Saturday, July 28, 2012

Who's Reading All This Erotica, Anyway?

People so frequently seem uncomfortable with the idea that someone is reading erotica, and I've seen lots of disingenuous attempts to identify who is doing all these reading. Most recently, this has come up in relation to Fifty Shades of Grey, with all kinds of weird speculation about "mommy porn." But it's an old conversation, it's often about shifting shame onto some group that the speaker doesn't belong to, and it usually sounds pretty silly. Here's a great example from Geoff Nicholson's book Sex Collectors.

[Gershon] Legman tells us in The Horn Book that collectors of erotica are either the "inexperienced young" in search of information and education or the "old and impotent...searching in books or pictures for the reviving of their drooping sexuality." "Few collectors exist between these limits," he says, and he reckons the young are in the majority. This seems so transparently untrue and such a downright weird thing to say that you have to wonder what his agenda is. When he starts talking about "these children, with their hopeless pornographic pamphlets, grotesquely illustrated as often as not with smeary photographs of old time pimps and whores in pointy shoes and torn stockings," his scholarly credibility seems to be sprinting rapidly toward the exit.

The quoted language sounds patently absurd, and you have to wonder where these assertions are coming from. I suspect a lot of the "mommy porn" speculation is going to sound just as absurd in a few years.

People read erotica. Which people? Plenty of people.

(And for those following along at home, I've indeed quoted several times recently from Sex Collectors. It's a really interesting book, and I'm likely to do it some more. It's on the Kindle if you want to check it out for yourself.)

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