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Three of the Most Erotic/Disturbing Scenes In Literature

February 14, 2010

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I figured, how about I share some of literature’s steamiest stuff? I purposely didn’t include the drivel of romance novels I read in my middle school years (all satisfyingly erotic, albeit homogeneous in plot), but here’s a list of some of the best erotic scenes I’ve read, largely in literary fiction. They all turned me on, though at times I was as disturbed as I was aroused:

1.   Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: Okay, we get it, Humbert is a jerk, but one of my favorite passages of all time is also Humbert’s most erotic, and most selfless. It describes his desire to “bury his face” under the skirt of Lolita, his nymphet, who is completely uninterested:

Sometimes…while Lolita would be haphazardly preparing her homework, sucking a pencil, lolling sideways in an easy chair with both legs over its arm, I would shed all my pedagogic restraint, dismiss all our quarrels, forget all my masculine pride–and literally crawl on my knees to your chair, my Lolita! You would give me one look—one furry grey question mark of a look: “Oh no, not again” (incredulity, exasperation); for you never deigned to believe that I could, without any specific designs, ever crave to bury my face in your plaid skirt, my darling! The fragility of those bare arms of yours, a folded colt, and take your head between my unworthy hands, and pull the temple-skin back on both sides, and kiss your chinesed eyes, and—”Pulease, leave me alone, will you,” you would say, “for Christ’s sake leave me alone….

2.    The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving: Among other things, the novel revolves around John and Franny, a brother and sister who lust after each other. They finally decide they will get their lust out of their system by conditioning themselves, aka,  having sex until it turns unbearable. This struggle to force their love for each other out by engaging in a painful, day’s-long, continuous orgy is immediately poignant and strange:

It is improper to describe making love to one’s sister. Does it suffice to say it got “great,” and it became even greater?…

‘Are you sore?’ I whispered. ‘Of course I’m sore! she said. ‘But you better not stop. If you stop, I’ll kill you,’ Franny told me. She would have to, I realized later. In a way—if I had stayed in love with her—she would have been the death of me; we would have been the death of each other….

‘There!’ she cried, when she felt me shaking. ‘There, there,’ she said, soothingly. ‘That’s it, that’s all she wrote,’ she murmured. ‘That’s the end of it. Now we’re free. Now that’s over….’

3. “Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines” by Amy Bloom: There’s no sex in this short story about a large teenage girl who grows to find herself beautiful through the eyes of a clothing store owner named Mr. Klein. Yet the entire time I wanted her to have sexual contact with him, and I found myself supporting this semi-creepy liaison between teenage girl and older man, a masterpiece that Bloom delivers by never quite spilling all the details:

I bit into the last chocolate. ‘Here, you have some too.’ ‘No, they’re for you. They were all for you.’ ‘I’m not that hungry. Here.’ I held out the chocolate half and he lowered his head, startling me. I put my fingers up to his narrow lips and he took the chocolate neatly between his teeth. I could feel the very edge of his teeth against my fingers…

[Later, after things have ended with Mr. Klein] I took lessons from Mr. Cannetti [a piano teacher] for three years, and he served me wine-flavored cookies instead of chocolate. One day, he bent forward to push my sleeves bck over my aching wrists, and I saw my beautiful self take place in his eyes. I loved him, too.

BONUSBreaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer: Now the much-anticipated sex scene between Edward and Bella didn’t turn me on, but the notion that whenever they have sex Bella blacks out, wakes up bruised, and finds her pillow torn to shreds sound very disturbing to me. Not exactly light fare, is it? Just something I was pondering.

What literature has turned you on? Did you feel ashamed, uncomfortable? How is eroticism and sex used in literature to explore the human condition? When is it gratuitous? Also, have you read any of the books/stories I listed? How did you feel about them?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. ThisIsNotAPerson permalink
    February 15, 2010 11:00 am

    Only one I’ve read is Lolita and I still feel it was more disturbing than sexy. It’s well-written, but at the end of the day the guy was a nasty dude.

    • February 15, 2010 11:08 am

      I definitely see your angle, and I feel like there are sympathizers for either side. I’ve always managed to sympathize with Humbert and still know that what he’s doing is wrong, but I can’t help but love him for his prose, for his disease (because it is a disease). Also, this scene for me felt different from the other scenes where Humbert takes advantage of Lolita: here he’s hoping to service her instead of forcing her to service him. It doesn’t excuse his actions, but it is a touching moment.

  2. aki permalink
    October 16, 2010 10:53 am

    I really liked what you have written here! all these subtleness… rather than actual sex scenes.
    I might add my personal favorite; Gabriel Garcia Marquez ” Of Love and Other Demons”;
    I cannot use the quote since my copy itself is lost but there is a scene that a very rich marquesa buys a beautiful murato slave man and puts him in a bedroom right next to her own. While she leaves her bedroom door open, he doesn’t visit her and she becomes disappointed and locks her door. Then he enters her bedroom through window, makes love to her calling “puta, puta(whore)”… When I first read that , it gave me goose-bumps. He didn’t elaborate much but how he made me felt that way? Mr. Marquez, you are genius….

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