A Short History of Erotica
Personally, I love erotica. What could be better than a well-written story that gets you in the mood? It doesn’t always have to be fiction, and it definitely doesn’t have to be long. Sometimes a short and subtle erotic poem is much better than a prolonged novel with extensively graphic sex scenes.
It's International Literacy Day today and in celebration I’ve created a short history of erotica with everything from ancient scripts to semi-autobiographical diaries. They might not all push your buttons, but they have ignited centuries' worth of love, lust and pleasure and are still exciting to read and appreciate today.
Whether you’re into dominance and submission, seeking tales of debauchery and prostitution or looking for a classic love story there’s something in the genre for you... after all, we have the whole history of the written word to explore.
The Amores - Ovid
One of the best places to start is with Ovid, a Roman poet who wrote The Amores, a book of poetry written about an affair with a girl of higher social standing. Although his work isn’t necessarily ‘sexy’ in modern-day terms it explores love, lust and defying social norms, all themes that are popular in modern erotic novels.
Kama Sutra - Vatsyayana
You might not have heard of Ovid, but you’re bound to know this next selection. The Kama Sutra has many varieties. First written by Hindi philosopher Vatsyayana in the 2nd Century CE, the original text has seven chapters that explain the best ways to achieve satisfaction, love and pleasure.
Today there are countless versions of the Kama Sutra available, from straightforward sex positions to more philosophical explanations of pleasure.
Pre 20th Century
We’re covering a few centuries here, with good reason: there isn’t a massive amount of erotica to discuss. Censorship from religious authorities and mass-illiteracy are the two main reasons for this. Although it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t anything written.
Venus and Adonis - William Shakespeare
Although William Shakespeare is one of the most famous writers of all time, his works of erotic poetry are some of his least well known. Written between 1592 and 1593, Shakespeare took inspiration from Ovid to create Venus and Adonis, a complex poem about the nature of love and loss. With love, lust and heartache, Venus and Adonis contains some of Shakespeare’s most graphic and revealing sex scenes.
The Life and Adventures of Fanny Hill - John Cleland
From the 16th century and Shakespeare we turn to the exploits of Fanny Hill. Published in 1748, The Life and Adventures of Fanny Hill by John Cleland tells the story of a woman who moves to London after the death of her parents. To support herself, she turns to prostitution. Fanny Hill loves sex, and indulges in various exploits including mutual masturbation and lesbianism and makes no apologies for it - a fantastic combination of a classic love story and raunchy erotica.
The Works of the Marquis de Sade
One of the most graphic and shocking authors of erotic fiction is the Marquis de Sade. His works of erotica remain controversial and were cause for his imprisonment throughout the 19th century. His three most famous works, Juliette (1801), 120 Days of Sodom (1785) and Justine: The Misfortunes of Virtue (1787) all contain themes that, even today, seem extreme to some. Although well-written, themes of submission, domination, orgies and blasphemy have caused controversy for centuries, despite the fact that they’ve been incredibly popular!
Mass-printing, widespread literacy and cheaper books meant that the 20th century was one of the most important periods for erotic literature. Books that were once thought of a taboo suddenly had a large audience, while forgotten erotica became more mainstream and publishers (Black Lace and Nexus for example), sought to fulfil the needs of the buying public.
Delta of Venus - Anaïs Nin
Considered as being one of the most important writers of erotica, Anaïs Nin was one of the first women to explore the genre. Delta of Venus is a collection of erotic short stories, mostly written in the 1940s. Published posthumously in 1978, Nin explores a wide variety of taboo themes to create some of the most famous, thought-provoking and substantial collections of erotica.
Story of O - Pauline Réage
Published in 1954, Story of O is a story about female submission. Before Réage revealed her identity (and the fact she wrote the story to impress her lover), everyone thought this erotic classic was written by a man because of the extreme themes and apparently degrading portrayal of women.
The main character, O, is a beautiful photographer who voluntarily undertakes a life of submission at the hands of her lover. She is taught to be constantly available for oral, vaginal and anal intercourse and is subject to extreme bondage practices.
Lady Chatterley's Lover - D.H Lawrence
Before the 1960s, Lady Chatterley’s Lover was considered to be extreme and pornographic. The romantic love story that we recognise today wasn’t always considered a classic, in fact it believed to be too obscene for a mass audience. The famous tale of an upper-class woman who falls in love and rediscovers sex and sensuality was banned in Britain until 1960.
Things have changed for erotic fiction, and erotic literature in general. Although erotic novels are still being written and printed, the popularity of the short story and erotic novella has increased. Not only that, but the Internet has created a phenomenon whereby people can write their own erotic stories for everyone to read.
Whatever you want to read, whenever, Literotica is based in the United States and is a free erotic fiction website which allows registered users to read the work of others and post their own stories. For obvious reasons they prohibit certain stories, but generally you find and publish anything, whatever your fetish and wherever your fantasies take you.
The Secret Adventures of a London Call Girl - Belle de Jour
Sound familiar? The semi-autobiographical tale of Belle de Jour has captured the imagination of audiences all over the world. The book-come-diary started off as a blog, with a frank no-nonsense description of the world of prostitution in London. With similar themes to The Life and Adventures of Fanny Hill, it seems that the the way that people receive erotica may has changed, but the stories themselves have not.
Looking for modern erotic fiction but don't know where to start? Our best-selling erotic work is K D Grace's The Initiation of Ms Holly.