Every generation has one – its own dirty book that sells in truckloads, from Portnoy’s Complaint to the Happy Hooker and going all the way back to Fanny Hill in the 18th century. So far, the dirty books of the 2000s have been the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy.
50 Shades is essentially an old-fashioned romance (good girl heals bad boy through the transformative power of love) wrapped up in S&M pornography. It’s also an interesting development in the history of erotica, with so many women – especially older women (hence its designation as “mummy porn”) – open about their interest in it, and the sexual experimentation it inspires.
The book was written by Englishwoman EL James but was first published in limited runs by a small independent press here in Australia. At the same time it was sold online as an ebook, and that’s where it really took off, hitting the New York Times ebook bestseller list in 2012. Fast forward to today, where it’s achieved sales of over 90 million worldwide – and now there’s even going to be a movie (released on Valentine’s Day, how romantic!).
Of course buying online makes it easier for people to indulge in erotic fiction – just click n’ purchase, without having to face a shop assistant. Even better, ereaders like Kindles prevent the worry of being seen reading a naughty book. You can read in public (on the tram! in the waiting room!) without arousing suspicion, as long as you can avoid stickybeaks looking over your shoulder – and keep your panting down to a minimum.
As for the book itself? Well, even some of its biggest fans admit the writing isn’t, shall we say, the best. (A sample quote: “”I feel the colour in my cheeks rising again. I must be the colour of The Communist Manifesto.”) But then, that’s not the point, is it? The racy content has inspired many couples to get more adventurous in the bedroom, leading to a significant increase in the sales of rope and handcuffs. Unfortunately this has also led to a rise handcuff “incidents” that have needed assistance from the fire brigade. It has also been blamed for an increase in STDs in older people, who are inspired by the book, but forget to use protection. It’s even been credited with creating its own baby boom!
Whatever you think of it, this series is definitely encouraging people, especially women, to get their freak on and have more candid discussions about sexuality. And who can throw shade at that?
Upon reading Kate Holden’s won derful autobiography In My Skin, published by Text Publishing in 2005, many people were surprised to learn that its author was a heroin addict and professional sex worker for five years.
In fact this was, arguably, part of why the book received such a large amount of media attention.
The reason for people’s surprise was because Kate Holden does not fit the classic picture of someone you may expect to find at a brothel. At the time of the book’s release, she was known as a newspaper columnist and author of short stories, book reviews and essays, and a prominent figure on Melbourne’s literary and journalism scene.
Nonetheless, in In My Skin she speaks frankly and honestly of her struggles with addiction, including her relapses, and her time spent in two of Melbourne’s brothels – as well as her time soliciting on the streets of St Kilda.
Another striking thing about the book was the colourful way in which her life at the brothels is described. She doesn’t speak of daily pain, grubby men, heartache and a feeling of self-sacrifice – though of course, as with any job, there are moments of suffering and struggle.
Rather Kate talks about the interesting men, the friends she made in other sex workers, the personages she took on for different clients, and the general feeling of empowerment she got from her work. She enjoyed feeling beautiful, appreciated, and having the power to give pleasure.
In My Skin has now been published in the USA, UK, Germany, Turkey, Finland, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Brazil, Italy and France. It’s also received considerable acclaim, including being voted one of the State Library of Victoria’s top 5 titles.
After reading the book, I can say that any praise is well deserved.
In her leather bra and chaps, Jessica Alba manages to pull off one of the hottest performances in cinema history. Although when you’re Jessica Alba, it’s probably not that hard. Following the film’s release, images from her smouldering performance quickly came to adorn boys’ bedrooms all over the world – and have now become iconic images.
Speaking of hot performances, how about Natalie Portman in the crazy psychological drama that was Closer? The film was praised for its clever dialogue and mature performances – but with Natalie’s ten-minute turn in a G-string, glittery bra and hot pink wig, you’d be forgiven for being distracted!
This is an eighties classic – and in no small part due to Jennifer Beals’ sizzling performance. Alex Owens’ routines have become an iconic part of movie history, incorporating dance moves that have been referenced consistently since the film’s release. Just check out the Jennifer Lopez video for ‘I’m Glad’ – she was actually sued twice because it was so similar to the film.
And now for a couple of dishonourable mentions! Who could forget Demi Moore in one of the most iconic stripper roles of all time? Although the film was ill-fated (it bombed at the box office and won the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture in 1996), it is perhaps the legendarily bad reviews that added to the cult status of this film.
Another ill-fated stripper film, ‘Showgirls’ was panned by critics and received 1995 Golden Raspberry Award nominations for Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Actress, Worst Screenplay, Worst New Start, Worst Screen Couple and Worst Original Song. This film’s poor reception actually meant that Striptease, which came out the following year, had to be distanced from Showgirls in promotional materials. Nonetheless, the films record-breakingly poor reception led to Elizabeth Berkley, who played Nomi, to being recognized for the role for years!
Sure, sex is enjoyable – but did you know it’s also good for you?
Sure, some fun between the sheets is probably not as beneficial as a gym session (unless you’re doing some really strenuous stuff!), but getting that heart rate up is always a good thing, right? Having sex is thought to burn approximately five calories per minute because it not only increases the heart rate, it utilises a number of different muscles.
Sex can help boost self-esteem and distract you from the pressures of everyday life, which is good for your mental health. Orgasm has also been linked to better mental health by some health professionals. A joint research team from New York University and Cornell University have reported that, “Typically, sociosexually unrestricted individuals (i.e., those highly oriented toward casual sex) reported lower distress and higher thriving following casual sex, suggesting that high sociosexuality may both buffer against any potentially harmful consequences of casual sex and allow access to its potential benefits.”
The act of sex can help work and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles through orgasm. These muscles play an important role in helping women avoid incontinence.
As well as raising your heart rate, sex can help balance your estrogen and testosterone levels. An imbalance in these hormones can lead to serious problems such as heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.
Some research has also suggested links between sex and lowering blood pressure. For example, a study by the New England Research Institute suggested that men who have sex twice or more a week are 65 per cent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than men who have sex an average of less than once a month.
The word "aphrodisiac" comes from Ancient Greece. Derived from "aphrodisios" which means "pertaining to Aphrodite", the Greek Goddess of love, an aphrodisiac is something you can eat, drink or ingest to stimulate and enhance sexual desire.
Over the centuries, humans have consumed all sorts of herbs, foods and drinks in the pursuit of heightened passion. These remedies have ranged from the scientifically sound to downright bizarre – and even hazardous.
Some foods have been thought to promote potency due to a belief in sympathetic magic. For example, figs, avocados, bananas and carrots have all been regarded as aphrodisiacs because they resemble sexual organs.
Some foods, however, have a good nutritional reason to be regarded as aphrodisiacs, whatever they look like. A case in point is honey, which is full of a trace mineral called boron. This helps the body use and metabolise estrogen, the female sex hormone. It also contains vitamins needed for testosterone, so it’s got something for everyone! Another one is the banana, which not only has a suggestive shape but also bromelain, an enzyme which helps to prolong a gentleman’s performance. Whether they work or not, though, the pursuit of aphrodisiacs in food is fairly benign.
There’s a similar a branch of “sympathetic magic” aphrodisiacs based on the characteristics of certain animals. As a result of this, the populations of these animals have been decimated, some to the brink of extinction. Even worse, these beliefs are entirely mistaken and the “medicines” produced have no aphrodisiac properties whatsoever.
Some aphrodisiacs can also be harmful to humans. Spanish Fly, a small beetle, is a classic “love drug” name-checked constantly in 80s frat comedies. And it does work – but only on men. Plus, it’s also kind of gross and very dangerous. The key ingredient, a chemical called cantharadin, is produced by a creature called the meloid beetle, or the “blister beetle”. It creates “sexual excitement” by irritating the urogenital tract, causing a rush of blood to the genital area. It’s poisonous and can cause blistering of the skin and scarring of the urethra – and, in extreme cases, death.
Our aphrodisiac advice? Stick to food – it’s safe, delicious and can be incorporated into sex itself for added fun!
Prostitution has a famously long history, with its first recorded mention appearing in Sumerian records from c. 2400 BCE.
In ancient Athens, the renowned lawmaker Solon created state brothels where, for regulated prices, women and young men would provide sexual services to a mostly male clientele. In ancient Rome, there were brothels everywhere, with female slaves being offered to soldiers for sexual services.
Somewhere between the years 1350-1450, cities began setting up legal municipal brothels which were owned, operated and regulated by the municipality. The government placed restrictions on their opening hours, and on where they could open – setting up the precursor to what would one day be called ‘red light districts’.
The residents of these brothels were also subject to several restrictions, and paid high prices for the bare necessities of food, clothing and toiletries. Often these could amount to the poor woman’s total earnings.
The legal brothels of this time were abolished at the end of the Middle Ages due to a syphilis epidemic that swept through Europe. However, by the 16th Century, brothels were thriving in London. A couple of notable examples include the Holland’s Leaguer, whose patrons apparently included James I of England and the 1st Duke of Buckingham, and the Silver Cross Tavern, which is still open (as a pub) in the same location today.
In France, legal brothels controlled by the state began appearing in the early 19th century – subject to certain restrictions, of course. By 1810, there were 180 officially approved brothels in Paris alone.
By the early 1900s, the luxury of some Parisian brothels had become famous internationally. There were even brothels catering to gay male clients – though these were subject to more frequent raids.
Brothels were outlawed in most European countries following World War II. Italy illegalised brothels in 1959.
Here’s a thought – on any given day, sexual intercourse takes place 120 million times on earth. That means 240 million people are having sex each day!
The country that spends the longest time during sexual intercourse is Brazil at an incredible 30 minutes (Which isn’t the last time you’ll see the Brazilians represented in this article, by the way). The U.S, Canada, and the UK follow at 28, 23, and 21 minutes respectively. The world’s fastest performers are Thailand at 10 minutes and Russia at 12.
Russians might be quick, but they’re also frequent, as one of the most sexually active countries on record: 80% of the population has sex at least once a week. The U.S and France also fall into this category. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Hong Kong at under 50 times a year.
But if you believe it’s not what you do but how, then satisfaction is the most important measure.So which countries are happiest in the sack (or the car, or the fields…)? Below is a list that was put together by Alternet after sifting through a variety of sexual data from around the globe.
- Switzerland – 32% of them have had sex al fresco!
- Spain – recently topped the world’s “best male lover” list, compiled from a sample of 15,000 women from around the globe.
- Italy – sexual seduction in Italy begins at the table, as food and sex are inextricably linked.
- Brazil – and these folks lose their virginity before almost any other nation.
- Greece – where they are completely relaxed about discussing their sex lives at work, with friends and of course partners.
- The Netherlands – 64% of them are confident, asserting their needs and wants during sex – compared, for example, to only half of Americans.
- Mexico – often rated as one of the horniest countries in the world!
- India – with a first-sex average age of 22, showing some things are worth waiting for!
- Australia – Aussie AussieAussie! 75% of Ockers have had sex on the road!
- Nigeria – ranked by Durex as the number one most sexually satisfied nation in the world with a 67% gratification rate. But the women are also recorded as the most unfaithful… wonder if the two are linked??
Xaviera Hollander's career as a sex worker couldn't be further from typical fictional portrayals of debasement, addiction and violent pimps. In the words of Xaviera herself, "To get paid for what you enjoy - is good, no?"
First published in 1971, her book “The Happy Hooker” was the dirty book du jour of its day and is considered a landmark of positive writing about sex. As she says, “sex is only dirty to those with dirty minds”. Initially Hollander thought it would be a small book, “maybe selling 3000 copies in New York”. Instead it became a world-wide smash, and she knew she had a genuine hit on her hands when she went on holiday to Puerto Rico and found “two out of three people reading it on the beach!”
Xaviera Hollander’s life had been eventful even before her book was published. Born in Indonesia to a Dutch Jewish physician father and a German mother, she spent her first two years in a Japanese internment camp. She speaks five languages, and before she was a sex worker was an extremely skilled secretary – in fact, that she was once voted Holland’s best secretary. She eventually ended up playing this trade at the Dutch consulate in Manhattan where she earned the epithet “The Flying Dutchman” because of the way she flew from bed to bed. One day a girlfriend said to her, “You are sitting on a goldmine but you are giving it away!” a comment which planted the seeds of a new career as a sex worker.
Eventually she became New York’s leading madam, running a brothel called Xaviera’s Happy House which served up a sexual smorgasbord to the famous and elite. Unfortunately for Hollander, this venture came crashing down in 1971 when she became embroiled in a huge police corruption scandal and was subsequently arrested and deported for the amusingly quaint-sounding charge of “moral turpitude”.
Luckily for Xaviera, this was the year that her book “The Happy Hooker” was launched, starting her off on a whole new career tack. This included a series of Happy Hooker films, spoken word albums, and even an erotic board game! Now aged 71, she runs an “elegant yet bohemian style” bed and breakfast in Amsterdam’s Gold Coast for creative and colourful travellers.
If you prefer your sex to be recreational rather than procreational, contraception is a must. These days, we have access to the finest scientifically developed methods available. Unfortunately for our ancestors, they did not, although their desire for birth control was just as strong as ours. Let’s take a look at some crazy birth control methods practiced by actual humans throughout history!
- Condoms: The contemporary rubberized version has antecedents through history, mostly made of animal parts like lamb intestines. The Japanese even made theirs out of tortoise shell and animal horn back in the 1870s!
- Spermicides: Again, not a modern invention – but the ingredients of some ancient spermicides were often bizarre and sometimes dangerous. For example, pessaries made of a mixture of crocodile dung and honey. There’s also an Indian variation using elephant dung.
- Disinfectant Vaginal Douches: Unbelievably, vaginal douches with the household disinfectant Lysol were a top seller from the 1930s to 1960s in America. Not only did this cause toxic effects, it was also ineffective as a spermicide.There’s also a more recent – in fact, contemporary – variant of this: the Coca-Cola douche. The interesting thing about this one is that cola has been scientifically proven to reduce the motility (i.e. speed of movement) of sperm. Unfortunately, by the time you get around to performing the douche, it’s already too late…
- Acidic Fruit and Vegetables: This had variations across the world: For Arabian women, it was mashed pomegranate mixed with rock salt and alum. 15th Century Italians would drink raw onion juice (perhaps this was successful by preventing intercourse altogether?). In 1600, the French ate cabbage after intercourse.
- Weasel Testicles. This one dates from the Dark Ages, and involves the woman wearing a pair of severed weasel testicles strapped to her leg. Not to be outdone, the Canadians came up with their own unique variation in the 16th century – grinding beaver testicles into powder and drinking them in extremely strong hooch.
Thank goodness we live in modern times, right? Unfortunately, surveys have found a significant number of couples trying ineffective methods such as cling film, sandwich bags and latex gloves, showing there are still some gaps in birth control knowledge out there. Although some would say this is still an improvement on elephant dung!
If you're ever on a trip to Japan, you should try visiting a particularly Japanese institution – the Love Hotel.
A Love Hotel is, as its name suggests, a place which rents rooms specifically aimed at lovers. They can be rented by the hour (this is euphemistically referred to as “a rest”) or by the night – but if you’re thinking of the American sleazepit hotels of yore, forget it – Japanese Love Hotels are quite a different proposition.
First of all, they’re much cleaner and more sanitary. They’re also extremely discreet – parking lots invisible from the road, front windows heavily tinted and room windows covered by shutters. Some have front desk staff, while others dispense keys from a vending machine, which means you can often check in without having a face-to-face encounter with any person other than your love hotel partner.
According to Academic Ikkyon Kim, who has written about the phenomenon, such places have been around since feudal Japan, “although of course they weren’t called [Love Hotels] at the time.” However, it was the modern boom years of the 1950s and ‘60s that these establishments really came to the fore.
In this time of mass urbanisation, privacy was becoming increasingly hard for Japanese citizens to find. Manyfound themselves crowded into tiny apartments with whole families sleeping together in one room. Couples that wanted to snatch some time to themselves, even just for an hour, needed somewhere to go – and were willing to trade some of their disposable income for it.
By the 1970s, some owners started to experiment with more exotic decor, such as turrets, revolving beds or Cadillac’s balanced on roofs. There was also a movement into themed rooms, and today you can rent a medical room to play doctors and nurses in; dungeon rooms for the S&M enthusiast; Christmas rooms for the, uh, Christmas enthusiast – or for the full Japanese experience, a Hello Kitty room.
Love Hotels offer a few hours of privacy, and sometimes fantasy, in a crowded country. If you’re ever in Japan, they’re definitely worth checking into, and checking out!