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Big Books Feature

The Books

Reading Smut from the 1950’s to the Present

By Wendy Ward | Posted 9/27/2006

Think about sex a lot? Not as often as I have during a week of reading seven smutty books of porn, written through the ages, and now on my skin. Sitting in solitude on my back deck, with a glass of wine or a brown bottle of beer and too many cigarettes to count, I read page after page of sexual escapades, businesslike relations, and the pain and/or pleasure they cause. My assignment became punishment more than once when the last thing I wanted to digest were the dirty words I had to take in, even when I had no more room inside for them. It felt like I, too, took part in the action by placing myself in the room with lovers and haters, an accomplice to what is done when men and/or women mingle their bodies and minds in what can only be called, at this point in my memory, a clusterfuck of fucking.

I got turned on; I got off, and not always by myself, because although I was alone in my bookish voyeurism, I was not always alone with my thoughts and the body that had ingested these books. I began to think like the obedient O, I fantasized living off the land sharing my old man with another, I tried to imagine what a pussy looks like hidden under a penis and the feeling of Crisco between ass cheeks. I'm only a little perverse, but like everyone else, I just want some satisfaction. And if someone got hurt by all that I learned and felt during that week, I hope they liked it.

[Read Tim Kreider's review of contemporary smut book Lost Girls]


Pauline Réage, Story of O (Grove Press)

Girl-on-girl Boy-on-girl Branding High Fashion
S&M Masks Secret Society Whips
Piercing Jealousy    

This 1954 novelette is the perfect induction to imprisonment between the booksheets, and in many ways the ground zero of European literary smut that would explode over the next two publishing decades. O is a young Parisian fashion photographer, and Réage-the pen name of Anne Desclos, who wrote the book on the bet that a woman couldn't write something "erotic"-has an absolute affinity for fabrics and color. O is taken by René, the man she loves, to Roissy, a secret society, where she is left to learn the difficult skills of humiliation and submissiveness, and to view her body and heart as the property of René, and any man he'd give her to.

Despite its accolades-it was awarded France's Prix des Deux Magots in 1955-Story of O is disturbing, fatalistic, and a painful read, and not just for the pain afflicted upon women's bodies. If I paled at the first mention of forced sodomy, chained whippings, and gangbanging, I soon learned, like O, to take it without complaint, impersonally. The first time I got turned on was when O got turned on in the book, fairly deep in and involuntary-on both of our parts. I understood when, with no control over her body, the pain inflicted onto her caused her pleasure. With lovely descriptions-although the writing, like much midcentury French in translation, is clinical at times-Story of O is disturbing and terribly sad when it ends.

Frances Lengel (aka Alexander Trocchi) White Thighs (Blast Books)

Class Distinction Girl-on-girl S&M Masks
Secret Society Sex Club High Fashion Whips
Branding Piercing Jealousy Partner Swapping

This total horn-dog story, a 1955 novel set at the turn of the 20th century, also deals with domination and the psychologically controlled relationships that take place between unequal partners, with plenty of nipples purple as plumes and, well, white thighs. The child Saul fails to notice the sexuality of his nursemaid, Anna, until the night he sees his Uncle Harris forcefully take her after making her put on heels and black nylons. Saul kills his uncle in revenge, but, alas, the nursemaid marries the guy she's been banging in the dell.

Years pass while Saul is in Europe until, as a young adult, he comes home to take over the estate left to him. He gets it on with Anna and kills her no-good husband, but instead of living happily ever after with the woman he had pledged his undying love to, he gets enchanted by husky head maid Kirstin, who takes her role as dominatrix quite seriously-and brings the other maids of the house to the lair of a basement rumpus-room torture chamber. By the end of this short and arousing book, Saul is under yet another woman's spell and makes a new mistress out of the most recent maid brought in to work on his estate.

You sense a pattern with the dirty Saul, a man who never outgrew his need to suckle at the breast of the woman in charge of his body and mind. White Thighs was one of the books written strictly for easy money by Scottish novelist Trocchi-better known for 1957's Young Adam, 1961's Cain's Book, and editing Paris' 1950s Left Bank avant-garde magazine Merlin-for smut publisher Maurice Girodias. I honestly don't know why this perverse little book was such a turn-on-it's kind of crass, certainly nasty, and a touch embarrassing-but in it I found a release to the buildup and punishment of Story of O.

Carlton Jones Naked Junction (Olympia Press)

Boy-on-Girl Boy-on-Boy Girl on Girl on Boy Drugs
Outdoor Sex Partner Swapping Kids Watching  

This 1970 entry from Maurice Girodias' dirty-book imprint Olympia Press is a totally groovy story about a married couple, Steve and Ruth, who move away from their open marriage in New York to a simpler life in New Mexico, where they live off the land and raise their teenage son and preteen daughter. Life gets complicated and a whole lot sweatier when Steve's ex-girlfriend Julia comes to New Mexico with her daughter, looking for Steve to be her Old Man-and Steve is not sure how his Old Lady is going to react to another Old Lady living in their home. But after some nice hallucinogens, they all get it on and get along and can fruits and take drugs happily together. Ruth even invites her ex-boyfriend Lang to be her other Old Man.

The narrator, Steve, was a magazine editor in New York, which explains the good writing and results in a satisfactory read, not just a hot one. All the bodies in the twosomes in that beat-up truck of his, the threesomes in their platform bed, and the foursomes by the fire pit are hot hot hot. And slippery hippie sex smells better on paper.

David Mason, Devil's Food (Ophelia Press)

Boy-on-Girl Girl on Girl Boy on Boy Drugs
Hippies Demons Orgy Scene in Plane

This 1969 novel from Olympia offshoot Ophelia is, once again, set at a time when every free-loving liberal is wearing bell-bottomed jeans in the parks of San Francisco and New York and the hip club kids are sporting the same but in silver lamé. Two plain and unpopular schoolgirls, Jane and Tina, conjure up the demon Azaf to make them fabulous groupies. Jane, the one with a hand at magic, becomes the mistress of Azaf's, and he helps her in her quest to become the queen of New York. And since human girls require sleep at the end of each day, Azaf uses his sexual prowess and horny shape-shifter ability to fuck many young hippie types. Silliness ensues as political types and the public bow down to Queen Jane's power. Azaf, working both coasts, brings a fellow demon, the sexy Tanit, to San Fran for her own orgy of power over rock 'n' roll-loving hippies and freaks and faggots who just want to copulate and have some fun.

Devil's Food is loaded with lots of long hair, wide-brimmed hats, chains, bare chests, free-love escapades, and drugs, plus funny characters and bands modeled after the real thing-Jim Morrison and Bread types-and a fey, gay artist/filmmaker celebrity running a Warholian factory. Lots of reefer smoking. The Mafia plays a small role. Pretty hot, that demon Azaf had it going on.

Eleanor Bartlett, Sticky Fingers (Grove Press)

Boy on Girl Girl on Girl Boy Wanting Boy Kids Watching
Whips Threesome Orgy Religion
Scene in Plane Cucumber Dildo    

This 1970 novel is absurdly cute, and the chubby girl Doreen gets hers in the end. Brought up by missionary parents, Doreen nevertheless sees her parents go at it while reciting Bible passages and gets an itch for which she can't find relief. She seduces her own father in the tub, but no gross incest or anything, she just wants him to pop his weasel. Mom, however, catches her and takes her to a doctor who pops her cherry. She is sent to Catholic school, where she immediately loses it to a lover her age, and so on and so forth. For real. Her itch is scratched by so many men and women who gain sexual healing from between her fleshy thighs that she ends up in Washington, D.C., with acknowledgement from all her past partners and a medal from the president, along with a presidential proposition.

This silly dovetail of religion and sin, with all the sex going on, is almost satiric. Maybe I'm just numb from all the dirty words I've read to this point, but Sticky Fingers didn't really get me going. It was more an entertaining ditty, and for that, a bit of fresh air between the covers.

M. Christian Transgender Erotica: Trans Figures (Haworth Press)

Girl on Girl Boy on Girl Boy/Girl on Boy Boy/Girl on Boy and on and on to Infinity
Crisco Leather Whips Loads of Surgery
Fetishes Cross-Dressing Fisting, Loads of Fisting One Werewolf

Perhaps I was a tad tuckered when I read this 2006 collection, but, whoa: story after story of transgendered folks forced down my throat. Started slow and clinical but got interesting for all the variations of sexual encounters and genitals. I freaking tripped balls on this one because of the many styles of writing and stories told. There are lesbians who get sex changes and find they're attracted to men. There's a little gay boi in the throw-down arena of a leather club. People write what they know, need, or want, right? That's the way it reads.

Many of these stories feel like the embellished autobiographical writing you find in college short-story classes; you get a sense of what it's like for someone whose body is a lie living in a society where it seems very few people understand that situation. It does contain some pretty hot homo sex and women getting women off, along with lots of fantasies and the pain the lifestyle causes-and the pain we cause one another in the name of sex and love and hate. Exhausting, this book took me the longest to read, and not just because it was so dense. It felt like gender musical chairs.

Melissa P. The Scent of Your Breath (Grove Press)

Boy on Girl Sensuality Abortion Menstruation
Make-Up Sex Jealousy Couples  

Halfway through Trans Figures' mind-fuck I picked up this new short novel, the second outing from the young Italian writer Melissa Panarello, who became an overnight scàndalo with her 2004 memoir of her teenage years, One Hundred Strokes of the Brush Before Bed. Scent is a modern love story written as a letter to her mother, where the letter writer's thoughts and consciousness stream come through clearer than the plot. The action is kept to a minimum, just enough to help you understand why she feels and thinks and does what she feels and thinks and does. The sex is dreamy yet realistic, bodies move quickly, but by the end, like life and love, it moves so slowly.

Scent is the most sensual of these books here. I read half, quickly, before finishing the transgender collection, and came back to this melancholic, slim story to end my journey to both dark and light places. With Rome as its backdrop, Scent is a truthful story of a relationship gone sour and the way your own mind plays tricks with your heart and body. Panarello is the only student out of a year of short-story classes with a lick of skill, and the brains to know short and bittersweet is the way she rolls.

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