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20 of the Most Famous Erotic Novels

Want to know which of the many erotic novels published over the last few centuries are the most famous?

From obscene tales of debauchery and provocative memoirs to racy ‘bodice rippers’ and saucy pulp fiction, erotic novels have been a part of the mainstream English literature scene for almost 300 years. With notorious titles like Lolita, Fifty Shades of Grey and the 120 Days of Sodom, erotic fiction is responsible for getting our hearts racing, starting new trends and sparking great public debate.

In this feature, we present our selection of the top 20 most famous erotic novels. Widely banned, adapted for film, stage and television or having topped the best-sellers lists for weeks, these novels are all infamous for their erotic, sometimes filthy and obscene, content.

Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure)

by John Cleland

best erotic novels fanny hill

Image via Wikipedia & Wikipedia.

Published in… 1748
Plot Summary The novel consists of two letters, written by a middle-aged and wealthy English woman; Frances (or Fanny) Hill. A former prostitute, Hill recounts tales of her scandalous former life in great detail.
Why this book? Penned by Cleland whilst he was in prison, Fanny Hill is widely considered as the first example of fictional pornography written in the English language. Although there are no explicit phrases, the use of euphemisms is extremely creative.

After the book was published, Cleland returned to prison for ‘corrupting  the King’s subjects’ and copies were withdrawn from circulation. As ever, once a book becomes ‘taboo’ it generally becomes far more popular and pirated copies were soon changing hands across the UK, Europe and even in the United States.

It is one of the most widely banned books in history and has been the subject of many obscenity trials and other prosecutions.

Notable Film Adaptations The book has been adapted for the stage, film and television in the UK, USA, Germany and Italy including an Off-Broadway musical production in 2006. The last major adaptation was by the BBC in 2007 with a two-part broadcast filmed for BBC Four.
Filth Rating As far as pure filth goes, the age of the book is telling but it is the fact that it is ‘saucy’ rather than explicit which makes it more exciting. Certainly, if you thought you knew all of the best expressions for male and female genitalia, this book will open your eyes!
Teaser “By this time his machine, stiffly risen at me, gave me to see it in its highest state and bravery. He feels it himself, seems pleas’d at its condition, and, smiling loves and graces, seizes one of my hands, and carries it, with a gentle compulsion, to his pride of nature, and its richest masterpiece”

 

The Lover

by Marguerite Duras

best erotic novels the lover

Image via Wikipedia.

Published in… 1984
Plot Summary The book is semi-autobiographical and follows the accounts of a 15-year old French girl from a hard-up family who is seduced by a wealthy 27-year old Chinese businessman. At a boarding school in Saigon, the book is set against the backdrop of French-colonial Vietnam.
Why this book? Written by Duras 55 years after the events she describes, the work is clearly a labor of love and the romance and sex are all beautifully written. Is has an enduring appeal which has seen the novel translated into more than 40 languages and earned it a coveted Prix Goncourt literary prize.
Notable Film Adaptations Adapted in 1992 in a film of the same name, The Lover was a success at the box office and received good reviews from the public; U.S. critics gave it a luke-warm reception…
Filth Factor 5/10: The sex in The Lover is erotic rather than explicit or crude and the book is a popular romance despite the age-gap and pubescence of the central character.
Teaser… “I’d like to eat Hélène Lagonelle’s breasts as he eats mine in the room in the Chinese town where I go every night to increase my knowledge of God. I’d like to devour and be devoured by those flour-white breasts of hers.”

 

Nine and a Half Weeks

by Ingeborg Day/Elizabeth McNeill

best erotic novels nine and a half weeks

Image via Amazon.

Published in… 1978
Plot Summary A memoir, the book tells the story of a casual meeting between a Wall Street executive and a stranger. The pair start an intense sexual relationship that is characterized by domination and humiliation. Their ‘love’ affair includes some powerfully recounted sexual scenes (some pf which are very unusual) and incitement to violent crime. The book reaches its climax in a quasi-rape scene and ‘Elizabeth’ being left in a mental hospital.
Why this book? The film adaptation only touches on the violent peaks that the real memoir recounts and the book is a dangerous and frightening story of subjugation. Written 30+ years before Fifty Shades of Grey, Day’s depiction of S&M is mesmerizing in its psychology and passionate in its sexuality.

It is dark memoir, pathological at times, and one that is far more powerful than the aforementioned BDSM bestseller, Fifty Shades.

Notable Film Adaptations The book was the inspiration behind the 1986 film of the same name starring Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke. There has also been a prequel and sequel to these films plus a couple of parodies
Filth Factor 9/10: Nine and a Half Weeks is written beautifully despite, at times, the reading of it being somewhat uncomfortable. Though the language may not sink to the obscene, the tone is irrefutably erotic and heady. Anyone who is intrigued by power play or BDSM will probably already be fans.
Teaser… “By the time the utter predictability of my orgasm sank into my brain, it had, of course, long been familiar to my body. There was no mistaking the power this man had over me. Like a well-made windup toy, whenever he set me in motion I came. Moods of wanting or not wanting to make love were moods I remembered as from a book. It was not a matter of insatiability but one of inevitability of response. He did what he did and then I always, inevitably, finally came. Only the preludes varied.”

 

The Happy Hooker

by Xaviera Hollander

best erotic novels the happy hooker

Xaviera Hollander appearing on the After Dark show in 1989. Image via Wikipedia.

Published in… 1971
Plot Summary The Happy Hooker is an autobiographical memoir, penned by the former Dutch madam and call girl, Xaviera Hollander. The book follows a chronological account of how she ended up in the sex industry and details (graphically) the encounters she has with her clients. Hollander has also written several fiction titles.
Why this book? Though not a novel, The Happy Hooker is one of the most famous erotic titles in literature and earned Hollander overnight fame. It topped the international bestseller lists for some time and sold over 15 million copies worldwide.

Although the sex is described candidly, and in some detail, her story is what drives the success of this piece of erotic work and vividly paints a picture of how one woman rose to notoriety in the York running one of the largest and most popular brothels in New York.

Notable Film Adaptations The book has been adapted for five different films with the most famous being the 1975 production which starred Lynn Redgrave in the title role. There has also been a musical based on the book.
Filth Factor 9/10: The book spares no account of the details of all of Hollander’s sexploits and is as raunchy and raw as they come. The majority of the sex is pretty vanilla so don’t expect any fetish or BDSM content but there is much to have you folding a corner for coming back to.
Teaser… “The first position I chose for lovemaking was spoon fashion – me on my side and him curling around me, and I slipped him into me that way. Then, without letting his penis leave my body, I got on my knees, and we continued doggy style. That way he slipped out a few times, because it is a complicated position for a beginner.”

 

Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons)

by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

best erotic novels Liaisons Dangereuses

Illustrations from the novel. Image via Wikipedia.

Published in… 1782
Plot Summary Composed entirely of letters sent between two ex-lovers who enjoy the exploitation of others for their own amusement, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, is set shortly before the French Revolution of 1789.

The novel’s plot centers around the manipulation and seduction of an innocent girl with whom one of the aristocrats falls in love.

Why this book? A stylized and historical novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses,  is a sumptuous and decadent account of how two bored but fabulously rich nobles play with the lives of others. However, it is the twists of the book that have made it enduringly popular and still so enjoyable after more than 235 years.

It was considered scandalous at the time of publication yet it enjoyed a lot of commercial success; not least because Marie Antoinette was said to be a fan.

Notable Film Adaptations Of course, the most famous film adaptation is the Glenn Close and John Malkovitch movie directed by Stephen Frears in 1988. The novel has also inspired other films including Cruel Intentions (1999), Valmont (1989) and Untold Scandal (2003). There have also been numerous television, radio and stage adaptations as well as ballet and opera productions.
Filth Factor 4/10: The book is not directly perverse or filthy in a modern sense nor will you find passages that will get you hot under the collar. Les Liaisons Dangereuses is however a very electric book that keeps a suspenseful and electric air of sexual tension. For some, the film is better than the novel but we’ll let you be the judge of that.
Teaser… “I’m sure your lordship knows better than me, ‘he said,’ that going to bed with a girl who wants to do something, she wants to do, another story”

 

House of Holes

by Nicholson Baker

Baker’s bibliography includes several ‘dirty’ novels.  Image via Amazon/Wikipedia.

Published in… 2011
Plot Summary The House of Holes is a collection of stories that are connected in some way loosely to the titular fantasy sex resort, the House of Holes.

A fantastical place where any fetish and fantasy can take place including some surreal and absurdist practices such as having sex with trees or pussy-surf, the House of Holes is only reached through some equally bizarre methods like drinking a straw or falling through a tumble dryer!

Why this book? This is Baker’s third ‘dirty’ novel and, after the success of Vox (1992) and The Fermata (1994), House of Holes is another book that will divide erotic novel fans.

The book is playful and romantic, bizarre and compelling but is likely to amuse rather than truly titivate. It is certainly one that you will either love or hate.

Notable Film Adaptations None as yet.
Filth Factor 7/10: The book is undoubtedly filthy but we’ve given it a lower score than you might expect simply because the kind of language and creative euphemisms aren’t to everyone’s taste and the novel has been criticized by some for being a bit too ‘off the wall’ and the metaphoric language too direct, e.g. “His cock train was commuting in and out of her pussyhole”.
Teaser… “I like men who are intelligent and witty,” Rhumpa said. “Also kind to animals and interested in other people and able to hold a conversation of reasonable length.”

Daggett frowned and looked at his clipboard. “It says here that you favor a man with a heavy, dark dick. It quotes you as saying, ‘Some nice things are just not possible with a small, pale dick.’”

 

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

by D.H. Lawrence

best erotic novels lady chatterleys lover

Lady Chatterley’s Lover has been widely translated. Image via Flickr.

Published in… 1928
Plot Summary Lady Chatterley is a young, married and  wealthy woman of the upper echelons of British society. Her husband was injured in the Great War and is paralyzed from the waist down. She is soon to be found having an affair with Oliver Mellors, the estate gamekeeper. It’s a saucy romp that depicts the rough and tumble of a passionate love affair between classes but is also a socio-political romance.
Why this book? The book was banned in many parts of the world including in Lawrence’s  own country, England. It was finally published in the UK in 1960 but was immediately part of an obscenity trial. The publishers won and the title went on to sell another 3 million copies as a result of the publicity.

On one level, the book is seen as being just another filthy novel and there is no doubt that the sex is very passionate.

However, it is the dynamics of a relationship between an upper-class woman and a working-class man that make it all the more taboo, particularly in the strict class-based society of the time.

Culturally, the title is seen by many to have played an important part of the sexual revolution, particularly in Britain during the 1960s. A notorious book, it certainly deserves its place as an influential erotic novel.

Notable Film Adaptations There have been many adaptations of Lady Chatterley’s Lover including some for radio, theater and the television but the most notable is Ken Russell’s serial for the BBC which starred Sean Bean and Sylvia Kristel in 1993.
Filth Factor 7/10: There are some explicit sex scenes in the book using words that at the time were considered ‘unprintable’. Although these may no longer cause the same level of blushes in society, they do remain pretty potent.
Teaser… “A strange weight was on her limbs. She was giving way. She was giving up…she had to lie down there under the boughs of the tree, like an animal, while he waited, standing there in his shirt and breeches, watching her with haunted eyes…He too had bared the front part of his body and she felt his naked flesh against her as he came into her. For a moment he was still inside her, turgid there and quivering. Then as he began to move, in the sudden helpless orgasm, there awoke in her new strange thrills rippling inside her.”

 

120 Days Of Sodom

by Marquis De Sade

best erotic novels 120 days of sodom

Image via Wikimedia.

Published in… 1785
Plot Summary The plot of the book tells the story of four rich nobles who, just for the hell of it, decide to lock themselves inside a castle to experience debauched and wild gratification. What ensures is a series of, sometimes, disturbing sex acts and orgies involving the 46 victims that they have chosen for their pleasure. The acts increase in violence and perversion with 120 Days of Sodom culminating in the slaughter of all of the young men and women.
Why this book? 120 Days of Sodom is probably one of the most widely-read and influential ‘erotic’ novels of the last two centuries. It is also one of the most controversial. Declared insane several years after writing the book (actually, it was written on a 12m length of paper), the Marquis de Sade was sent to an asylum where he later died. His name is still used today to describe acts in which people derive pleasure from hurting others.

It is still banned in some countries where the content is deemed too extreme, cruel and pornographic for public print.

Notable Film Adaptations There have been two notable films made from the book, L’Age d’Or (1930) and Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1975). The first is a surrealist film whilst the latter is often cited as one of the most controversial films ever made.
Filth Factor 10/10: There are very few fetishes and taboos not covered in some way by this exhaustive catalog of fictional depravity. From extreme BDSM to incest, mutilation and torture, you can be rest assured that the filth in this book is comprehensive.
Teaser… “If it is the dirty element that gives pleasure to the act of lust, then the dirtier it is, the more pleasurable it is bound to be.”

 

Venus in Furs

by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch

best erotic novels venus in furs

The author with Fanny Pistor upon which the central characters are supposedly based. Image via Wikipedia.

Published in… 1870
Plot Summary The book charts the obsession of one man’s desire to be dominated by women. The central character, is unnamed but speaks of his desires to a friend, Severin von Kusiemski, who directs him to read a manuscript , Memoirs of a Suprasensual Man. It is this manuscript which forms the books main narrative and it tells the story of how one man comes to give himself as a slave to one woman, is treated brutally and utterly controlled.
Why this book? Just as the Marquis de Sade gave his name to sadism, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch is the man behind the M in S&M; masochism. The book is a powerful exploration of the desire to be dominated and sexual submission.
Notable Film Adaptations The film has been adapted for the big screen in a couple of feature length titles but the 2013 Roman Polanski version is probably the most notable; it won him Best Director at the 2014 César Awards.
Filth Factor 4/10: The book isn’t obscene nor does it have particularly graphic detail about sex but it does remain a classic.
Teaser… “Yes, I am cruel—since you take so much delight in that word-and am I not entitled to be so? Man is the one who desires, woman the one who is desired. This is woman’s entire but decisive advantage. Through his passion nature has given man into woman’s hands, and the woman who does not know how to make him her subject, her slave, her toy, and how to betray him with a smile in the end is not wise.”

 

Tropic of Cancer

by Henry Miller

best erotic novels tropic of cancer

Image via Flickr.

Published in… 1934
Plot Summary A chronicle of the sexual adventures of an American write in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s, the Tropic of Cancer is part fiction, part autobiography. It follows Miller’s life (non-chronologically) in a series of first person and stream of consciousness scenes of life and sex involving pimps, prostitutes and bohemians.
Why this book? The book is more than just an erotic novel and explores the human condition in a way that is often bawdy and comic as well as profound and moving.

It gained much notoriety after winning an historic censorship trial in the United States in the 1960s. As a result of the court’s ruling, the Tropic of Cancer was widely credited as being influential in the way free speech is now protected in literature. It was also banned in Canada and Finland but, interestingly, not in the United Kingdom. His later novel, Sexus, was banned in Great Britain.

The book is often listed as one of those that should be ‘read before you die’ as well as being cited as a masterpiece of erotic fiction.

Notable Film Adaptations One film adaptation has been made to date in 1970 and was directed by Joseph Strick.
Filth Factor 6/10: It’s true that the novel no longer has the capacity to shock in the same way that it did half a century ago and you won’t find much that is graphic or ‘perverse’ (by comparison to 120 Days of Sodom). However, the language can be very colorful in places with some unrelenting attention to detail.
Teaser… “You can forgive a young cunt anything. A young cunt doesn’t have to have brains. They’re better without brains. But an old cunt, even if she’s brilliant, even if she’s the most charming woman in the world, nothing makes any difference. A young cunt is an investment; an old cunt is a dead loss. All they can do for you is buy you things. But that doesn’t put meat on their arms or juice between their legs.”

 

Story of the Eye

by Georges Bataille

best erotic novels story of the eye

Image via Goodreads.

Published in… 1928
Plot Summary Narrated by a man who is looking back at his teenage sexual exploits, Story of the Eye is a novella that depicts surreal and increasingly more perverse sexual acts.
Why this book? Story of the Eye is a surreal novel that has more of a place in cult fiction than in mainstream media. It has become more popular since the 1980s that at any other time during its publication history.

Profane, horrific and fascinating in both its depictions of sexual acts as well as gruesome ones, Bataille has been called a ‘meta-physician of evil’.

The book has some fans in unusual places with the Icelandic singer, Bjork, admitting that she had loved the novel ever since a boyfriend had given her a copy.

Notable Film Adaptations There has been an experimental film adaptation of the novel which began life as an art installation in New York in 2004.
Filth Factor 10/10: Graphically sexual, the book includes scenes of anal and vaginal insertions (with eggs and, later, a bull’s testes and an eyeball), orgies, blood-play, exhibitionism and S&M. There is also a scene in which the teenage pair have sex next to a dead body. Yes, it’s all here and totally filthy.
Teaser… “We did not lack modesty-on the contrary-but something urgently drove us to defy modesty together as immodestly as possible. Thus, no sooner had she asked me never to toss off again by myself than we had met on top of a cliff, then she pulled down my pants and had me stretch out on the ground. She tucked her dress up, mounted my belly with her back towards my face, and let herself go, while I thrust my finger, lubricated with my young sperm, into her cunt.”

 

Riders

by Jilly Cooper

best erotic novels riders

Image via Amazon.

Published in… 1985
Plot Summary The first novel in a series of romance ‘romps’, Riders is one of six blockbusting, bestsellers in the Rutshire Chronicles by British author, Jilly Cooper. The plot centers on a family of international show jumping riders and follows their ambitions of fame on the circuit. Famously known as the ‘fetlock and fornification’ books, this first title is the most steamiest.
Why this book? It might not be a literary classic nor does it have the same appeal as some of the more notorious titles on this list but Riders is one of the best-selling mainstream erotic books of all time.

There is a formula to all of Cooper’s novels and Riders has the usual cast of posh toffs, morally ambiguous heroes, evil villains and sweeping romance and steamy sexual adventure. It is quite comic in places and an ‘easy’ read but this shouldn’t detract from one has become a highly successful erotic novel. Purists and snobs will disagree but 15 million fans can’t be wrong…can they?

Notable Film Adaptations It was adapted for a television film in 1993 which was broadcast on the British ITV network.
Filth Factor 4/10: A saucy romp at best with some steamy sex scenes but nothing that could be said to offend.
Teaser… “Jake stared at her, unsmiling. He had a curiously immobile face, everything in the right place, but without animation. The swarthy features were pale today, the full lips set in an uncompromising line. Slanting, secretive, dark eyes looked out from beneath a frowning line of brow, practically concealed by the thick thatch of almost black hair. He was small, not more than five foot seven, and very thin, a good jockey’s weight.”

 

Lolita

by Vladimir Nabokov

best erotic novels lolita

Image via Flickr.

Published in… 1955
Plot Summary Lolita is the story of one middle-aged man’s (Humbert Humbert) obsession with the 12-year old daughter (Dolores) of his landlady. He falls utterly in love with her and tries to win her affection; however, she is depicted as a sexually precocious young woman who toys with him. When he thinks he will lose her and her attention is straying, he takes her on a cross-country adventure to escape together.
Why this book? This book is another controversial title that has caused a lot of backlash over the years.

The content and plot is undoubtedly contentious and has been called ‘the filthiest book…ever read’ as well as ‘repulsive’ and ‘disgusting’. However, the book is regarded as a classic work of literary fiction and is also praised for being an ‘unforgettable masterpiece of obsession’. It is often included on many lists of the great 20th century literary works and sold 100,000 copies within the first month of publication in the U.S.

Lolita will continue to divide opinion but can certainly be regarded as one of the most famous erotic novels.

Notable Film Adaptations The book has been translated to the big screen a few times but it was Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 version which is most notable. A 1997 version starring Jeremy Irons was also made. Lolita has also been made into an opera, ballet and Broadway musical.
Filth Factor 7/10: The controversial nature of the subject matter means that Lolita will always be 100% filthy but it does not compare in its graphic detail to titles like 120 Days of Sodom or Story of the Eye.
Teaser… “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita”

 

Fifty Shades of Grey

by E.L. James

best erotic novels fifty shades of grey

Image via Flickr.

Published in… 2011
Plot Summary Naïve college graduate Anastasia Steele starts a sexual relationship with a billionaire, Christian Grey. The twist is that he into sadomasochism and turns, a willing, Steele into his sex slave.
Why this book? Originally penned as fan fiction (Twilight) and self-published, there is no adult alive in the western world who has not heard of Fifty Shades of Grey or who haven’t witnessed its meteoric marketing success. The book has sold well over 130 million copies worldwide but has attracted nearly as many critics as it has fans. The BDSM content is not the only thing that offends people, with some decrying the work as facile and poorly written, pulp fiction ‘trash’. Others, notably those in the BDSM community, have raised concerns about the safe depiction of bondage and S&M play.

The first book is the more filthy with the follow ups exploring more of the psychological and emotional aspects of the relationship between Steele and Grey.

Love it or loathe it, there is no detracting from the book’s influence or widespread fame.

Notable Film Adaptations The books have been made into a film series (2015-2018) that has been equally well-received by fans worldwide and stars Jamie Dorman as Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele.
Filth Factor 8/10: The scenes in Fifty Shades of Grey are downright filthy and lack no detail. It is basically written pornography, plain and simple.
Teaser… “Does this mean you’re going to make love to me tonight, Christian?” Holy shit. Did I just say that? His mouth drops open slightly, but he recovers quickly.

“No, Anastasia it doesn’t. Firstly, I don’t make love. I fuck… hard. Secondly, there’s a lot more paperwork to do, and thirdly, you don’t yet know what you’re in for. You could still run for the hills. Come, I want to show you my playroom.”

My mouth drops open. Fuck hard! Holy shit, that sounds so… hot. But why are we looking at a playroom? I am mystified.”

 

Delta of Venus

by Anaïs Nin

best erotic novels delta of venus

Image via Amazon.

Published in… 1977
Plot Summary An anthology of 15 short stories published posthumously, Delta of Venus was written by Nin in the 1940s for a private collector. The stories all have a different style and plot but were requested by the collector to be graphic and sexually explicit with no poetic language.
Why this book? Despite the instructions of the mysterious ‘collector’ to dispense with literary flourishes, Nin has managed to create a collection of exquisitely beautiful erotica. The work is praised by some feminists for being a pioneering and sex positive whilst some simply see the book as an assemblage of porn.
Notable Film Adaptations None so far.
Filth Factor 6/10: The language in Delta of Venus is beautifully crafted but does not avoid the graphic detail commissioned by the ‘collector’. It is supremely erotic without being obscene.
Teaser… “When she closed her eyes she felt he had many hands, which touched her everywhere, and many mouths, which passed so swiftly over her, and with a wolflike sharpness, his teeth sank into her fleshiest parts. Naked now, he lay his full length over her. She enjoyed his weight on her, enjoyed being crushed under his body. She wanted him soldered to her, from mouth to feet. Shivers passed through her body.”

 

The Story of O

by Pauline Réage (or Anne Desclos)

best erotic novels story of o

Image via Wikimedia.

Published in… 1954
Plot Summary The Story of O is a revealing tale about a young French fashion photographer (‘O’) who submits to being a sex slave to the members of a secret society. After her training at a chateau, she falls in love with her Master, Sir Stephen who brands and claims ownership over her. In the novel, O is required to lure and seduce another young girl into the society. Much of the rest of the book is given over to various sex scenes in which O is shared at parties as an object.
Why this book? When it was first published, the novel won the coveted Prix des Deux Magots; an award given to the best new French literature. This, despite the French authorities trying to ban the title.

Story of O has been criticized by feminists and other groups who claim it glorifies violence, objectifies women and, according to one journalist, allows the “Gestapo into the boudoir”.

The book is claimed to have been the inspiration behind Emmanuelle Arsan writing her own memoirs.

The author, Anne Desclos who kept her true identity hidden for many years, was initially thought to have been a man, so explicit were the sex scenes. A few years before she died in 1998, Desclos said (of the book)…“It was written by a stranger I am astonished to have been”

Notable Film Adaptations Story of O has been made into, and inspired, several films including Story of Joanna.
Filth Factor 8/10: There is no stone left unturned in the world of BDSM for the central character of O who s routinely stripped, whipped and chained for the pleasure of others. Her training involves the widening of her anus by the insertion of increasingly larger plugs as well as branding, piercing and subjugation.
Teaser… “Also the spectacle and the awareness of her own body. Daily and, so to speak, ceremoniously soiled with saliva and sperm, she felt herself literally to be the repository of impurity, the sink mentioned in the Scriptures. And yet those parts of her body most constantly offended, having become less sensitive, at the same time seemed to her to have become more beautiful and, as it were, ennobled: her mouth closed upon anonymous members, the tips of her breasts constantly fondled by hands, and between her quartered thighs the twin, contiguous paths wantonly ploughed.”

Bad Behavior

by Mary Gaitskill

best erotic novels bad behavior

Image via Amazon.

Published in… 1988
Plot Summary Bad Behavior is a collection of short stories all with a theme of love, sex or obsession.
Why this book? Gaitskill has written several novels, all of which are heavily themed with taboo subjects like S/M, prostitution and addiction but it is Bad Behavior which really sets the bar.

The kinks described in this collection are brutal and sometimes cruel but told with a raw emotion that makes them dizzyingly erotic and seductive.

Notable Film Adaptations None
Filth Factor 7/10: Gaitskill is one of the leading writers and a literary authority on fetishes like sadomasochism, bondage and dungeon Masters/Dominatrixes. In this collection, she reveals why.
Teaser… “I shouldn’t be doing this, he thought. She is actually a nice person. for a moment he had an impulse to embrace her. He had a stronger impulse to beat her.”

G

by John Berger

best erotic novels g by john berger

Image via Amazon.

Published in… 1972
Plot Summary G is essentially a retelling of the story of Don Juan and follows the progress of a young Italian (Giovanni) as he romps his way around various enlightening and energetic sexual encounters across Europe.
Why this book? The book is not that well known outside of literary circles but it has earned itself a great reputation for being a classic. As well as being an intelligent meditation on sexual relationships, it is also a powerful historical story of one man’s awakening to politicization.

John Berger won the Booker Prize with this novel in 1972 and famously donated half of the prize money to the Black Panther movement; apparently to ‘turn the prize against itself’, a reference to the fact that Booker made its money from the Caribbean plantations.

Notable Film Adaptations None
Filth Factor 6/10: The majority of the book covers the politics and social background of a Europe facing the Great War but the filth, when it comes, is drawn out in some explicit detail.
Teaser… “He has convinced her that the penis twitching in the air above her face is the size and color and warmth that it is entirely because of what he has recognized in her. When he enters her, when this throbbing, cyclamen-headed, silken, apoplectic fifth limb of his reaches as near to her center as her pelvis will allow, he, in it, will be returning, she believes, to the origins of his desire. The taste of his foreskin and of a single tear of transparent first sperm which has broken over the cyclamen head making its surface even softer to the touch than before, is the taste of herself made flesh in another.”

The Sexual Life of Catherine M.

by Catherine Millet

best erotic novels the sexual life of catherine m

Image via Wikimedia.

Published in… 2001
Plot Summary A candid memoir that recounts the exploits of a woman, Catherine M, who partakes in orgies and group sex but has been in an open marriage with the same man for over 30 years.
Why this book? Described as the ‘most explicit book about sex ever written by a woman’, The Sexual Life of Catherine M’ comes from a writer who has been very open about its autobiographical content. Despite being a modern book, it has caused some controversy in both Europe as well as North America and the book is banned in some countries.

It has been a bestseller of lists such The New York Times, Publishers Weekly and The Washington Post.

Notable Film Adaptations None
Filth Factor 8/10: The sex starts from the first few pages in a matter of fact and simple way that evokes, not quite eroticism but pure, pornography. It is explicit in detail but told in the first person with an air of intelligent reflection which makes it deliciously intimate.
Teaser… “Andr fucked me first, quite slowly and calmly, which was his way. Then he stopped abruptly. I was overcome with an ineffable feeling of anxiety, just long enough to see him moving away, walking unhurriedly, his back arched, toward the other girl. Ringo came and took his place on top of me, while the third boy, who was more reserved than the other two, rested on one elbow beside us and ran his hand over my upper body.”

Couples

by John Updike

best erotic novels couples

Image via Wikimedia.

Published in… 1968
Plot Summary A story of lust between a circle of sexually adventurous people in a small town in Massachusetts, Couples is a social exploration of America in the post-pill era of the sexual revolution.
Why this book? A novel about marriage and adultery with plenty of sex thrown in, Couples is classic and is often credited as being an influential part of literature’s role in the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

It was well received by both critics and fans alike and has remained in print with an avid following. However, its reception at the time was less enthusiastic from the residents of the town of Ipswich with which the novel shares startling similarities.

Notable Film Adaptations None
Filth Factor 6/10: Though graphic at times, the majority of the novel is more of an artful 20th century classic.
Teaser… “She crouched and whimpered above him, her nipples teasing his lips. She went down on him purring; she was a minx. This was new, this quality of prostitution, of her frankly servicing him, and taking her own pleasure as a subdivision of his. Her slick firm body was shameless yet did not reveal, as her more virginal intercourse once had done, the inner petals drenched in helpless nectar.”

 

Featured image via Pixabay.

Staff Writer

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