QQQ used to be the ticker symbol for trading the Nasdaq 100. Now they’ve added an extra Q. But today I won’t speak about stocks, or math, or anything like that. I’ll redeem myself from my previous post by talking about sex. 

One of the great things about writing a book is inventing a pseudonym, because it gives you an alter ego. That “other you” has a newfound freedom to talk and write about all sorts of topics you might otherwise shy away from. 

Sex is the great leveller (excuse the pun). It cuts across race barriers, classes, generations, looks, nationalities, and religions. If you’ll bear with me, sex screws everything up. It does so by dilution, which is an application of the second law of thermodynamics. This law states that kitchens get messy all by themselves but the opposite never happens. Sex dilutes races, religions, and inheritances. Many rules exist to stop us having sex, but there are no rules required to encourage us. 

Years ago at college I took a course in animal behaviour, or ethology. In the exam I had a wonderful question: 

How does the female stop the male from being promiscuous? 

The reason that the female wants to do that is not because of some misplaced moral constraint, but simply to maximise her genes (rather than his jeans) in the population. It’s an evolutionary strategy. It was one of the essays I truly enjoyed writing, and I ended it with the ultimate example, the praying mantiss, who eats her mate after he has gotten his evil way with her. If ever there was a case for coitus interruptus and run for the hills, that would be it. 

My cue for QQQ was a short talk I gave about The India Road to a book club called the Quinziéme Quorum (Q)lub. The last Q is my own, but I think it should be part of the name. It has an exclusively female membership, and the name itself attests to exclusivity. No more than fifteen may be a part, I’m not sure whether it is statutory to be female for admission, but a guy in there would get eaten alive, much like the praying mantiss. 

King John II of Portugal, the Perfect Prince. Isabella the Catholic of Spain called him simply: El Hombre

Some very tough ladies in there, but delightful. They were genuinely interested in the background to the book, and I told them that over lunch I would be happy to talk about any subjects related to the writing process and the content, including characters, dialog, sequencing, and even sex scenes. 

We never got round to that, but we talked about all sorts of other stuff. I think sex scenes should be an integral part of novels of a particular genre, because they add spice to the book, and can help both in characterisation and in telling the story. Sex may be subtle and restrained, or it may be explicit, but it must be contextual, not gratuitous. Books that randomly splice scenes where various protagonists are at it like bunnies tend to be ridiculous more than anything else. So it’s not surprising bad sex scenes are eligible for an award.

There is a Portuguese novel written in the vein of Dan Brown that explores Columbus’s nationality, except instead of the hero (a history professor) having a brainy hotty she is instead a Swedish prostitute. The hero’s not too sharp either, he only detects she’s a whore posing as an exchange student when someone tells him at the end of the book.  At some point in the story the Swedish girl, who is rather well endowed, explains her fantasy of making a soup with her breast milk. Eeewww.

But the shortlisted “Bad Sex Award” books are right up there (sorry again) with the best of ’em. My favourite on a very quick read of the “Award” link is from “To Love, Honour and Betray” by Kathy Lette (if she was called latte it would be back to the other story):

Sebastian’s erect member was so big I mistook it for some sort of monument in the centre of a town. I almost started directing traffic around it.

Puts Cleopatra’s needle into a whole new light.

Is sex necessary? The US Historical Novel Society posed that question at their Chicago conference in June 2009. I had dinner with Barbara Kyle the previous evening, and she was moderating the session the next day. She told me: the short answer is “Yes.” And the long answer is “Yes, duh!”

I was also witness to something called the Late Night Sex Scene readings, which took place after the conference dinner. Slightly anachronic, but also fascinating for me to hear a reading from Jade Lee, essentially describing a Chinese monk who doubled as a cunning linguist – as opposed to a master debater, with apologies to Austin Powers. Certainly the most unusual after dinner speech I ever heard!


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