Referring to animals to describe sex can be, well, sexy. Cats—including, but not limited to lions, tigers, panthers and cougars—foxes, minxes, sharks and even snakes all look, move or behave in ways that can come in handy when describing human sexual activity.
Anyone who’s ever watched a wildlife show on TV knows otters are the alpha clowns of the mammalian world. Their Facebook status always seems to be “having fun”— but in a greasy, hair-slicked-back, boys-roughhousing-in-mom’s-living room kind of way.
Maybe otters are what distinguish The Guardian’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award-winning passages from Rowan Somerville’s The Shape of Her from mere pretenders.
He caught her rhythm, pulling and releasing, cradling and crushing; pushing up through his fingers with each swing, mining up, like an otter through wet sand.
Or maybe it’s the use of unnamed fauna:
He unbuttoned the front of her shirt and pulled it to the side so that her breast was uncovered, her nipple poking out, upturned like the nose of the loveliest nocturnal animal, sniffing in the night.
This image is particularly disturbing to me, as my daughter has a pet hedgehog, an ornery, quill-covered nocturnal creature with a proboscis that all too much resembles a nipple that can twist and turn enough to capture ambient scents without forcing the beast to turn its head.
Cute, kinda. But not sexy.
Then again, maybe the clincher for Somerville was bringing fowl into the equation:
She loosed his trousers, pulled away his underwear and gripped him with fingers tender enough to hold a tiny bird.
It doesn’t make me hot, but it sure does make me want to read more. And so to you, Rowan Somerville, another man writing a romance, I give my seal of approval: Whale of a job, bro!