This post deals with sex and erotica. If you are offended and / or weirded out by reading about such things, you may want to click away and come back tomorrow, when I plan to have a nice, safe, minor-level rant about movies. But, for now, for today, I’m writing about sex. You’ve been warned.
Any book that starts with the line “The first thing you should know is that I’m a whore.” is bound to be worth reading, in my ever-so-humble opinion. Belle de Jour is a very good read, indeed.
The book is billed as non-fiction and credited to Anonymous. It began as a blog a few years ago, and was one of the few that was plucked from the masses by the literary establishment to get proper book form. The story, for lack of a better descriptive, details the day to day life of a call girl who lives in London and the balances she must make between letting people, including her boyfriend, in on her secrets and the consequences of doing so. In between are essays / entries that discuss the concepts of how to please clients best; some of the pros and cons of her chosen trade; insiders tips and tricks; even a few definitions and lists of sex related vocabulary.
Having said all that, the book is frank without being pornographic, and, while some entries can be descriptive of the sex acts themselves, the focus is on the culture and situations behind the sex, rather than the sex itself. This book is neither pornography nor erotica, however it is an extremely good read and an interesting look inside a few of our collective cultural taboos.
In short, it should be required reading.
When I was in university, one of the most eye-opening courses I took was called the Sociology of Sexuality. I took it with one of my best friends, who is a woman, and, although we were both a little embarrassed (ok, a lot) at the beginning of the course, by the end we were both much more comfortable with human sexuality and the culture we, as a collection of societies, have built around it. It was in this course that I first watched porn in a group, with an eye towards analyzing what was enticing about any given sub-genre. It was also in this class that I first met a prostitute (she was a guest speaker) as well as sex-counselors for rape victims. And, it was in this course that I first read erotica.
The course had three required texts. The first was a biology textbook detailing with the reproductive systems of the human anatomy. The next was a series of case studies detailing sexual practices in various cultures, what was taboo and why and how it may have impacted various individuals. The last was the yearly anthology of erotica, edited by Susie Bright.
Of the three, it was this last text that had the most impact on myself. Erotica is a genre that still causes tittering behind hands; it is still something many people have a hard time purchasing openly. And, yet, is should be required reading.
Fiction is a way of opening our minds. It allows us to experience a different perspective, a different point of view, and it helps us to understand those ideas and practices that differ from our own. Erotic fiction can help straight people understand gay people and vice versa. It can help men and women gain a little perspective on the opposite gender. And, it can help “normal” people understand the kinks and quirks of others predilections.
Belle de Jour does all these things and more, and for that, it should be required reading, for all of us.
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