Bad fiction: The worst male writing about women, according to Reddit

Joe Sommerlad@JoeSommerlad
Friday 21 June 2019 07:00
Showbiz
(Ian Fleming was a popular choice for his descriptions of Bond girls in his many 007 novels BEN STANSALL/AFP/GETTY)

A thread on Reddit has asked readers for their favourite examples of bad male writing about women - and the results are pretty cringeworthy indeed.

Some of the 20th century's most acclaimed and widely read novelists came off badly in the excerpts chosen, with the science fiction genre found to be a repeat offender when it comes to the queasy objectification of space age femme fatales.

The great Philip K Dick was damned for the phrase "her breasts pulsed with resentment" while Frank Herbert's suggestion in Heretics of Dune (1984) that "not even the stiffest robe" could conceal a character's "ample breasts" fell foul of the internet literati.

Here are the best (or rather, most appalling) quotes from their selections.

1. Matthew Lewis, The Monk (1796)

She had torn open her habit, and her bosom was half exposed. The weapon's point rested upon her left breast: And Oh! that was such a breast! The Moonbeams darting full upon it enabled the Monk to observe its dazzling whiteness. His eye dwelt with insatiable avidity upon the beauteous orb.

2. Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932)

'Every one says I'm awfully pneumatic,' said Lenina reflectively, patting her own legs.

'Awfully.' But there was an expression of pain in Bernard's eyes. 'Like meat,' he was thinking.

3. Ian Fleming, Live and Let Die (1954)

Her hair was black and fell to her shoulders. She had high cheekbones and a sensual mouth, and wore a dress of white silk. Her eyes were blue, alight and disdainful, but, as they gazed into his with a touch of humour, Bond realized that they contained a message. Solitaire watched his eyes on her and nonchalantly drew her forearms together so that the valley between her breasts deepened. The message was unmistakable.

4. Saul Bellow, Henderson the Rain King (1959)

For my own amusement sometimes I like to think of her part by part... One breast is smaller than the other, like junior and senior; her pelvic bones are not well covered, she is a little gaunt there. But her body looks gentle and pretty.

5. John Updike, Rabbit, Run (1960)

Standing there trying to get the waist of the skirt suit to link at her side, the tops of her breasts, swollen with untaken milk, pushing above her bra, she does have a plumpness, a fullness that call to him...

She stands by the edge of the bed, baggy in nakedness, and goes off into the bathroom to do her duty. There’s that in women repels him: handle themselves like an old envelope. Tubes into tubes, wash away men’s dirt—insulting, really. Faucets cry.

6. Stephen King, The Dark Tower: Gunslinger (1982)

A full-grown one, blond, dirty, and sensual, watched with a speculative curiosity as she drew water from the groaning pump beside the building. She caught the gunslinger's eye, pinched her nipples between her fingers, dropped him a wink, and then went back to pumping.

7. Michel Houellebecq, Platform (2001)

She turned on the overhead light and contemplated her body in the mirror. Her breasts were as firm as ever, they hadn't changed since she was seventeen. Her arse was amazingly round too, without a trace of fat; unquestionably she had a beautiful body.

8. George RR Martin, A Dance with Dragons (2011)

'Fuck yourself, you beardless boy.'

'I'd sooner fuck you.' One quick slash unlaced her jerkin...

She was sopping wet when he entered her. 'Damn you,' she said. 'Damn you damn you damn you.' He sucked her nipples till she cried out half in pain and half in pleasure.

9. Joshua Cohen, Book of Numbers (2015)

Her mouth was intensely ovoid, an almond mouth, of citrus crescents. And under that sling, her breasts were like young fawns, sheep frolicking in hyssop – Psalms were about to pour out of me.

10. Richard Matheson, I Am Legend (1954)

His eyes ran over the robe, resting a moment on the slight prominence of her breasts, dropping then to the bronzed carves and ankles, up to the smooth kneecaps. She had a body like a young girl's. She certainly didn't look like the mother of two.

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