A Short History on Erotic Romance
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Believe it or not, Erotic Romance has been around for centuries. Although in polite discourse, I’d say it’s only been in the last decade that it’s become part of mainstream conversation. Since the founding fathers graced the New England coast, a battle has been waged on what is and is not appropriate literature. Works like Lady Chatterley's Lover and Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman were once considered what we might now call Erotic Romance or at least Erotic Literature. Their propensity to describe the reactions within the human body, especially concerning the male reaction to a female form, is predictable and yet we wait with bated breath to read the words that are written for both our enjoyment and our eventual comfort.
"[...] With a queer obedience, she lay down on the blanket. Then she felt the soft, groping, helplessly desirous hand touching her body, feeling for her face. The hand stroked her face softly, softly, with infinite soothing and assurance, and at last there was the soft touch of a kiss on her cheek.
She lay quite still, in a sort of sleep, in a sort of dream. Then she quivered as she felt his hand groping softly, yet with queer thwarted clumsiness, among her clothing. Yet the hand knew, too, how to unclothe her where it wanted. He drew down the thin silk sheath, slowly, carefully, right down and over her feet. Then with a quiver of exquisite pleasure he touched the warm soft body and touched her navel for a moment in a kiss. And he had to come into her at once, to enter the peace on earth of her soft, quiescent body. It was the moment of pure peace for him, the entry into the body of the woman. [...]"
- an excerpt from Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence taken from a Newsweek article by: David A. Kaplan
In the beginning war was waged on both the spoken word and what people wrote down. Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass for instance was banned in 1882 because Anthony Comstock found the writings offensive and Voltaire. And despite the First Amendment being passed in 1791 formulating the freedom of speech and press, the application in literature seemed subjective.
Still, people found ways to write about both the human body and it’s almost predictable reaction to other human bodies. Advertisements, self-published shorts and the like all gave way for people to engage in reading and being obviously highly entertained not only by love stories, but stories which contain love and sex scenes of different sort. Apparently the first time the word Pussy was used in a sexual context was in a barroom toast. “Here’s to good health to thee, good company and good pussy!” - Psychology Today.
Enter the Sexual Revolution
When the 1960’s came rolling around, America was in the throes of a sexual revolution. The Beatles were blowing up across the country and communal gatherings like Woodstock were the place to be. “Make Love Not War” was as much about protesting the Vietnam War as it was about sexual freedom. Especially for women who felt continually oppressed by the societal stereotypes of being housewives or secretaries, as if those were the only jobs women were capable of doing.
Women began to embrace their own sexual nature as the seventies rolled around. And as the decades have moved on, we’ve embraced broader ideas of sexual expression.
First was that women were sexual beings and could be horny, vulgar and just as hot in bed as their male counterparts. It’s no longer considered taboo to talk about sexual relationships, although it’s not usually considered polite conversation. Still, in families and friendships around the world, sex is always a welcome topic of conversation while dinner’s being made or while shopping for a new dress.
“To others, the universe seems decent because decent people have gelded eyes. That is why they fear lewdness. They are never frightened by the crowing of a rooster or when strolling under a starry heaven. In general, people savor the 'pleasures of the flesh' only on condition that they be insipid.”
“Story of the Eye” by George Bataille c. 1928-1967, taken from an article on the subject by Eric Karl Anderson.
In this erotic romance book of a young couple who explore those ‘pleasure of the flesh’ Bataille plunges you into the depths of depravity. He lets you soar on musings from the young and naïve to the wicked and deranged. Throughout the story, however, is the curious relationship he paints between a heightened sense of sexual pleasure when other ‘pleasures of the flesh’ are executed.
*This story is deeply erotic with explicit sex scenes, especially for the times it was published and has moments that will push the boundaries of decent prose. If you are offended by highly sexual content or the ideas of necromancy, suicide, rape or other distasteful events, please do not read this book!*
Second was that women and men should be free to choose whom they wanted to love regardless of gender, all but eliminating discrimination based on sexual orientation. The sexual revolution may have begun in the late sixties but it’s still alive and well even today. Just think about all the "new" forms of sexual preferences we know today.
LGBTQ+ Acceptance and Inclusion
When it comes to Erotic Literature or adult romance, the LGBTQ+ community has waited a long, long time for representation, especially anything mainstream. While Erotic Romance always started out on the fringes of society, the gay, lesbian and transgender community has just recently been accepted to the point that material, with leads in that spectrum, is becoming mainstream. Take Happiest Season for instance. Just this year is an openly gay rom-com part of a major streaming networks holiday lineup. Hulu runs the raucously hilarious movie that is full of fun, family and an LGBTQ+ storyline.
While we may think that homosexuality in general has been long awaiting representation and to some extent that’s true in today’s society. But there have been hints throughout literature as far back as Homer’s Iliad and Plato’s Symposium that speak of the gay nature of the main characters. Achilles especially stars as a gay man in both pieces. In Homer’s work, Achilles speaks of “our frequent kisses” and “the devout meeting of our thighs.”
To say that it’s time for much more representation in the LGBTQ+ community when it comes to romance books would be a gross understatement, especially when the sub-genre is such a widely popular one.
Erotic Literature is as old as the idea of the written word. From time immemorial we’ve been fascinated with both the human body, relationships, love and mutual attraction. From platonic relationships to bromances to all out polyamory and elicit affairs, our fascination with sex and all things sexual seems to have only grown exponentially. But Erotic Literature is more than just love scenes and hot sex, although that’s not to be undersold. Good books are more about the entire world of the main characters. Whether they’re running from the mafia, running an island resort or having a clandestine affair while dreaming about coming out of the closet to their respective heterosexual partners.
There is of course an expectancy that sex will somehow be involved in the storylines of the main characters, as the idea of erotic literature denotes at least some elicit sexual content meant to arouse the sexual nature of the reader.
Still in the need of some hot, sexy reading ideas? Don't miss our top lists and interviews with Erotica authors!
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