An enduring memory of my teenage self sneaking into my mother’s bedroom in search of Mills and Boon still brings a slight blush to my cheeks. Putting aside natural adolescent curiosity and the desire to place blossoming sexual desire into some kind of context, what makes erotic literature exciting and alluring?
The first accepted erotica was written and published as far back as 1748, with ‘Fanny Hill’, an intimate and quite honestly daringly racy story about an ageing courtesan who looks back on her scandalous life. A book so shocking that even modern carnally aware University students squeamishly voted for its removal from the curriculum. And yet, in the nearly 300 years since, erotic romance has been enthusiastically consumed, both in secret, and in recent times with public abandonment. Each generation seems to have a ‘go to’ erotic novel. Think ‘Lady Chatterley`s lover’ (1928), Fear of flying’ (1973) and ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ (2012). So what is the allure of the enduring erotic novel?
Despite our living in a sexually transparent and unrepressed era, the subject of sex, and particularly the details of how our bodies can give and receive sexual pleasure is still somewhat taboo. Sometimes intimacies are discussed by close friends or more communicative partners, but aside from largely chauvinistic jokes down the pub, and some light suggestive comments amongst girlfriends followed by giggling and then a change of subject, we are not fans of bandying about out sexual habits or preferences for all to hear.
Sure, we can look up medical journals about how the body works, or even if we choose subscribe to the plethora of unrealistic porn available on the net. But none of this gives us any indication about real erotica. That being the feelings behind sexual desire and its consummation. A good erotic author transports us to the moment, suspends us in that heady mix of love, infatuation, chemistry and electricity, and introduces us to possibilities and ideas which they play out, taking us with them on an imaginary journey that we might just sometime in the future make real. I don’t know about you, but I’m in!