Erotic literature

Erotic literature

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Encyclopedia
Erotic literature comprises fictional and factual stories and accounts of human sexual relationships which have the power to or are intended to arouse the reader sexually. Such erotica
Erotica
Erotica are works of art, including literature, photography, film, sculpture and painting, that deal substantively with erotically stimulating or sexually arousing descriptions...

 takes the form of novels, short stories, poetry
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

, true-life memoirs, and sex manual
Sex manual
Sex manuals are books which explain how to perform sexual intercourse and other sexual practices. They often also feature advice on birth control, and sometimes safe sex, as well as advice on sexual relationships.-Early sex manuals:...

s. A common feature of the genre are transgressive sexual fantasies on such themes as prostitution
Prostitution
Prostitution is the act or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment. The person who receives payment for sexual services is called a prostitute and the person who receives such services is known by a multitude of terms, including a "john". Prostitution is one of...

, orgies, homosexuality
Homosexuality
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

, sado-masochism, cross-dressing
Cross-dressing
Cross-dressing is the wearing of clothing and other accoutrement commonly associated with a gender within a particular society that is seen as different than the one usually presented by the dresser...

, incest
Incest
Incest is sexual intercourse between close relatives that is usually illegal in the jurisdiction where it takes place and/or is conventionally considered a taboo. The term may apply to sexual activities between: individuals of close "blood relationship"; members of the same household; step...

 and many other taboo subjects and fetishes, which may or may not be expressed in explicit language. Other common elements are satire
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 and social criticism
Social criticism
The term social criticism locates the reasons for malicious conditions of the society in flawed social structures. People adhering to a social critics aim at practical solutions by specific measures, often consensual reform but sometimes also by powerful revolution.- European roots :Religious...

. Despite cultural taboos on such material, before the invention of printing circulation of erotic literature was not seen as a major problem, as the costs of producing individual manuscripts limited distribution to a very small group of readers. The invention of printing, in the 15th century, brought with it both a greater market and increasing restrictions, which took the form of censorship
Censorship
thumb|[[Book burning]] following the [[1973 Chilean coup d'état|1973 coup]] that installed the [[Military government of Chile |Pinochet regime]] in Chile...

 and legal restraints on publication on grounds of obscenity
Obscenity
An obscenity is any statement or act which strongly offends the prevalent morality of the time, is a profanity, or is otherwise taboo, indecent, abhorrent, or disgusting, or is especially inauspicious...

. Because of this, much of the production of this type of material became clandestine.

Much erotic literature features erotic art
Erotic art
Erotic art covers any artistic work that is intended to evoke erotic arousal or that depicts scenes of love-making. It includes paintings, engravings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, music and writing.-Definition:...

, illustrating the text.

Erotic verse



Early periods


Many erotic poems have survived from Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 and Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

, the authors including the Greeks Straton of Sardis
Straton of Sardis
Straton of Sardis was a Greek poet and anthologist from the Lydian city of Sardis. He is thought to have lived during the time of Hadrian, based on Straton authorship of a poem about the doctor Artemidorus Capito, a contemporary of Hadrian...

, Sappho of Lesbos (lyrics); and the Romans Automedon
Automedon (poet)
Automedon was an ancient Greek poet best known for his untitled poem on the subject of a meal at a host's home:Yesterday I ate tough muttonand a cabbage ten days old;I won't say where I went to dinner,for my host is of a cold...

 (The Professional and Demetrius the Fortunate), Philodemus
Philodemus
Philodemus of Gadara was an Epicurean philosopher and poet. He studied under Zeno of Sidon in Athens, before moving to Rome, and then to Herculaneum. He was once known chiefly for his poetry preserved in the Greek anthology, but since the 18th century, many writings of his have been discovered...

 (Charito), Marcus Argentarius
Marcus Argentarius
Marcus Argentarius , the author of about thirty epigrams in the Greek Anthology, most of which are erotic, and some are plays on words. We may infer from his style that he did not live before the time of the Roman empire, but nothing more is known of his age....

, Catullus
Catullus
Gaius Valerius Catullus was a Latin poet of the Republican period. His surviving works are still read widely, and continue to influence poetry and other forms of art.-Biography:...

, Propertius, Tibullus
Tibullus
Albius Tibullus was a Latin poet and writer of elegies.Little is known about his life. His first and second books of poetry are extant; many other texts attributed to Tibullus are of questionable origins. There are only a few references to him in later writers and a short Life of doubtful authority...

, Ovid
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

, Martial
Martial
Marcus Valerius Martialis , was a Latin poet from Hispania best known for his twelve books of Epigrams, published in Rome between AD 86 and 103, during the reigns of the emperors Domitian, Nerva and Trajan...

 and Juvenal
Juvenal
The Satires are a collection of satirical poems by the Latin author Juvenal written in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries AD.Juvenal is credited with sixteen known poems divided among five books; all are in the Roman genre of satire, which, at its most basic in the time of the author, comprised a...

 and the anonymous Priapeia
Priapeia
The Priapeia is a collection of ninety-five poems in various meters on subjects pertaining to the phallic god Priapus. It was compiled from literary works and inscriptions on images of the god by an unknown editor, who composed the introductory epigram. From their style and versification it is...

. Some later Latin authors also wrote erotic verse, e.g. Joannes Secundus. In the Renaissance period many poems were not written for publication and merely circulated in manuscript among a relatively limited readership. Such were the Sonnets of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 who also wrote the erotic poems Venus and Adonis
Venus and Adonis (Shakespeare poem)
Venus and Adonis is a poem by William Shakespeare, written in 1592–1593, with a plot based on passages from Ovid's Metamorphoses. It is a complex, kaleidoscopic work, using constantly shifting tone and perspective to present contrasting views of the nature of love.-Publication:Venus and Adonis was...

and The Rape of Lucrece
The Rape of Lucrece
The Rape of Lucrece is a narrative poem by William Shakespeare about the legendary Lucretia. In his previous narrative poem, Venus and Adonis , Shakespeare had included a dedicatory letter to his patron, the Earl of Southampton, in which he promised to write a "graver work"...

.

Seventeenth and eighteenth centuries


In the 17th century John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647–80) was notorious for obscene verses, many of which were published posthumously in compendiums of poetry by him and other Restoration rakes such as Sir Charles Sedley
Charles Sedley
Sir Charles Sedley, 5th Baronet was an English wit, dramatist and politician, ending his career as Speaker of the House of Commons.-Life:...

, Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset
Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset
Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset and 1st Earl of Middlesex was an English poet and courtier.-Early Life:He was son of Richard Sackville, 5th Earl of Dorset...

, and George Etherege
George Etherege
Sir George Etherege was an English dramatist. He wrote the plays The Comical Revenge or, Love in a Tub in 1664, She Would if She Could in 1668, and The Man of Mode or, Sir Fopling Flutter in 1676.-Early life:George Etherege was born in Maidenhead, Berkshire, around 1635, to George Etherege and...

. Though many of the poems attributed to Rochester were actually by other authors, his reputation as a libertine was such that his name was used as a selling point by publishers of collections of erotic verse for centuries after. One poem which definitely was by him was "A Ramble in St. James's Park
St. James's Park
St. James's Park is a 23 hectare park in the City of Westminster, central London - the oldest of the Royal Parks of London. The park lies at the southernmost tip of the St. James's area, which was named after a leper hospital dedicated to St. James the Less.- Geographical location :St. James's...

" in which the protagonist's quest for healthy exercise in the park uncovers instead "Bugg'ries, Rapes and Incest" on ground polluted by debauchery from the time when "Ancient Pict began to Whore". This poem was being censored from collections of Rochester's poetry as late as 1953, though, in line with a general change in attitudes to sexuality, it was recently dramatised as a scene in the film The Libertine about his life.


English collections of erotic verse by various hands, include the Drollery collections of the 17th century; Pills to Purge Melancholy (1698–1720); the Roxburghe Ballads
Roxburghe Ballads
In 1847 John Payne Collier printed "A Book of Roxburghe Ballads". It consisted of 1,341 broadside ballads from the seventeenth century, mostly English, originally collected by Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Mortimer , later collected by John Ker, 3rd Duke of Roxburghe.Unfortunately Collier...

; Bishop Percy's Folio; The Musical Miscellany; National Ballad and Song: Merry Songs and Ballads Prior to the Year AD 1800 (1895-7) edited by J. S. Farmer; the three volume Poetica Erotica (1921) and its more obscene supplement the Immortalia (1927) both edited by T. R. Smith. French collections include Les Muses gaillardes (1606) Le Cabinet satyrique (1618) and La Parnasse des poetes satyriques (1622).

A famous collection of four erotic poems, was published in England in 1763, called An Essay on Woman. This included the title piece, an obscene parody of Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

's "An Essay on Man
An Essay on Man
An Essay on Man is a poem published by Alexander Pope in 1734. It is a rationalistic effort to use philosophy in order to "vindicate the ways of God to man" , a variation of John Milton's claim in the opening lines of Paradise Lost, that he will "justify the ways of God to man" . It is concerned...

"; "Veni Creator: or, The Maid's Prayer", which is original; the "Universal Prayer", an obscene parody of Pope's poem of the same name, and "The Dying Lover to his Prick", which parodies "A Dying Christian to his Soul" by Pope. These poems have been attributed to John Wilkes
John Wilkes
John Wilkes was an English radical, journalist and politician.He was first elected Member of Parliament in 1757. In the Middlesex election dispute, he fought for the right of voters—rather than the House of Commons—to determine their representatives...

 and/or Thomas Potter and receive the distinction of being the only works of erotic literature ever read out loud, in their entirety in the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

--before being declared obscene and blasphemous by that august body and the supposed author, Wilkes, declared an outlaw
Outlaw
In historical legal systems, an outlaw is declared as outside the protection of the law. In pre-modern societies, this takes the burden of active prosecution of a criminal from the authorities. Instead, the criminal is withdrawn all legal protection, so that anyone is legally empowered to persecute...

.

Robert Burns
Robert Burns
Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and a lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and is celebrated worldwide...

 worked to collect and preserve Scottish folk songs, sometimes revising, expanding, and adapting them. One of the better known of these collections is The Merry Muses of Caledonia (the title is not by Burns), a collection of bawdy lyrics that were popular in the music halls of Scotland as late as the 20th century.

Nineteenth century


One of the 19th century's foremost poets--Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He invented the roundel form, wrote several novels, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica...

--devoted much of his considerable talent to erotic verse, producing, inter alia, twelve eclogues on flagellation
Flagellation
Flagellation or flogging is the act of methodically beating or whipping the human body. Specialised implements for it include rods, switches, the cat o' nine tails and the sjambok...

 titled The Flogging Block "by Rufus Rodworthy, annotated by Barebum Birchingly"; more was published anonymously in The Whippingham Papers
The Whippingham Papers
The Whippingham Papers is a Victorian work of sado-masochistic pornography by St George Stock and published by Edward Avery in December 1887...

(ca. 1888). Another notorious anonymous 19th century poem on the same subject is The Rodiad
The Rodiad
The Rodiad is a pornographic poem on the subject of flagellation published by John Camden Hotten in 1871, although falsely dated to 1810. It has been ascribed, apparently falsely, to George Colman the Younger. A candidate for its authorship is Richard Monckton Milnes...

, ascribed (seemingly falsely and in jest) to George Colman the Younger
George Colman the Younger
George Colman , known as "the Younger", English dramatist and miscellaneous writer, was the son of George Colman "the Elder".-Life:...

. John Camden Hotten
John Camden Hotten
John Camden Hotten was an English bibliophile and publisher.Hotten was born in Clerkenwell, London to a family of Cornish origins. He spent the period 1848–1856 in America and on his return opened a small bookshop in London at 151a Piccadilly, and founded the publishing firm later known as Chatto...

 even wrote a pornographic comic opera, Lady Bumtickler’s Revels, on the theme of flagellation
Flagellation
Flagellation or flogging is the act of methodically beating or whipping the human body. Specialised implements for it include rods, switches, the cat o' nine tails and the sjambok...

 in 1872.

Pierre Louÿs
Pierre Louÿs
Pierre Louÿs was a French poet and writer, most renowned for lesbian and classical themes in some of his writings. He is known as a writer who "expressed pagan sensuality with stylistic perfection."-Life:...

 helped found a literary review, La Conque in 1891, where he proceeded to publish Astarte
Astarte
Astarte is the Greek name of a goddess known throughout the Eastern Mediterranean from the Bronze Age to Classical times...

--an early collection of erotic verse already marked by his distinctive elegance and refinement of style. He followed up in 1894 with another erotic collection in 143 prose poems--Songs of Bilitis
Songs of Bilitis
The Songs of Bilitis is a collection of erotic poetry by Pierre Louÿs and published in Paris in 1894 .The book's sensual poems are in the manner of Sappho; the introduction claims they were found on the walls of a tomb in Cyprus, written by a woman of Ancient Greece called Bilitis, a courtesan and...

 (Les Chansons de Bilitis)
, this time with strong lesbian themes.

Twentieth century


Although D. H. Lawrence
D. H. Lawrence
David Herbert Richards Lawrence was an English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter who published as D. H. Lawrence. His collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation...

 could be regarded as a writer of love poems, his usually deal in the less romantic aspects of love such as sexual frustration or the sex act itself. Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

 in his Literary Essays complained of Lawrence's interest in his own "disagreeable sensations" but praised him for his "low-life narrative." This is a reference to Lawrence's dialect poems akin to the Scots poems of Robert Burns
Robert Burns
Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and a lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and is celebrated worldwide...

, in which he reproduced the language and concerns of the people of Nottinghamshire
Nottinghamshire
Nottinghamshire is a county in the East Midlands of England, bordering South Yorkshire to the north-west, Lincolnshire to the east, Leicestershire to the south, and Derbyshire to the west...

 from his youth. He called one collection of poems Pansies partly for the simple ephemeral nature of the verse but also a pun on the French word panser, to dress or bandage a wound. "The Noble Englishman" and "Don't Look at Me" were removed from the official edition of Pansies on the grounds of obscenity, which he felt wounded by.

From the age of 17 Gavin Ewart
Gavin Ewart
Gavin Buchanan Ewart was a British poet best known for contributing to Geoffrey Grigson's New Verse at the age of seventeen.-Life:...

 acquired a reputation for wit and accomplishment through such works as "Phallus in Wonderland" and "Poems and Songs", which appeared in 1939 and was his first collection. The intelligence and casually flamboyant virtuosity with which he framed his often humorous commentaries on human behaviour made his work invariably entertaining and interesting. The irreverent eroticism for which his poetry is noted resulted in W H Smith
W H Smith
WHSmith plc is a British retailer, headquartered in Swindon, Wiltshire, England. It is best known for its chain of high street, railway station, airport, hospital and motorway service station shops selling books, stationery, magazines, newspapers, and entertainment products...

's banning of his "The Pleasures of the Flesh" (1966) from their shops.

Canadian poet John Glassco
John Glassco
John Glassco was a Canadian poet, memoirist and novelist. "Glassco will be remembered for his brilliant autobiography, his elegant, classical poems, and for his translations." He is also remembered by some for his pornography.-Life:Born in Montreal to a well-off merchant family, John Glassco was...

 wrote Squire Hardman (1967), a long poem in heroic couplets, purporting to be a reprint of an 18th century poem by George Colman the Younger
George Colman the Younger
George Colman , known as "the Younger", English dramatist and miscellaneous writer, was the son of George Colman "the Elder".-Life:...

, on the theme of flagellation.

Erotic fiction


Erotic fiction is the name given to fiction
Fiction
Fiction is the form of any narrative or informative work that deals, in part or in whole, with information or events that are not factual, but rather, imaginary—that is, invented by the author. Although fiction describes a major branch of literary work, it may also refer to theatrical,...

 that deals with sex or sexual themes, generally in a more literary or serious way than the fiction seen in pornographic magazine
Pornographic magazine
Pornographic magazines, sometimes known as adult magazines, sex magazines or top-shelf magazines are pornographic magazines that contain content of a sexual nature. Adult magazines are mainly aimed towards men, and in some parts of the world, many men's first sight of a naked woman has been in an...

s and sometimes including elements of satire
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 or social criticism
Social criticism
The term social criticism locates the reasons for malicious conditions of the society in flawed social structures. People adhering to a social critics aim at practical solutions by specific measures, often consensual reform but sometimes also by powerful revolution.- European roots :Religious...

. Such works have frequently been banned by the government or religious authorities. It should be noted, however, that apparently non-fictional works dealing with sex or sexual themes may contain fictional elements; calling an erotic book 'a memoir' is a literary device that is common in this genre. For reasons similar to those that make pseudonyms both commonplace and often deviously set up, the boundary between fiction and non-fiction is often very diffuse.

Ancient, medieval, and early modern erotic fiction


Classic erotica from the Ancient World includes the Song of Songs
Song of songs
Song of Songs, also known as the Song of Solomon, is a book of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. It may also refer to:In music:* Song of songs , the debut album by David and the Giants* A generic term for medleysPlays...

 from the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 and the Roman Satyricon
Satyricon
Satyricon is a Latin work of fiction in a mixture of prose and poetry. It is believed to have been written by Gaius Petronius, though the manuscript tradition identifies the author as a certain Titus Petronius...

of Petronius Arbiter (later made into a film
Satyricon (film)
Satyricon is a 1969 Italian fantasy drama film written and directed by Federico Fellini. It is loosely based on Petronius's work, Satyricon, a series of bawdy and satirical episodes written during the reign of the emperor Nero and set in imperial Rome.-Plot:The film opens on a graffiti-covered...

 by Fellini).

From the medieval period we have the Decameron (1353) by the Italian Giovanni Boccaccio
Giovanni Boccaccio
Giovanni Boccaccio was an Italian author and poet, a friend, student, and correspondent of Petrarch, an important Renaissance humanist and the author of a number of notable works including the Decameron, On Famous Women, and his poetry in the Italian vernacular...

 (made into a film
The Decameron (1970 film)
The Decameron is a 1971 film by Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, based on the novel Decamerone by Giovanni Boccaccio. It is the first movie of Pasolini's Trilogy of life, the others being The Canterbury Tales and Arabian Nights....

 by Pasolini) which features tales of lechery by monks and the seduction of nuns from convents. This book was banned in many countries. Even five centuries after publication copies were seized and destroyed by the authorities in the USA and the UK. For instance between 1954 and 1958 eight orders for destruction of the book were made by English magistrates.

From the 15th century another classic of Italian erotica is a series of bawdy folk tales called the Facetiae by Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini
Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini
Poggio Bracciolini was an Italian scholar, writer and humanist. He recovered a great number of classical Latin texts, mostly lying forgotten in German and French monastic libraries, and disseminated manuscript copies among the educated world.- Biography :Poggio di Duccio was...

. The Tale of Two Lovers written in 1444 was one of the bestselling books of the fifteenth century, even before its author, Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, became Pope Pius II
Pope Pius II
Pope Pius II, born Enea Silvio Piccolomini was Pope from August 19, 1458 until his death in 1464. Pius II was born at Corsignano in the Sienese territory of a noble but decayed family...

. It is one of the earliest examples of an epistolary novel
Epistolary novel
An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. The usual form is letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings and other documents are sometimes used. Recently, electronic "documents" such as recordings and radio, blogs, and e-mails have also come into use...

, full of erotic imagery. The first printed edition was published by Ulrich Zel
Ulrich Zell
Ulrich Zell was the first printer of Cologne. He was born at Hanau am Main, date unknown; he died about 1503.He learned the art of printing before 1462 in the printing establishment of Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer, and seems, shortly after the catastrophe of 1462, to have gone to Cologne, whose...

 in Cologne between 1467 and 1470.

The 16th century was notable for the Heptameron
Heptameron
The Heptameron is a collection of 72 short stories written in French by Marguerite of Navarre, published in 1558. It has the form of a frame narrative and was inspired by The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio...

of Marguerite de Navarre
Marguerite de Navarre
Marguerite de Navarre , also known as Marguerite of Angoulême and Margaret of Navarre, was the queen consort of Henry II of Navarre...

 (1558), inspired by Boccaccio's Decameron and the notorious I Modi
I Modi
I Modi , also known as The Sixteen Pleasures or under the Latin title De omnibus Veneris Schematibus, is a famous erotic book of the Italian Renaissance in which a series of sexual positions were explicitly depicted in engravings. While the original edition was apparently completely destroyed by...

which married erotic drawings, depicting postures assumed in sexual intercourse, by Giulio Romano
Giulio Romano
Giulio Romano was an Italian painter and architect. A pupil of Raphael, his stylistic deviations from high Renaissance classicism help define the 16th-century style known as Mannerism...

, with obscene sonnets by Pietro Aretino
Pietro Aretino
Pietro Aretino was an Italian author, playwright, poet and satirist who wielded immense influence on contemporary art and politics and invented modern literate pornography.- Life :...

.

Aretino also wrote the celebrated whore dialogue Ragionamenti in which the sex lives of wives, whores and nuns are compared and contrasted. Later works in the same genre include La Retorica delle Puttane (The Whore's Rhetoric) (1642) by Ferrante Pallavicino
Ferrante Pallavicino
Ferrante Pallavicino was an Italian writer of lampoons and satires which, according to Edward Muir, "were so popular that booksellers and printers bought them from him at a premium." Pallavicino's scandalous satires, which cost him his head at the age of twenty-eight, were all published under...

; L'Ecole des Filles (The school for girls) (1655), attributed to Michel Millot and Jean L'Ange. and The Dialogues of Luisa Sigea (c. 1660) by Nicolas Chorier
Nicolas Chorier
Nicolas Chorier was a French lawyer, writer, and historian. He is known especially for his historical works on Dauphiné, as well as his erotic dialogue called The School of Women, or The Seven Flirtatious Encounters of Aloisia .He was born at Vienne, Isère, practised as a lawyer in Grenoble and...

. Such works typically concerned the sexual education of a naive younger woman by an experienced older woman and often included elements of philosophising, satire and anti-clericalism
Anti-clericalism
Anti-clericalism is a historical movement that opposes religious institutional power and influence, real or alleged, in all aspects of public and political life, and the involvement of religion in the everyday life of the citizen...

. Donald Thomas
Donald Thomas
Donald Serrell Thomas is an English author of Victorian-era historical, crime and detective fiction, as well as books on factual crime and criminals, in particular several academic books on the history of crime in London...

 has translated L'École des filles, as The School of Venus, (1972), described on its back cover as "both an uninhibited manual of sexual technique and an erotic masterpiece of the first order". In his diary Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys
Samuel Pepys FRS, MP, JP, was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament who is now most famous for the diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man...

 records reading and (in an often censored passage) masturbating over this work. Chorier's Dialogues of Luisa Sigea goes a bit further than its predecessors in this genre and has the older female giving practical instruction of a lesbian nature to the younger woman plus recommending the spiritual and erotic benefits of a flogging from willing members of the holy orders. This work was translated into many languages under various different titles, appearing in English as A Dialogue between a Married Woman and a Maid in various editions. The School of Women first appeared as a work in Latin entitled Aloisiae Sigaeae, Toletanae, Satyra sotadica de arcanis Amoris et Veneris. This manuscript claimed that it was originally written in Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 by Luisa Sigea de Velasco
Luisa Sigea de Velasco
Luisa Sigea de Velasco , also known as Luísa Sigeia, Luísa Sigea Toledana and in the Latinized form Aloysia Sygaea Toletana, was a poetess and intellectual of the 16th century, one of the major figures of Spanish humanism, who spent a good part of her life in the Portuguese court in the service of...

, an erudite poetess and maid of honor at the court of Lisbon
Lisbon
Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 545,245 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of , making it the 9th most populous urban...

 and was then translated into Latin by Jean or Johannes Meursius. The attribution to Sigea was a lie and Meursius
Johannes Meursius
Johannes Meursius , was a Dutch classical scholar and antiquary.-Biography:...

 was a complete fabrication; the true author was Nicolas Chorier
Nicolas Chorier
Nicolas Chorier was a French lawyer, writer, and historian. He is known especially for his historical works on Dauphiné, as well as his erotic dialogue called The School of Women, or The Seven Flirtatious Encounters of Aloisia .He was born at Vienne, Isère, practised as a lawyer in Grenoble and...

.

A unique work of this time is Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery
Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery
Sodom is an obscene Restoration closet drama, published in 1684. The work has been attributed to John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester., though its authorship is disputed...

(1684), a closet play by the notorious Restoration rake, John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester
John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester
John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester , styled Viscount Wilmot between 1652 and 1658, was an English Libertine poet, a friend of King Charles II, and the writer of much satirical and bawdy poetry. He was the toast of the Restoration court and a patron of the arts...

 in which Bolloxinion, King of Sodom, authorises "that buggery may be used O'er all the land, so cunt be not abused", which order, though appealing to soldiery, has deleterious effects generally, leading the court physician to counsel: "Fuck women, and let Bugg'ry be no more".

The 18th century



An early pioneer of the publication of erotic works in England was Edmund Curll
Edmund Curll
Edmund Curll was an English bookseller and publisher. His name has become synonymous, through the attacks on him by Alexander Pope, with unscrupulous publication and publicity. Curll rose from poverty to wealth through his publishing, and he did this by approaching book printing in a mercenary...

 (1675–1747) who published many of the Merryland
Merryland
The Merryland books were a somewhat peculiar genre of English 17th and 18th century erotic fiction in which the female body was described in terms of a topographical metaphor derived from a pun on Maryland. Four of the titles were published by 18th century controversialist Edmund Curll The...

 books. These were a somewhat peculiar English genre of erotic fiction in which the female body (and sometimes the male) was described in terms of a landscape. The earliest work in this genre seems to be Erotopolis: The Present State of Bettyland (1684) probably by Charles Cotton
Charles Cotton
Charles Cotton was an English poet and writer, best known for translating the work of Michel de Montaigne from the French, for his contributions to The Compleat Angler, and for the highly influential The Compleat Gamester which has been attributed to him.-Early life:He was born at Beresford Hall...

. This was included, in abbreviated form, in The Potent Ally: or Succours from Merryland (1741). Other works include A New Description of Merryland. Containing a Topographical, Geographical and Natural History of that Country (1740) by Thomas Stretzer, Merryland Displayed (1741) and set of maps entitled A Compleat Set of Charts of the Coasts of Merryland (1745). The last book in this genre appears to be a parody of Laurence Sterne
Laurence Sterne
Laurence Sterne was an Irish novelist and an Anglican clergyman. He is best known for his novels The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy; but he also published many sermons, wrote memoirs, and was involved in local politics...

's A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy
A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy
A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy is a novel by the Irish-born English author Laurence Sterne, written and first published in 1768, as Sterne was facing death. In 1765, Sterne travelled through France and Italy as far south as Naples, and after returning determined to describe his...

(1768) entitled La Souriciere. The Mousetrap. A Facetious and Sentimental Excursion through part of Austrian Flanders and France (1794) by "Timothy Touchit".

The rise of the novel in 18th century England provided a new medium for erotica. One of the most famous in this new genre was Fanny Hill
Fanny Hill
Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure is an erotic novel by John Cleland first published in England in 1748...

(1748) by John Cleland
John Cleland
John Cleland was an English novelist most famous and infamous as the author of Fanny Hill: or, the Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure....

. This book set a new standard in literary smut and was often adapted for the cinema in the 20th century.

French writers at this time also wrote erotica. One genre, which vies in oddness with the English "Merryland" productions, was inspired by the newly translated Arabian Nights and involved the transformation of people into objects which were in propinquity with or
employed in sexual relationships: such as sofas, dildos and even bidet
Bidet
A bidet is a low-mounted plumbing fixture or type of sink intended for washing the genitalia, inner buttocks, and anus. It was originally a French word.-History:...

s. The climax of this trend is represented in French philosopher Diderot's Les Bijoux indiscrets
Les bijoux indiscrets
The Indiscreet Jewels is the first novel by Denis Diderot, published anonymously in 1748. It is an allegory that portrays Louis XV as the sultan Mangogul of the Congo who owns a magic ring that makes women's genitals talk....

(1747) in which a magic ring
Magic ring
A magic ring is a ring, usually a finger ring, that has magical properties. It appears frequently in fantasy and fairy tales. Magic rings are found in the folklore of every country where rings are worn, and they endow the wearer with a variety of abilities, including invisibility, the granting of...

 is employed to get women's vaginas to give an account of their intimate sexual histories.

Other works of French erotica from this period include Thérèse Philosophe
Thérèse Philosophe
Thérèse Philosophe is a 1748 French novel ascribed to Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens. It has been chiefly regarded as a pornographic novel, which accounts for its massive sales in 18th-century France...

(1748) by Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens
Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens
Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens was a French philosopher and writer.An arch-opponent of the Catholic Church, intolerance and religious oppression, he had to flee his native France and his books were frequently denounced by the Inquisition...

 which describes a girl's initiation into the secrets of both philosophy and sex.; The Lifted Curtain or Laura's Education, about a young girl's sexual initiation by her father, written by the French revolutionary politician Comte de Mirabeau
Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau
Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau was a French revolutionary, as well as a writer, diplomat, freemason, journalist and French politician at the same time. He was a popular orator and statesman. During the French Revolution, he was a moderate, favoring a constitutional monarchy built on...

; also Les Liaisons dangereuses
Les Liaisons dangereuses
Les Liaisons dangereuses is a French epistolary novel by Choderlos de Laclos, first published in four volumes by Durand Neveu from March 23, 1782....

 (Dangerous Liaisons) by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
Pierre Ambroise François Choderlos de Laclos was a French novelist, official and army general, best known for writing the epistolary novel Les Liaisons dangereuses ....

, first published in 1782.

In the late 18th century, such works as Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue and 120 Days of Sodom
120 Days of Sodom
The 120 Days of Sodom, or the School of Libertinism is a novel by the French writer and nobleman Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade, written in 1785...

by the Marquis de Sade
Marquis de Sade
Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade was a French aristocrat, revolutionary politician, philosopher, and writer famous for his libertine sexuality and lifestyle...

 were exemplars of the theme of sado-masochism and influenced later erotic accounts of Sadism and masochism in fiction
Sadism and masochism in fiction
The role of sadism and masochism in fiction attracts serious, scholarly attention. Anthony Storr has commented that the volume of sadomasochist pornography shows that sadomasochistic interest is widespread in Western society; John Kucich has noted the importance of masochism in late-19th century...

. De Sade (as did the later writer Sacher-Masoch) lent his name to the sexual acts which he describes in his work.

The 19th century


In the Victorian period, the quality of erotic fiction was much below that of the previous century—it was largely written by 'hacks'. Some works, however, borrowed from established literary models, such as Dickens. It also featured a curious form of social stratification
Social stratification
In sociology the social stratification is a concept of class, involving the "classification of persons into groups based on shared socio-economic conditions ... a relational set of inequalities with economic, social, political and ideological dimensions."...

. Even in the throes of orgasm, the social distinctions between master and servant (including form of address) were scrupulously observed. Significant elements of sado-masochism were present in some examples, perhaps reflecting the influence of the English public school
Public School (UK)
A public school, in common British usage, is a school that is neither administered nor financed by the state or from taxpayer contributions, and is instead funded by a combination of endowments, tuition fees and charitable contributions, usually existing as a non profit-making charitable trust...

, where flagellation
Flagellation
Flagellation or flogging is the act of methodically beating or whipping the human body. Specialised implements for it include rods, switches, the cat o' nine tails and the sjambok...

 was routinely used as a punishment. These clandestine works were often anonymous or written under a pseudonym, and sometimes undated, thus definite information about them often proves elusive.

English erotic novels from this period include The Lustful Turk
The Lustful Turk
The Lustful Turk, or Lascivious Scenes from a Harem is a pre-Victorian British erotic epistolary novel first published anonymously in 1828 by John Benjamin Brookes and reprinted by William Dugdale. However, it was not widely known or circulated until the 1893 edition.The novel consists largely of a...

(1828); The Romance of Lust (1873); The Convent School, or Early Experiences of A Young Flagellant
The Convent School, or Early Experiences of A Young Flagellant
The Convent School, or Early Experiences of A Young Flagellant is a 19th century work of sado-masochistic pornography, written under the pseudonym Rosa Coote and published by William Dugdale in London in 1876. Henry Spencer Ashbee catalogues it with the comment that "the numerous flagellations,...

(1876) by Rosa Coote
Rosa Coote
Rosa Coote is a fictional dominatrix appearing as a stock character in a number of works of Victorian erotica, including The Convent School, or Early Experiences of A Young Flagellant by William Dugdale and "Letters to a Lady Friend" or "Miss Coote's Confession" in The Pearl...

 [pseud.]; The Mysteries of Verbena House
The Mysteries of Verbena House
The Mysteries of Verbena House, or, Miss Bellasis Birched for Thieving is a pornographic novel, set in a girls' school, written under the pseudonym Etonensis by George Augustus Sala and completed by James Campbell Reddie...

, or, Miss Bellasis Birched for Thieving
(1882) by Etonensis [pseud.], actually by George Augustus Sala and James Campbell Reddie
James Campbell Reddie
James Campbell Reddie was an 19th-century collector and author of pornography who worked for the publisher William Dugdale, also writing as "James Campbell"...

; The Autobiography of a Flea
The Autobiography of a Flea
The Autobiography of a Flea is an anonymous erotic novel first published in 1887 in London by Edward Avery. Later research has revealed that the author was a London lawyer of the time named Stanislas de Rhodes....

(1887); Venus in India
Venus in India
Venus in India, or Love adventures in Hindustan is a pornographic novel by "Charles Devereaux" published by Auguste Brancart in Brussels in 1889...

(1889) by 'Captain Charles Devereaux'; Flossie, a Venus of Fifteen: By one who knew this Charming Goddess and worshipped at her shrine (1897) and My Lustful Adventures by 'Ramrod'. A novel called Beatrice, once marketed as another classic of Victorian erotica from the pen of the ubiquitous "Anon", now appears to be a very clever 20th century pastiche of Victorian pornography. It first appeared in 1982 and was written by one Gordon Grimley, a sometime managing director of Penthouse International.

Clandestine erotic periodicals of this age include The Pearl, The Oyster
The Oyster
The Oyster was an erotic magazine published in London in 1883 by William Lazenby, a continuation of The Pearl. Unlike its predecessor the emphasis is mainly on heterosexual pornography.-References:...

and The Boudoir
The Boudoir
The Boudoir: a magazine of scandal, facetiae etc. was an erotic magazine published in London in the 1880s by William Lazenby, a continuation of The Pearl.-References:...

, collections of erotic tales, rhymes, songs and parodies published in London between 1879 and 1883.


The centre of the trade in such material in England at this period was Holywell Street, off the Strand, London
Strand, London
Strand is a street in the City of Westminster, London, England. The street is just over three-quarters of a mile long. It currently starts at Trafalgar Square and runs east to join Fleet Street at Temple Bar, which marks the boundary of the City of London at this point, though its historical length...

. An important publisher of erotic material in the early 19th century was George Cannon
George Cannon (publisher)
George Cannon was an English solicitor, radical activist and publisher and pornographer who also used the pseudonyms Erasmus Perkins and Philosemus....

 (1789–1854), followed in mid-century by William Dugdale
William Dugdale (publisher)
William Dugdale was a publisher, printer, and bookseller of politically subversive publications and pornographic literature in England during the 19th century. By the 1850s he had become "the principal source of such publications in the country"...

 (1800–1868) and John Camden Hotten
John Camden Hotten
John Camden Hotten was an English bibliophile and publisher.Hotten was born in Clerkenwell, London to a family of Cornish origins. He spent the period 1848–1856 in America and on his return opened a small bookshop in London at 151a Piccadilly, and founded the publishing firm later known as Chatto...

 (1832–1873).

An important and entertaining conspectus and evaluation of 19th century (pre-1885) and earlier underground erotica, from the author's own private archive, is provided by Victorian writer Henry Spencer Ashbee
Henry Spencer Ashbee
Henry Spencer Ashbee was a book collector, writer, and bibliographer, notorious for his massive, clandestine three volume bibliography of erotic literature written under the pseudonym of Pisanus Fraxi.-Life:...

 in his bibliographical trilogy Index Librorum Prohibitorum (1877), Centuria Librorum Absconditorum (1879) and Catena Librorum Tacendorum (1885). His plot summaries of the works he discusses in these privately printed volumes are themselves a contribution to the genre. Originally of very limited circulation, changing attitudes have led to his work now being widely available.

Notable European works of erotica at this time were Gamiani, or Two Nights of Excess (1833) by Frenchman Alfred de Musset
Alfred de Musset
Alfred Louis Charles de Musset-Pathay was a French dramatist, poet, and novelist.Along with his poetry, he is known for writing La Confession d'un enfant du siècle from 1836.-Biography:Musset was born on 11 December 1810 in Paris...

 and Venus in Furs
Venus in Furs
Venus in Furs is a novella by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the best known of his works. The novel was part of an epic series that Sacher-Masoch envisioned called Legacy of Cain. Venus in Furs was part of Love, the first volume of the series...

(1870) by the Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

n author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch was an Austrian writer and journalist, who gained renown for his romantic stories of Galician life. The term masochism is derived from his name....

. The latter erotic novella brought the attention of the world to the phenomenon of masochism, named after the author.

Towards the end of the century, a more "cultured" form of erotica began to appear by such as the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He invented the roundel form, wrote several novels, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica...

 who pursued themes of paganism, lesbianism and sado-masochism in such works as Lesbia Brandon
Lesbia Brandon
Lesbia Brandon is a pornographic novel by Algernon Charles Swinburne, written between 1859 and 1868 and published posthumously. It was illustrated by Simeon Solomon.-References:Notes...

and in contributions to The Whippingham Papers
The Whippingham Papers
The Whippingham Papers is a Victorian work of sado-masochistic pornography by St George Stock and published by Edward Avery in December 1887...

(1888) edited by St George Stock, author of The Romance of Chastisement
The Romance of Chastisement
The Romance of Chastisement is a Victorian pornographic collection on the theme of flagellation by St George Stock and published by John Camden Hotten in 1866...

(1866). This was associated with the Decadent movement
Decadent movement
The Decadent movement was a late 19th century artistic and literary movement of Western Europe. It flourished in France, but also had devotees in England and throughout Europe, as well as in the United States.-Overview:...

, in particular, with Aubrey Beardsley
Aubrey Beardsley
Aubrey Vincent Beardsley was an English illustrator and author. His drawings, done in black ink and influenced by the style of Japanese woodcuts, emphasized the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic. He was a leading figure in the Aesthetic movement which also included Oscar Wilde and James A....

 and the Yellow Book
Yellow Book
The Yellow Book, published in London from 1894 to 1897 by Elkin Mathews and John Lane, later by John Lane alone, and edited by the American Henry Harland, was a quarterly literary periodical that lent its name to the "Yellow" 1890s....

. But it was also to be found in France, amongst such writers as Pierre Louys
Pierre Louÿs
Pierre Louÿs was a French poet and writer, most renowned for lesbian and classical themes in some of his writings. He is known as a writer who "expressed pagan sensuality with stylistic perfection."-Life:...

, author of Les chansons de Bilitis (1894) (a celebration of lesbianism and sexual awakening).

Pioneering works of male homosexual erotica from this time were The Sins of the Cities of the Plain
The Sins of the Cities of the Plain
The Sins of the Cities of the Plain; or, The Recollections of a Mary-Ann, with Short Essays on Sodomy and Tribadism is a pornographic book written anonymously under the pseudonym "Jack Saul", one of the first exclusively homosexual pieces of pornographic literature ever written in English...

(1881), which features the celebrated Victorian transvestite duo of Boulton and Park
Boulton and Park
Ernest Boulton and Frederick William Park were two Victorian transvestites and suspected homosexuals who appeared as defendants in a celebrated trial in London in 1871, charged "with conspiring and inciting persons to commit an unnatural offence"...

 as characters, and Teleny, or The Reverse of the Medal (1893).

Important publishers of erotic fiction at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the twentieth were Leonard Smithers
Leonard Smithers
Leonard Smithers was a London publisher associated with the Decadent movement. Born in Sheffield, he worked as a solicitor, qualifying in 1884, and became friendly with the explorer and orientalist Sir Richard Francis Burton. He published Burton's translation of the Book of One Thousand and One...

 (1861–1907) and Charles Carrington
Charles Carrington
Charles Carrington was a leading British publisher of erotica in late-19th and early 20th century Europe. Born Paul Harry Ferdinando in Bethnal Green, England on 11 November 1867, he moved in 1895 from London to Paris where he published and sold books in the rue Faubourg Montmartre and rue de...

 (1867–1921), both of whom were subject to legal injunctions from the British authorities in order to prohibit their trade in such material. Because of this legal harassment the latter conducted his business from Paris. Erotic fiction published by Carrington at this period includes Raped on the Railway: a True Story of a Lady who was first ravished and then flagellated on the Scotch Express (1894) and The Memoirs of Dolly Morton
The Memoirs of Dolly Morton
The Memoirs of Dolly Morton: The Story of A Woman’s Part in the Struggle to Free the Slaves, An Account of the Whippings, Rapes, and Violences that Preceded the Civil War in America, with Curious Anthropological Observations on the Radical Diversities in the Conformation of the Female Bottom and...

(1899) set on a slave-plantation in the Southern States of America.

The 20th century


20th century erotic fiction includes such classics of the genre as: Suburban Souls (1901), published by Carrington and possibly written by him also; The Confessions of Nemesis Hunt (issued in three volumes 1902, 1903, 1906), probably by George Reginald Bacchus
George Reginald Bacchus
George Reginald Bacchus was an English author. He was the author of a number of erotic books published by the Erotika Biblion Society....

, printed by Duringe of Paris for Leonard Smithers in London; Josephine Mutzenbacher
Josephine Mutzenbacher
Josephine Mutzenbacher – The Life Story of a Viennese Whore, as Told by Herself is an erotic novel first published anonymously in Vienna, Austria in 1906...

(1906) by Felix Salten
Felix Salten
Felix Salten was an Austrian author and critic in Vienna. His most famous work is Bambi .-Life:...

; Sadopaideia
Sadopaideia
Sadopaideia: Being the Experiences of Cecil Prendergast Undergraduate of the University of Oxford Shewing How he was Led Through the Pleasant Paths of Masochism to the Supreme joys of Sadism is a pornographic novel published in 1907 by "Ashantee of Edinburgh": probably Charles Carrington in Paris. ...

(1907) by Anon (possibly Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He invented the roundel form, wrote several novels, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica...

); Les Mémoires d'un jeune Don Juan (1907) and the somewhat disturbing Les onze mille verges
Les Onze Mille Verges
Les Onze Mille Verges ou les Amours d'un hospodar is a pornographic novel by French author Guillaume Apollinaire, published in 1907 over his initials "G.A."...

(1907) by Guillaume Apollinaire
Guillaume Apollinaire
Wilhelm Albert Włodzimierz Apolinary Kostrowicki, known as Guillaume Apollinaire was a French poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, and art critic born in Italy to a Polish mother....

; The Way of a Man with a Maid
The Way of a Man with a Maid
The Way of a Man with a Maid is an anonymous, sadomasochistic, erotic novel, probably first published in 1908. The story is told in the first person by a gentleman called "Jack", who lures women he knows into a kind of erotic torture chamber, called "The Snuggery", in his house, and takes...

(1908) and A Weekend Visit by Anon; Pleasure Bound Afloat (1908), Pleasure Bound Ashore (1909) and Maudie (1909) by Anon (probably George Reginald Bacchus); Manuel de civilité pour les petites filles à l'usage des maisons d'éducation
Manuel de civilité pour les petites filles à l'usage des maisons d'éducation
The Manuel de civilité pour les petites filles à l'usage des maisons d'éducation is an erotic literary work by the French writer Pierre Louÿs, written in 1917 and published posthumously and anonymously in 1927.It takes the form of a parody of the rigorous educational handbooks of...

(1917) and Trois filles de leur mère (1926) by Pierre Louys; Story of the Eye (1928) by Georges Bataille
Georges Bataille
Georges Bataille was a French writer. His multifaceted work is linked to the domains of literature, anthropology, philosophy, economy, sociology and history of art...

; Tropic of Cancer
Tropic of Cancer (novel)
Tropic of Cancer is a novel by Henry Miller which has been described as "notorious for its candid sexuality" and as responsible for the "free speech that we now take for granted in literature." It was first published in 1934 by the Obelisk Press in Paris, France, but this edition was banned in the...

(1934) and Tropic of Capricorn
Tropic of Capricorn (novel)
Tropic of Capricorn is a semi-autobiographical novel by Henry Miller, first published in Paris in 1938. The novel was subsequently banned in the United States until a 1961 Justice Department ruling declared that its contents were not obscene. It is a sequel to Miller's 1934 work, the Tropic of...

(1938) by Henry Miller
Henry Miller
Henry Valentine Miller was an American novelist and painter. He was known for breaking with existing literary forms and developing a new sort of 'novel' that is a mixture of novel, autobiography, social criticism, philosophical reflection, surrealist free association, and mysticism, one that is...

; The Story of O
Story of O
Story of O is an erotic novel published in 1954 about love, dominance and submission by French author Anne Desclos under the pen name Pauline Réage.Desclos did not reveal herself as the author for forty years after the initial publication...

(1954) by Pauline Réage
Pauline Réage
Anne Desclos was a French journalist and novelist who wrote under the pseudonyms Dominique Aury and Pauline Réage.-Early life:...

; Helen and Desire (1954) and Thongs (1955) by Alexander Trocchi
Alexander Trocchi
Alexander Whitelaw Robertson Trocchi was a Scottish novelist.-Early career:Trocchi was born in Glasgow to a Scottish mother and Italian father. After working as a seaman on the Murmansk convoys, he attended University of Glasgow. On graduation he obtained a traveling grant that enabled him to...

; Ada, or Ardor
Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle
Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov published in 1969.Ada began to materialize in 1959, when Nabokov was flirting with two projects: "The Texture of Time" and "Letters from Terra." In 1965, he began to see a link between the two ideas, finally composing a unified novel...

(1969) by Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was a multilingual Russian novelist and short story writer. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist...

; Journal (1966), Delta of Venus
Delta of Venus
Delta of Venus is a book of short stories by Anaïs Nin. Though the stories were largely written in the 1940s while Nin was writing erotica for a private collector, the book was first published posthumously in 1978. In 1995 a film version of the book was directed by Zalman King. There are multiple...

(1978) and Little Birds
Little Birds
Little Birds is Anaïs Nin's second published work of erotica, published in 1979 but apparently written in the early 1940s when she was part of a group "writing pornography for a dollar a day."...

(1979) by Anaïs Nin
Anaïs Nin
Anaïs Nin was a French-Cuban author, based at first in France and later in the United States, who published her journals, which span more than 60 years, beginning when she was 11 years old and ending shortly before her death, her erotic literature, and short stories...

 and The Bicycle Rider (1985) by Guy Davenport
Guy Davenport
Guy Mattison Davenport was an American writer, translator, illustrator, painter, intellectual, and teacher.-Life:...

.

Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was a multilingual Russian novelist and short story writer. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist...

's Lolita
Lolita
Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, first written in English and published in 1955 in Paris and 1958 in New York, and later translated by the author into Russian...

is often described as an erotic novel, but other critics view it more as a literary drama with elements of eroticism.

Lolita and The Story of O were published by Olympia Press
Olympia Press
Olympia Press was a Paris-based publisher, launched in 1953 by Maurice Girodias as a rebranded version of the Obelisk Press he inherited from his father Jack Kahane...

, a Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

-based publisher, launched in 1953 by Maurice Girodias
Maurice Girodias
Maurice Girodias was the founder of the Olympia Press. At one time he was the owner of his father's Obelisk Press, and spent most of his productive years in Paris.-Early life:...

 as a rebadged version of the Obelisk Press
Obelisk Press
Obelisk Press was an English language press based in Paris, France, which was founded by Jack Kahane in 1929.Kahane, a novelist, began the Obelisk Press after his publisher, Grant Richards, went bankrupt. Going into partnership with a printer, Kahane, as Cecil Barr, published his next novel...

 he inherited from his father Jack Kahane
Jack Kahane
Jack Kahane was a Manchester-born writer and publisher who founded the Obelisk Press in Paris in 1929.He was the son of Selig and Susy Kahane, both Romanian-born immigrants. Kahane, a novelist, began the Obelisk Press after his publisher, Grant Richards, went bankrupt...

. It published a mix of erotic fiction and avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

 literary
Literary fiction
Literary fiction is a term that came into common usage during the early 1960s. The term is principally used to distinguish "serious fiction" which is a work that claims to hold literary merit, in comparison from genre fiction and popular fiction . In broad terms, literary fiction focuses more upon...

 works. The Girls of Radcliff Hall
The Girls of Radcliff Hall
The Girls of Radcliff Hall is a roman à clef novel in the form of a lesbian girls' school story written in the 1930s by the British composer and bon-vivant Gerald Berners, the 14th Lord Berners, under the pseudonym "Adela Quebec", published and distributed privately in 1932...

is a roman à clef
Roman à clef
Roman à clef or roman à clé , French for "novel with a key", is a phrase used to describe a novel about real life, overlaid with a façade of fiction. The fictitious names in the novel represent real people, and the "key" is the relationship between the nonfiction and the fiction...

novel in the form of a lesbian
Lesbian
Lesbian is a term most widely used in the English language to describe sexual and romantic desire between females. The word may be used as a noun, to refer to women who identify themselves or who are characterized by others as having the primary attribute of female homosexuality, or as an...

 girls' school story
School story
The school story is a fiction genre centering on older pre-adolescent and adolescent school life, at its most popular in the first half of the twentieth century. While examples do exist in other countries, it is most commonly set in English boarding schools and mostly written in girls and boys sub...

 written in the 1930s
1930s
File:1930s decade montage.png|From left, clockwise: Dorothea Lange's photo of the homeless Florence Thompson show the effects of the Great Depression; Due to the economic collapse, the farms become dry and the Dust Bowl spreads through America; The Battle of Wuhan during the Second Sino-Japanese...

 by the British composer and bon-vivant Gerald Berners, the 14th Lord Berners, under the pseudonym
Pseudonym
A pseudonym is a name that a person assumes for a particular purpose and that differs from his or her original orthonym...

 "Adela Quebec", published and distributed privately in 1932.

Asian erotic fiction


Chinese literature
Chinese literature
Chinese literature extends thousands of years, from the earliest recorded dynastic court archives to the mature fictional novels that arose during the Ming Dynasty to entertain the masses of literate Chinese...

 has a tradition of erotic literature of its own. The most famous novel is the Jin Ping Mei
Jin Ping Mei
Jin Ping Mei, or The Plum in the Golden Vase is a Chinese naturalistic novel composed in the vernacular during the late Ming Dynasty. The author was Lanling Xiaoxiao Sheng , "The Scoffing Scholar of Lanling", a clear pseudonym, and his identity is otherwise unknown...

. Another notable work is The Carnal Prayer Mat by Li Yu
Li Yu (author)
Li Yu , also known as Li Liweng was a Chinese playwright, novelist and publisher. Born in Rugao, he lived in late-Ming and early-Qing dynasties....

 (1657). There is also a tradition of erotic fiction in Japan. Fan fiction (see below) and its Japanese counterpart, doujinshi, account for an enormous proportion of all erotica being written today; doujinshi mostly hand-published, fanfic mostly online.

Contemporary erotic fiction



A development in contemporary erotica has been that, contrary to some previous views that it was mainly a male interest, many women readers are aroused by it, whether it be traditional pornography or tailor-made women's erotica
Women's erotica
Women’s erotica is any erotic material that caters specifically to heterosexual women. When erotica is directed at lesbian women, it is referred to as lesbian erotica. Women's erotica is available from a variety of media including websites, books, short stories, films, photography, magazines and...

. Romantic novels are sometimes marketed as erotica—-or vice versa—-as "mainstream" romance in recent decades has begun to exhibit blatant (if poetic) descriptions of sex. Erotic romance
Erotic romance novels
Erotic romance novels are stories written about the development of a romantic relationship through sexual interaction. The sex is an inherent part of the story, character growth, and relationship development, and couldn’t be removed without damaging the storyline.-History:The subgenre got its start...

 is a relatively new genre of romance with an erotic theme and very explicit love scenes, but with a romance at the heart of the story. Erotic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy fiction
Fantasy
Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common...

 and utilizes erotica
Erotica
Erotica are works of art, including literature, photography, film, sculpture and painting, that deal substantively with erotically stimulating or sexually arousing descriptions...

 in a fantasy setting. These stories can essentially cover any of the other subgenres of fantasy, such as high fantasy
High fantasy
High fantasy or epic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that is set in invented or parallel worlds. High fantasy was brought to fruition through the work of authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, whose major fantasy works were published in the 1950s...

, contemporary fantasy
Contemporary fantasy
Contemporary fantasy, also known as modern fantasy or indigenous fantasy, is a sub-genre of fantasy, set in the present day. It is perhaps most popular for its sub-genre, urban fantasy.-Definition and overview:...

, or even historical fantasy
Historical fantasy
Historical fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy and related to historical fiction, which makes use of specific elements of real world history. It is used as an umbrella term for the sword and sorcery genre and sometimes, if fantasy is involved, the sword-and-sandal genre too...

.

Erotic fantasy has similarities to romantic fantasy
Romantic fantasy
Romantic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy fiction, describing a fantasy story using many of the elements and conventions of the romance genre.One of the key features of romantic fantasy involves the focus on relationships, social, political, and romantic...

 but is far more graphic and goes into much more detail when describing sex
Sexual intercourse
Sexual intercourse, also known as copulation or coitus, commonly refers to the act in which a male's penis enters a female's vagina for the purposes of sexual pleasure or reproduction. The entities may be of opposite sexes, or they may be hermaphroditic, as is the case with snails...

 scenes. Erotic fantasy can also be found in fan fiction
Fan fiction
Fan fiction is a broadly-defined term for fan labor regarding stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator...

. Much erotic fanfic is based on science fiction, fantasy, or mainstream television series (e.g. Star Trek, Beauty and the Beast, Highlander, Criminal Minds) and movies (e.g. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings), using existing characters in relationships either hinted at or wholly undreamed of by their creators, in genres like slash (homoerotic fan fiction), elf porn, etc. Fan fiction and its Japanese counterpart, doujinshi, account for an enormous proportion of all erotica being written today; doujinshi are mostly hand-published, fanfic is mostly online.

Internet erotic fiction



The Internet and digital revolution in erotic depiction
History of erotic depictions
The history of erotic depictions includes paintings, sculpture, photographs, dramatic arts, music and writings that show scenes of a sexual nature throughout time. They have been created by nearly every civilisation, ancient and modern. Early cultures often associated the sexual act with...

 has blurred older forms of representing scenes of a sexual nature, although one researcher concluded that erotic literature was available among the poor and performed at public readings in 18th century Britain.

Online bookstores purvey a range of professional, commercial and non-commercial erotic writing.
Whereas once access to online erotic fiction was largely restricted to membership or pay sites, in recent years a marked increase in the number of community based, not-for-profit or free access websites, such as [Lushstories.com] has led to an explosion in the level of popularity of this genre.

Increased interactivity and anonymity allows casual or hobby writers the opportunity not only to author their own stories but also to share them with a world-wide audience.

Many authors adopt colorful pseudonyms and can develop cult followings within their genre, though a small number use (or claim to use) their real names. Among transgender
Transgender
Transgender is a general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies to vary from culturally conventional gender roles....

ed or genderqueer
Genderqueer
Genderqueer is a catch-all term for gender identities other than man and woman, thus outside of the gender binary and heteronormativity...

 authors it is a common practice to adopt a feminine or masculine alter-ego, although it is not unheard of for a writer to use his or her own given name.

Writings of prostitutes


Prostitution
Prostitution
Prostitution is the act or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment. The person who receives payment for sexual services is called a prostitute and the person who receives such services is known by a multitude of terms, including a "john". Prostitution is one of...

 was the focus of much of the earliest erotic works. The very term "pornography
Pornography
Pornography or porn is the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual arousal and erotic satisfaction.Pornography may use any of a variety of media, ranging from books, magazines, postcards, photos, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video,...

" is derived from the Greek pornographos meaning "the writing of prostitutes", originally denoting descriptions of the lives and manners of prostitutes and their customers in Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

. According to Athenaeus
Athenaeus
Athenaeus , of Naucratis in Egypt, Greek rhetorician and grammarian, flourished about the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd century AD...

 in The Deipnosophists these constituted a considerable genre, with many lubricious treatises, stories and dramas on the subject.

Accounts of prostitution have continued as a major part of the genre of erotic literature.

In the 18th century directories of prostitutes and their services, such as Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies
Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies
Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies, published from 1757 to 1795, was an annual directory of prostitutes then working in Georgian London. A small, attractive pocketbook, it was printed and published in Covent Garden, and sold for two shillings and sixpence...

(1757–1795), provided both entertainment and instruction.

In the 19th century the sensational journalism of W. T. Stead
William Thomas Stead
William Thomas Stead was an English journalist and editor who, as one of the early pioneers of investigative journalism, became one of the most controversial figures of the Victorian era. His 'New Journalism' paved the way for today's tabloid press...

's The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon (1885) about the procuring of underage girls into the brothels of Victorian London provided a stimulus for the erotic imagination. Stead's account was widely translated and the revelation of "padded rooms for the purpose of stifling the cries of the tortured victims of lust and brutality" and the symbolic figure of "The Minotaur of London" confirmed European observers worst imaginings about "Le Sadisme anglais" and inspired erotic writers to write of similar scenes set in London or involving sadistic English gentlemen. Such writers include D'Annunzio in Il Piacere, Paul-Jean Toulet
Paul-Jean Toulet
Paul-Jean Toulet was a French poet, novelist and feuilleton writer.- Life and works :Paul-Jean Toulet was a descendant of Charlotte Corday, and son of a wealthy man living in Mauritius...

 in Monsieur de Paur (1898), Octave Mirbeau
Octave Mirbeau
Octave Mirbeau was a French journalist, art critic, travel writer, pamphleteer, novelist, and playwright, who achieved celebrity in Europe and great success among the public, while still appealing to the literary and artistic avant-garde...

 in Jardin des Supplices
The Torture Garden (novel)
The Torture Garden is a novel written by the French journalist, novelist and playwright Octave Mirbeau and was first published in 1899, during the Dreyfus Affair...

(1899) and Jean Lorrain
Jean Lorrain
Jean Lorrain , born Paul Duval, was a French poet and novelist of the Symbolist school....

 in Monsieur de Phocas (1901).

A well known 21st century work in this genre is The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl
The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl
The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl are memoirs of a former London call girl written by Dr. Brooke Magnanti, under the pseudonym Belle de Jour....

(2005) by Belle de Jour
Belle de Jour (writer)
Brooke Magnanti is a research scientist, blogger, and writer, who, until her identity was revealed in November 2009, was known by the pen name Belle de Jour. While completing her doctoral studies, between 2003 and 2004, Magnanti supplemented her income by working as a London call girl...

.

Erotic memoirs


Erotic memoirs include Casanova's Histoire de ma vie
Histoire de ma vie
Histoire de ma vie is both the memoir and autobiography of Giacomo Casanova, a famous 18th century Italian adventurer...

, from the 18th century. Notable English works of this genre from the 19th century include The Ups and Downs of Life (1867) by Edward Sellon
Edward Sellon
Edward Sellon was an English writer, translator and illustrator of erotic literature.-Family:Edward Sellon was born 6 Jan 1818 in Brighton, England , the only child of Edward Sellon and Laura Willats .Edward, Sr...

 and My Secret Life
My Secret Life (erotica)
My Secret Life, by "Walter", is the memoir of a Victorian gentleman's sexual development and experiences. It was first published in a private edition of eleven volumes, which appeared over seven years beginning around 1888....

by "Walter". Edward Sellon was a writer, translator and illustrator of erotic literature who wrote erotica for the pornographic publisher William Dugdale, including such works as The New Epicurean
The New Epicurean
The New Epicurean: The Delights of Sex, Facetiously and Philosophically Considered, in Graphic Letters Addressed to Young Ladies of Quality is a Victorian erotic novel published by William Dugdale in 1865 and attributed to Edward Sellon...

(1865). The true identity of "Walter" is very mysterious. Ian Gibson, in The Erotomaniac speculates that My Secret Life was really written by Henry Spencer Ashbee and therefore it is possible that "Walter" is a fiction. A famous German erotic work of this time, published in two parts in 1868 and 1875 entitled Pauline the Prima Donna purports to be the memoirs of the opera singer Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient
Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient
Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, born Wilhelmine Schröder , was a German operatic soprano. As a singer she combined a rare quality of tone with dramatic intensity of expression, which was as remarkable on the concert platform as in opera.- Biography :Schröder was born in Hamburg, the daughter of the...

. Various discrepancies with known facts of the singer's life however have led many to doubt the veracity of this book and the erotic adventures contained in the second volume, at least, appear to be very implausible. These include the authoress indulging in lesbian sadomasochism, group sex, sodomy, bestiality, scatology
Scatology
In medicine and biology, scatology or coprology is the study of feces.Scatological studies allow one to determine a wide range of biological information about a creature, including its diet , healthiness, and diseases such as tapeworms. The word derives from the Greek σκώρ In medicine and biology,...

, necrophilia
Necrophilia
Necrophilia, also called thanatophilia or necrolagnia, is the sexual attraction to corpses,It is classified as a paraphilia by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. The word is artificially derived from the ancient Greek words: νεκρός and φιλία...

, prostitution and vampirism: all before she had reached the age of 27. 20th century contributions to the genre include Frank Harris
Frank Harris
Frank Harris was a Irish-born, naturalized-American author, editor, journalist and publisher, who was friendly with many well-known figures of his day...

's My Life and Loves
My Life and Loves
My Life and Loves is the autobiography of the Ireland-born, naturalized-American writer and editor Frank Harris . As published privately by Harris between 1922 and 1927, and by Jack Kahane's Obelisk Press in 1931, the work consisted of four volumes, illustrated with many drawings and photographs of...

(1922–27) and the convicted Austrian sex criminal Edith Cadivec
Edith Cadivec
Edith Cadivec was an Austrian teacher and notorious sex criminal.-Conviction:Cadivec was arrested, tried, and convicted in 1924 on the charge of sexually abusing eight underage girls under her care, including her own daughter...

's Confessions and Experiences and its sequel Eros, the Meaning of My Life (published together 1930-1). A 21st century example is One Hundred Strokes of the Brush Before Bed (2004) by Melissa Panarello
Melissa Panarello
Melissa Panarello , alias Melissa P., is an Italian writer.-Biography:Panarello grew up in the small Sicilian town of Aci Castello, near Catania in Italy...

.

Sex manuals



Early sex manuals, as well as being instructive, are often, also, great works of literature. They include from the classical world, the lost works of Elephantis
Elephantis
Elephantis was a Greek poetess apparently renowned in the classical world as the author of a notorious sex manual. Her works have not survived.-Works:...

 and Ovid
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

's Ars Amatoria
Ars Amatoria
The Ars amatoria is an instructional love elegy in three books by the Roman poet Ovid, penned around 2 CE. It claims to provide teaching in three areas of general preoccupation: how and where to find women in Rome, how to seduce them, and how to prevent others from stealing them.-Background:After...

. The Indian Kama Sutra
Kama Sutra
The Kama Sutra is an ancient Indian Hindu text widely considered to be the standard work on human sexual behavior in Sanskrit literature written by Vātsyāyana. A portion of the work consists of practical advice on sexual intercourse. It is largely in prose, with many inserted anustubh poetry verses...

is one of the world's best known works of this type. The Ananga Ranga
Ananga Ranga
The Ananga Ranga or Kamaledhiplava is an Indian sex manual written by Kalyana malla in the 15th or 16th century. The poet wrote the work in honor of Lad Khan, son of Ahmed Khan Lodi. He was related to the Lodi dynasty, which from 1451 to 1526 ruled from Delhi...

, a 12th-century collection of Indian erotic works, is a lesser known one. Also very famous, and often reprinted and translated, is The Perfumed Garden for the Soul's Recreation
The Perfumed Garden
The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight by Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Nafzawi is a fifteenth-century Arabic sex manual and work of erotic literature....

, a 16th century Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 work by Sheikh Nefzaoui.

To 1857


Erotic or pornographic works have often been prosecuted, censored and destroyed by the authorities on grounds of obscenity. Originally, in England, erotic or pornographic publications were the concern of the ecclesiastical courts. After the Reformation the jurisdiction of these courts declined in favour of the Crown which licensed every printed book. Prosecutions of books for their erotic content alone were rare and works which attacked the church or state gave much more concern to the authorities than erotica or 'obscene libel
Obscene libel
The publication of an obscene libel was an offence under the common law of England. Prior to the abolition by of the Criminal Law Act 1967 of the distinction between felony and misdemeanour, it was regarded as a misdemeanour...

' as it was then known. For instance the Licensing Act of 1662 was aimed generally at "heretical, seditious, schismatical or offensive books of pamphlets" rather than just erotica per se. Even this Licensing Act was allowed to lapse in 1695 and no attempt made to renew it.

The first conviction for obscenity
Obscenity
An obscenity is any statement or act which strongly offends the prevalent morality of the time, is a profanity, or is otherwise taboo, indecent, abhorrent, or disgusting, or is especially inauspicious...

 in England occurred in 1727, when Edmund Curll
Edmund Curll
Edmund Curll was an English bookseller and publisher. His name has become synonymous, through the attacks on him by Alexander Pope, with unscrupulous publication and publicity. Curll rose from poverty to wealth through his publishing, and he did this by approaching book printing in a mercenary...

 was fined for the publication of Venus in the Cloister or The Nun in her Smock under the common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 offence of disturbing the
Disturbing the Peace
Disturbing the Peace is the second studio album by Alcatrazz, and is the only one featuring Steve Vai on guitar. One of the singles, God Blessed Video, can be found on the fictional radio station, V-Rock, on Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Weeks on Chart: 7, Peak: #133...

 King's peace
Queen's peace
The Queen's peace is the term used in the Commonwealth realms to describe the protection the monarch, in right of each state, provides to his or her subjects...

. This set a legal precedent for other convictions. The publication of other books by Curll, however, considered seditious and blasphemous, such as The Memoirs of John Ker, apparently most offended the authorities. Prosecutions of erotica later in the 18th century were rare and were most often taken because of the admixture of seditious and blasphemous material with the porn. For instance, no proceedings were taken against the publishers of Cleland's notorious Fanny Hill (1763).

1857 - 1959


It was the Obscene Publications Act 1857
Obscene Publications Act 1857
The Obscene Publications Act 1857 , also known as Lord Campbell's Act or Campbell's Act, was a major piece of obscenity legislation in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

 which made the sale of obscene material a statutory offence, for the first time, giving the courts power to seize and destroy offending material. The origins of the Act itself were in a trial for the sale of pornography presided over by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Campbell
John Campbell, 1st Baron Campbell
John Campbell, 1st Baron Campbell PC, KC was a British Liberal politician, lawyer, and man of letters.-Background and education:...

, at the same time as a debate in the House of Lords over a bill aiming to restrict the sale of poisons. Campbell was taken by the analogy between the two situations, famously referring to the London pornography trade as "a sale of poison more deadly than prussic acid, strychnine or arsenic", and proposed a bill to restrict the sale of pornography; giving statutory powers of destruction would allow for a much more effective degree of prosecution. The bill was controversial at the time, receiving strong opposition from both Houses of Parliament, and was passed on the assurance by the Lord Chief Justice that it was "... intended to apply exclusively to works written for the single purpose of corrupting the morals of youth and of a nature calculated to shock the common feelings of decency in any well-regulated mind." The House of Commons successfully amended it so as not to apply to Scotland, on the grounds that Scottish common law was sufficiently stringent.

The Act provided for the seizure and destruction of any material deemed to be obscene, and held for sale or distribution, following information being laid before a "court of summary jurisdiction" (Magistrates' court
Magistrates' Court
A magistrates' court or court of petty sessions, formerly known as a police court, is the lowest level of court in England and Wales and many other common law jurisdictions...

). The Act required that following evidence of a common-law offence being committed - for example, on the report of a plain-clothes policeman who had successfully purchased the material - the court could issue a warrant for the premises to be searched and the material seized. The proprietor then would be called upon to attend court and give reason why the material should not be destroyed. Critically, the Act did not define "obscene," leaving this to the will of the courts.

Whilst the Act itself did not change, the scope of the work affected by it did. In 1868 Sir Alexander Cockburn
Sir Alexander Cockburn, 12th Baronet
Sir Alexander James Edmund Cockburn, 12th Baronet Q.C. was a Scottish lawyer, politician and judge. A notorious womaniser and socialite, as Lord Chief Justice he heard some of the leading causes célèbres of the 19th century.-Life:Cockburn was born in Alţâna, in what is now Romania and was then...

, Campbell's successor as Lord Chief Justice, held in an appeal that the test of obscenity was "...whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall." This was clearly a major change from Campbell's opinion only ten years before - the test now being the effect on someone open to corruption who obtained a copy, not whether the material was intended to corrupt or offend.

Cockburn's declaration remained in force for several decades, and most of the high profile seizures under the Act relied on this interpretation. Known as the Hicklin test
Hicklin test
The Hicklin test is a legal test for obscenity established by the English case Regina v. Hicklin. At issue was the statutory interpretation of the word "obscene" in the Obscene Publications Act 1857, which authorized the destruction of obscene books...

 no cognisance was taken of the literary merit of a book or on the extent of the offending text within the book in question. The widened scope of the original legislation led to the subsequent notorious targeting of now acknowledged classics of world literature by such authors as Zola
Zola
Zola may refer to:People:* Zola , South African entertainer* Émile Zola , French novelist* Arlette Zola, Swiss singer* Calvin Zola , Congo DR footballer...

, James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

 and D.H. Lawrence plus medical textbooks by such as Havelock Ellis
Havelock Ellis
Henry Havelock Ellis, known as Havelock Ellis , was a British physician and psychologist, writer, and social reformer who studied human sexuality. He was co-author of the first medical textbook in English on homosexuality in 1897, and also published works on a variety of sexual practices and...

 rather than the blatant erotica which was the original target of this law.

In contrast to England, where actions against obscene literature were the preserve of the magistrates, in America such actions were the responsibility of the Postal Inspection Service, embodied in the federal and state Comstock laws, named after the postal officer and anti-obscenity crusader Anthony Comstock
Anthony Comstock
Anthony Comstock was a United States Postal Inspector and politician dedicated to ideas of Victorian morality.-Biography:...

 who proved himself officious in the work of suppression both in his official capacity and through his New York Society for the Suppression of Vice
New York Society for the Suppression of Vice
The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice was an institution dedicated to supervising the morality of the public, founded in 1873. Its specific mission was to monitor compliance with state laws and work with the courts and district attorneys in bringing offenders to justice. It and its...

. The first such law was the Comstock Act, (ch. 258 enacted March 3, 1873) which made it illegal to send any "obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious" materials through the mail. Twenty-four states passed similar prohibitions on materials distributed within the states.

Modern legislation


This question of whether a book had literary merit eventually prompted a change in the law in both America and the UK. In the United Kingdom the Obscene Publications Act 1959
Obscene Publications Act 1959
The Obscene Publications Act 1959 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom Parliament that significantly reformed the law related to obscenity. Prior to the passage of the Act, the law on publishing obscene materials was governed by the common law case of R v Hicklin, which had no exceptions...

 provided for the protection of "literature" but conversely increased the penalties against pure "pornography." The law defined obscenity and separated it from serious works of art.

The new definition read:

[A]n article shall be deemed to be obscene if its effect or (where the article comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its items is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.


After this piece of legislation questions of the literary merit of the work in question were allowed to be put before the judge and jury as in the Lady Chatterley trial. The publishers of the latter book were found not guilty by the court on the grounds of the literary merit of the book. In later prosecutions of literary erotica under the provisions of the act, however, even purely pornographic works with no apparent literary merit escaped destruction by the authorities. Purely textual pornographic texts, with no hint of libel, have not been brought to trial since the Inside Linda Lovelace trial collapsed in 1976. However, in October 2008, a man was charged under the Obscene Publications Act for posting fictional written material to the Internet allegedly describing the kidnap, rape and murder of the pop group Girls Aloud
Girls Aloud
Girls Aloud are a British and Irish pop girl group based in London. They were created through the ITV1 talent show Popstars The Rivals in 2002. The group consists of Cheryl Cole , Nadine Coyle, Sarah Harding, Nicola Roberts and Kimberley Walsh. They are signed to Fascination Records, a Polydor...

.

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, the First Amendment
First Amendment to the United States Constitution
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering...

 gives protection to written fiction—although in one case, a man pled guilty and was convicted for writing unpublished stories (these were works of fiction concerning sexually abusing children) that were contained only in his personal and private journal. That conviction was later overturned on appeal.

Importing books and texts across national borders can sometimes be subject to more stringent laws than in the nations concerned. Customs officers are often permitted to seize even merely 'indecent' works that would be perfectly legal to sell and possess once one is inside the nations concerned. Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 has been particularly notorious for such border seizures.

Although the 1857 and 1959 legislation outlawed the publication, retail and trafficking of certain writings and images, regarded as pornographic, and would order the destruction of shop and warehouse stock, meant for sale, the private possession of and viewing of pornography has not been prosecuted until recent times. In some nations, even purely textual erotic literature is still deemed illegal and is also prosecuted.

See also


  • List of authors of erotic works
  • List of pornographic book publishers
  • List of genres
  • Sadism and masochism in fiction
    Sadism and masochism in fiction
    The role of sadism and masochism in fiction attracts serious, scholarly attention. Anthony Storr has commented that the volume of sadomasochist pornography shows that sadomasochistic interest is widespread in Western society; John Kucich has noted the importance of masochism in late-19th century...

  • Romance novel
    Romance novel
    The romance novel is a literary genre developed in Western culture, mainly in English-speaking countries. Novels in this genre place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending." Through the late...

  • Women's erotica
    Women's erotica
    Women’s erotica is any erotic material that caters specifically to heterosexual women. When erotica is directed at lesbian women, it is referred to as lesbian erotica. Women's erotica is available from a variety of media including websites, books, short stories, films, photography, magazines and...

  • Early 20th century French spanking literature
    Early 20th century French spanking literature
    Spanking literature refers to the genre of fiction, also known as flagellation, and a subset of sadomasochist literature. Spanking literature reached its "golden age" in the early 20th century in France and lasted nearly forty years...

  • Literotica
    Literotica
    Literotica is a free erotic fiction website. It allows any user to register as an author and submit stories and has over a million registered users as of April 2010. Amateur authors contribute stories, poems, essays, illustrated stories and audio stories in a variety of categories...


Further reading

  • Kearney, Patrick J. (1981) The Private Case: an annotated bibliography of the Private Case Erotica Collection in the British (Museum) Library; compiled by Patrick J. Kearney; with an introduction by G. Legman. London: J. Landesman
  • Oetjen, Almut, ed. (1992 etc.) Lexikon der erotischen Literatur: Autoren, Werke, Themen, Aspekte looseleaf ISBN 3-89048-050-0
  • Brulott, Gaëtan & Phillips, John, eds. (2006) Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature. New York: Routledge
  • "Erotische Literatur" in: Harenbergs Lexikon der Weltliteratur, Band 2, 1989, ISBN 3-611-00091-4
  • "Erotische Literatur" in: Metzler Literatur Lexikon, 2. Aufl. 1990, ISBN 3-476-00668-9
  • "Erotische Literatur" in: Gero von Wilpert, Sachwörterbuch der Literatur, 8. Aufl. 2001, ISBN 3-520-23108-5
  • "Erotische Literatur" in: Der Brockhaus: Literatur, 2. Aufl. 2004, ISBN 3-7653-0351-8
  • Straight, Sheryl. The Erotica Bibliophile http://www.eroticabibliophile.com/publishers_carrington_a_d.htmlA Bibliography of Works Published by Charles Carrington
    Charles Carrington
    Charles Carrington was a leading British publisher of erotica in late-19th and early 20th century Europe. Born Paul Harry Ferdinando in Bethnal Green, England on 11 November 1867, he moved in 1895 from London to Paris where he published and sold books in the rue Faubourg Montmartre and rue de...

    ]

General

  • Atkins, John (1970) Sex in Literature, 4 vols. 1970-1982
  • Englisch, Paul (1927) Geschichte der erotischen Literatur, 1927, Reprint 1977, ISBN 3-921695-01-5
  • Fischer, Carolin (1997) Gärten der Lust: eine Geschichte erregender Lektüren, Stuttgart ; Weimar: Metzler ISBN 3-476-01563-7, paperback: München: Dt. Taschenbuch-Verlag, 2000
  • Folco, Philippe di, ed. (2005) Dictionnaire de la pornographie. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France
  • Gnüg, Hiltrud (2002) Der erotische Roman: von der Renaissance bis zur Gegenwart, Ditzingen: Reclam ISBN 3-15-017634-4
  • Kronhausen, Eberhard & Phyllis (1969) Bücher aus dem Giftschrank: eine Analyse der verbotenen und verfemten erotischen Literatur
  • Pia, Pascal
    Pascal Pia
    Pascal Pia, born Pierre Durand , was a French writer, journalist, illustrator and scholar. He also used the pseudonyms Pascal Rose, Pascal Fely and others....

    , ed. (1971) Dictionnaire des œuvres érotiques. Paris: Mercure de France
  • Schreiber, Hermann (1969) Erotische Texte: sexualpathologische Erscheinungen in der Literatur

Ancient world and Middle Ages

  • Leick, G. (1994) Sex and Eroticism in Mesopotamian Literature ISBN 0-415-06534-8
  • Mulchandani, S. (2006) Erotic Literature of Ancient India: Kama Sutra, Koka Shastra, Gita Govindam, Ananga Ranga ISBN 81-7436-384-X

Modern times to 1900

  • Goulemot, J. (1993) Gefährliche Bücher: erotische Literatur, Pornographie, Leser und Zensur im 18. Jahrhundert ISBN 3-499-55528-X
  • Moulton, I. (2000) Before Pornography: erotic writing in early modern Europe ISBN 0-19-513709-4

External links