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Spanking Theatre

Spanking stories for the theatre between your ears

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erotic literature

I’ve enjoyed your work for a while now, but I recently had occasion to read several stories from authentic Victorian erotica (namely from the pornographic magazine The Pearl from the early 1880s) and I was really struck by how similar your style is to a lot of the work there, minus the hilariously awkward Victorian euphemisms. Anyway, I just wanted to compliment you on your authenticity and elegantly old-fashioned style while keeping it fresh and modern.

Thank you for not just those immernsely kind words, but for giving me an excuse to introduce readers to The Pearl. For those who haven’t encountered it, The Pearl was a 19th century periodical of erotica – and here’s an archive of what it published, before it was abruptly shut down by prudish Victorian authorities almost 150 years ago.

Some of its posts are very lewd, some are unexpectedly erudite, probably reflecting the diversity of sexualities of those who wrote for it. As Wikipedia explains: “the general format of the periodical was to publish three serial erotic tales simultaneously, devoted to sex in high society, incest, and flagellation, respectively.” 

High society sex is an interesting reflection of the Victorian class obsessions, whilst incest is one of those transgressive taboos that also features in the French erotic book The Young Girls’ Handbook of Good Manners, written a few decades later. And spanking and flogging were just as popular in Victorian days as they are now. 

Perhaps you’ll see a certain formality in Victorian erotic writing, an appreciation of process, of scene and character. All attributes that I value in storytelling, which lead to that teasing sense of anticipation that I hope I’ve been able to capture in my own writing.

I encourage interested readers to explore, who knows what you’ll uncover in the dusty musty archives of the internet, an infinite library with no shelves, which our Victorian ancestors would have loved deeply indeed.

Question of the Week: Familiar or Suprising

What kind of stories do you prefer?

A story that features your favourite fetishes, and a protagonist you identify with so closely,
so intimately, you seem to vicariously experience the tale through their eyes?

Or…

A story so fantastic, so unexpected, that it takes your imagination
completely by surprise, conjuring images you never thought it was possible to imagine?

Sex is just another form of talk, where you act the words instead of saying them.

D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover (via theliteraryjournals)


An insightful quote.

And the reason why I use dialogue sparingly in my stories.

Because sex is an act, not a discussion.

Spanking in Literature

image

Image by Martin van Maële from the novel Camille et Moi, 1904.

I wonder, will we ever see a BDSM Shakespeare, a kinky Austen or paraphiliac Dickens?
Or will erotica always be a secret pleasure, lurking in the shadows, to be enjoyed in secret? Ghettoised in its own sub-genre, to be discussed only in sniggers and whispers.

Will we even see a playwright or author who is acknowledged as a literary giant,
and who writes works where BDSM features prominently? Imagine if there’d been a Victorian writer of the calibre of Dickens, whose stories featured
sexual discovery and powerplay relationships rather than lost wills and
orphans.

Although Dickens did describe canings, corporal punishment being commonplace in Victorian times, there was very little chance of him writing an erotic spanking scene. Although Victorian themed roleplaying remains a highly popular theme, a fantasy world of maids and stately homes, strict schoolmasters and fearsome governesses, the age itself was prudish and sexually conservative. Consequently the great literature of the age shied away from erotic themes, and lust became an abstract, almost economic motivation,  an urge to possess and marry…

Yet as far back as 1748, Fanny Hill was amongst the first works of pornography to adopt the emerging format of the novel. But alas, it was far too lewd for its time, and would become one of the most prosecuted and banned books in history, despite the fact the sex described is more bawdy than perverse. This was to set the precedent for future repression, and drive erotic writing underground.

By the latter half of the 19th century erotic works were still being written, of course, even by prominent writers and poets. But now they tended to be published anonymously and enjoyed discreetly. Who has ever heard of the fabulously titled comic opera Lady Bumtickler’s Revels? Or the paean to chastisement in The Whippingham Papers?

As culture liberalised in the early 20th century, a subgenre of flagellation fiction emerged, inspired by the works of de Sade and Sacher-Masoch,. These novels tended to be written in French, achieving peak popularity by the 1930s, but few of these fantasies are recognised as works of serious literature. Though you may have read the words of one such writer, Pierre Louys, on this very site.

After the war, post-modern literature became darker, and stories more morally ambiguous. What once was unsayable began to be written down, resulting in controversial novels like Lolita, a suggestive rather than explicit tale of obsessive love that ventures into the taboo. Or the occasional orgies described in Gravity’s Rainbow.

Perhaps there’s hope in contemporary novels that dare to explore the complex landscape of sexual desire. Books like Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and The White, a tale described by one critic as “the novel that Dickens might have written had he been allowed to speak freely”. But still, novels that feature kinky themes tend not to be considered literary novels – members of that esteemed group of cherished stories regarded as having the highest artistic merit. However unfair that categorisation might be.

Do you have a favourite work of erotic literature? Do share your suggestions, I’d love to hear them…

Love the French book you’re translating, who would have thought the olden days were so naughty!

Very true. Our ancestors may have lived in more prudish times, but every generation seems to have had a number of wonderfully kinky and devious minds, who felt compelled to scribble down some great erotic writing, despite the social mores of their time. 

So what a joy it is to be able to go back in time through the written word, and glimpse behind that prudish façade

Love the French book you’re translating, who would have thought the olden days were so naughty!

Very true. Our ancestors may have lived in more prudish times, but every generation seems to have had a number of wonderfully kinky and devious minds, who felt compelled to scribble down some great erotic writing, despite the social mores of their time. 

So what a joy it is to be able to go back in time through the written word, and glimpse behind that prudish façade

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