Long before movies and television, there was the written word. Novels have often controversially transcribed both subtle and graphic sexual acts in all their amusing, erotic and sometimes even disturbing forms.
This isn’t true only in contemporary novels; authors were blazing trails and breaking taboos during those times in history when candid conversations about sex — let alone detailed stories about them —were critically shunned or downright banned. Since magazines like Hustler and Allen Ginsberg’s poetry collection Howl challenged the laws on what is obscene and what is art, however, a whole new world has opened up in mainstream literature. Although some authors always wrote erotic novels, now the average person is no longer afraid to indulge in the more juicy, and usually unexplored, aspects of human relationships through their reading material. Of course, the anonymity of the e-reader has undoubtedly helped the erotic genre grow to become a dominant player in the world of literature.
Sexuality may be a little daunting for writers and readers alike, but the authors listed below — who became known for some of the most frank and graphic depictions of sex and sexual themes in literature —go all the way in their shocking books. Most of these authors likely knew their works would be at least met with disapproval and at worst shunned by the literary community at large. But they wrote them anyway, and thank goodness they did; these 8 erotic novels have proven to be some of the most popular and gamechanging in literary history.
8 Blue is the Warmest Colour - Julie Maroh
7 Candy - Terry Southern
6 6. Tropic of Cancer - Henry Miller
When Henry Miller finally managed to have Tropic of Cancer published in 1932, it was banned in America. With a first-person narrative that seemed more like memoir than fiction, his descriptions of life in down-and-out Paris were extraordinarily realistic. In the book, Miller cursed (avidly and often), criticized people of different races, and depicted women in acts considered to be lewd and outrageous at the time.
5 Delta of Venus - Anais Nin
4 50 Shades of Grey - EL James
3 The Story of O - Pauline Reage
2 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
1 120 Days of Sodom - Marquis de Sade
Written on a 12-metre long piece of paper by the imprisoned French nobleman Marquis de Sade, 120 Days of Sodom consistently ranks as one of the most influential, widely-read 'erotic' novels. It was written in 1785, telling the story of four rich noblemen who decide to experience the ultimate gratification in a series of orgies and disturbing sex acts. The men lock themselves in a castle with 46 “victims,” most of whom are young men and women. There, the sexual acts increase in perversion and violence until, finally, the 46 victims are slaughtered for the pleasure of the men. The novel was adapted into a film in 1975 that was, of course, controversial in its own right. Both the novel and the film, although controversial, have been hailed as great works.
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