at a time, until it is long and hard and filling her wide-open mouth. They stay in this position for a long time, Anna sucking and slurping with the same lazy persistence you’d use on a gobstopper or a stick of rock. Eventually she loses her sense of the context altogether – of what she is doing or who she is with or where they are – and becomes an empty vessel for what feels like disembodied consciousness. She looks at the window and wonders how the glass feels encased within its wooden frame, what the shaggy clouds feel like being blown across the sky, what the walls felt like being splattered and smeared with wet paint …
Wow! He actually tried to finish with an artistic flourish rather than a return to “the smell of her own residue.”
Grace’s Day by William Wall
He’s almost weightless. When he enters me it hurts and my pain belongs to the subterranean world, primitive as the clay. His body is slacker than I expected, a small paunch begins at his waist and settles in a downward parabola to his groin. His pubic hair is red. His erect penis is a surprise although I had imagined what they would feel like, read about them, seen them represented on toilet walls and magazines. I didn’t see it before he entered me, but afterwards it is small and sticky and amusing. I want to touch it but I don’t dare. I don’t know the etiquette. He is twenty or more years older than me. This is sex. [Yeah, but was it worth it?]
That’s enough. There’s more, but why torture you. The only thing they would arouse his your vomit. And unfortunately, all these passages do is make one to wonder whether the rest of their literary work is as shitty as these passages.
So, I can hear you saying, “put up or shut up,” Gerard. Yeah, well I’ll take some of your action Sir Wanks-a-lot. (BTW: did you notice that all of the Guardian’s selectees were male authors?)
This selection, from For Goodness Sake, A Novel of the Afterlife of Suzie Wong (2005)leaves out the sex act entirely—or rather leave it to the imagination of the reader—but relates everything about it: before, after, the room, the time of day, the drapes, even an existential rumination, observed by the man. Sorry, no thrusting pistons and orgasmic screams.
Lily sleeps on her back, as quietly as I have ever seen anyone sleep. Her breathing is imperceptible, her full lips slightly open, arms raised above her head, a skein of hair across her brow. How can anyone allow herself to be so vulnerable with someone she scarcely knows, I wonder? Me, from another culture, another country, another race—a “foreign devil.” I search for the word to describe the feeling; “honored” sounds too formal, but it’s something like that, to be “trusted” in this way.
On the day we met, by the time we made it from Chinese University to Hong Kong side, we had exchanged most of the essential biographical information. In a week, we had met three more times. By our fifth meeting, all pretense that it was about library searches was gone as we lay in a pretzel-like embrace under my sheets.
The afternoon light was fading to its custard hue. A slight breeze played with the drapes, fluttering the cartoon character, Bad Badtz Maru, a sort of mischievous penguin, that is printed on them. This must have been a kid’s room at one time, but it was quite “adult” this afternoon.
I scanned along Lily’s body; soft neck about the thickness of my wrist, breasts that we used to call “perky,” the color, size and firmness of those steamed dim sum buns. Her skin is the texture of cream. Despite her skinny frame, there is a curious little mound of tummy above her delta.
The afternoon light is going to its custard hue. A slight breeze plays with the drapes.
Gwenny Lee had complained that shed was “too skinny” to have “sex appeal” like her friend Suzie Wong. But sex appeal is a subtle thing, not so easily defined. It resides in the gesture, the pose, the smile, the light in the eyes, even the movement of hands, and, of course what is supplied by the imagination of the “beholder.” It transcends the women who are too skinny, or too heavy, too, or not enough, almost anything. Lily’s glasses lay on the night stand, their magnification enlarging the barrette, a plastic lily on an alligator clip. It was a girlish touch that a woman who felt she had sex appeal woman might avoid.
It had all been so deliberate, so savoring, nearly Tantric, in a way that I had never loved a woman before. It had been a very long interval, Lily told me, but “no cause for haste.” She thought for a moment, her eyes trying to find focus the way far-sighted people do without their glasses. “You are my second, . . . and my first,” she said, “my second man, and my first American man. A divorced woman with a young daughter is not a situation that men seek, especially Chinese men.”
I didn’t know whether this was meant to be complimentary, or just mere documentation. The Chinese seemed to me overly concerned with the ordinality of things, always ranking them on some scale. Things were never identical; something was always, if only in a scarcely perceptible way, better, or worse, than something else. An American-Chinese friend told me that when shopping, one should not select the item in front, because it had probably been picked up and examined by someone else, nor the last item, because it had probably been rejected by everyone else. Somewhere in the middle of cartons, bottles, or lovers—in a place that seemed beyond the perception of westerners—was the “best” choice.
From Stumbling Blocks and Stepping Stones: A Novel of Coming of Age Catholic (2015) in which two teenage boys “come of age” sexually in a car in an alley garage under the instruction of an older girl.
“No noise or talking,” Matteo whispered as he struck a match and handed the candle to Nunzi.
As my eyes adjusted to the light I got my first glimpse of Heidi Krause though the open “suicide” door of the 1942 Ford sedan. She was naked! The tightening increased. I had seen her around the neighborhood for years but had never spoken to her; now I was about to say “hi” when I remembered Matteo’s warning. I felt silly when I lifted my hand in a feeble wave. She just looked back, smiling. I was amazed at her lack of self-consciousness.
“C’mon, you guys can watch through the window,” Matt whispered, walking over to the car. I noticed that Matteo was fully stiff, which caused him to walk funny. Nunzi and I pressed our faces up against the side window, Nunzi adjusting the candle for the maximum illumination. Now we could clearly see her breasts, slightly flattened because she was leaning back against the seat, but I thought they looked larger than when I had leered at her in a tight sweater.
“Really nice tits,” Nunzi whispered just before Matteo took them in his hands. Then she opened her legs, but before we could get a good look at that shadowed area Matteo was over her, already thrusting. Heidi’s mouth and eyes opened wide simultaneously and she emitted little moans and squeaks as Matteo increased the pace of his thrusts. The car swayed and our noses smeared sweat and grease on the windows. Heidi’s head swung from side to side and she looked blankly at, almost through, her spectators. She didn’t seem to care who was watching. She tugged at Matteo’s sweaty shoulders, pulling him toward her. I reflexively pulled at my pants to make more room in them. Nunzi took no notice of the hot wax running down the candle onto the back of his hand.
Then Matteo convulsed and grunted, thrusting wildly and rapidly, his face contorted in an expression I later came to feel made men seem silliest in such an intimate situation.
“Ahhh, that was terrific,” Matteo exulted with a self-congratulatory grin, pulling himself back off Heidi.
“Not for me,” Heidi snapped, “I need more.”
“Gotta wait awhile,” he answered.
“No, now?” she demanded. A scowl overtook her broad, Germanic face. “Now!” she insisted.
“Quiet!” he shot back in a loud whisper. Then, more quietly, “Ya want the whole neighborhood in here?”
But Heidi was too aroused. She turned toward us. “You want to have a good look, do ya, c’mon, come in here and look,” she said, opening her legs wider.
“Yah, take a look,” Matteo said, moving closer to the opposite door.
Nunzi and I forced ourselves onto the floor of the back seat and Nunzi moved the candle closer, erasing the shadows between her legs. Then Heidi said,” You’ve seen mine, now show me yours . . . fair’s fair.”
“OK,” Nunzi quickly responded, handing me the candle and reaching for his belt buckle. I was seized with the urge to run out of the garage; Heidi suddenly seemed threatening. At seventeen she was older than Matteo, and fully developed. More woman than he was man. It seemed odd to me that she could be so demanding, sitting there naked with her legs apart. A panicky apprehension set in, something like what I felt when I and a few of the guys had sneaked into that synagogue last year, like there were strange gods in that place that might snatch my soul.
The waxy odor of the candle, mingled with that of the heated naugahyde seat, the smell of the oil and the heated, exotic fragrance of the aroused Heidi formed an incense fit for some forbidden, soul-altering ceremony. I wanted to run, but I also wanted to know the mysteries.
“You, too,” Heidi said reaching for my belt buckle, “you have to show yours too, Pauley.” She said my name! I couldn’t resist. I submitted. I would have done anything she asked.
See, just because it’s sex doesn’t mean the writing doesn’t have to be good.
This last selection is from my most recent novel, The River Dragon’s Daughters: A Novel of Four Women of the Yangtze in Interesting Times (2018). The scene takes place on a coastal freighter between two peasant Chinese fleeing jeopardy in 1922.
It was deep in the night that Weiping came to him, waking Pang Minh with a soft touch and with one word, jiù, “come.” Still in half-sleep Pang Minh was unsure of the origin of the faint tinkling of little bells as she led him by the hand to her warm bunk inside the cabin. He was unsure, as well, of her purpose, thinking that there might be a concern with the baby, or that she was ill, until he saw in the dim moonlight that came through the cabin window that Weiping was slipping her sleeping shift over her head. The beam of half-light cast her young, supple form like an alabaster statue. He was still uncertain it was not a dream until he inhaled the pungent aroma of her body, a spicy, warm amalgam of citrus and the Yangtze, and she reached over to pull shirt over his head.
“Weiping, can this be . . .?” he whispered.
“Yes.” She gently pushed him back on the bunk and slid in beside him.
Instinctively, Pang Minh enveloped her in his arms, feeling for the first time the insufficiency of what he had imagined many times embracing her. He shuddered with the inexpressible pleasure of her smooth, warm, feminine softness and felt the awakening in his loins. But as she softly stroked his chest Pang Minh was seized by a tremor of fear. Weiping noticed him tense.
“What is wrong, Minh?” she asked.
He hesitated, seeking an apt expression. Weiping leaned up on an elbow trying to see his face. Finally, he whispered hoarsely, “I, I, am without experience with a woman.”
“None?” she said, satisfied to know it.
“Once . . . a village girl . . . but she just touched my, ah . . . and I was, ah gãocháo. . . finished. You must guide me.
She carefully removed the last of his clothing and then deftly slid herself underneath him guiding him to the proper place. She felt him tense again, as if to stifle any precipitate gãocháo. “Now,” she whispered, “two things: gently and, you must look into my eyes, Pang Minh, look into my eyes,” she emphasized, remembering how her uncle looked off into space as though she had mattered as nothing, “they will tell you.” She lifted and more widely parted her legs to better receive him and, again, he heard the soft tinkling of the bells of her silver anklets. She noticed that he heard their sound. “They are for you, Pang Minh, only you; but I will explain another time. Now you must just do their bidding.”
Gãocháo, which means something like “rising tide,” is the Mandarin for orgasm.
Take that Murakami, you wanker.
©2018, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 12.4.2018)