50 Shades of Grey swept across the world like Freshers’ flu across a university campus and, love it or hate it, with the film being released on Valentine’s Day 2015 it seems like it’s going to be on bookshelves for at least a little while longer.
But if you can’t stand the awful syntax, two dimensional characters, and awkward metaphors of the Twilight-inspired trilogy, here’s an introductory list of naughty little texts that were providing thrills (and outrage) way before E. L. James started having fantasies about sparkly vampires.
1. Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure – John Cleland (1748)
The novel follows the eponymous character’s exploits as a prostitute, and her eventual rise to respectability. Scandalous from its publication, the novel was banned in the USA until 1966.
2. Philosophy in the Bedroom – The Marquis de Sade (1795)
There’s a reason the word ‘sadism’ is derived from the name of the author of this drama, and the text is certainly an acquired taste. Whilst there is certainly more ‘bedroom’ than ‘philosophy’, in between the debauchery, Sade makes profound points about religion and morality that are definitely worth a read.
3. Venus in Furs – Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1870)
We’ve had sadism, now for the inspiration behind the word ‘masochism’. The Austrian novella tells the story of a man so infatuated with a woman, he asks to be her slave. Almost 100 years later, the text would provide inspiration for The Velvet Underground.
4. A Ramble in St James’s Park – John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1672)
I have never come across an individual so fond of the “see you next Tuesday” turn of phrase or, in fact, the term ‘spermatic sluice’ until this poem. An incredibly obscene piece of poetry, it may result in a lot of giggling and certainly a lot of blushing.
5. Sadopaideia – Anon, (1907)
The full title: ‘The Experiences of Cecil Prendergast Undergraduate of the University of Oxford Shewing How he was Led Through the Pleasant Paths of Masochism to the Supreme joys of Sadism’ may give you an indication of the plot of this novel. Definitely one for those who’ve enjoyed both 2 and 3 of this list.
6. The Autobiography of a Flea – Stanislas de Rhodes (1887)
Interestingly told through the narration of a flea, the novel tells the story of Bella who is taken advantage of by the men in her life – including three priests.