I have studied erotica and erotic artists extensively. I plan to write a review monthly. So far, these have been shared: Pierre Louÿs; Gerard Damiano; Pietro Aretino; the Turin Erotic Papyrus; Terri Hall; D.H Lawrence; Shunga; John Cleland; Le Crazy Horse; the Rolling Stones; Moche Ceramics; Julien Mandel; Elizabeth Bennett; Redd Foxx; Q; Molly Bennett; Oh! Calcutta; Milo Manara; Stoya; Amateur Allure; Dita von Teese; Henry Miller; Jamie Gillis; Marquis de Sade; Kiki of Montparnasse; Inanna & Dumazid; the Kama Sutra; Mihály Zichy; Violet Blue; Ovid; Early Films; Hot Girls Wanted; Pompeii and Herculaneum Erotic Art; Sappho; Anais Nin; Prince; and Michelangelo. (You can also find these reviews in the Blog).
Pierre Louÿs (1870-1925) was a French author, poet and photographer. He explored various aspects of sexuality, especially focusing on lesbianism. Among others, his works included Astarte; The Songs of Bilitis; Aphrodite – Ancient Manners; The Adventures of King Pausolus; The She-Devils; The Woman and the Puppet; Death Watch and The Young Girl’s Handbook of Good Manners for Use in Educational Establishments. He was greatly influenced by the classical Greeks and by the Parnassian and Symbolist schools. As well, he took over 10,000 nude and erotic photographs.
Louÿs was a best-selling author of his day. He was made a Chevalier, then an Officer of the Legion of Honor for his contributions to French literature. Based on his work, Debussy scored the musical accompaniments Songs of Bilitis and Six Antique Epigraphs; Bunuel made the film That Obscure Object of Desire; and Honegger composed the operetta King Pausolus. Many artists illustrated his writings, like Barbier, Foujita and Manara. He was a close friend of Wilde, Valery, Mallarme, Gide and Debussy. The Daughters of Bilitis, a pioneering lesbian organization, was named after The Songs of Bilitis.
I enjoyed Louÿs work. I thought his style was exquisite, if a little ornate. He wrote lightly but seriously about sexuality. The Songs of Bilitis is an elegant collection of verse by a Greek poet, c. 600 BC, centering on her love for other women, with Louÿs as translator. (A sensation when published, it was ultimately revealed that Louÿs had actually written it). Aphrodite – Ancient Manners tells the sensuous story of a courtesan in ancient Alexandria. The Young Girls Handbook is a raucous parody of instructions for female students. A remarkable achievement: a widely-read and critically-respected writer of erotica.
The poem “To Her Breasts” from The Songs of Bilitis:
Flowers in flesh, oh my breasts! How richly voluptuous you are! My breasts in my hands, how you have softness and mellow warmth and youthful perfume!
Formerly, you were icy like the breasts of a statue and hard like insensible marble. But since you have become yielding, I will cherish you more, you that were already loved.
Your sleek and rounded shape is the honor of my brown body. Whether I imprison you under a golden fishnet, whether I set you free naked, you precede me with your splendor.
Be then happy this night. If my fingers beget caresses, you alone will know them until tomorrow morning; for this night, Bilitis has paid Bilitis.
(Translated by S. Gray)
Gerard Damiano (1928-2008) was a director and writer of erotic films. His works included Deep Throat, The Devil in Miss Jones, Memories within Miss Aggie, The Story of Joanna, Let My Puppets Come, Odyssey, and The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue. Originally a hair-dresser and then the owner of beauty salons in Queens, he overheard sexual gossip by his clients, and this led him to conclude that an erotic film that appealed to couples would be successful. He also stated that being a hair-dresser gave him a deeper understanding of women. He began in films as a crew member for sexploitation movies, before moving onto erotic films in the late 1960’s. From 1969 to 1991, he directed more than 50 films. Occasionally, he also appeared in small roles in his movies.
Deep Throat was his most famous film. The premise of this comedy was that a woman was unable to have an orgasm. She discovered that her clitoris was actually in her throat. She could only climax through fellatio in which the erect penis reached down into her throat. Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems starred. Shot in Miami and New York City in six days, it cost $25,000 and went onto gross, by some estimates, over $600 million. The budget was supplied by the Columbo crime family. Plot, character development and high production values were featured for the first time in an erotic film. It was prosecuted for obscenity several times, sometimes winning, sometimes not. It was also condemned by religious groups and damned by feminists. (Linda Boreman, appearing under the stage name Linda Lovelace, claimed that she had been forced to perform in the film by her abusive husband). The XRCO Hall of Fame inducted it as their first film. Dubbed “Porno Chic” and the “Gone with the Wind of Pornography”, it was wildly popular with the public.
I felt a lot of respect for Damiano’s work. He was one of the pioneers of the erotic film as art. Deep Throat was cheesy but funny. The Devil in Miss Jones was a tragic depiction of lust. The Story of Joanna was a seductive exploration of submission. Odyssey was a fascinating look at sexual difficulties. (It was the first erotic film I ever saw).
(A link to Deep Throat: http://www.xvideos.com/video4915112/deep_throat).
May 2016 (designated for the April 2016 column)
Pietro Aretino (1492-1556) was a poet, playwright, satirist and letter-writer. He is known as the father of modern literary erotica. Among his works were The Lust Sonnets; The School of Whoredom; Discussions; Marriage Woes; The Courtesan; The Secret Life of Nuns; and The Secret Life of Wives. His writings usually took the form of dialogues, with a satirical edge. He also wrote many non-erotic pieces, especially plays about the poor and the working-class. His work greatly influenced the Elizabethan dramatists.
Aretino was a man who lived by his wits. He depended on his patrons for support and protection, among whom were Pope Clement VII, Pope Julius III, Frederico Gonzaga II and Giovanni de Medici. He was also a blackmailer, who used information he collected by leading others into vice. Called “The Scourge of Princes”, because of his blackmail and his satires, he was very feared in the arts and politics. (And, as a result, despite his patrons, he was almost murdered once and had to flee for his life a few times). He was the friend of Titian, who painted him. A legend exists that he died of laughing too much. His tombstone carried the epitaph “Here Aretino, the Tuscan poet, lies, who all the world abused, except God. Why? He knew him not”. (The epitaph was later removed by the Inquisition).
Aretino ranged widely in erotica. The Lust Sonnets were poems describing lovemaking positions. (They were created to accompany The Sixteen Pleasures, Guliano Romano’s erotic drawings). The School of Whoredom was a conversation between a prostitute and her daughter about the tricks of the trade. Discussions was an account by Roman prostitutes about the immorality of rich men in their city. Marriage Woes told the story of a man who is over-joyed to discover that the woman he was forced to marry is actually another man. (Aretino was bisexual). The Courtesan featured a Cardinal who is taught to lie so he can win himself a mistress. The Secret Life of Nuns and its sequel The Secret Life of Wives recounted the sexual adventures of women in those roles.
I found Aretino’s work wicked and sarcastic. His style was polished but the intent was raw and blatant. With The Lust Sonnets, however, he created the first modern literary sexual art.
From The Lust Sonnets:
Let’s fuck, my soul, let’s fuck right away,
Because we are all born to fuck;
You adore cock, I love cunt,
The world is nothing without this.
(Translated by S. Gray)
(Titian’s portrait of Aretino is displayed above)
TURIN EROTIC PAPYRUS
The Turin Erotic Papyrus is a collection of sexual illustrations. The artist is unknown. It was created in Deir el-Medina, a village near Thebes in Egypt, about 1150 BC, during the reign of Pharoah Rameses the Great. The area is more familiarly known as the Valley of the Kings and was inhabited by the workers who built the royal tombs there. The papyrus was discovered buried in a vase in 1820 and taken to the Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy. It was kept locked away, visitors having to register to view it. Only in 1975 was it displayed publicly.
The Papyrus is a scroll containing 12 erotic drawings. The first third depicts animals engaged in human activities (playing music, hunting, besieging, etc.) The last two thirds show couples making love. (Humans engaged in animal activities?) Balding, middle-aged men and beautiful, young women have sex in various positions, including in a chariot. Both indoor and outdoor scenes are included. An assortment of items surround the couples (a rattle for the god of love Hathor; musical instruments; jars full of wine and beer; huge phalluses, sometimes supported by women; lotuses, considered symbols of fertility; perfume bottles, often balanced on women’s buttocks, et. al.) Genitals are shown, the men’s penises enormous. Dialogue is scribbled in the margins (“…come behind me with your love….it is agreeable work”). The scroll is 8 ½ feet long by 10 inches high. It is meant to be read from right to left. The illustrations were drawn in black ink and colored in. Over the centuries it has been badly damaged but now has been reconstructed.
The Papyrus’ purpose is unclear. It may have portrayed the gods, priests or the Pharoah making love. Most likely, it represented scenes in a brothel, either as a sort of Kama Sutra or an aid for arousal.
The reconstructed Turin Erotic Papyrus is a gorgeous work of art. The couples look like they are enjoying themselves. It is also humorous. (One man appears to fall out of bed, exhausted). A fascinating piece of sexual art: one of the oldest in the world.
Terri Hall (1953-1995) was an actress of the Golden Age of Erotic Films. She had been trained as a dancer and performed with the Harkness Ballet, the Stuttgart Ballet and the American Ballet Theater. Interested in acting, she was cast in The Taking of Christina, her first adult movie. She made about 50 erotic films from 1976 to 1985, in lead or supporting roles. These included Farewell, Scarlet; The Story of Joanna; Suzi’s Take-out Service; Alice in Wonderland; Ecstasy in Blue; Oriental Blue; Odyssey; The Opening of Misty Beethoven; et.al. A talented and professional actress, with a powerful presence, she became a star. Unfortunately, she is less remembered than others from that period.
I have always thought that Terri Hall was the foremost actress during the Golden Age. She combined a sensual face, wispy voice and lithe body for a sizzling sexuality. Also known as National Velvet, she closely resembled Elizabeth Taylor. The first time I saw her was in The Story of Joanna. An unforgettable performer.
A clip from Misty Beethoven: http://www.xvideos.com/video19661675/teri_hall_loves_jamie_gillis
D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) was an English novelist, critic, playwright, essayist, and painter. His central theme was the damage that modern life inflicts on people. His style was personal and confessional. Among his novels were Sons and Lovers; The Rainbow; Women in Love; and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. His books of criticism included Studies in Classic American Literature, which figured largely in the rediscovery of Melville. As well, he was known for his travel books, like Mornings in Mexico and Sea and Sardinia. Toward the end of his life he painted in oil.
Lawrence was the first mainstream writer to write about sexuality directly. Women in Love focused on homosexuality. Lady Chatterley’s Lover depicts lovemaking plainly. “The Noble Englishman” and “Don’t Look at Me”, poems, were sexual. His paintings, like Boccaccio Story, were erotic. Because of his sexual art, he was persecuted and censored by the British government, misrepresented by critics, made to live in poverty and forced to flee into exile. Even his paintings were seized in a raid at London’s Warren Gallery. (In addition, he struggled to write while suffering from a variety of respiratory illnesses most of his life). In a trial in the United Kingdom in 1960 the court found Lady Chatterley’s Lover not guilty of obscenity. This led to the challenge of its ban in many countries and the freedom to publish literature concerned with sexual art.
Lawrence was perhaps the finest writer of his generation. An admiration for fascism and an acceptance of male supremacy led, however, to an authoritarian vision. But that a writer of his importance wrote erotica was significant. He was a breakthrough as a sexual artist. While I am dismayed by the darker aspects of his creativity, I respect his gift and his pioneering work.
Shunga were drawings depicting lovemaking that were created by Japanese artists. The name translated as “pictures of spring”, spring being another name for the sexual act. They were a type of ukiyo-e, that is, idealized portraits of life. Shunga showed heterosexuality, homosexuality, masturbation and bestiality. Sexual positions were acrobatic, and genitals were often placed close to the face as a result of those positions. Because nudity was not considered erotic in Japan., figures were clothed. (At the communal baths everyone was naked). Genitals, however, were exposed, and their sizes were exaggerated. (They were called “second faces”). Shunga mostly showed ordinary people. Courtesans, actors and the upper class were also occasionally portrayed. After the opening of Japan, western dress and haircuts were sometimes included. Text and dialogue accompanied the drawings, and symbols were inserted, like plum blossoms for virginity and tissue for impending ejaculation. They were also sold as books called empons, containing twelve unrelated images. As well as for pleasurable viewing, shunga were used for sex education. They were considered lucky charms, too.
From the 8th to the 12th centuries shunga were painted scrolls. During the 17th to the mid-19th century they were colored woodblock prints. This was the Golden Age, and all classes of people enjoyed them. Government censorship to suppress them was widespread but ineffective. In the late 19th century and early 20th century shunga declined because photography (and erotic photos) was introduced into Japan. Nowadays they continue to influence hentai (video games, manga, anime), and a small subgenre of hentai consisting of shunga exists. They are still prohibited in Japan.
Most Japanese artists painted shunga. Probably the most prominent artist to do so was Katsushika Hokusai. As well, Kitagawa Utamaro was famous. Also known was Yanagawa Shigenobu, Keisai Eisen, Miyagawa Isho, Koryusai Isoda and Hishikawa Moronobu. Because of official repression, these artists often had their names hidden or symbols representing them inserted in the pictures. Contemporary shunga are still created by Hajime Sorayama. Pablo Picasso painted at least one, and their influence persists on David Laity and Masami Teraoka.
I have always loved shunga, particularly by Hokusai and Utamaro. Their colors are glorious. And the lovers are intense in their lovemaking!
John Cleland (1709-1789) was an author and philologist. Poor most of his life, he had also been a soldier and civil servant. His works included Fanny Hill: or, the Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure; Memoirs of a Coxcomb; The Woman of Honour; The Surprises of Love; Titus Vespasian; The Ladies Subscription; Tombo-Chiqui, or, The American Savage; Dictionary of Love; The Times!; and The Oeconomy of a Winter’s Day. He also wrote three books arguing that the Celtic languages were the basis from which all other languages derived; translations; reviews for the Monthly Review; letters for the Public Advertiser; and two medical works. A difficult, quarrelsome man, he was, nevertheless, a friend of David Garrick, James Boswell and Samuel Johnson.
Fanny Hill, published in 1748-9, was Cleland’s most famous book. The story recounts the life of an innocent, uneducated country girl who becomes a prostitute in London. It is unusual in that the point of view is female. Fanny is bemused by men but appreciative of them. A strong, liberated heroine, she feels no guilt about her profession and ends up with a loving husband. The book takes the form of a letter-novel and is told in retrospect. Its central themes include sexual education as the basis for all other knowledge and an acceptance of sexuality if it is not carried to an extreme. Fanny Hill is sometimes thought to be a homoerotic work because the book features what was a rare description of homosexuality in those times; Fanny is obsessed with penis size; and rumors persist about the author. The book also includes bondage and voyeurism. It was written on a dare from a friend to show that erotica could be created without swear words. (Sexuality is only described with metaphors). Cleland’s obituary stated that he received 100 pounds in a yearly annuity from the British government not to write any more erotica, though this was probably invented by the eulogist.
John Cleland, along with his publisher and printer, were prosecuted for obscenity because of Fanny Hill. He noted that he “wished, with all my soul that the book be buried and forgot”. The book was officially suppressed but it was republished the next year in a censored version and thereafter became a best seller. The original version remained illegal until 1966 with the U.S. Supreme Court judgment of A Book Named “John Cleland’s Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure” v. Attorney General of Massachusetts, which held that under the U.S. Constitution a modicum of merit precluded its condemnation as obscene. A few years later, it also became available legally in the United Kingdom.
I loved Fanny Hill when I read it some years ago. Playful, elegant, it depicted a world –and a woman –free of Puritan repressions. We are closer to that outlook now, thankfully.
LE CRAZY HORSE DE PARIS
Le Crazy Horse is a cabaret in Paris renowned for its chic and elegant eroticism. It was founded in 1951 by the late Alain Bernardin. Thirty semi-nude dancers as well as one or two variety performers are featured. The dancers are uniform in appearance (thin, pert breasts, long legs) but originate from many different countries. Often coming from a ballet background, they receive intensive additional training at Le Crazy Horse. They wear custom-made costumes and specially-made “Crazy Red” lipstick, and stage lights bathe them, also creating part of their outfits. The dancers perform in acts with storylines. After their first show, they are given stage names, like Ero Tikka, Candy St. Louis and Daizy Blu. Celebrities sometimes appear, among them Dita Von Teese, Arielle Dombasle and Pamela Anderson. Magicians, mimes, jugglers and dancers are featured as variety performers. Collaborating to create the show are prominent designers, choreographers and composers. The venue is a former wine cellar with a red motif, accented with plush velvet, lacquered wood and huge mirrors, and it is intimate, a small space with modular tables and chairs. An additional show called Crazy Horse Paris is staged in Las Vegas.
I visited Le Crazy Horse in Paris in 2009 and was enthralled with the show. The dancers were stunning. Roman and Slava, twin tap dancers, were hilarious. The space was gorgeous, like a jewelry box. What a perfect blend of sophistication and sexuality!
A link to a scene from Le Crazy Horse:
THE ROLLING STONES
The Rolling Stones are an English rock-and-roll group. Founded in 1962 in London with various personnel, their classic line-up emerged in 1963: Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman. Mick Taylor and Ron Wood later joined the group. Ian Stewart and Darryl Jones were involved as regular sidemen. Coming out of a Chicago blues background and heavily influenced by the Beatles, in their glory years the Stones were referred to as “the world’s greatest rock-and-roll band”. The albums recorded in that period (Beggar’s Banquet, Let It Bleed, Get Your Ya-Yas Out, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, Goat’s Head Soup) are considered among the best of popular music. In 2016 they are still creating music with their latest album, Lonesome and Blue.
The Rolling Stones composed several songs about sexuality. These include: Let’s Spend the Night Together (lovemaking); Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow? (female prostitution); Stray Cat Blues (underage sex); Cocksucker Blues (male prostitution); Brown Sugar (interracial sex): and Star, Star (groupies). The songs are very direct and streetwise. Unfortunately, they are also occasionally misogynistic. Even the non-sexual songs, drawing on that blues background, tend to be touched with lust. (The Stones logo is a big, lapping tongue).
I have always liked the sexual songs of the Rolling Stones as I have their music in general. The songs are very erotic and knowing. Their anti-woman edge, however, has always been off-putting for me.
A link to Star, Star: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1zgmM2lalo
MOCHE EROTIC CERAMICS
Moche erotic ceramics are pottery with figurines perched on top. They are made of clay and painted. Often used as a pitcher, their spouts are usually in the shape of a penis. The figurines are naturalistic and explicit and typically engaged in a sexual act. Depictions include fondling; kissing; fellatio; masturbation; vaginal intercourse; and anal intercourse. Also featured are coupling between animals; between women and mythical animals; and between women and skeletons. Faces of the figurines are sober, though now and then a grin breaks out. Oddly, while they make love, the woman frequently breastfeeds an infant. As well, vaginal intercourse is rare, though anal intercourse is common. In the ceramics that survive, there are no examples of cunnilingus, female masturbation, gay sex or lesbianism. The pottery was produced in Moche temples and has been found only in the graves of nobles. Their purpose was unclear, though there are some theories that they are religious. The Spanish destroyed most of them, scandalized by their eroticism. Five hundred pieces rest now in the Museo Larco in Lima, Peru, and in private collections.
The Moche people lived on the northern coast of Peru, their civilization active from about 100 to 800 AD. They constructed huge pyramids and extensive aqueducts and were skilled metalworkers. Though they had no written language, they recorded their lives in murals and ceramics. The murals and ceramics displayed a huge range of activities, including war, birth, crafts, hunting, sacrifices, and, of course, sexual acts.
I have always loved the Moche ceramics. At the university I attended, I taped a photo of one of them –a man with an enormous penis protruding from his body –to my dorm room door. I still have the picture!
(Below are two examples: a couple making love and a penis).
Julien Mandel (1872-1935) was a French photographer of nudes. He posed his models in classical poses, both in the studio and out-of-doors. (One of his models was Alice Prin, the famous Kiki of Montparnasse). He was active in Paris from the 1910s to the 1930s. His work was published by Alfred Noyer, Les Studios, P-C Paris, and the Neue Photographische Gesellschaft. The photos were postcard-sized, though they were not meant to be mailed. (The cards were considered to be obscene). “J. Mandel” was stamped on each postcard. The cards sold in large numbers and are now considered collectable items.
Mandel wanted erotic photography to be seen as an art. He created exquisite photographs, painting with tones of light. His work was art.
Elizabeth Bennett (b. 1943) is a painter of erotic nudes and other subjects. Her work is rendered in pastels. It has been featured in Playboy, Cosmopolitan, the New York Times and various publications. In 1981an exhibition of her pen and ink portraits that had been published in the New York Times was staged at Niagara Community College. Born in New York City, she always knew she wanted to be an artist. She began painting at age 5 when she was given a set of oil paints by her parents. Later she studied at Parsons School of Design. Chuck Natoli, the fashion illustrator, was a mentor, and she was a trainee in the fashion advertising department of JC Penney’s. For a time, in the 1980’s, she lived in Hong Kong. Later she had a home and studio on the East Coast.
I have loved Bennett’s nudes since I first saw them in Playboy in the 1970’s. They are gorgeous. An artist who should be better-known.
Drawing is very intimate. The women you see here were friends to begin with or they become friends. Many of them agreed to pose in return for one of my sketches. We exchanged time. Every drawing was a cooperative effort, something that we worked toward through the evening. Something worth sharing.
I call these sketches exploratory drawings. I wanted to study the peaceful eroticism that comes over a women’s body in repose. The models would arrive at the studio about 10 PM. We’d share an Irish coffee, look at first editions of Beardsley, Rackham & Dulac, then they’d relax, fall asleep, dream. The transformation was close to the change you see in a lover after making love. The devils in them would disappear. Sleep is a mystery. Sometimes I would work until morning, trying to capture that magic, that beauty.
Frank Harris (1855-1931) was a British writer, editor and publisher. He wrote many books, including The Bomb; The Man Shakespeare and his Tragic Life Story; The Yellow Ticket and Other Stories; Contemporary Portraits; and My Reminiscences as a Cowboy. He edited a series of London papers including the London Evening News; the Fortnightly Review; and the Saturday Review as well as the American Pearson’s Magazine. Known as a great talker and contrarian, Harris was variously a conservative, socialist and anarchist. He was the friend or acquaintance of many famous people, including Bernard Shaw, Wilde, Crane, Whitman, Crowley, Churchill and Wells. A notorious womanizer, at one time he maintained two separate families and appeared to have had children by several other women.
My Life and Loves was Harris’s autobiography. It was published in four volumes from 1922 to 1927, with a fifth volume, based on notes found after his death, published in 1954. He wrote it, he noted, to see “if a man can tell the truth naked and unashamed about himself and his amorous adventures in the world.” Writing it was also his response to becoming sexually impotent. The book contained zestful descriptions of his lovers and their lovemaking. It also included boastful explanations of his role in history as well as vivid portraits of the many famous people he knew. (H.G. Wells called his books “….writing that was loud talk in ink”). Some of My Life and Loves was clearly imaginary. (As Time magazine reflected in 1960, “Had he not been a thundering liar, Frank Harris would have been a great autobiographer….he had the crippling disqualification that he told the truth, as Max Beerbohm remarked, only ‘when his invention flagged’.”). The first volume was burnt by customs officials and the second volume resulted in him being charged with corrupting public morals. The New York Supreme Court ruled the book ‘unquestionably obscene, lewd, lascivious and indecent’, and it was banned in several countries.
Harris also created a card game called Dirty Banshee. The art on the cards showed satyrs and goddesses engaged in assorted positions of sexual intercourse.
I was fascinated with My Life and Loves when I read it years ago. It was refreshing to encounter a book that wrote explicitly about sexuality, instead of tip-toeing around it. But I was aware, even then, that at least some of it was invented. A unique book.
Redd Foxx (1922-1991) was an American comedian and actor. He was famous, of course, for his role as Fred Sanford on the TV series Sanford and Son. He was also, however, known for his raunchy comedy. In the 1950’s he began appearing in nightclubs. Very quickly he was signed to Dootone Records and went on to release more than 50 albums. Known as the “King of the Party Records”, he influenced a generation of comedians, including Richard Pryor and Chris Rock. Foxx was one of the first black comedians to appear before white audiences. He used his success to get jobs for other people of color, like Slappy White, LaWanda Page, Gregory Sierra and Pat Morita. His films included All the Fine Young Cannibals, Cotton Comes to Harlem, Harlem Nights, and Ghost of a Chance. He died of a heart attack on the set of the TV series The Royal Family. It was a routine he had faked on Sanford and Son so, at first, the other actors thought he was kidding.
A Redd Foxx joke, as quoted in the James Ellroy novel Blood’s a Rover:
Foxx delivers a eulogy at the wake of a murdered rogue LAPD detective including the line, “Scotty Bennett was fucking a porcupine. I gots to tell you motherfuckers that it was a female porcupine, so I don’t see nothing perverted in it.”
And a link to “Jokes I Can’t Tell on Television”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0N9uOXdiEU
Q, also known as Desire, (2011) is a French film about a young woman named Cécile. After her father dies, in despair, she turns to promiscuity. Her encounters include friends and strangers. Sexual acts portrayed are fellatio, cunnilingus, intercourse and masturbation, both of self and others. Filmed in Cherbourg, during the 2008 Great Recession, its characters are young people trying to survive through poorly-paid jobs or crime. An older married couple also figures in the story. The characters’s frustrations and disconnectedness is the movie’s theme. Surprisingly, it has a happy ending. (Or perhaps not so surprisingly: the film is dedicated “To Cyril Collard, and to all those who still believe that love means something”). Laurent Bouhnik wrote and directed. Actors featured are Déborah Lévy, Hélène Zimmer, Gowan Didi, Christelle Benoit and Patrick Hauthier. None of them have appeared previously in adult films.
I thought that Q was a remarkable movie. A mainstream film, it depicts sexuality openly. The possibility existed during the Golden Age of adult films that sexuality would begin to be woven into mainstream films, instead of being hidden. Unfortunately, this has rarely occurred. It was refreshing, then, to see a movie that accomplishes this and so beautifully and matter-of-factly. And it has a striking opening, repeated periodically: women in a shower talking but filmed only from the breasts to the thighs, in tones of blue and gray.
A warning: Q is not subtitled in English. With my rudimentary French I was able to parse the film, however.
A link to the movie, with Brazilian subtitles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V54yhhoqc6U&t=4786s
Molly Bennett (b. 1993) is an adult film actress. She is tall, voluptuous, blonde, green-eyed tattooed and pierced. She is also the epitome of the “girl next door”: friendly, down-to-earth, a bit nerdish. The captain of the flag team at her Los Angeles high school, she said that she “hung out with the band geeks”. (She is a sort of openly sexual Alyson Hannigan). Though she has a reputation for being innocent, she notes that she has a dark side, too, occasionally asking her boyfriend to choke her and pull her hair when they make love. Bennett began working in adult films in 2012. She got involved in them by chance, after being offered a fellatio scene and enjoying it. Her over 100 films include She’s So Cute!, I Know That Girl, Perfect Blondes, All American Girls, College Daze, et. al., for a variety of companies (3rd Degree, Adam & Eve, Mile High, Elegant Angel, Twisty’s, FTV, Reality Kings, etc.) Moreover, she is a Ganja Girl, appearing on that website to promote recreational marijuana. On set she is known to be cheerful and cooperative.
Molly Bennett is one of the most erotic actresses in contemporary adult films, certainly the best performer in the “girl next door” genre. She should be better known!
A link to one of her videos: https://www.xvideos.com/video6607714/cute_blonde_molly_bennett_enjoys_having_super_passionate_sex_with_her_man
Oh! Calcutta was a theater revue created by British drama critic Kenneth Tynan. The show consisted of brief erotic sketches and featured nudity. It debuted off-Broadway in 1969 and has been revived off and on ever since, making it one of the longest-running revues in Broadway history. For several years it was also staged in London. The show’s name was based on a pun of the title of a Clovis Trouille painting. The title was “O quel cul t’as!”, French for “What an ass you have!” The painting depicts the tattooed behind of a young woman and was used as a backdrop on the stage.
Sketches were written by Samuel Beckett, John Lennon, Sam Shepard, Dan Greenburg, David Newman, Robert Benton, Edna O’Brien, Jules Feiffer, and Kenneth Tynan. Peter Schickele, Robert Dennis and Stanley Walden composed the music. Jacques Levy directed, and Margo Sappington choreographed. Among others, at various times, the cast included Raina Barrett, Mark Dempsey, Samantha Harper, Patricia Hawkins, Mitchell McGuire, Gary Rethmeier, Nancy Tribush, Margo Sappington, Bill Macy and George Welbes. A film of the stage version was released in 1972.
Oh! Calcutta opens with a slow striptease by the cast. Sketches that follow include a fairy tale ending with a rape; a suite of singers using material from sexy letters to the editor; lovers arguing about experimentation; different generations of swingers clashing; Victorian bondage going awry; and a sex experiment becoming a burlesque. Following the intermission, sketches include nude cast members free-form dancing; a son telling his father what he likes about sex; and a group masturbation falling apart. The finale consists of cast members singing, dancing and stripping and then yelling out comments reflecting what they suppose the audience is really thinking about the revue.
Oh! Calcutta is a sexy, pleasant show. It has a feel reminiscent of 70’s adult films, though the sex is simulated. All the sketches are at least mildly entertaining. It is refreshing to see sex explored in the theater.
A link to the 1972 film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAWUqvgtniY&t=2636s.
Milo Manara (b. 1945) is an Italian erotic cartoonist. His comix depict beautiful, elegant women caught up in unlikely situations. Click, for example, features a woman who becomes overwhelmingly aroused when a button is pushed. His works include Jolanda de Almaviva, The Adventures of Giuseppe Bergman, Butterscotch, and Indian Summer. His most well-known series is probably Lo Scimmiotto (The Ape). He has illustrated a number of erotic literary works, including ones by Jonathan Swift,Pierre Louÿs, Apuleius, and the Vatsyayana. Manara has also illustrated a variety of comics, including superheros, westerns, myths and horror. Especially noted are his X-Men: Ragazze in fuga; The Sandman: Endless Nights; and his variant covers for issues of Marvel Comics. As well, the animated characters for the series “City Hunters” were developed by him. He has also designed a motorcycle helmet for the rider Valentino Rossi and drawn record covers for the band Biffy Clyro. While Manara has often both illustrated and written his work, his collaborations with others have included Frederico Fellini, Hugo Pratt, Pedro Almodòvar, Chris Claremont, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Neil Gaiman. He has been honored with a Yellow Kid Prize; a Gran Guinigi Prize; a Harvey Award; and an Eisner Award and has been inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame.
I have always enjoyed Manara’s work. I remember stopping by Virgin Records while wandering around Times Square in New York City, just to leaf through the latest issues of his work in their book section. Though somewhat adolescent in theme, his illustrations are consistently gorgeous.
(Illustration at right is from Click).
Stoya (b. 1986) is an adult film actress, director and writer. A tall, pale brunette, with a dancer’s body, she is known to be intelligent and articulate. In 2007 she began working in the alt-porn genre, films which explore sexuality in off-beat and creative ways. Her movies include Voracious, Pirates, Nurses, Watch Over Me and Skip Trace, as well as the series Around the World in 80 Ways. The podcast Aural Spaces is co-run by Stoya and Mitcz Marzoni. At one time she was contracted to Digital Playground and was the co-owner of the website TRENCHCOATx with Kayden Kross. She has also appeared in several non-erotic, independent movies, like Ederlezi Rising, The Kingpin of Pain, Leaving Circadia and The Pilgrim. Stoya has written on erotic subjects for the New York Times, Vice, Esquire, Playboy, The Guardian and Nylon, as well as on her blog Hello, Stoya. She also writes a sex-advice column for The Verge. Her awards include a 2009 AVN Best New Starlet Award and a 2012 AVN Award – Hottest Sex Scene (Fan Award).
I love Stoya’s films. They are edgy and sexy. And so is she!
A link to “Classic Stoya”: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=stoya+porn+masturbation&&view=detail&mid=37233E6788E9DD5B603B37233E6788E9DD5B603B&FORM=VRDGAR
Amateur Allure is an adult entertainment website featuring young women with the “girl next door” look. The female performers either are appearing in a sex scene for the first time (and may never appear again) or they are brand new to the business. A man called “Thomas”, who handles all the production tasks, is the male performer. The format: a short interview; a display of physical attributes; oral sex; and intercourse, usually doggy-style, followed by missionary. Occasionally other routines spice things up: threesomes, foursomes, holiday themes, costumes. The women are treated respectfully and affectionately. Production values are high. The women are elegantly made-up with attractive haircuts and clothes. The setting is a stylish apartment. Camera work uses a soft halo effect and includes the camera swooping behind or alongside the woman as she performs fellatio. As the website’s signature move, the man releases in the woman’s mouth and asks her to show the results on her tongue. The site won the 2015 Adult Video Network Best Pro-Am Release Award.
Amateur Allure is the best adult entertainment site for the “girl next door” look. Highly recommended.
And a link: https://www.amateurallure.com/tour/scenes/Cadey-Mercury-and-Jill-Kassidy-POV-Horny-Schoolgirls-Love-to-Suck-Cock_vids.html
DITA VON TEESE
Dita Von Teese (b. 1972) is an erotic dancer, model, designer, singer, writer and actor. She is best-known as one of the stars of Neo-Burlesque dancing. Trained in ballet, she began performing striptease in 1992. Her look is retro: a throwback to 1940’s glamor, though with a hint of the fetish culture. (She designs her own costumes). Her dance routines are imaginative: lounging in a giant martini glass, riding astride a giant carousel horse, displaying herself wearing nothing but $5 million worth of diamonds, etc. In 2006 she was the first guest star to perform at Paris’s Crazy Horse revue. Von Teese’s modeling has included both magazines and the catwalk. (Her first fame came about through a 2002 Playboy cover and pictorial). She has modeled for top designers like Gaulthier, Jacob, Vuitton and Valli. Von Teese has written two books: Burlesque and the Art of the Teese/Fetish and The Art of the Teese and Your Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Beauty. In the past Von Teese has performed in soft-core, fetish films, like Romancing Sara, Matter of Trust, Pin Ups 2 and Decadence, and in recent years in mainstream movies such as The Death of Salvador Dali and Saint Francis as well as in television shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and America’s Next Top Model. Her videos include work with Green Day, Royal Crown Revue, Thirty Seconds to Mars and Marilyn Manson. In 2015 Von Teese released a self-titled album. She has also been active with the animal rights movement and in the fight against AIDS.
Dita Von Teese is a delight: sexy, entertaining, creative. Still performing at the age of 45, she notes that her idol Gypsy Rose Lee had a long career because she changed her act based on her age. “So who knows?” she says, smiling. “If you’d asked me when I was 21 what I was going to be doing now, I would have said, ‘There’s no way I’ll be doing a feather-fan dance with hardly any clothes on….! That’s so old!’”
A link to one of her martini glass routines: https://www.xvideos.com/video24074471/dita_von_teese._sexy_dance_strip
Henry Miller (1891-1980) was an American writer and painter. His many books included Tropic of Cancer, Black Spring, Tropic of Capricorn, The Cosmological Eye, Quiet Days in Clichy, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare and The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy. He wrote about his life in New York and Paris, especially his sexual life. Developing a new literary form, he combined story, social criticism, philosophy, free association and mysticism, and he blended fiction and reality. He also wrote travel memoirs and literary criticism. He greatly influenced a number of writers, especially within the Beat Generation. His painting was mostly done in watercolors.
Miller was groundbreaking in the depiction of sexuality in his books. His language was explicit, and the acts described were graphic. Tropic of Cancer, his first published book, was published in Paris and banned in the United States and Britain on the grounds of obscenity. Several subsequent books were banned but smuggled into the US, earning him an underground reputation. Finally, in 1961, Tropic of Cancer was published in the United States, leading to a number of obscenity trials and culminating in the 1964 Supreme Court decision in Grove Press, Inc., v. Gerstein that declared the book a work of literature. It was a watershed moment for sexual art.
I have always been ambivalent about Henry Miller’s work. While I value its vitality, I have often been revolted by its grossness. But, with the 1964 Supreme Court decision that began to free sexual art in the United States, no one can deny its importance.
Jamie Gillis (1943-2010) was one of the premiere stars and directors of the Golden Age of Adult Films. A classically-trained repertory actor, in the early 1960’s, in New York City, he answered an ad for nude modeling and then became involved first in peep show films and later in the Golden Age erotic films. His 470 movies included The Story of Joanna; The Opening of Misty Beethoven; Barbara Broadcast; Coming of Angels; Through the Looking Glass; Oriental Blue; and Ecstasy Girls. As a director, with his On the Prowl series, he created reality erotic films. (This inspired a scene in the movie Boogie Nights). He also co-produced The Dirty Debutantes series, the first casting series. Bisexual, he appeared in a several gay scenes or films. Gillis appeared in live sex shows, reciting Shakespeare soliloquies to provide a “socially redeeming purpose” and avoid obscenity charges. He appeared in some mainstream films, like Nighthawks, as well. A member of the Adult Video Network and the XRCO Hall of Fame, he was the recipient of 12 of those organization’s awards. He was a talented raconteur, who had wanted his ashes scattered in Times Square but years later changed his mind, declaring that the cleaned-up Times Square would contaminate his ashes.
I first saw him in The Story of Joanna and thought he was remarkable. His pioneering work on reality and casting erotic films was a breakthrough. A great sexual artist.
A clip to Story of Joanna: https://www.xvideos.com/video30075655/the_story_of_joanna_vintage_movie
MARQUIS DE SADE
The Marquis de Sade (1740-1814), real name: Donatien François, was a writer, philosopher and criminal. He was infamous for his libertine sexuality. At various times, he raped and tortured men, women and children. His best-known books reflected his life, blending erotica and violence. They included Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man; The 120 Days of Sodom; Histories, Stories and Fables; Justine; Aline and Valcour; Philosophy in the Bedroom; Juliette; and Secret History of Isabelle of Bavaria, Queen of France. Most of them were published anonymously. As a result of his actions and writings, he spent 32 years in prisons or insane asylums. (Many of his works were written there). His name, of course, inspired the noun “sadist”.
I am appalled at the Marquis de Sade’s books. In those that I have read all gentleness and love are absent. With 120 Day of Sodom, for instance, De Sade wanted to write “the most impure tale that has ever been written since the world exists”. His works have an abstract value –as a sort of turning the world upside down –but they also inspired Nietzsche, who in turn laid one of the philosophical foundations for Nazism. What a waste of paper.
KIKI OF MONTPARNASSE
Kiki of Montparnasse (1901-1953) was a French artist, model and muse. Born illegitimately, she was raised by her grandmother in poverty. At the age of 12, she arrived in Paris and worked in a series of low-paying jobs. She began posing nude for a sculptor in her teens, quickly becoming a popular model, though she was sometimes still homeless. Among other artists who painted or photographed her were Soutine, Mandel, Foujita, Modigliani, Picabia, Cocteau, Breker, Calder and Kisling. She was the lover and muse of Man Ray, who photographed her extensively. (She also had a lengthy list of other lovers). Kiki appeared in several short films, including Léger’s Ballet Mécanique and Ray’s L’Étoile de Mer. A sold-out exhibition of her naïve paintings was displayed at the Galerie au Sacre du Printemps in Paris. Her autobiography was published as Kiki’s Memoirs, with Ernest Hemingway and Tsuguharu Foujita providing introductions. (The book was banned in the United States immediately and not published here until 1996). Kiki’s music hall performances in scanty lingerie featured risqué songs. Finally, she collapsed and died in the street from alcohol and drug complications.
Kiki was a marvel: bawdy, loud, free-wheeling and more than anything else a liberated woman. She didn’t give a damn! As Hemingway wrote, she was “about as close as people get nowadays to being a Queen but that, of course, is very different from being a lady”.
(At right are two views of Kiki).
INANNA AND DUMAZID
Poems about the goddess Inanna and the god Dumazid are the earliest erotic literature. They were written about 2500 BC. The goddess and god were part of the Sumerian religion. Inanna symbolized the Lover while Dumazid represented the Shepherd. Their interactions are depicted in a number of poems, some erotic, some not. There are many erotic verses about them, and they are preserved indirectly through Assyrian and Babylonian copies. During the Akitu festival, embodying Dumazid and Inanna, the Sumerian King legitimized his reign by engaging in ritualized sexual intercourse with the High Priestess. (Some scholars, however, think that this is based on a misinterpretation of Sumerian texts and may never have happened). Inanna was later referred to as Ishtar or Venus; Dumazid was later referred to as Tammuz or Adonis. Their stories were reflected in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Bible, Greek myths, and Assyrian and Babylonian literature. Milton also wrote about Dumazid (calling him Tammuz) in Paradise Lost. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem may have been built over a shrine to Tammuz. The Sumerian religion survived in the Middle East until the 18th century.
Below is one of the poems:
My vulva, the horn,/The Boat of Heaven,/Is full of eagerness like the young moon./My untilled land lies fallow./As for me, Inanna,/Who will plow my vulva?/Who will plow my high field?/Who will plow my wet ground?/As for me, the young woman,/Who will plow my vulva?/Who will station the ox there?/Who will plow my vulva?
A fascinating early relic of sexuality….
To the right is a Babylonian depiction of the sexual intercourse between Inanna and Dumazid.
THE KAMA SUTRA
The Kama Sutra is a philosophical treatise by the Hindu scholar Vātsyāyana. The book focuses on the relationships between men and women. In part, it contains advice about sexuality, including lovemaking positions. Its seven sections include: general remarks; lovemaking; marriage; wives; other women; courtesans; and sexual energy. The Kama Sutra is a prose work with occasional poetry. Originally it contained no illustrations, though many have been added subsequently Based on several earlier texts, it was compiled about the 2nd century AD. It was introduced to the West in 1883 by Sir Richard Burton and has gone through several other translations.
The Kama Sutra is a fascinating work. In line with Hindu belief, the book sees correct relationships between men and women, including sexuality, as a path to escaping rebirth.
Mihály Zichy (1827-1906) was a Hungarian Romantic painter. Among his works were “Lifeboat”, “Autodafé”, “Drinking Bout of Henry III”, “The Victory of the Genius of Destruction” and “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin”. He also painted portraits of Queen Elisabeth and Prime Minister Lajos Batthyány. As well, he worked as an illustrator (The Tragedy of Man by Madách, and twenty-four ballads of János Arany); a retoucher; and an art teacher. For Tsar Alexander II, he was a court artist. Zichy traveled widely in Europe, though he spent most of his life in Paris and St. Petersburg. Influenced by the politics of the era, he supported anticolonialism and antimilitarism. He founded a society to support impoverished painters.
Zichy drew numerous erotic sketches in ink. They varied widely (foreplay, masturbation, cunnilingus, fellatio, mutual masturbation, intercourse). His sketches are exquisite. He captured lovers realistically, and he conveyed them with intensity and passion. They look like they were partners in more than just their bodies. He also created many lovely drawings of female nudes.
Violet Blue is an American writer on sexuality, technology and privacy. She is the author of numerous books, including The Smart Girl’s Guide to Porn; The Ultimate Guide to Sexual Fantasy: How to Turn Your Fantasies into Reality; The Ultimate Guide to Cunnilingus: How to Go Down on a Woman and Give Her Exquisite Pleasure; The Ultimate Guide to Fellatio: How to Go Down on a Man and Give Him Mind-Blowing Pleasure; How To Be A Digital Revolutionary; and The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacy. As an editor, she has produced Best Sex Writing 2005; and Best Women’s Erotica, years 2006 to 2011. As a journalist, she has worked for CBS Interactive and Geek Entertainment Television and written a sex column for the San Francisco Chronicle. Blue maintains a blog at www.tinynibbles.com, covering a wide variety of sexual topics. Her podcast Open Source Sex also explores these subjects. Her Digita Publications releases DRM-free audiobooks and ebooks on sexuality. Blue has lectured at San Francisco Sex Information. Among other media, she has appeared on BBC, CNN and Oprah Winfrey as well as in Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal. In 2006 and 2007 she was honored with Independent Publishers Book Awards, erotica category.
Violet Blue is one of the best contemporary writers on sexuality. Her tinynibbles contains smart and accurate information about sexuality. Her Open Source Sex and Eye Candy, the latter a part of Open Source Sex, are eye-opening sources for current erotica. I love her work! She is a treasure!
Ovid, formally Publius Ovidius Naso, (43 BC-17 AD) was a Roman poet and playwright. He wrote verse on various topics, though much of it was about love, especially erotic love. Among his works were Women’s Facial Cosmetics; The Cure for Love; Metamorphoses; The Festivals; and The Ibis. His erotic poetry included The Loves and The Art of Love. He was enormously popular in his lifetime and was a major influence on Shakespeare, Marlowe and Cervantes. He is now considered one of the foremost Latin poets.
The Loves is about the poet’s relationship with his mistress Corinna. It consists of 49 poems, in three books, in elegiac couplets. Some of the verse is sexual. In the piece love triumphs over people, a first use of this plot. The Art of Love is about seduction. It consists of 57 poems, in three books, in elegiac couplets. In turn, it teaches how to seduce women; how to keep women; and how to seduce men. Much of the poetry is sexual. The erotica depicted ranges from deep love to wild desire.
Ovid’s poetry is a delight. It is knowing and witty. An excerpt from The Loves:
I snatched her gown, being thin the harm was small,/Yet strived she to be covered therewithal, /And, striving thus as one that would be chaste,/Betrayed herself, and yielded at the last./Stark naked as she stood before my eye,/Not one flaw on her body could I spy./What arms and shoulders did I touch and see?/How likely her breasts were to be pressed by me?/How smooth a belly under her waist saw I?/How lovely a calf, and what a lusty thigh?/To leave the rest, all liked me passing well;/I clung to her naked body and down she fell. /Judge you the rest./ Being tired, she bade me kiss.
Please note: no authentic portrait of Ovid exists. The picture at right is from a fresco by Luca Signorelli.
Erotic films started to appear virtually with the invention of motion pictures. They were shown in brothels, private clubs and homes. Filmmakers found that there was great profit in their production.
Softcore films began to be shown in 1896. Le Coucher de la Mariée, a French film, featured Louise Willy doing a striptease and was directed by Eugène Pirou and filmed by Albert Kirchner. The Coochie-Coochie Dance, an American film, had the belly dancer Fatima gyrating. The Kiss, an American film, showed May Irwin and John Rice performing the very first kiss on film and was directed by William Heise for the Edison Studios. Beginning in 1906, the Austrian films Das Sandbad, Baden Verboten, Das Eitle Stubenmädchen, Beim Fotografen and dozens of other movies exhibited nude women in various scenarios. They were created by Johann Schwarzer and his Saturn-Film Studios.
Hardcore films are rumored to have been first shown about 1900. South American brothels are said to have displayed them about that time, though none survive. A L’Ecu d’Or ou la Bonne Auberge (c. 1908), a French film, depicts a soldier and two servant girls having oral sex and intercourse at an inn. El Sátirio (c. 1908), an Argentinian film, has a woman and the devil performing 69 and intercourse in the countryside. Am Abend (c. 1910), a German film, displays a woman masturbating in her bedroom, then a man joining her for fellatio and intercourse. A Free Ride (c. 1915), an American film, has a man and two women engaging in mutual masturbation, fellatio and intercourse in the woods.
The early erotic films are fascinating to watch. They display, in a crude version, the same cinematic techniques used in later erotic films. Well-worth viewing.
A link to Free Ride: https://www.xvideos.com/video1994497/antique_porn_1915_-_a_free_ride.
HOT GIRLS WANTED
Hot Girls Wanted (2015) is a documentary about young women who work in the adult film industry. It features Stella May, Lucy Tyler, Ava Taylor and Jade, the last of whom does not use a surname. They are all brand new performers in adult movies. Managed by Riley Reynolds of Hussie Models, they go on shoots, shop, club or hang out in rented rooms at Reynolds’ home in Miami. One young woman visits her family back in Texas and ultimately drops out of the films. Another explains the bottom-line: “Are you kidding me? I made $900 in five hours. I’m going to go home and make $8.25 an hour? No. No, no, no, no.” In pursuit of that, some of the young women decide to appear in abusive videos. Hot Girls Wanted was directed by Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus and was written by Brittany Huckabee. Among others, Rashida Jones produced.
Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On (2017) is a spin-off miniseries exploring further aspects of the adult film industry.
Hot Girls Wanted is a fascinating look behind the scenes of adult movies. Instead of the fantasies that show up onscreen, the realities of these young women are depicted. They are hopeful, bored, innocent. More than anything, they are normal young women struggling to become adults. Highly recommended.
POMPEII AND HERCULANEUM EROTIC ART
Erotic art was discovered in 1752 at the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. They dated back to 79 AD when those cities were destroyed by a volcanic eruption. Originally they were placed in the Secret Museum section of the Naples National Archaeological Museum. Due to the shock at their eroticism, for most of the years since then, they have been shown only to a handful of people. They are now available for viewing to all. Minors, however, are still only allowed entry with an adult or written permission.
The erotic art recovered included sculptures, frescoes, mosaics and household objects. Graffiti was also found. The sculpture perhaps the most famous was “Pan and the Goat”, which depicted them engaged in intercourse. Frescos and mosaics featured Priapus, the god of sex, and other deities as well as people in various sexual acts. Household objects were mainly phalluses, used as windchimes, lamps, decorations, etc. Graffiti was diverse but often offered services: “Euplia sucks for five sesterces” or “If anyone is looking for some tender love in this town, keep in mind that here all the girls are very friendly”. In addition to brothels, the art was located in homes, gardens, judicial courts, theaters, public baths and even in the streets. Straight sex, gay sex, group sex and bestiality is displayed.
The erotic art of Pompeii and Herculaneum offers a complicated view of sexuality. It is straight-forward, reflecting the open attitude toward sexuality in Roman culture of the late first century. Interestingly, instead of focusing exclusively on the pleasurable element, as is the current view, it also represented fertility. The art, especially the sculpture, is often exquisitely-made. But most of the women and some of the men depicted in the frescos and mosaics look oddly joyless, if not grim. (They were slaves, who were used as sex workers). Strangely, their customers also appear unhappy. One is left wondering exactly what these Romans felt about sexuality.
Sappho (c. 630-570 BC) was a Greek poet from the island of Lesbos. Little is known about her for certain. She is said to have come from a wealthy family, with several brothers. She is supposed to have been married and to have had a daughter. She is believed to have run a finishing school for young women and to have been exiled to Sicily about 600 BC, though she was later allowed to return to her home.
Sappho wrote poems mainly about her love for other women. She explored this both romantically and erotically. She also wrote verse about family, marriage and old age as well as elegies. Her genre was lyric poetry, verse recited to the accompaniment of a lyre, solo or in a chorus. One of the first poets to use “I”, she adopted a personal tone, and she wrote with simplicity and clarity. Her language was Aeolian Greek. Sappho’s collected works contained around 10,000 lines, though only one complete poem and several fragments survive, numbering about 650 lines. Widely popular and respected for her verse through the centuries, she was known as “The Poetess” and “The Tenth Muse”. One admirer said of her poems, “Are you not astonished?”
Sappho’s erotic poetry was exquisite. Intense emotion was a hallmark. It is a tragedy that so few of her poems still exist. I wish I could listen to her verse as it was meant to be heard: accompanied by the lyre, much as a singer-songwriter performs with a guitar or piano nowadays.
From Fragment 31, as Sappho watches her beloved talk to a man:
That man to me seems equal to the gods,/the man who sits opposite you/and close by listens/to your sweet voice and your enticing laughter—/that indeed has stirred up the heart in my breast./For whenever I look at you even briefly/I can no longer say a single thing, but my tongue is frozen in silence;/instantly a delicate flame runs beneath my skin;/with my eyes I see nothing;/my ears make a whirring noise./A cold sweat covers me,/trembling seizes my body,/and I am greener than grass./ Lacking but little of death do I seem.
(Above is a painting of Sappho on pottery created by the Sappho Painter, c. 510 BC)
Anais Nin (1903-1977) was a French-American writer, dancer, actor and therapist. She wrote novels, short stories, criticism, essays and erotica. Starting at age 11 and until her death, she kept diaries, and these became her best-known books. Surrealism and psychoanalysis greatly influenced her writing. She also brought a strongly feminine viewpoint to her work. In the 1920’s Nin trained as a flamenco dancer in Paris with Francisco Miralles Arnau. Her films included Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome; Ritual in Transfigured Time; and Bells of Atlantis. In the 1930’s she studied under psychoanalysts René Allendy and Otto Rank. She was a friend or lover of many famous people, including Henry Miller, John Steinbeck, Antonin Artaud, Gore Vidal, Lawrence Durrell and Carlos Castaneda. In 1974 she was elected to the United States National Institute of Arts and Letters.
Nin wrote three books of erotica: Delta of Venus; Little Birds; and Auletris. A wealthy man paid her to produce the works. None were meant to be published, though the first two were released in her lifetime and the last posthumously. Because of her feminine viewpoint, a focus on the senses, feelings and relationships was prominent. Her style was elegant and without obscenities. Topics explored were sometimes extreme, however: prostitution, incest, threesomes, rape, pedophilia, bestiality, sadomasochism, etc., etc. Incest, the third volume of her diaries, details the sexual abuse she suffered from her father. Other diaries recounted her extra-marital affairs and bigamous marriages.
I have always enjoyed Nin’s erotica. It is beautifully-written. And the way it communicates a woman’s viewpoint about sexuality is a breakthrough in erotica. On the other hand, I have been put off by some of the subjects she covered, as referenced above.
“I had a feeling that Pandora’s Box contained the mysteries of woman’s sensuality, so different from a man’s and for which man’s language was so inadequate. The language of sex had yet to be invented. The language of the senses was yet to be explored.”
“Only the united beat of sex and the heart can create ecstasy.”
Prince (1958-2016), real name: Prince Rogers Nelson, was a musician, producer, actor and filmmaker. A multi-instrumentalist, he played guitar superbly and could sing from falsetto to baritone. His music was a blend of many genres: funk, soul, jazz, rock. Prince released 39 albums, including Controversy; Purple Rain; Around the World in a Day; and Diamonds and Pearls. Among his hits were “1999”; “When Doves Cry”; “Let’s Go Crazy”; and “Raspberry Beret”. His 1984 film Purple Rain was autobiographical. Prince won eight Grammy Awards; six American Music Awards; a Golden Globe Award; and an Academy Award, and he sold over 100 million records. In 2004 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Prince was famous for his flamboyance, both on and off stage. His wild fashions, favoring the color purple, and his prominent make-up gave him an androgynous look.
Prince composed numerous erotic songs. Among them were “Darling Nikki” (masturbation); “Head” (oral sex); “Jack U Off” (handjobs); “Sister” (incest); “Erotic City” (intercourse); “Sugar Walls” (vaginas); “Orgasm” (orgasms); and “Uptown” (orgies). His work explored the connections of spirituality and sexuality. At times he saw them in conflict with each other. At other times he felt they meshed perfectly. Toward the end of his life, however, he became a Jehovah’s Witness and toned down the eroticism of his songs.
I always loved Prince’s music. They were a backdrop for the 1980’s for me. I also respected that his music continued to develop in subsequent years. And I remain fascinated by his investigation of religion and eroticism.
“Hard to say what’s right when all I wanna do is wrong”.
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, known by his first name Michelangelo, (1475-1564) was an Italian sculptor, painter, poet and architect. Among his most famous works were the statues Pietà and David, the frescoes Genesis and The Last Judgment and the designs of the Laurentian Library and St. Peter’s Basilica. As well, he composed over three hundred sonnets, elegies and madrigals. Michelangelo was called Il Divino (“the divine one”) by his contemporaries. He is considered by many as the greatest artist who ever lived.
Michelangelo often focused on beautiful men in his art. He portrayed them nude both in his paintings and statues, and he frequently made presentation drawings to give to them. He also hired young men as his models. (Some of them became his lovers but then blackmailed him or stole from him). But it was in his poetry and letters that he most explicitly displayed his passion. He wrote especially about and to Tommaso dei Cavalieri and Cecchino dei Bracci.
I am a resolute heterosexual but I first got some inkling of what a gay man feels when I saw David. It is a gorgeous, voluptuous figure. What a gift from Michelangelo to have communicated to the world the love he felt for men.
Below is an excerpt of an elegy to dei Bracci and to the right is David.
the flesh and bones are here in the earth/without those beautiful eyes and pretty face/remind me about what was graceful in bed/that embraced, that lives in the soul.
(Translated by S. Grey)
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was, of course, the greatest writer who ever lived. His works consist of 39 plays, 154 sonnets and two long poems. The plays fall into three categories: comedies, dramas and histories. Touching on practically all aspects of life, Shakespeare created a universal art. He is considered England’s national poet. Many of the lines from his writings have entered into common usage. His works have been translated into every language and are performed more widely than any other playwright’s.
Shakespeare wove erotica throughout his writings. This ranged from romance to gender roles to sexual violence. Romeo and Juliet focused on young romance. The Sonnets showed his lust for a married woman and his desire for a young man. Comedy of Errors played with gender. Venus and Adonis described seduction. The Rape of Lucrece recounted a rape. Raucous sexual puns are also scattered throughout his works.
I have always loved William Shakespeare’s writings. When I was 15, I had a lucid dream about meeting Shakespeare, and I took it as a sign that I should be a writer. What a delight to come upon the erotica in his plays and poetry.
Graze on my lips, and if those hills be dry/Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.”