Tag Archives: erotica

L'erotisme by Georges Bataille in the 10-18 edition

The ‘worries of pleasure’, or, the baseness of Western erotica vs. the exaltedness of Eastern erotica

This is the picture I referred to when in my previous post[1] I mentioned ‘something’ that kindled my interest in oriental erotica, perhaps for the first time.

It is the cover of the book Eroticism by French writer Georges Bataille as it is depicted in Onfray‘s book Le Souci des plaisirs which I bought during my recent visit to Pau and which I read last Thursday.

Bataille’s cover is illustrated with a photo of an Indian erotica masterpiece: a detail from the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple, part of the Khajuraho Group of Monuments.

When I was writing De geschiedenis van de erotiek I already speculated that the conception and experience of sexuality (and ergo erotica) in the east, cannot be that much different from ours in the west:

“In the West, there is an idea that the art of love in the East is more sophisticated than ours. Whether this is true, cannot be said with certainty. After all, what is sophisticated and how can we look into the bedrooms of countless couples who make love every night in the East? Do they make love like we do or is their business conducted in a more tantric way? Hard to ascertain, difficult to refute.” (Geerinck, 2011)

But Onfray seems to disagree and repeats trite clichés on the exaltedness of Eastern sexuality in ‘Le Souci des plaisirs’.

Onfray is right about one thing: the photo of the highly sexual Khajuraho Group of Monuments is totally out of place on the cover of Bataille’s book in the sense that Bataille’s Erotisicism is exclusively about western eroticism.

Bataille owes this to himself.

He should not have written:

“Numerous Indian temples solemnly remind us of the obscenity buried deep in our hearts.”

In the section “Les leçons de la couverture” (The lessons on book covers, pages 118-19) of ‘Le souci des plaisrs’, Onfray comments on this 10/18 edition of George Bataille’s L’Erotisme The subscript to the photo of the cover reads “Dieux et déesses hindous, couples mithunas et apsaras, temple de Kandarya construit sous Vidyadhara (1017-1029), Khajuraho, Madhya Prasesh, Inde.”

Onfray, surprised about the cover, asks rhetorically.

Obscenity? Really? Where?

He answers that obscenity seems to be a Western thing when he says that as far as the affirmation is concerned “that at the bottom of our hearts there is buried obscenity,” this probably holds true for Bataille and Sade and other “nihilists of the flesh”, but certainly not for the contemporary Indians of Khajuraho…” (“Sûrement pas pour les Indiens contemporains de Khajuraho…”)

So I wonder, is obscenity really a purely occidental thing, just as perversion? Is it a coincidence that sadism and masochism are two perversions of sexual love that first came to fruition in the west?

And what about Japan, notorious for its kinkiness?

Is Japan the exception that proves the rule?

Because if sadomasochism is typically Western, why is it to be found elevated to perfection in Japan, a country largely devoid of Christian influence?

Japan is usually regarded as part of the West, ever since its Samsung- and Sony-ization.

So is sexual perversion the dividing line in the East–West dichotomy?

Questions.

In search of the “breasts like two globes of ivory” citation

Yesterday, as I was browsing through my translation of The History of Erotica, because of my kindled interest in eastern erotica (brought about by Onfray’s book Le Souci des plaisirs (I’ll tell you about this later)), I fell upon the “breasts like two globes of ivory” citation which I had attributed to One Thousand and One Nights when writing my book. The only trouble, when I started googling, I could not find it in digital copies of One Thousand and One Nights, only in a Google Books copy of The Jewel in the Lotus.

Page 1 from "The Jewel in the Lotus"
Page 1 from “The Jewel in the Lotus”

Luck had it that the UA library has The Jewel in the Lotus in its collection so I got it today (13/11/19) and there it was, on page 1, “She hath breasts like two globes of ivory, like golden pomegranates ― beautifully upright, arched and rounded, firm as stone to the touch ― with nipples erect and outward jutting,” with a footnote sourcing it to Burton’s The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night.

Still, however hard I tried, I could not source it in that book.

But I read the entire Jewel book and here are some notes:

In the preface the The Jewel in the Lotus has “lucrative sinks of iniquity peopled by degenerate niggers,” without footnote, does it refer to Burton?

And on page 49, various descriptions of the female pudenda by Burton:

” When he beheld them stripped of their clothes, his chord stiffened for that looking at them mother-naked he saw what was between their thighs, and that of all kinds, soft and rounded, plump and cushioned ; large-lipped, perfect, redundant and ample, and their faces were as moons and their hair as night upon day”

“He cast a glance at the chief damsel and there was manifest to him what was between her thighs, a goodly rounded dome, like a bowl of silver or crystal.”

“parts softer than silk; white, plumply-rounded, protuberant, resembling for heat the hot room of the bath”

This being a work of sexual anthropology, it references many travelogue-like sources Such as Alexander Hamilton‘s New Account of the East Indies [1]:

“The Veyraugee, an austere type of Shivite holy man, is a sect of mendicant priests. An early traveler to India” thus described a Veyraugee: I have seen a fanciful Rascal, seven Foot high with a large Turband of his own Hair wreathed about his Head, and his Body bedaubed with Ashes and Water, sitting quite naked under the Shade of a Tree, with pudendum like an ass.”

Burton on harem castration on pp. 174-5, many of which I cannot find the source in Burton’s text:

“begged her to reveal her intent; and finally, after I was well secured, she said unto me: ‘I bear the intention of removing thy precious stones, the honours of thy yard. I must also apply the blade to thy pizzle.” –unsourced

“and I wept over myself for that I was become even as a woman, without manly tool like other men.” [2]

One of the most valuable bits of The Jewel is its bibliography, which shows some overlap with Ethnography : Castes and Tribes. Main sources are R. F. BurtonJean-Antoine Dubois (Hindu Manners), Paul LacroixKama Kalpa by P Thomas.

“The Turk ruled the Arab, for there thrived in him savage ambition. The Arab possessed subtle genius, but the Turk had keen emotional drive.”

Note:

“This pattern of temperament has certainly not changed, as witnessed by the current Middle Eastern crisis.”–p. 187″It was the starving negro hunting the elephant, the starving Arab hunting the Negro, and the ravenous Turk hunting the Arab to hunt the Negro.”, source: The Mahdi of AllahRichard. A. Bermann

The book mentions the braguette, and cites the Essays by Montaigne on this regard.

A few days later, it dawned upon me where I had found the “breasts like two globes of ivory” citation, it was in The Erotic Arts, there on page 84 is the famous quote. It refers to footnote 9 on page 444 which refers to Edwardes again.

But still, mysteriously, I cannot find it in Burton’s online texts.

Nine of the ten volumes of Burton's "One Thousand and One Nights"
Nine of the ten volumes of Burton’s “One Thousand and One Nights”

A few days later, I discover that my library has Burton’s translation in its collection, kept in the warehouse. I order it and when it came, surprise, nine volumes only, the tenth, which features the so-called “Terminal Essay” which I was most looking forward to, was not in the collection anymore, I imagine it stolen.

RIP Gillian Freeman (1929 – 2019)

Gillian Freeman was a British writer best known for her book The Undergrowth of Literature (1967), a pioneering study of pornography.

At first I thought I’d not pay her death any attention, since I do not own a copy of The Undergrowth of Literature, the reason I discovered Mrs. Freeman in the first place. But I changed my mind when I found out that the Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library had a copy of this book in its warehouses, so off I was.

Leafing through the book (200 pp.) one finds references to other studies of porn from that era but most of all one is struck by the female point of view. Mrs Freeman is one of the first porn researchers to put forward that female sexual fantasies can be found in women’s magazines:

“I have merely made a survey of current fantasy literature which overtly or covertly, supplies the stimulus which so many people need, from the romance of Woman’s Own to the sado-masochism of Man’s Story” — p. 1

As always the negative criticism is most amusing:

“[the book is] nothing more than a collection of quotes, précis, paraphrases and photographs from current pornographic publications and glossy magazines … there is no love like the liberal prig‘s love for perverts and perversions”. –Stephen Vizinczey,The Times, 4 November 1967

Since Undergrowth is not in Google Books, I thought I’d give you the index. This may be useful to the aspiring pornosopher  although apart from its focus on herstory it does not come near the qualities of Sex in History (1954) and Eros Denied (1964).


Gillian Freeman also wrote the thought sequences dialogue for The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968).

I wonder who is inheriting Mrs. Freeman’s library.

RIP Tomi Ungerer (1931 – 2019)

Fornicon (1969)

Tomi Ungerer was a French illustrator known for his children’s books, as well as his satirical and erotic work for adults.

I attended an interview with Ungerer in 2014 and wrote this small piece in Dutch after the occasion and also did a post on Tumblr[1].

I’ll never forget the moment at he end of the interview when he started singing “Die Gedanken sind frei” and many of the German-language invites joining in.

Fornicon (1969) [above] is a collection of 60 prints of scenes of funny machine-aided sadomasochistic male domination. When I say machine-aided, think Rube Goldberg machine. Box sets of these prints are being sold for as high as 3,000$. Books can be had for as little as ten dollars.

Ungerer’s humor is quite like that of Roland Topor.

RIP Rita Renoir (1934 – 2016)

Via research on the King Mob Echo magazine, which led me to Chris Gray which led me to Conrad Rooks which led me to Chappaqua (in which Rita had a part), it has come to my attention that Rita Renoir has died.

Rita Renoir was a French exotic dancer, sex symbol, nobrow figure and actress.

Above you can see Rita Renoir performing a striptease to Serge Gainsbourg’s “Sois belle et tais-toi“, a song from the album Serge Gainsbourg N°2 (1960).

But…

The clip is actually from from Il mondo di notte numero 3 (1963), a typical mondo film, and the music is actually by Riz Ortolani. The scene is superb.

RIP Jorge Grau (1930 – 2018)

Jorge Grau was a Spanish film director who worked in the age of the sexual revolution which came late in Spain because of censorship in Francoist Spain.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)
The Bloody Countess

To the illustrious history of Spanish horror film, Grau contributed The Bloody Countess (1973) and Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974), the first film on Elizabeth Báthory, the second on zombies.

To the not so illustrious history of Spanish erotica, he contributed the film La trastienda, the first Spanish film to feature full frontal nudity. The film touches upon sexual repression and Opus Dei.

Cantudo sings “Desnudame”, in the background are excerpts from “La trastienda’

 María José Cantudo was the actress who was first seen nude on Spanish cinema screens in La trastienda. While researching Grau, it also came to my attention that Cantudo recorded a song called “Desnuda me”, Spanish for “Unrobe me”.

In the part on Spanish horror of the documentary Eurotika!, Jorge Grau is featured on 18:50 [above].

World Cinema Classic #189

Years ago, I posted [1] two highlights of see-through erotica. Both were film stills.

The first[2] was from Succubus (1968) directed by Jess Franco, the second[3] was from Castle of Blood (1964), directed by Antonio Margheriti.

Today, the full movies of these stills are available on YouTube:

From Castle of Blood I was able to find the exact location of the film still in question[4]. The woman who is wearing the translucent crinoline and who bares her perky breasts appears to be Sylvia Sorrente (Elsi in the film).

From Succubus I was unable to track the still. However, I was able to get a wider shot[6]. La Reynaud appears to be stripping for a pianist seen from the rear in the back.

Castle of Blood is a good film, with an eerie soundtrack by Riz Ortolani. It is World Cinema Classic #189.

Mark the severe ptosis of the breasts

La Tentation de St Antoine, ornée de figures et de musique, engraving by Antoine Borel after François-Rolland Elluin.

This is quite something. It’s been a while since I’ve had a find like this one. Mark the severe ptosis of the breasts and the general atmosphere which pre-dates the diableries.

The Bibliographie des principaux ouvrages relatifs à l’amour notes[1]:

La Tentation de saint Antoine (p. Sedaine). — Le Pot-pourri de Loth (p. P. Lalman, ou, selon la France littéraire, par Poinsinet). Londres (Paris), 1781, 2 part, en 1 vol. in-8 avec mus. gr.,portr. de Sedaine, front, et 17 pi. en taille douce, dont quelques-unes libres. Bozerian, 20 fr. — Il y en a aussi une édit. Cazin, 1782, in-18, av. 17 fig. non libres ; peu commune.