Our series starts with Dame Bodacious‘ appreciation of a classic Victorian erotic novel. Scroll to the bottom for a chance to participate and win Circlet books, and come back tomorrow when Annabeth Leong writes about a much more recent work.
Like most good suburban girls back in the days before the internet, I learned about sex from a series of less-than-reliable sources. Whispers behind cupped hands, bad B movies, and baffling pronouncements from worldly older sisters. But mostly I learned the same way my friends did — purloined romance novels, their spines conveniently cracked by our moms to automatically spread wide to the good parts. My teachers were Johanna Lindsey, Jean Auel, Kathleen Woodiwiss, and VC Andrews.
But I always sensed that I was getting a sanitized version of sex. Or at least only one flavor. I wanted … not more, exactly, but something different. I sensed, in my ‘tween mind that some essential spice was missing from the well-thumbed pages of throbbing manhoods, slick folds, and tiny heroines. Surely I wasn’t the only one getting a little frustrated at the gentle stroking, the soft touches, the delicate caresses?
None of my friends seemed to feel the same way, though. I must be a freak.
Then one day I found a cheap pulp paperback copy titled The Way of a Man with a Maid. I was standing in the romance section of my local WaldenBooks, and read a random chapter.
There were a couple of different girls. And these weren’t sighing eager girls. Our narrator kidnaps and takes them to the Snuggery where he rapes them, devising elaborate and arcane sexual tortures. They are strapped down, humiliated, and carnally punished. The women sob, writhe, plead, and scream. And, just as shocking, sometimes the women (I glanced up from the book, eyes darting furtively at the other shoppers)… sometimes the women did things to each other, too!
It was like a supernova in my brain.
And in my panties, of course.
I had to own it. Even if it was just the one chapter and the rest was all like the romance novels, I needed this book. One chapter would be enough. Buying it was no mean feat, though. The cover was white with a lascivious picture that seemed even more erotic because of the faux-Victorian outfit the woman wore. Even the author byline — “Anonymous” – seemed to scream out loud that this was a dirty book. I almost expected the book clerk to shout, “This girl, this 14 year old girl, she’s buying a pervert book!”
I’ll never know what she actually thought. Head down, I handed over the book and a crumpled $5 bill, palms sweating and cheeks hot. Once she rang me out, I shoved the book in my school bag and ran out of the store without ever looking her in the face.
At home, alone, I discovered that it wasn’t just the one chapter. In fact, the whole book was chapter after chapter of flagellation and bondage. I wasn’t the only one who thought about sex like that! Even better, in the back was a whole catalog of books that seemed to be in the same vein. My life was never the same again.
Almost thirty years later, I have read more dirty books than I can count. The Way of a Man with a Maid isn’t to precisely to my adult taste anymore. But in my mind, it’s still the book that opened the world for me — intrinsically linked in my memory with that silent burst of white heat and that dawning understanding that there was more to sex than bodice-clad heroines and square jawed heroes. It will always remain my favorite dirty book.
Dame Bodacious writes the Lilith Club books about a private club in Boston for ladies of very particular tastes. The maids are thoroughly punished for naughty behavior and the secretaries offer very specialized services. She also has a story called “Crow Luck” in the upcoming Like Fortune’s Fool.
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