When ’50 Shades of Grey’ was released in 2011 it broke records and made headlines thanks to its provocative storyline and graphic sex scenes. The book went mainstream and spawned countless similar books as well as a movie adaptation that drove sales for the book through the roof a second time.
But what if I told you there are books that make 50 Shades look absolutely tame in comparison? The fact is erotic fiction has a long and torrid history which includes entries that simply defy anything Christian Grey could come up with.
120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade (1905)
Without a doubt, the single most iconic piece of erotic literature is 120 Days of Sodom. The book’s “plot” (and we use the term loosely here) is an obvious afterthought to readers. Instead, the book is little more than a catalogue of every insane, over the top sex act you can imagine, along with a few you couldn’t have dreamt up in a million years. The book has been banned by both schools and governments and remains the undisputed King of Erotic Literature.
Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1870)
Venus in Furs makes the list not only because of its graphic sex scenes, but because it focused on a sexual theme simply unheard of at the time of its publication. Severin von Kusiemski, the main character of the novel, spends his time describing his dreams and fantasies – all of which have to do with being dominated and possessed by a woman. This role reversal was scandalous at every level when the book was published in 1870 and it remains so today.
Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin (1940 / 1977)
Delta of Venus is a collection of short stories that focus on various aspects of erotic fiction. The collection was originally written in the 1940s for an unnamed private collector and was eventually published in 1977 after Anaïs Nin passed away. Themes in the book run the gamut from homosexuality and male desire to extreme sexual restraint and incest.
The Story of O by Pauline Réage (1954)
The Story of O is another pop-culture icon but few people have read the original work. The book focuses on a young woman, O, and her journey as a willing sexual slave. O’s story involves repeated sexual objectification and is heavy on extreme BDSM. The book was originally banned in its native France though obscenity charges were eventually dropped.
The Sluts by Dennis Cooper (2005)
This modern entry to our list proves that erotic fiction has both evolved and, in some ways, gone back to its roots. Like 120 Days, the plot in The Sluts is secondary to the action. The story of a young male hustler is told through a series of online reviews, emails and postings to fictitious websites. As the young man’s story is revealed, readers are treated (if that’s the right word) by a catalogue of what he endures which includes everything from rough sex to amputation.
This article was written by Laura, who, when she isn’t reading erotic fiction, can be found over at School of Squirt.