Category Archives: love

The History of Erotica, from Caveman to Marquis de Sade

In September 2009 I bade you farewell.

I’m back with a book, a history of erotica which starts in prehistory and ends for now with Henry Fuseli,  J. – J. Lequeu and Marquis de Sade.

It features some 250 images and about as many citations.

It is for the time being only available in Dutch and costs 25 euros.

The book was presented on the evening of valentine’s day, 2011.

Introducing Joel Brodsky (1939 – 2007)

via Joel Brodsky Joel Brodsky, American photographer, noted for Ohio Players album cover photography.


Joel Brodsky (7 October 1939 – 1 March 2007) , American photographer, best-known for his risqué Ohio Players album cover photography. His photographs are also featured on the covers of The DoorsStrange Days[1], The Stooges debut album[2], Herbie Mann’s Memphis Underground[3] and the Ohio Players’ Ecstasy[4] and Pleasure[5].

His best-known picture, according to a Washington Post story, was used as the cover of the 1985 The Best of The Doors[6] album. It made in late 1966 and shows a bare-chested Jim Morrison of the Doors, with his arms outstretched.

Brodsky’s photographs appeared on over 400 album covers.

Normal love

Normal love

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My dear friend Walter gave me Cinema of Obsession[1] as a present.

Cinema of Obsession traces the history of obsessive love and erotic fixation. Seminal works of obsession, The Blue Angel, Peter Ibbetson, and Phantom of the Opera are seen as setting the groundwork for films that follow. The book defines and surveys examples of the explosive nature of amour fou, issues of male control (no matter how tenuous), and the fugitive couple – love on the run – in such films as Romeo and Juliet, Last Tango in Paris, Vertigo, Basic Instinct, and Wild at Heart. Male masochism is explored through film noirs, including Criss Cross, The Killers, Gilda, and The Postman Always Rings Twice. The book shifts gears in its finale and concentrates on the female gaze, films of female obsession: Jane Eyre, The Piano, The Lover, Fatal Attraction, and Vanilla Sky.

The introduction to the book mentions new (to me) theoretical work on love and fetishism. First there is Max Dessoir (pseudonym Ludwig Brunn) and a 1888 essay entitled “The Fetichism of Love,” from which comes this clever quote:

Normal love appears to us as a symphony of tones of all kinds. It is roused by the most varied agencies. It is, so to speak, polytheistic. Fetichism recognises only the tone-colour of a single instrument; it issues forth from a single motive; it is monotheistic.”

“Fetichism of Love” reprises the final two chapters of Alfred Binet‘s “Du Fétichisme dans l’amour” published the previous year, which is generally regarded as the first work on sexual fetishism.

The book also references Denis de Rougemont‘s L’Amour et l’Occident (1939, revised 1972), translated as Love in the Western World as well as the standard work in this category, Georges Bataille‘s Erotism.

From that last book.

eroticism differs from animal sexuality in that human sexuality is limited by taboos and the domain of eroticism is that of the transgression of these taboos.”

The phrase that inspired this post and above all the photo above is “normal love“.

Erotic memoirs fake and true

I’m experiencing a sudden outburst of graphomania.

Though I meant to review the wonderful Feuchtgebiete[1] after I’d read Catherine Millet and Toni Bentley, I decided to publish this piece on erotic memoirs now after finding the (fake) erotic memoirs of Anne-Marie Villefranche. Reading Millet and Bentley will have to wait.

Joie D'amour (1983)  by Villefranche in the erotic memoir series by you.

Joie d’amour by Anne-Marie Villefranche

From my wiki on erotic memoirs:

Erotic memoirs include those of Casanova‘s Histoire de ma vie from the eighteenth century, ‘Walter’s My Secret Life from the nineteenth, Frank Harris‘s My Life and Loves (1922-27) from the twentieth and Catherine Millet‘s The Sexual Life of Catherine M. (2001), One Hundred Strokes of the Brush Before Bed (2003) by Melissa Panarello, Toni Bentley‘s The Surrender : An Erotic Memoir (2004) and Feuchtgebiete (2008) by Charlotte Roche from the twenty-first.

Notice the preponderance of female writers and protagonist (a tradition since the whore dialogues). For a male point of view, check the work of Henry Miller. And ooops … I almost forgot Anaïs Nin.

I continue form my wiki with erotic memoirs of the 19th century.

Sensational journalism such as W.T. Stead‘s The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon (1885) about the procuring of underage girls into the brothels of Victorian London has also provided a stimulus for the erotic imagination. Stead’s account was widely translated and the revelation of “padded rooms for the purpose of stifling the cries of the tortured victims of lust and brutality” and the symbolic figure of “The Minotaur of London” confirmed European observers worst imaginings about “Le vice anglais” and inspired erotic writers to write of similar scenes set in London or involving sadistic English gentlemen. Such writers include D’Annunzio in Il Piacere, Paul-Jean Toulet in Monsieur de Paur (1898), Octave Mirbeau in Jardin des Supplices (1899) and Jean Lorrain in Monsieur de Phocas (1901).


Here is a mini-review I wrote on February 17th of Feuchtgebiete:

I have started reading Feuchtgebiete. A very dry, cold and realistic style, almost devoid of poetics. The first page mentions an anal orgasm. There is a memorable scene where the protagonist and her friend take a great deal of drugs from a dealer-friend’s stash, later puke because it was too much, find that many of the pills had not been digested and drink their vomit all up again.

Daedalus devised a hollow wooden cow

A minotaur is a legendary half-creature.

The Minotaur by  George Frederic Watts   1817-1904 by you.

George Frederic Watts‘s The Minotaur

George Frederic Watts paints The Minotaur in 1885[1].

In 1898 Klimt contributed the poster “Theseus and the Minotaur[2] to the first Vienna Secession group exhibition, a poster rich in symbolic meaning. The fig-leaf was deliberately missing, which caused some controversy.

The Minotaur creature was the offspring of a certain Queen Pasiphae and a white bull. The myth goes thus: after one of Poseidon‘s angry spells which caused Pasiphae to be overcome with a fit of madness in which she fell in love with the bull, Pasiphae went to Daedalus for assistance, and Daedalus devised a way for her to satisfy her passions. He constructed a hollow wooden cow covered with cowhide for Pasiphae to hide in and allow the bull to mount her. The result of this union was the Minotaur.

Looking for more minotaurs brings up Michael Parkes‘s one[3].

Update: a wikified comment by Paul Rumsey.

Watts was inspired to paint this picture by reading “The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon” by William Thomas Stead. The tiny bird crushed in the hand of the minotaur is symbolic of the child prostitute.

Update: Last night, before falling asleep the image of the below VHS cover sprang to mind.

The Coming of Sin (1978) by Spanish Eurotrash director José Ramón Larraz. The cover of the VHS echoes the union of Pasiphaë and the bull that produced the Minotaur.

The Coming of Sin (1978)  José Ramón Larraz

Bettie Page (1923 – 2008)

Bettie Page, Bizarre nr. 14

If your interest goes just a little bit beyond vanilla sex, you’ve probably come across Bettie Page.

Bettie Page (April 22, 1923December 11, 2008) was an American model who became famous in the 1950s for her fetish modeling and pin-up photos, taken by Irving Klaw.


American 2000s documentary


Bettie’s Punishment

The whole of her is Icon of Erotic Art #38.

New Breillat film stars fashion model Naomi Campbell and con artist Christophe Rocancourt

Bad Love (film) by Catherine Breillat

Bad Love by Breillat published bby Léo Scheer

Bad Love (2007) Catherine Breillat

Bad Love is a French film by Catherine Breillat scheduled for 2009, starring fashion model Naomi Campbell and impostor/con artist Christophe Rocancourt, produced by Jean-François Lepetit, based on Breillat’s own novel published by Léo Scheer in 2007.

Bright Lights Film Journal (along with Senses of Cinema[1] and Images Journal[2], the best film site online) has an interview with Jahsonic fave Breillat[3] conducted by Damon Smith.

From Léo Scheer publisher:

“Vivian Parker, une star sublime et hautaine, rencontre Louis lors d’un festival de cinéma. Sans savoir pourquoi, elle lui donne son numéro de téléphone. Commence alors une passion qui réunit deux êtres que tout oppose. Entraînés dans le vertige de leur amour irrationnel, les deux amants vont se découvrir peu à peu, avant de se déchirer. Avec ce roman à deux voix, tour à tour émouvant, sensuel, sombre et cruel, Catherine Breillat met en scène une histoire d’amour tragique, une histoire de dévoration mutuelle.”

So it looks like another story of tainted love, mad love and impossible obsessive love fitting for an entry in Cinema of Obsession: Erotic Obsession and Love Gone Wrong.

Other films expected in 2009:

Any computer-dating questionnaire will try to match intellectual like with like

300px-Madame_X_by_SargeantDying Adonis by Goltzius

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“Physically, men and women are generally attracted to each other because of their differences. Ask any group of men from any culture to assess the attractiveness of a female, and they will tend to opt for the figure which curves where they are flat, is soft where they are strong and — though this may be a matter for aesthetic as much as scientific debate — swells where they are narrow. The same, in reverse, is true of women, who will tend to express a preference for men with broad shoulders tapering to narrow hips. … Yet in every other respect, we expect the sexes to be attracted to each other because of their similarities. Any computer-dating questionnaire will try to match intellectual like with like.Brain Sex

“The perversity of woman!”

Danielle Darrieux is Mme de Rênal by Jahsonic

Danielle Darrieux is Mme de Rênal

I’m slowly and carefully moving towards the middle of The Red and the Black and am stricken by quotes on “female perversions” (there is no such thing, or is there?) and instances of “happiness in crime”:

“Their joy was thenceforward of a far higher nature, the flame that devoured them was more intense. They underwent transports of utter madness. Their happiness would have seemed great in the eyes of other people. But they never recaptured the delicious serenity, the unclouded happiness, the spontaneous joy of the first days of their love, when Madame de Renal’s one fear was that of not being loved enough by Julien. Their happiness assumed at times the aspect of crime. ” –Chapter 19 in The Red and the Black

The perversity of woman!thought Julien. “What pleasure, what instinct leads them to betray us?” –Chapter 21 in The Red and the Black

Gratuitous nudity #11 and Icon of Erotic Art #32

sophie dahl by modelvancouver

Sophie Dahl, i-D, 1997

Sophie Dahl first came to my attention with her Opium (perfume) ad[1].

Today, following a link that started[2] at Trevor Brown‘s blog, which celebrated Takashi Itsuki‘s acrotomophiliac eroticism, which backlinked[3] to the new magazine Coilhouse (amazing new magazine, started as a blog in Aug 2007), I arrived at the photography of Nick Knight. On his site, one finds this image[4] (first published in i-D, 1997), which frankly, leaves me sick with desire. Just what is it that brings on this sickness? It’s the softness of her skin, the presumed quality of her fatty tissue, the pot belly and the pear-shaped breasts. And the nails. Amen.

This is a first for my series, where an image is both an instance of gratuitous nudity and an Icon of Erotic Art.