50 Shades of Rose

It is not enough to conquer; one must know how to seduce.” (Voltaire)

They say that the Victorian era was backlash against the unabashed romps of us 19th-century sensual types. What do you think? Never was whiskey as plentiful as during prohibition, yes?

All this hoopla over mommy porn. You’d think this E.L. James invented the bodice ripper. The throbbing member. The very idea of “secret tryst.”

Well, let me set you straight. When it comes to clandestine titillation and BDSM, the Victorians were, shall we say, seasoned in the art of fantasy.

I submit this coy little excerpt:

“Laura Middleton: Her Brother and Her Lover” published by Anonymous, in 1890.

Taking hold of her hand I placed it upon the stiff object and made her grasp it as it throbbed and beat with the excitement under which I was labouring. Her eyes were fixed upon the lovely object thus exposed to her gaze, and I could easily see from the flushing of her face and the sparkling of her eyes what a powerful impression I had made upon her.

All she said was, “Oh, but if John should know of it.”

I immediately replied, “But why should John know anything about it? You don’t suppose I am such a mean wretch as to tell anybody of what we may do, and if you only keep your own secrets no one need ever know anything about it.

“But perhaps,” I continued, “you think this little gentleman,” and I shoved the furious member backwards and forwards two or three times in her hand as she still continued to grasp it, “is not so big as John’s and won’t give you so much pleasure, but only let me try and I shall do all I can to pleasure you.”

Though we lacked the furtive graces of an e-reader, many a lady hid these little books behind a fan, or in the undergarments, shielded from sight by the complicated garments of the day. Oh, no, this Shades of Grey phenomenon is not new, not hardly. Mommy porn of the 19th century thrived and was passed, hand-to-hand, from Court to Countess to Commoner. We certainly had our own book clubs and garden parties and Ladies-in-Waiting sessions while our strapping men went about their business, their stiff objects leading the way.

3 thoughts on “50 Shades of Rose

  1. Oh, those naughty Victorians! Thank you for sharing such a wordly view on the matter. This is the best post I’ve seen since reading the excerpt from SOG.


  2. Why thank you, ladies. Yes, hot is timeless. On record, Ms. Bardugo, Victorian porn was much more available to, and written for, a male audience. (There were secret clubs and subscription lists and so forth.) All very imperialist and misogynistic. Female-based erotic lit got a foothold in the early 1900s. And, we cannot ignore the influence of our Miss Sappho, yes?

    That said, historically, the erotic “novel” enjoys a different gender audience than, say, the pornographic postcard. Words, Ms. Bardugo, it’s about the words! A sentence or a line of titillating poetry is worth a thousand titty shots!

    Regardless, the subject has been bandied about in gender studies classes for eras. Here’s a sweet little link for further info: http://www.ncgsjournal.com/issue41/miller.htm

    Thanks for your interest!


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