WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Emmanuelle is 19, newly married, and traveling from Paris to Bangkok to join her husband and begin the adventure that will be their new life together.
REASON FOR THE FUSS: For starters, she has sex with not one but two men on the flight over. "Emmanuelle" is actually a series of explicit erotic fantasies in which our heroine has lots and lots of sex with lots of different men and women, even her husband. Emmanuelle Arsan's book was published in France in 1967, translated to English in 1971, and then made into a series of softcore porn flicks.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A European professor moves to an American suburb, rents a room in a widow's home, marries her and, after the woman's sudden death, cares for her 12-year-old daughter.
REASON FOR THE FUSS: The professor, one Humbert Humbert, is a major perv. He only married the woman so he could be near her 12-year-old offspring. As soon as his wife dies he takes young Dolores, whom he calls Lolita, to a hotel, drugs her and eventually has sex with her. Although recognized as a classic of 20th century literature, Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel remains one of the most controversial of all time.
The Happy Hooker
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A Dutch beauty moves to New York in the '60s, finds work as a secretary, but quickly grows bored with her job and leaves it to find new and exciting ways to earn her keep.
REASON FOR THE FUSS: Born Vera de Vries, the author of this best seller is better known as Xaviera Hollander. In 1968, she quit her desk job at the Dutch consulate and became a $1,000-a-night Manhattan call girl. Three years later she was arrested and forced to leave the country. Her explicit memoir of life as a prostitute—complete with bondage, lesbian sex, pretty much everything—was an instant sensation.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Constance and Clifford get married. Clifford goes off to the Great War and is wounded, leaving him partially paralyzed from the waist down—and completely impotent.
REASON FOR THE FUSS: D.H. Lawrence wrote the book in 1928, but it wasn't until 1960 that "Chatterley" was published in the U.K. Constance's sexual exploits with men other than her afflicted husband were scandalous enough, but the use of language is what really brought heat to the book. Words like "fuck" and "cunt" were not easily printable in those days. The book landed Penguin, its British publisher, in court under the Obscene Publications Act 1959.
The Sensuous Woman
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: According to the publisher, Joan Garrity's book offers a "step-by-step program that allows every woman to free her body ... and realize her tremendous feminine capacity for giving and receiving pleasure."
REASON FOR THE FUSS: This was 1969, people. A book that devotes an entire chapter to teaching women how to masturbate was bound to cause an uproar. Garrity didn't even publish "The Sensuous Woman" under her real name, choosing the pseudonym "J" instead.
Story of O
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: O is a beautiful young Frenchwoman trying to make her way in the exciting world of fashion photography.
REASON FOR THE FUSS: She and her lover belong to a secret society where women are required to be sexually submissive to all the men who are members. O is regularly stripped, chained and whipped—even branded on her buttocks. Novelist Anne Desclos didn't even reveal herself as the book's author until four decades after it was first published, in 1954.
The Joy of Sex
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: "Joy" is an illustrated sex manual by British physician Alex Comfort that was first published in 1972. The idea was to take a cookbook's approach to sex, complete with illustrations.
REASON FOR THE FUSS: See above.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Frances "Fanny" Hill pens letter after letter to an unknown woman. In the letters, which comprise the entire book, we witness Fanny's life, from the time she is orphaned at 15 until she becomes a mother herself.
REASON FOR THE FUSS: Fanny winds up in a brothel right after she's orphaned, where a woman shares her bed and teaches her about sexual pleasure. She masturbates watching the madam having sex with an especially well-endowed man. You get the idea. Published in 1748, John Cleland's "Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure" (the book's actual title) is wall-to-wall sex, and led to the first known obscenity case in the U.S., in 1821.
Valley of the Dolls
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A naïve New England gal moves to New York and becomes friends with a young and up-and-coming singer. The singer turns into a major threat to two other women—one an aging star, the other a looker without much talent—and things quickly unravel for everybody from there.
REASON FOR THE FUSS: The "dolls" referred to by the title of Jacqueline Susann's best-seller were drugs—sleeping pills, uppers, downers—abused by the characters in the novel. In 1966 America, this was positively scandalous.
Delta of Venus
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: "Delta of Venus" is a collection of short stories that Anais Nin wrote in the 1940s—under commission and for a private client, not a publisher. The stories were released posthumously in 1977.
REASON FOR THE FUSS: Nin's client's interests were confined to erotica: "Marianne grew desperate. She pushed his hand away, took his sex into her mouth again, and with her two hands she encircled his sexual parts, caressed him and absorbed him until he came."
Tropic of Cancer
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Basically, "Tropic of Cancer" is a book that spans a year in the life of Henry Miller while he was living in Paris in the 1930s.
REASON FOR THE FUSS: When it comes to his sex life Miller holds nothing back. Sample line: "There is a bone in my prick six inches long. I will ream out every wrinkle in your cunt ..." The novel, described on its first page as "a gob of spit in the face of Art," was published in France in 1934. When Grove Press brought it to the U.S. in 1961, it led to an obscenity trial.
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)
WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Written by physician David Reuben in 1969, "Everything…" was one of the first sex manuals from the era and became a big part of the Sexual Revolution.
REASON FOR THE FUSS: Actually, the book was a huge best seller that achieved mainstream acceptance, and was even parodied by Woody Allen in his 1972 film of the same name. The only fuss was in your head, when someone caught you reading it.
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