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A slapdash selection of filthy books (and good reasons to read them)

Dedicated to erotica-enthusiast Lana Harper, with many a filthy but loving thought.


It was Valentine’s Day this week!

It seemed apt at this time of year, when everyone’s thinking about chocolates and roses and the continued success of the commercial erotica genre (it’s not like a wasp! It won’t go away even if you ignore it!), to give you my view on properly good erotic books.

(Except, because I am lazy, I got some help from a couple of my friends.)

Here we go.

FANNY HILL, John Cleland (1748)

What it’s about:

Young Fanny (teehee) writes letters to a lady friend, and deigns to fill these letters with total filth. As a prostitute Fanny sees many a sexy adventure, which feature orgies, pretty men and massive penises. There is a lot of sex.

Why you should read it:

Well, for a start, it’s free, available online. It was the first English-language porn novel, too! Also, it’s way sexier than most of the crap on the mass-erotica market because it’s written in a very teasing way, with real loving detail lavished on the description of genitalia and sexual encounters.

Best quote:

“Curious then, and eager to unfold so alarming a mystery, playing, as it were, with his buttons, which were bursting ripe from the active force within, those of his waistband and fore-flap flew open at a touch, when out IT started; and now, dis-engag’d from the shirt, I saw, with wonder and surprise, what? not the play-thing of a boy, not the weapon of a man, but a maypole of so enormous a standard, that had proportions been observ’d, it must have belong’d to a young giant.”

HAND-REARED BOY, Brian Aldiss (1970)

What it’s about:

Aldiss describes it best: “Young Horatio Stubbs suffers the pangs of adolescence, but is weaned from the pleasures of masturbation by the delights offered by his school’s nursing sister, who is not all she seems. The novel became a great scandal in England, where it was rejected by thirteen publishers, and caused a lawsuit – as a result of which it became a bestseller.”

Why you should read it:

I’m going to go right ahead and say I really disliked the book the first time I read it. There’s young sibling mutual masturbation to get past before the school part, and it’s pretty odd to read about, to say the least. But the charming tone and constant exclamations of delight are actually very entertaining. It’s twee, it’s rude, and it’s caused a scandal, like all books worth their salt do.

Best quote:

“Kneeling beside me, she stroked my prick as though it was one of her guinea pigs.”

Lana recommended VENUS IN FURS, Leopold Sacher-Masoch, 1870

What it’s about:

Sexual slavery! (But not the shitty E L James type. It’s a story with a moral, donchaknow.)

Why you should read it:

It’s another free one! It’s lusciously, crisply written; the whole thing reads like a joyful celebration of eating with the eyes, sexual possession and obsession.

Best quote:

Check out the spectacular pubic hair metaphor: “Watch out, I have a large, very large fur, with which I could cover you up entirely, and I have a mind to catch you in it as in a net.”

THE STORY OF O, Pauline Reage, 1973

What’s it’s about:

Another sexual slavery novel, but this time more hardcore. Genital piercing, being whipped and servicing many men at once are all part of O’s role as a sexual captive.

Why you should read it:

It’s a staple of the erotica genre; it’s very hot (in my opinion… and the opinions of loads of other people, I presume); it glorifies female body hair (fuck yeah).

Best quote:

“Jacqueline had gone upstairs and joined O in her alcove. The sea and sun had already made her more golden than before: her hair, her eyebrows, her eyelashes, her nether fleece, her armpits, all seemed to be powdered with silver, and since she was not wearing any make-up, her mouth was the same color pink as the pink flesh between her thighs.”

Kim recommended THE EDUCATION OF VICTORIA, Angela Meadows, 2009.
I haven’t actually read this one yet, but the Amazon page for it promises great things, like: finishing school! Art of sexual pleasure! The sharing of carnal knowledge! Going to get on this one ASAP.

Tidal, Emily Snow

Title: Tidal

Author: Emily Snow

Publisher: Emily Snow Books

Kindle, £1.85

Rating: 1/5

From Emily Snow’s blog. Click to be taken there.

New year, same genres. The wave of Kindle porn keeps insistently rolling on. That would be just dandy, if the porn was actually any good. Will there ever be a decent, balanced erotic novel with good vibes and wholesome messages? Let’s see.

One of the most recent contenders is Tidal by Emily Snow, which has apparently sold many copies. I’m not surprised. Erotica does that.

This time around, young actress Willow (who apparently has brown hair but who I just see as Lindsay Lohan) has just been released from rehab and is offered the lead part in a remake of a surfing film. It seems that sports where you fall over a lot are a great place to get some hot sex, because Willow has handsome devil Cooper as her coach. The obvious happens.

It’s a hastily-written book with the expected structural and linguistic issues. Throughout the book it is obvious that Snow cannot decide on her target audience. She liberally peppers speech with swearing (which, instead of causing shock or impact, comes off as childish). Irritatingly, she props up her story with near-constant references to popular culture, which instead of supporting the narrative comes across as Snow trying to shoe in some relevance to today’s young adults. It is a very lazy tactic.

Initially, though, Snow’s writing is all right. Her lead Willow is believably damaged and vulnerable. In particular, the way in which she is used by her jet-setting parents as a source of income is sadly credible and those moments are genuinely very moving. If Snow was just to focus on the way Willow rebuilt herself and her confidence, I would be on board with it. I found myself hoping for that.

And as far as the erotica goes, it’s a lot more realistic that 90% of the market. Cooper actually uses a condom (I could have high-fived Snow for putting that in). Snow writes sex well, if a little tamely.

But those brief sparks of decent writing stand out like sore thumbs, because the rest of the book is awash with misogyny. Cooper is a nasty piece of work for a character who is meant to be a romantic lead. He repeatedly enters her personal space when she is unwilling to have him there – he drops by her beach house after she has specifically told him she wants to go to bed (rampant consent issues right here). He calls her “Wils,” a nickname she hates, even after she asks him not to. Disturbingly, he tells her that she is unable to get away from him because she needs his help to train for her film. Essentially, Cooper is an attempt to copy the cold, intense personality of Stephenie Meyer’s Edward Cullen, but comes across as manipulative, cruel. For someone who is meant to be a desirable human rather than a supernatural being, Cooper is a frighteningly unforgiving bully. It’s terrifying. Willow is a broken woman with two stays in rehab to her name and she gets this soul-destroying brute as her love interest?

Only one thing tops Cooper’s awfulness. His even more loathsome friend Eric greets Willow by telling her he masturbated to her music videos. And he’s meant to be a comic character. Er.

Willow’s responses at these points are troubling too. She claims she hates Cooper (rightly so) but in the same sentence reveals how much she wants to kiss him, because he is handsome. She appears to think that Cooper’s good looks and “sexy” accent (Australian) override his inappropriate behaviour – a damaging lesson. It is worrying to think about how the book could teach more impressionable female readers about the “acceptable” way to be treated by a potential partner.

As for Eric, she lets him hug her, basically saying it’s nice to be around someone with a sense of humour. OK. That’s… healthy.

It all calms down a bit when Willow and Cooper form a proper couple, but with a first half as shocking as it is, Tidal and its existence is unjustifiable.

So, there we have it. More misogynist rubbish to pack into the erotica market. If you’re a woman reading this book and you find Cooper a turn-on, I feel for you. Your self-esteem, like Willow’s, must be through the floorboards.

Hel Gurney

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