21 Oct 2010


WHOOPS! My apologies to everyone who read/commented on yesterdays post (Ode to a blogger buddy.) - an oversight on my part, I forgot to add the name of the poet and as such misled people into believing this poem was mine. My sincere apologies again.

There are only one or two things that are guaranteed to put me right off a book and explicit sex is one of them. But just what constitutes explicit sex?

Hmm. Not too sure about that, after all what is explicit to me may not be explicit to the next person. HOWEVER I think we can safely say that what used to be considered explicit would nowadays, generally speaking, not even cause the most delicate of souls to blush.

Take for example perhaps one of the most notorious book of all times - yes, I'm talking LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER which in it's day was considered outrageous and an insult to common decency.

Fifty years ago (today), amid international publicity, the Old Bailey was the venue for a trial that did more to shape 21st-century Britain than hundreds of politicians put together. The case of the Crown versus Penguin Books opened on Friday October the 21st, 1960, when courtroom officials handed copies of perhaps the most notorious novel of the century, DH Lawrence's book Lady Chatterley's Lover, to nine men and three women, and asked them to read it. They were not, however, allowed to take the book out of the jury room. Only if Penguin were acquitted of breaking the Obscene Publication Act would it be legal to distribute it.
Now that public obscenity has become commonplace, it is hard to recapture the atmosphere of a society that saw fit to ban books such as Lady Chatterley's Lover because it was likely to 'deprave and corrupt' it's readers.

On November the 2nd, after just three hours deliberation, thee jury acquitted Penguin Books of all charges (and) almost immediately the book became a best seller.

 The end of the Chatterley ban was an enormously symbolic moment, representing the end of an era in which the state had regulated private morality as well as public behaviour. Other obscenity cases followed in the next two decades, but they all tended to have the same result: a triumph for liberation, a defeat for censorship. - Dominic Sandbrook, The Daily telegraph. (click HERE for full article).

So why this article?  Like the journalist who wrote the piece I have also often wondered if anything is too obscene any more. Your opinions please.

You may be interested to know that a book by C.H. Rolph, THE TRIAL OF LADY CHATTERLEY, detailing the trial is available.


dr.antony said...

During my younger days,we were after the librarian for this book and also Nana by Emile Zola.Both were difficult to get.
I read this book long time back.By todays standards,there is nothing obscene.Kissing is obscene in India,but is it so elsewhere?What decides morality and obscenity is the social set up.
Often,those who shout about morality would be the worst. Police confiscate obscene material and take it home to enjoy secretly in their toilets.This is hypocrisy and nothing else.Let anyone do what he or she wants, so long as he is sane.

Su said...

If the question is, is anything too obscene to be made/sold/distributed, I'd say no. I wonder sometimes about those who are making this stuff-- especially obscene movies; I could never be that actor-- but if they make it, it will find an audience.

Fortunately, that audience will not be me. I have my own bedroom to think about & need not add someone else's to the mix.

BookQuoter said...

Graphic sex scenes usually turn me off a book. I just don't know the relevance to a story, we all know what they mean, don't we, it does not need to be spelled out, really. I have to read Lady Chatterly's, since I have read it eons ago and I frankly don't remember anything about it.

Patti said...

I agree with you about explicit sex. It's a turn off. What's funny is that whenever a book is banned it seems to sell really well. If no one said anything, then no one would know about these books.

Alyce said...

I'm turned off by graphic sex scenes in books too. When ridiculous euphemisms are used though it makes me laugh and roll my eyes and turns me off from the book anyway.

Oddyoddyo13 said...

Haha, funny title. Couldn't help but laugh at that one. :)

I do believe some books are very inappropriate, but that all depends on who's reading it. An adult, for example, can pick and choose whether or not they want to read that and I'd have no problem with it...just don't let a child see it. But, like the Banned Books Week, I think that sometimes they go too far when deeming some books "inappropriate".

Suko said...

Petty, I think that there's too much explicit sex and trash in some books. I do not care for this at all. Sometimes I think writers think they are being bold and daring when they write very explicit sex scenes, but to me, they are just being vulgar. Although I consider myself a feminist*, there's a lot to be said for modesty and mystery and leaving some things to the imagination. Literature should possess beauty rather than obscenity.

*meaning, equal rights/pay for men and women

StarTraci said...

What is obscene these days? It is hard to say. I think that society has always pushed the limits but it seems like we are running out of limits to push.

I'll stick with the US Supreme Court ruling from some time ago. I can't define pronography, I just know it when I see it.

I love the story about the Penguin book trial. I would love to read the book about the trial. I know that it wasn't what they wanted but that trial was probably the best marketing for a book ever.


Dorte H said...

I´m not sure anything is too obscene to *write* about, but fortunately I can choose what to *read* about.

Fortunately, I think that many writers have realized that many readers are not interested in explicit sex. I think the majority prefer hints + their own imagination.

SG said...

Describing sexual acts in detail has become very common nowadays. The author and the publishers think it will sell. Or, for that matter in anything. Name a stand up comedian who does not use sex and vulgar language to win over audience. Very rarely we come across someone like Bill Cosby.

Anonymous said...

Sex sells, so every published nowadays should have a page or two dedicated to it! It's the social set up and mentality like people above me have stated. And sex sells because it is covered with a blanket, no discussions only behind the bedroom doors or on the sly! So it's the attitude and I guess how much such a content is suppressed in a society!

It is a turn off for me... but as you said what offensive to me may not be for you...!!

circling around I guess


Kelly said...

Lots of good comments here and I agree with many of them.

I always remember my mother telling me when I was young that it was much sexier to wear clothing that leaves things to a man's imagination rather than skimpy stuff. I think it's the same with literature. I'd rather imagine a lot of scenes for myself rather than have them spelled out. Actually, I don't usually read much with a lot of sex in it. Right now I'm reading a Stepanie Plum novel and those have so much humor in them you can't help but laugh at both the sex and the profanity. They're outrageous!

Enjoyed the info you shared about "Lady Chatterly". It's been so long since I read it that I don't remember whether I thought it was terribly risque or not. Another title that I remember them "hiding" in the school library was "Mandingo" (I think??) and I don't know who wrote it or anything about it since I never read it.

susan s. said...

I read Lady Chatterly long ago. Being a US citizen, fairly young, and somewhat sheltered at the time, I wasn't really offended, but did learn a term I had never heard. I believe it was "John Thomas." It made me laugh!

Most of the sex scenes written by men are too explicit because they are just more visually oriented than women. At least that's what I think.

brizmus said...

Explicit sex is definitely the one thing that can turn me off from a book anytime as well. SOMETIMES I can get around it by ignoring the scenes, if the book is THAT good, but for the most part, I just don't want to read about that.
I really prefer for it not to even be implied. . .

NRIGirl said...

It makes me uncomfortable to even discuss this. So you know where I come from.


kavita said...

Explicit sex in books as well as in movies is there too attract more readers/viewers .I am glad we are free to make our own choices if to read/watch or not to read/watch.
Have a great weekend .

Sanand said...

It spells instant publicity and profit in some parts of the world, like in India, but thats just a cheap short cut because if you have the literary streak, you don't need to give your book or characters that kind of low treatment unless the situation urgently requires this for the book. Some of the world's best writers did without it, didn't they?

GMR said...

You know I think there are things too obscene still but for the most part it's up to the reader to determine....so I definitely agree with your point on this one.

naida said...

How times have changed. Lady Chatterly's Lover was considered indecent. But now if we go to the romance section of a bookstore, most of the covers display half naked models.
I think it's all up to the reader.


Betty Manousos @ CUT AND DRY said...

Hi Tracy,
Obviously times have changed. Many people nowadays, or today's women are, on average, more liberated and more open-minded about sex than several years ago.

That book is no no longer distinguished for the once shockingly explicit treat of the subject matter...

B xx

Betty Manousos @ CUT AND DRY said...

Ooops! I meant to say .."its subject matter" hehe