Thursday, 30 October 2008
The problem with erotica
Erotic Pompeii wall painting
I once owned a book of erotica. I was browsing a bookstore and bought it on impulse, anticipating robust stories of love and lust, impossibly endowed, abandoned couples in Kama Sutric configurations pleasuring each other in unlikely locations, enjoying ecstatic but improbable sensual marathons. I never finished the book because my stomach just wasn't strong enough to handle it, not even for the sake of research into the genre.
I'm not a prude. I'm a normal, healthy heterosexual female who could never understand the 'not in the mood' phenomenon. Hey, sex is good stuff! I assumed that my first brush with true erotica had been ruined by a particularly nasty example of the genre. Since I had a young child in the house back then, I burned the book. Yes, burned, as in took it outside, tore it apart and set it afire, then breathed a sigh of relief as I hosed away the ashes. Was I glad to see the back of that one - and how I wished I could erase some of those images from my internal memory drive! Unfortunately, that kind of stuff tends to stick harder the more you try to wish it away.
Since then I've read erotic romance novels and quite enjoyed them so, buoyed by these positive forays, I ordered Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin a few weeks ago, fully aware that it was erotica, but with a difference, to my mind: her work is described as literary erotica. I've read a bit of Nin's bio, I'm fond of some of her quotations, and I anticipated a treat.
Now, I know that judging a collection on the basis of a partial reading is not exactly fair to the writer, but the four or five stories I've read thus far, including the very first, have served up an appetizing smorgasbord of incest, rape, genital mutilation, drug addiction, necro.philia, best.iality and pedo.philia - just to name a few. What else is in there, I wonder. Dismemberment? Human sacrifice? The stories also have a tendency to be plotless, consisting of the mindless wanderings of some character from one tasteless and depraved activity to another. I'm not a fan of no-plot, and the activities do not, for me, constitute a great romp.
Maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe it's too exalted a point for my limited faculties to appreciate, but this is not fun for me, it's not exciting, it's not entertaining and quite frankly, it makes me sick to the stomach.
I won't be visiting that particular buffet again, and I don't understand how we can be collectively horrified when this kind of thing turns up in the news in real life, yet endorse and enjoy it in literature. I can't seem to distinguish between this 'literary erotica' and some of the depraved porn out there. What am I missing?
[In case anyone can't figure out the gratuitous dots in some words, they're to (hopefully) keep sickos googling these topics on the net away from my site.]