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Erotic literature

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Title: Erotic literature  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Literature, WikiProject Spam/LinkReports/, N. D. Cocea, Mircea Nedelciu, Luca Caragiale
Collection: Erotic Fiction, Erotic Literature, Literary Genres
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Erotic literature

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.[1] Such homosexuality, sadomasochism, and many other taboo subjects and fetishes, which may or may not be expressed in explicit language.[2] Other common elements are satire and social criticism. Despite cultural taboos on such material, circulation of erotic literature was not seen as a major problem before the invention of printing, 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, like censorship and legal restraints on publication on the grounds of obscenity.[3] Because of this, much of the production of this type of material became clandestine.[4]

Much erotic literature features erotic art, illustrating the text.


  • Erotic verse 1
    • Early periods 1.1
    • 17th and 18th centuries 1.2
    • 19th century 1.3
    • 20th century 1.4
    • 21st century 1.5
  • Erotic fiction 2
    • History of western erotic fiction 2.1
      • Ancient, medieval, and early modern periods 2.1.1
      • 18th century 2.1.2
      • 19th century 2.1.3
      • 20th century 2.1.4
    • Asian erotic fiction 2.2
    • Contemporary erotic fiction 2.3
      • Internet erotic fiction 2.3.1
  • Other accounts 3
    • Writings of prostitutes 3.1
    • Erotic memoirs 3.2
    • Sex manuals 3.3
  • Legal status 4
    • Early legislation 4.1
      • To 1857 4.1.1
      • 1857–1959 4.1.2
    • Modern legislation 4.2
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
    • History 8.1
      • General 8.1.1
      • Ancient world and Middle Ages 8.1.2
      • Modern times to 1900 8.1.3
  • External links 9

Erotic verse

Sappho, the tenth Muse, fresco from Pompeii

Early periods

Many erotic poems have survived from Ancient Greece and Rome, the authors including the Greeks Straton of Sardis, Sappho of Lesbos (lyrics); and the Romans Automedon (The Professional and Demetrius the Fortunate), Philodemus (Charito), Marcus Argentarius, Catullus, Propertius, Tibullus, Ovid, Martial and Juvenal and the anonymous Priapeia.[5] 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 who also wrote the erotic poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece.[6]

17th and 18th centuries

In the 17th century, St. James's Park" 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 dramatised as a scene in the film The Libertine about his life based on an existing play.[7][8]


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; 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.[9] French collections include Les Muses gaillardes (1606) Le Cabinet satyrique (1618) and La Parnasse des poetes satyriques (1622).[10]

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's "An Essay on Man"; "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 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—before being declared obscene and blasphemous by that august body and the supposed author, Wilkes, declared an outlaw.[11]

Robert Burns 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.

19th century

One of the 19th century's foremost poets--

  • Public domain erotic literature from Project Gutenberg
  • DU Erotic Poetry (largest open collection of erotic poetry online)
  • The Erotic Woman (Open access multi-genred erotic literature)

External links

  • 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

Modern times to 1900

  • 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

Ancient world and Middle Ages

  • Atkins, John (1970) Sex in Literature, 4 vols. 1970–1982
  • Bertolotti, Alessandro. Curiosa la bibliotheque érotique. Paris, Editions La Martiniere, 2012, ISBN 978-2-7324-5274-6
  • Di Folco, Philippe, ed. (2005) Dictionnaire de la pornographie. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, ISBN 2-130-54414-2
  • 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
  • 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, ed. (1971) Dictionnaire des œuvres érotiques. Paris: Mercure de France
  • Schreiber, Hermann (1969) Erotische Texte: sexualpathologische Erscheinungen in der Literatur



  • 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
  • "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
  • Brulott, Gaëtan & Phillips, John, eds. (2006) Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature. New York: Routledge
  • Roy, Pinaki. "Reviewing Steamies: The Literary Steam of Twenty-first Century Feminism". Labyrinth (ISSN 0976-0814) 5(1), January 2014: 68-77.
  • Straight, Sheryl. The Erotica Bibliophile A Bibliography of Works Published by Charles Carrington

Further reading

  • Brulotte, Gaëtan & Phillips, John (eds.) (2006) Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature. New York: Routledge
  • Gibson, Ian (2001) The Erotomaniac London: Faber & Faber
  • H. Montgomery Hyde (1964) A History of Pornography. London: Heinemann
  • Kearney, Patrick J. (1982) A History of Erotic Literature, Parragon, ISBN 1-85813-198-7
  • Kronhausen, Phyllis & Eberhard (1959) Pornography and the Law, The Psychology of Erotic Realism and Pornography. New York: Ballantine Books
  • Kronhausen, Phyllis & Eberhard (1969) Erotic Fantasies, a Study of Sexual Imagination. New York: Grove Press
  • Muchembled, Robert (2008) Orgasm and the West: a history of pleasure from the 16th century to the present, Polity, ISBN 0-7456-3876-7
  • Weller, Michael J. The Secret Blue Book. Home Baked Books,[3], London.
  • Williams, Linda (1999) Hardcore: Power, Pleasure, and the 'Frenzy of the Visible'. Berkeley: University of California Press


  1. ^ Hyde (1964) p. 1
  2. ^ Kronhausen (1969)
  3. ^ a b Hyde (1964); pp. 1-26
  4. ^ Patrick J. Kearney (1982) A History of Erotic Literature. Parragon: 7-18
  5. ^ Derek Parker, ed. (1980) An Anthology of Erotic Verse. London: Constable ISBN 0-09-463500-5
  6. ^ Derek Parker, ed. (1980) An Anthology of Erotic Verse; pp. 88-96
  7. ^ Patrick J. Kearney (1982) A History of Erotic Literature. Parragon Books: 22, 40-41
  8. ^ Parker, Derek, ed. (1980) An Anthology of Erotic Verse. London: Constable
  9. ^ Clifford J. Scheiner (1996) The Essential Guide to Erotic Literature, Part Two: After 1920. Ware: Wordsworth: 26-27
  10. ^ Patrick J. Kearney (1982) A History of Erotic Literature. Parragon Books: 65
  11. ^ Patrick J. Kearney (1982) A History of Erotic Literature. Parragon Books: 71-4
  12. ^ Derek Parker, ed. (1980) An Anthology of Erotic Verse: 22
  13. ^ Bragman, L. J. (1934). "The Case of Algernon Charles Swinburne: a study in Sadism". Psychoanal. Rev., 21:59-74.
  14. ^ Hammill, Faye (2009). "John Glassco, Canadian erotica and the 'Lying Chronicle'". In Anctil, Pierre; Loiselle, Andre; Rolfe, Christopher. Canada exposed. Canadian Studies 20. Peter Lang. p. 286.  
  15. ^ "John Glassco's Squire Hardman: a Poem and its Contexts". 1954-07-09. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  16. ^ Prins, Yopie (1999). Victorian Sappho. Princeton University Press. p. 152.  
  17. ^ Rosemary Lloyd, Mallarmé: the Poet and His Circle, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-8014-8993-8, pp. 195-197
  18. ^ Hammill, Faye (2009). "John Glassco, Canadian erotica and the 'Lying Chronicle'". In Anctil, Pierre; Loiselle, Andre; Rolfe, Christopher. Canada Exposed. Canadian Studies 20. Peter Lang. pp. 279–296.  
  19. ^ "Colin Dean". Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  20. ^ "Australian Literature Resource". Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  21. ^ Hyde (1964); pp. 71-72
  22. ^ Hyde (1964); pp. 75-76
  23. ^ Hyde (1964); pp. 76
  24. ^ Ian Frederick Moulton, Before Pornography: erotic writing in Early Modern England (Studies in the History of Sexuality.) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-19-517982-X, p.130
  25. ^ Wendy Beth Heller, Emblems of Eloquence: opera and women's voices in seventeenth-century Venice, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003, ISBN 0-520-20933-8, p.75
  26. ^ James Turner, Libertines and Radicals in Early Modern London: sexuality, politics, and literary culture, 1630–1685. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-521-78279-1, p.3
  27. ^ Mitchell Greenberg, Baroque Bodies: psychoanalysis and the culture of French absolutism, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8014-3807-1, pp.78-79
  28. ^ Muchembled, (2008) p. 90
  29. ^ Sarah Toulalan, Imagining Sex: pornography and bodies in seventeenth-century England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 0-19-920914-6, p. 100
  30. ^ Alastair J. L. Blanshard, Sex: Vice and Love from Antiquity to Modernity, Chichester: John Wiley and Sons, 2010, ISBN 1-4051-2291-9, p. 51
  31. ^ Kronhausen (1969), pp. 7-8
  32. ^ The original title is L'escole des filles, ou: la philosophie des dames; later editions sometimes ascribe it to M. Mililot (sic). Pascal Durand edited it in 1959.
  33. ^ The School of Venus (orig: L'École des filles, ou la Philosophie des dames) by Michel Millot et Jean L'Ange (New American Library 1971) (Panther 1972) ISBN 0-586-03674-1
  34. ^ Hyde (1964); p. 19
  35. ^ Muchembled (2008) p. 77
  36. ^ Patrick J. Kearney (1982) A History of Erotic Literature. Parragon: 34-46
  37. ^ Kronhausen (1969); pp. 26-32
  38. ^ a b Patrick J Kearney (1982) A History of Erotic Literature. Parragon: 53-7
  39. ^ Patrick J Kearney (1982) A History of Erotic Literature. Parragon: 60-5
  40. ^ Mark Steel (2003) Vive la Révolution. London, Scribner; pp. 39-40
  41. ^ Ronald Pearsall (1969) "The Worm in the Bud: the world of Victorian sexuality", Macmillan; pp. 404-22
  42. ^ Hyam, Ronald (1990) "Empire and sexuality: the British experience", in: Studies in Imperialism, Manchester University Press ISBN 0-7190-2504-4; p. 135
  43. ^ Jarman, Francis (2005) White Skin, Dark Skin, Power, Dream: collected essays on literature and culture (I. O. Evans studies in the philosophy and criticism of literature; vol. 27.) Holicong, Pa.: Borgo Press ISBN 0-8095-1188-6, p. 25
  44. ^ İrvin Cemil Schick (1999) The Erotic Margin: sexuality and spatiality in alteritist discourse". London: Verso ISBN 1-85984-732-3; pp.117-18
  45. ^ Donald Thomas, A long time burning: the history of literary censorship in England, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969, p.284
  46. ^ "Introduction" to Beatrice (2001) by Gordon Grimley. London, The Scarlet Library (illustrated).
  47. ^ Hyde (1964): 167-68
  48. ^ Henry Spencer Ashbee (1969) Index of Forbidden Books. Sphere
  49. ^ Steven Marcus (1969) The Other Victorians. London, Corgi; pp. 34-77
  50. ^ Barbara Kendall-Davies (2003). The Life and Work of Pauline Viardot Garcia. Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 45–46.  
  51. ^ Anna Livia; Kira Hall (1997). Queerly Phrased: Language, Gender, and Sexuality.  
  52. ^ Harford Montgomery Hyde, "The love that dared not speak its name: a candid history of homosexuality in Britain", Little, Brown, 1970, pp.121–123
  53. ^ Ronald Pearsall (1971) The Worm in the Bud: The World of Victorian Sexuality. London, Penguin: 561-8
  54. ^ a b c Nelson, James. Publisher to the Decadents: Leonard Smithers in the Careers of Beardsley, Wilde, Dowson. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000
  55. ^ Robert Gray and Christopher Keep, "An Uninterrupted Current: Homoeroticism and collaborative authorship in Teleny", in Marjorie Stone, Judith Thompson (edd) "Literary Couplings: Writing Couples, Collaborators, and the Construction of Authorship", University of Wisconsin Press, 2007, ISBN 0-299-21764-7, p.193
  56. ^ Edouard Roditi, "Oscar Wilde", New Directions Publishing, 1986, ISBN 0-8112-0995-4, p.168
  57. ^ Rachel Potter, "Obscene Modernism and the Trade in Salacious Books", Modernism/modernity, Volume 16, Number 1, January 2009, pp.87-104 doi:10.1353/mod.0.0065
  58. ^ Hyde (1964): 177-80
  59. ^ Lee Grieveson, Peter Krämer, The Silent Cinema Reader, Routledge, 2004, ISBN 0-415-25284-9, p. 59
  60. ^ Ronald Pearsall (1969) The Worm in the Bud: the world of Victorian sexuality, Macmillan; pp. 321, 364
  61. ^ Peter Mendes, "Clandestine erotic fiction in English, 1800–1930: a bibliographical study", Scolar Press, 1993, ISBN 0-85967-919-5, p. 319
  62. ^ Alan Norman Bold, "The Sexual Dimension in Literature", Vision Press, 1983, ISBN 0-389-20314-9, pp.94,97,102
  63. ^ Emma Goldman, Candace Falk, Barry Pateman, Jessica M. Moran, "Emma Goldman: Making speech free, 1902–1909" (Volume 2 of Emma Goldman: A Documentary History of the American Years, Jessica M. Moran) Emma Goldman Series, University of California Press, 2004, ISBN 0-520-22569-4, p.514
  64. ^ Lisa Z. Sigel, "International exposure: perspectives on modern European pornography, 1800–2000", Rutgers University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-8135-3519-0, p.98
  65. ^ Joseph W. Slade, "Pornography and sexual representation: a reference guide", Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001, ISBN 0-313-31519-1, p.55
  66. ^ Martha Cornog, ed. (1991) Libraries, Erotica, Pornography. Phoenix: Oryx Press ISBN 0-89774-474-8, p. 189
  67. ^ Frank A. Hoffmann (1973)Analytical Survey of Anglo-American Traditional Erotica, Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press ISBN 0879720557'; p. 34
  68. ^ Tracy C. Davis (1989) "The Actress in Victorian Pornography", in: Theatre Journal; Vol. 41, No. 3: Performance in Context (October , 1989), pp. 294-315 [1]
  69. ^ Kristine Ottesen Garrigan, ed. (1992) Victorian Scandals: representations of gender and class. Annual meeting on "Victorian scandals: decorum and its enemies": Extended papers., Athens OH: Ohio University Press ISBN 0-8214-1019-9, pp. 113, 131
  70. ^ Kearney (1981), p. 215
  71. ^ Kearney (1982), pp. 163-64
  72. ^ Karín Lesnik-Oberstein (2006) The Last Taboo: women and body hair. Manchester: Manchester University PressISBN 0719075009; p. 94
  73. ^ Neil Cornwell (2006) The Absurd in Literature. Manchester: Manchester University Press ISBN 0-7190-7410-X; pp. 86-87
  74. ^ Roger Shattuck (1961) The Banquet Years: the arts in France, 1885–1918; Alfred Jarry, Henri Rousseau, Erik Satie, Guillaume Apollinaire, Garden City: Doubleday; p. 268
  75. ^ Clifford J. Scheiner (1996) The Essential Guide to Erotic Literature, Part One: Before 1920. Ware: Wordsworth; pp. 326-29
  76. ^ Kearney (1982), p. 171
  77. ^ Pascal Pia (1978) Les Livres de l'Enfer: bibliographie critique des ouvrages érotiques dans leurs différentes éditions du XVIe siècle à nos jours, C. Coulet et A. Faure ISBN 2-902687-01-X, pp. 425, 426, 778
  78. ^ Andrew Gibson (1999) Postmodernity, Ethics and the Novel: from Leavis to Levinas. London: Routledge ISBN 0-415-19895-X, p. 177
  79. ^ Elizabeth Kowaleski-Wallace, Encyclopedia of Feminist Literary Theory, Taylor & Francis, 1997, ISBN 0-8153-0824-8, p. 190
  80. ^ Helen Tookey, Anaïs Nin, Fictionality and Femininity: playing a thousand roles, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-19-924983-0, p.87
  81. ^ Joseph W. Slade, Pornography and Sexual Representation: a reference guide, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001, ISBN 0-313-31521-3, p. 819
  82. ^ See [2] Feb 5th version of WP article on Lolita- section "Genre: An Erotic Novel?"
  83. ^ Judith Still, Michael Worton, Textuality and Sexuality: reading theories and practices, Manchester University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-7190-3605-4, p. 190
  84. ^ Charles R. Stone. The Fountainhead of Chinese Erotica: The Lord of Perfect Satisfaction (Ruyijun Zhuan) with a Translation and Critical Edition. (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2003), pp. 13-14. ISBN 0824824121.
  85. ^ Enny Arrow; facebook
  86. ^ "Writer Chick". Kristina Wright. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  87. ^ Edited by Kristina Wright. "Steamlust : Edited by Kristina Wright". Cleis Press. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  88. ^ Edited by Kristina WrightForward by Megan Hart. "Dream Lover : Edited by Kristina WrightForward by Megan Hart". Cleis Press. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  89. ^ Edited by Kristina WrightForeword by Angela Knight. "Fairy Tale Lust : Edited by Kristina WrightForeword by Angela Knight". Cleis Press. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  90. ^ Edited by Kristina Wright. "Lustfully Ever After : Edited by Kristina Wright". Cleis Press. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  91. ^ "Shanna Germain". Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  92. ^ "michelle augello-page | poetry, erotica, dark fiction, sex, writing, psychology, art". Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  93. ^ "50 Sheds of Grey spoof leaves original in the shade". MailOnline. 23 December 2012. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  94. ^ Anna Berrill (2012-11-09). "Daily Mail". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  95. ^ Jennifer Anne Skipp, British Eighteenth-century Erotic Literature: a reassessment. Ph.D. thesis, University of Leeds, 2007
  96. ^ "Eureka publicity". 
  97. ^ Hyde (1964); pp. 34-44
  98. ^ Mario Praz (1970) The Romantic Agony. Oxford University Press: 443-451
  99. ^ H. Montgomery Hyde (1964) A History of Pornography: 113-5
  100. ^ Clifford J. Scheiner (1996) The Essential Guide to Erotic Literature, Part One: Before 1920. Ware: Wordsworth: 91-113
  101. ^ Armand Coppens (1973) The Memoirs of an Erotic Bookseller. St Albans, Panther: 66-69
  102. ^ "I'd Rather Use a Cavalier Poet than a Blue Pill". 2012-05-09. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  103. ^ "The Obscenity of Censorship: A History of Indecent People and Lacivious Publications," The Erotica Bibliophile. Retrieved 29 May 2006.
  104. ^ Perhaps the earliest known appearance of this ever-popular analogy; compare "I would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel," describing The Well of Loneliness in 1928
  105. ^ Cyril Pearl (1955) The Girl With the Swansdown Seat; p. 270
  106. ^ Hyde (1964); pp. 15-16
  107. ^ Daniel J. Kevles (2001-07-22). "The Secret History of Birth Control". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-10-21. 
  108. ^ Green, Chris (2008-10-03). "Blogger wrote of murdering Girls Aloud". Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  109. ^ "Ohio man convicted for "obscene" stories in his private journal". Retrieved 2012-04-28. 
  110. ^ H. Montgomery Hyde A History of Pornography. (1969) London, Heinemann: 14


See also

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.[110] In some nations, even purely textual erotic literature is still deemed illegal and is also prosecuted.

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 has been particularly notorious for such border seizures.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution gives protection to written fiction, although the legal presumption that it does not protect obscene literature has never been overcome. (Instead, pornography has succesfully been defined legally as non-obscene, or "obscene" been shown to be so vague a term as to be unenforceable.) In 1998 Brian Dalton was charged with creation and possession of child pornography under an Ohio obscenity law. The stories were works of fiction concerning sexually abusing children which he wrote and kept, unpublished, in his private journal. He accepted a plea bargain, pled guilty and was convicted.[109] Five years later, the conviction was vacated.

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, ceased to be brought to trial following the collapse of the Inside Linda Lovelace trial in 1976. However, in October 2008, a man was unsuccessfully prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act (the R v Walker trial) for posting fictional written material to the Internet allegedly describing the kidnap, rape and murder of the pop group Girls Aloud.[108]

[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.

The new definition read:

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 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.

Modern legislation

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 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.[106] The first such law was the Comstock Act, (ch. 258 17 Stat. 598 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.[107]

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 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, James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence plus medical textbooks by such as Havelock Ellis rather than the blatant erotica which was the original target of this law.[105]

Whilst the Act itself did not change, the scope of the work affected by it did. In 1868 Sir Alexander Cockburn, 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.

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). 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.

, 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. Houses of Parliament 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 [104], 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",Lord Campbell, Lord Chief Justice 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 Obscene Publications Act 1857It was the
Erotic literature going up in smoke and its distributors being put in jail, courtesy of Anthony Comstock's New York Society for the Suppression of Vice.


The first conviction for obscenity in England occurred in 1727, when Edmund Curll was fined for the publication of Venus in the Cloister or The Nun in her Smock under the common law offence of disturbing the King's peace. This set a legal precedent for other convictions.[103] 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).

Erotic or pornographic works have often been prosecuted, censored and destroyed by the authorities on grounds of obscenity.[3] In Medieval 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' 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.

Cover of an undated American edition of Fanny Hill, c. 1910

To 1857

Early legislation

Legal status

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 and Ovid's Ars Amatoria. The Indian Kama Sutra is one of the world's best-known works of this type. The Ananga Ranga, 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, a 16th-century Arabic work by Sheikh Nefzaoui. There is anecdotal evidence that at least as late as the mid-20th century sex therapists and other physicians prescribed erotic literature as treatment for erectile dysfunction.[102]

Sex manuals

Erotic memoirs include Casanova's Histoire de ma vie, 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 and My Secret Life 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 (1865).[99] 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. 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 author indulging in lesbian sadomasochism, group sex, sodomy, bestiality, scatology, necrophilia, prostitution and vampirism: all before she had reached the age of 27.[100] 20th-century contributions to the genre include Frank Harris's My Life and Loves (1922–27) and the convicted Austrian sex criminal Edith Cadivec's Confessions and Experiences and its sequel Eros, the Meaning of My Life (published together 1930-1).[101] A 21st-century example is One Hundred Strokes of the Brush Before Bed (2004) by Melissa Panarello.

Medallion portrait of Casanova, engraving by Berka, used as frontispiece for Icosameron (1788)

Erotic memoirs

A well-known 21st century work in this genre is The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl(2005) by Belle de Jour.

In the 19th century, the sensational journalism of W. T. Stead'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 in Monsieur de Paur (1898), Octave Mirbeau in Jardin des Supplices (1899) and Jean Lorrain in Monsieur de Phocas (1901).[98]

In the 18th century directories of prostitutes and their services, such as Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies (1757–1795), provided both entertainment and instruction.

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

[97] these constituted a considerable genre, with many lubricious treatises, stories and dramas on the subject.The Deipnosophists in Athenaeus. According to Ancient Greece meaning "the writing of prostitutes", originally denoting descriptions of the lives and manners of prostitutes and their customers in pornographos" is derived from the Greek pornography was the focus of much of the earliest erotic works. The very term "Prostitution
Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies

Writings of prostitutes

Other accounts

Erotica was present on the Internet from the earliest days, as seen from rec.arts.erotica on Usenet. This news group was a moderated forum for the exchange of erotic stories that predated the creation of the World Wide Web. Most of this migrated to the alt.* hierarchy forums by the 1990s, including The vast majority of Internet erotica is of an amateur nature, written for the enjoyment of the author and readers instead of for profit. 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 or genderqueer 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.

The Internet and digital revolution in erotic depiction has changed the forms of representing scenes of a sexual nature. One researcher[95] concluded that erotic literature was available among the poor and performed at public readings in 18th-century Britain.[96]

Internet erotic fiction

Erotic fantasy fiction has similarities to romantic fantasy but is more explicit. Erotic fantasy can also be found in fan fiction, which uses plot elements and characters from popular fiction such as television series, movies or novels. Erotic fan fiction may use characters from existing works in relationships undreamed of by their creators, such as "slash" (homoerotic) fan fiction. Fan fiction and its Japanese counterpart, doujinshi, account for an enormous proportion of all erotica written today.

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. 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 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 and utilizes erotica in a fantasy setting. These stories can essentially cover any of the other subgenres of fantasy, such as high fantasy, contemporary fantasy, or even historical fantasy. The extents of the genre to break existing conventions and limits in subject matter have managed to shock popular audiences, with genres such as monster erotica emerging with the ease of digital publishing.

The debate has been rekindled by the release, in 2012, of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy written by E. L. James. The phenomenal success of her erotica for everywoman, dubbed 'mommyporn' has given rise to satires like Fifty Shames of Earl Grey by 'Fanny Merkin' (real name Andrew Shaffer), a book of essays called Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades (ed. Lori Perkins), a parody called Fifty Sheds of Grey[93] and editors of erotic imprints re-evaluating the content and presentation of the genre. Booksellers and libraries[94] also appear to be reconsidering their reluctance to carry erotica.

In the 21st century, a number of female authors have risen to prominence, including Alison Tyler, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Carol Queen. Janine Ashbless, Kristina Lloyd, and Portia da Costa are well known for their erotic novels and short stories. Kristina Wright [86] is well known for her bestselling genre themed anthologies through Cleis Press, including steampunk erotica,[87] paranormal erotic romance,[88] and fairy tale erotica,[89][90] exemplified by authors such as Shanna Germain[91] and Michelle Augello-Page.[92] Mitzi Szereto Mitzi Szereto is a high-profile editor and author who wants to see the term 'erotica' removed from novels and anthologies that include depictions of sexual activities. Other authors celebrate the term 'erotica' but also question why literature 'with the sex left in' should be considered outside of literary fiction.

Contemporary erotic fiction

In Indonesia, a mysterious erotic writer known only as Enny Arrow[85] wrote countless novels from the late 1970s until the early 1990s which were secretly circulated through magazine sellers. Most of the novels are known for their vulgar and hyperbolic, sometimes comical language. They are now regarded as classics by some Indonesians and have been scanned for historical purposes.

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

Chinese literature has a tradition of erotic fiction dating back to at least the 16th century. The earliest novel with explicit sexuality is Ruyijun zhuan (The Lord of Perfect Satisfaction), by Xu Changling. The critic Charles Stone has argued that pornographic technique is the "union of banality, obscenity, and repetition," and contains just the "rudiments" of plot, style, and characterization, while anything that is not sexually stimulating is avoided. If this is the case, he concluded, then The Lord of Perfect Satisfaction is the "fountainhead of Chinese erotica," but not pornography.[84] Another notable work is The Carnal Prayer Mat usually attributed to Li Yu (1657). The most famous sexually explicit novel is the Jin Ping Mei.

Front cover of the 1705 edition of The Carnal Prayer Mat

Asian erotic fiction

Lolita and The Story of O were published by Olympia Press, a Paris-based publisher, launched in 1953 by Maurice Girodias as a rebadged version of the Obelisk Press he inherited from his father Jack Kahane. It published a mix of erotic fiction and avant-garde literary works. 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.[83]

Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita is often described as an erotic novel, but other critics view it more as a literary drama with elements of eroticism.[82]

20th-century erotic fiction includes such classics of the genre as: Tropic of Cancer (1934) and Tropic of Capricorn (1938) by Henry Miller; The Story of O (1954) by Pauline Réage; Helen and Desire (1954) and Thongs (1955) by Alexander Trocchi; Ada, or Ardor (1969) by Vladimir Nabokov; Journal (1966), Delta of Venus (1978) [78] and Little Birds (1979) by Anaïs Nin[79][80][81] and The Bicycle Rider (1985) by Guy Davenport.

20th century

Important publishers of erotic fiction at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th were Leonard Smithers (1861–1907)[54] and Charles Carrington (1867–1921),[57] 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.[58] 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)[59][60][61][62] and The Memoirs of Dolly Morton (1899) set on a slave-plantation in the Southern States of America.[63][64][65]

Pioneering works of male homosexual erotica from this time were The Sins of the Cities of the Plain (1881),[52] which features the celebrated Victorian transvestite duo of Boulton and Park as characters,[53] and Teleny, or The Reverse of the Medal (1893).[54][55][56]

English erotic novels from this period include James Campbell Reddie; The Autobiography of a Flea (1887); Venus in India (1889) by 'Captain Charles Devereaux';[42][43][44] Flossie, a Venus of Fifteen: By one who knew this Charming Goddess and worshipped at her shrine (1897).[45] 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.[46]

Clandestine erotic periodicals of this age include The Pearl, The Oyster and The Boudoir, collections of erotic tales, rhymes, songs and parodies published in London between 1879 and 1883.

Coverpage of a catalogue of books published by Charles Carrington (Paris, 1906)

The centre of the trade in such material in England at this period was Holywell Street, off the William Dugdale (1800–1868) and John Camden Hotten (1832–1873).[47]

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, using the pseudonym "Pisanus Fraxi", 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.[48][49]

Notable European works of erotica at this time were Gamiani, or Two Nights of Excess (1833) by Frenchman Alfred de Musset and Venus in Furs (1870) by the Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch.[50][51] The latter erotic novella brought the attention of the world to the phenomenon of masochism, named after the author.

Towards the end of the 19th century, a more "cultured" form of erotica began to appear by such as the poet The Romance of Chastisement (1866). This was associated with the Decadent movement, in particular, with Aubrey Beardsley and the Yellow Book. But it was also to be found in France, amongst such writers as Pierre Louys, author of Les chansons de Bilitis (1894) (a celebration of lesbianism and sexual awakening).

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 sado-masochism were present in some examples, perhaps reflecting the influence of the English public school, where flagellation was routinely used as a punishment.[41] These clandestine works were often anonymous or written under a pseudonym, and sometimes undated, thus definite information about them often proves elusive.

19th century

In the late 18th century, such works as Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue and 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade were exemplars of the theme of sado-masochism and influenced later erotic accounts of Sadism and masochism in fiction. De Sade (as did the later writer Sacher-Masoch) lent his name to the sexual acts which he describes in his work.

Other works of French erotica from this period include Thérèse Philosophe (1748) by Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens which describes a girl's initiation into the secrets of both philosophy and sex.;[40] 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; also Les Liaisons dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, first published in 1782.

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 bidets. The climax of this trend is represented in French philosopher Diderot's Les Bijoux indiscrets (1747) in which a magic ring is employed to get women's vaginas to give an account of their intimate sexual histories.[39]

Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue

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 (1748) by John Cleland. This book set a new standard in literary smut and was often adapted for the cinema in the 20th century.

An early pioneer of the publication of erotic works in England was Edmund Curll (1675–1747) who published many of the Merryland 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.[38] The earliest work in this genre seems to be Erotopolis: The Present State of Bettyland (1684) probably by Charles Cotton. 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's A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768) entitled La Souriciere. The Mousetrap. A Facetious and Sentimental Excursion through part of Austrian Flanders and France (1794) by "Timothy Touchit".[38]

Scene from chapter eight of Fanny Hill

18th century

A unique work of this time is Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery (1684), a closet play by the notorious Restoration rake, John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester 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".[37]

Aretino also wrote the celebrated whore dialogue Ragionamenti in which the sex lives of wives, whores and nuns are compared and contrasted.[23][24] Later works in the same genre include La Retorica delle Puttane (The Whore's Rhetoric) (1642) by Ferrante Pallavicino;[25][26] L'Ecole des Filles (The school for girls) (1655), attributed to Michel Millot and Jean L'Ange.[27][28] and The Dialogues of Luisa Sigea (c. 1660) by Nicolas Chorier.[29][30] 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.[31] Donald Thomas 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".[32][33] In his diary Samuel Pepys records reading and (in an often censored passage) masturbating over this work.[34] 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.[35] 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.[36] 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 by Luisa Sigea de Velasco, an erudite poetess and maid of honor at the court of Lisbon and was then translated into Latin by Jean or Johannes Meursius. The attribution to Sigea was a lie and Meursius was a complete fabrication; the true author was Nicolas Chorier.

The 16th century was notable for the Heptameron of Marguerite de Navarre (1558), inspired by Boccaccio's Decameron and the notorious I Modi which married erotic drawings, depicting postures assumed in sexual intercourse, by Giulio Romano, with obscene sonnets by Pietro Aretino.[22]

From the 15th century, another classic of Italian erotica is a series of bawdy folk tales called the Facetiae by Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini. The Tale of Two Lovers (Latin: Historia de duobus amantibus) written in 1444 was one of the bestselling books of the 15th century, even before its author, Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, became Pope Pius II. It is one of the earliest examples of an epistolary novel, full of erotic imagery. The first printed edition was published by Ulrich Zel in Cologne between 1467 and 1470.

From the medieval period, we have the Decameron (1353) by the Italian Giovanni Boccaccio (made into a film 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 US and the UK. For instance between 1954 and 1958 eight orders for destruction of the book were made by English magistrates.[21]

Classic erotica from the Ancient World includes the Roman Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter (later made into a film by Fellini).

Title-page and frontispiece of The London Jilt; Or, the Politick Whore, London, 1683
1757 Latin edition of the Dialogues of Luisa Sigea (first published c. 1660) by Nicholas Chorier

Ancient, medieval, and early modern periods

History of western erotic fiction

Erotic fiction is the name given to fiction that deals with sex or sexual themes, generally in a more literary or serious way than the fiction seen in pornographic magazines and sometimes including elements of satire or social criticism. 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.

Erotic fiction

The Australian poet Colin Dean[19] as listed in the Australian Literature Resource database has an immense output of erotic verse e.g. Scribd.[20] He has written erotic poetry in many genres: surrealist; imagist; Gothic; Phantasy; Decadent; and on Japanese, Chinese, Arabic and Indian themes. As an example he shows a keen interest in Indian thought and literature and has written many erotic poems on Indian themes: Indian mythology; classical Sanskrit plays; Indian philosophy; Indian folktales and translated Sanskrit poetry. Some of these works are:The Caurapâñcâśikâ (The Love-Thief) Of Bilhana ;The Amarusataka of Amaru;Shakuntala;The Subhashitasringar;The-Travels-Of-Pandit-Ganja-Deen-The-Sadhaka;The-Twenty-Fifth-Tale-Of-The-Vetala;Rishyasringa;Gitavesya.

21st century

[18] Canadian poet

From the age of 17, Gavin Ewart 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's banning of his "The Pleasures of the Flesh" (1966) from their shops.

Although D. H. Lawrence could be regarded as a writer of love poems, he usually dealt in the less romantic aspects of love such as sexual frustration or the sex act itself. Ezra Pound 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, in which he reproduced the language and concerns of the people of Nottinghamshire 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; Lawrence felt wounded by this.

20th century

Pierre Louÿs helped found a literary review, La Conque in 1891,[17] where he proceeded to publish Astarte—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 (Les Chansons de Bilitis), this time with strong lesbian themes.

[16] in 1872.flagellation, on the theme of Lady Bumtickler’s Revels even wrote a pornographic comic opera, John Camden Hotten [15]

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