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Posts Tagged ‘sex’

That’s a No-No

February 14, 2014 | by

Choosing your own erotic destiny, or trying to.

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Panel from Secret Hearts No. 111, April 1966.

A few nights ago, I was in a world-class sushi restaurant, holding a radish shaped like a rose and contemplating my next move. Koji, the head chef, had carved the radish-rose for me moments ago, after a game of strip poker that ended with him fucking me in the dining room. Earlier that night, I’d adjourned to a lavish hotel suite to suck tequila from a rock star’s navel; a renowned fashion photographer had taken pictures of my genitals and gone down on me in his darkroom, where I’d blurted without thinking, “God, I’m so wet!”; and I’d indulged in a little tasteful S&M with my friend’s older boss, spanking his firm, muscled, George Clooney-ish buttocks with a schoolteacher’s ruler.

Now I felt trapped, denatured, and sort of bored.

A Girl Walks into a Bar is a new choose-your-own-adventure-style erotic novel in which “YOU make the decisions.” YOU, in this case, was me—I was calling the shots in this vale of thrills. I’d picked up Girl in pursuit of cheap gender-bending laughs, but I also had what you might charitably call an anthropological curiosity. In the wake of Fifty Shades of Grey, I wanted to see: What did a mainstream erotic novel look like?

Written by three South African women under the pseudonym Helena S. Paige, A Girl Walks into a Bar markets itself as an empowerment agent. “YOUR FANTASY, YOUR RULES. YOU DECIDE HOW THE NIGHT WILL END,” its cover says. (Another new novel with a similar conceit, Follow Your Fantasy, suggests, “Even if you choose submission, the control is still all yours.”) But by promising refuge for the powerless, the publishers reveal something much sadder—the subtext of these proclamations is that control, especially for women, is simply too hard to come by in the real world. One might as well get one’s kicks elsewhere. When you print “YOU DECIDE HOW THE NIGHT WILL END” on the front of a work of fiction, you imply that women are not often afforded the pleasure of doing so. Read More »

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The Habits of Highly Erotic People

February 6, 2014 | by

What can the French teach Americans about sex?

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From a 1923 French advertisement

Last month, as the New York Post went into paroxysms over the latest French presidential love triangle, we found a more academic comment on French habits of the heart, thanks to our attendance at a panel on “The Art of Sex and Seduction,” sponsored by the Alliance Française. On the first of its three nights, entitled “Did the French invent love?”, Catherine Cusset, a former professor of French literature at Yale, told a story:

A countess invites a young man to her house after running into him at the opera. After a stiff meal with her husband, who retires to his private apartments, the countess leads her guest down a secret passageway into a bedroom. The walls and ceiling are covered with gilded mirrors. Sexual frenzy ensues. At daybreak, the giddy, exhausted young man emerges from the den and runs into a marquis who has just arrived. The marquis thanks him profusely. The young man realizes that he has served merely as a decoy to distract the count from his wife’s true lover. The husband appears for breakfast and greets the marquis cordially. The last line of this story—Vivant Denon’s No Tomorrow, first published in 1777—reads, “I looked for some moral to this adventure and … I could find none.”

“There is no moral lesson,” Cusset said pointedly, and a communal gasp could be heard in Florence Gould Hall. Throughout the series, the audience was susceptible to gasps, audible stirring, and sudden eruptions of laughter. The French and American panelists, who included historians, scientists, sex therapists, and journalists, spoke about vaginas and orgasms in that purposefully blunt way one always expects and yet can seldom prepare for. Here’s what we learned about the difference between French and American sexual customs and attitudes, with a few startling facts about tout le monde. Read More »

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The Secret Sex Lives of Famous People

February 5, 2014 | by

max factor primitif vintage perfume ad model jean patchett 1957

Jean Patchett, in a 1957 Primitif by Max Factor ad.

There are a lot of things I should be reading right now: great books, worthy books, new books, books that, quite frankly, I need to finish for work. But I cannot. Ever since I ran across The Secret Sex Lives of Famous People on my grandparents’ bookshelf, I have been unable to crack anything else.

As the title indicates, this is the best book ever written, and possibly the only book one need own. The table of contents lists such categories as “Late Virginity Losers,” “Outsize Organs,” “Minute Members,” “Orgiasts,” “Interfered with When Young,” “Overrated or Disappointing Lovers,” “Clean and Unclean,” and “Peeping Toms.” As of this writing, I am only as far as August Strindberg (cross-listed as “Mother-Fixated,” “Prodigious Progenitors,” “Sex with Partners Twenty Years (or More) Younger”). But I have every intention of dispatching Zola (“Bigamists,” “Sex Trials and Famous Scandals,” “Erotica”) before the sun sets.

Despite the subject matter, and the red-and-purple 1981-issue cover, the tone of the book is not lurid. It is objective, almost academic. Or at least, the authors make all their declarations with absolute authority. Each entry begins with a biographical sketch; these, in themselves, are worthy of much close attention. Of Somerset Maugham, the authors assert, “In his 92nd year, partially demented, often angry, sometimes euphoric, he died of lung congestion.”

Of course, the sex stuff is still the best. To wit:

Hemingway had several unusual theories about sex. He believed that each man was allotted a certain number of orgasms in his life, and that these had to be carefully spaced out. Another theory was that, if you had sex often enough, you could eat all the strawberries you wanted without contracting hives, even if you were allergic to the fruit.

Rousseau had numerous sexual eccentricities. He had the odd habit of going into raptures over inanimate objects. When living with Madame de Warens, he would wander through her house, kissing the armchair, the bedcurtains, even the floor.

James Joyce, meanwhile, “was a true underwear fetishist, and even carried a pair of doll’s panties in his pocket.”

Lately, my inbox has been flooded with desperate advertisements for inappropriate Valentine’s Day gifts. And if tubs of popcorn and sofa cushions qualify as tokens of love, I feel I may as well throw my hat into the ring and nominate The Secret Sex Lives of Famous People as the sum total of my 2014 gift guide. In this I follow family tradition: last year, my father gave my mother At Your Service, the unspeakably lurid memoir by the cheerful gent who, by his own account, acted as procurer and trick for everyone in Old Hollywood. (My mother talked so often, and so darkly and cryptically, about Charles Loughton’s fetishes that in the end I had to read it myself.) But really, who wouldn’t love it? Paper is ephemeral, flowers fade, diamonds are forever but pricey. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t prefer four whole pages on Mary Baker Eddy’s obsession with “Malicious Animal Magnetism.”

(Well, I suppose a real Joycean might prefer a pair of dolly panties.)

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What We’re Loving: Foot Juggling, Dancing, and Coregasms

May 10, 2013 | by

swing-time-fred-astaire-ginger-rogers-1936“‘Quinoa cranberry pilaf,’ I wrote down. And then, ‘coregasm.’ Because that was the subsequent topic of discussion: women who have spontaneous orgasms during yoga. The barista was saying how wonderful it was that the issue was receiving attention, coregasms being something a lot of women experienced and were frightened to talk about. Those days were over.” Emily Witt on sex in San Francisco. —Lorin Stein

Last night, I turned to an old favorite, Bring on the Empty Horses, David Niven’s memoir of his years in Hollywood. Niven had a successful second act as a raconteur and author, and his wit and urbanity are well known. But what I’ve always liked is how kind and generous he is about fellow actors: without ever resorting to gossip, he manages to give us fully-realized portraits of icons like Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart. My favorite is the chapter on Fred Astaire, who comes off as modest and down-to-earth. Both men were widowed young, and their close bond is palpable. Niven also relates, amusingly, that Astaire was shy about dancing socially, and apparently embarrassed his daughter Ava at a school father-daughter dance with his ineptitude. Today is Astaire’s birthday: I’m celebrating by watching this over and over. And if you want a living tribute, my colleague (who is bashful about writing staff picks himself) says that the New York City Ballet’s current revival of the Astaire-inspired Jerome Robbins piece, “I’m Old-Fashioned,” is terrific. —Sadie Stein

I frequently visit The Public Domain Review for its wealth of interesting and unusual out-of-copyright tidbits, and its recent video on the Kawana Trio, described as “Artistic Foot Jugglers,” is no disappointment. It was filmed by Hans A. Spanuth for his Original Vod-A-Vil Movies series; you can find a handful of his films online that are a hard to match, however limited, record of the vaudeville acts that were so popular at the turn of the century. —Justin Alvarez

I’ve read a couple of Kate Christensen’s novels, but right now I’m enjoying the food writing on her blog. I find that many food blogs are picture-heavy and prose-devoid, but Christensen’s posts feature no photos and the suggested recipes are eloquently imprecise (most-used measurements include glug, handful, and knob). I’m looking forward to Christensen’s upcoming Blue Plate Special, an autobiographical account of her life in food, out in July. —Brenna Scheving

 

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The Most-Wanted Books of 2012

August 23, 2012 | by

  • Madonna’s Sex is the most sought-after out-of-print book on Bookfinder’s 2012 report.
  • And a signed Where the Wild Things Are is the year’s most expensive. A video on it here.
  • Are women underrepresented in poetry criticism? Sina Queyras, Elisa Gabbert, Shanna Compton, Juliana Spahr, Vanessa Place, and Danielle Pafunda tackle the question.
  • “In 1840, the skull of Sir Thomas Browne was removed from the St. Peter Mancroft church, where it had reposed since 1682.” Alexander Nazaryan on the life of the polymath.
  • Where writers are rock stars: author David Mitchell is mobbed in Shanghai.
  • What fun, fearless female will be the voice of the Sex and the Single Girl audiobook?
  • “The true distinction, however, is not between novels and poems, but between poems and storytelling. The novel is a specific but not fixed form of storytelling, in the same way as the romantic lyric, or the sonnet, is a form of poetry.”
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    A Rosier Crucifixion: The Erotic World of Henry Miller

    July 26, 2012 | by

    Henry Miller has just been laughed at for rhapsodizing about Walt Whitman. He’s sore. A woman enters the apartment. Henry drags her into the bathroom. He fastens his “lips to her red mouth.”

    “Please, please,” she begged, trying to squirm out of my embrace. “You’ll disgrace me.” I knew I had to let her go. I worked fast and furiously. “I’ll let you go,” I said, “just one more kiss.” With that I backed her against the door and, without even bothering to lift her dress, I stabbed her again and again, shooting a heavy load all over her black silk front.

    I closed my copy of Miller’s The Rosy Crucifixion restored my tray table to its upright position, and avoided eye contact with the gaunt elderly woman in the aisle seat as I squeezed past her legs. Read More »

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