Friday, February 02, 2007

Dirty Books

This is so a Lori topic, but I found the article while reading other stuff on the EW website.

So, let's all play... what books were particularly racy or "dirty" that you read when you were a kid? And to give this topic some actual legitimacy, why do you think books that explore sex or sexuality are still so stigmatized in today's society?

Oh, and as for me, off the top of my head, I remember being particularly fascinated by the following:

CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR (and sequels) by Jean Auel
FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC (and ALL the sequels) by V. C. Andrews
HAWAII by James Michener (which I still love to this day; it's a great book)


Jodi said...

My mind is sooo squeaky clean that I first thought you meant books that should be dusted off, or have grown mold or something.

*searches for halo*


Okay, I read some V.C. Andrews, too, and Christopher Pike (which is YA, apparently, but has quite a bit of people doing IT), Mercedes Lackey, which never really described anything, but I gathered that the Heralds were having sex all the time. (When was there time to save the world?)

Once, I got ahold of a Dean Koontz book. I was amazed that someone would write about that in such detail. Didn't they know there were kids (strike)watching(/strike) reading?

Yes, I was a sheltered child. :)

Oh, there's my halo. o:)

DanStrohschein said...

When I was about ten, my mother would not allow me near a Stephen King novel. I had been inundated with horror already at that point, from my dad's love of the classic movies, and I wanted to see what the novels were like, so I snuck in a few. I've been an addicted fan ever since!

It's not just books that are stigmatized - it's everything that has to do with sexuality. Books use the readers internal imaging to paint the picture, which, as far as I am concerned, has a far more concentrated .... "effect" than a movie with the same level of detail. Why we believe that sex in general is a bad thing is beyond me - maybe because the human race feels an inability to control it. Whatever the reason, I'm glad that I had parents to censor me, so that the authors didn't have to censor themselves.

December Quinn said...

Oh, hmmm. Judy Blume, certainly. I read a few teen romances as well that were very explicit (for me, anyway, I realize in retrospect they were pretty tame) but I can't recall what they were called, except I remember in the dirtiest one the girl got pregnant and had an abortion and the teen couple realized they didn't really love each other and had given too much of themselves to each other blah blah morality tale.

Um, "Romancing the Stone" is a book I read in 6th grade and can't believe now my Mom let me read it. It was pretty racy. Then in seventh grade I found Jackie Collins and that was that!

Anonymous said...

Before I was twelve I'd read most of Judy Blume's books, Mr. And Mrs. Bo Jo Jangles, Blackboard Jungle, and my parent's book 'Everything you've ever wanted to know about sex, but were afraid to ask' (hiding behind the livingroom sofa, under the window, next to the radiator...) I read 'Go Ask Alice' in 7th grade.
My parents were cool. Both were teachers and didn't believe in any kind of censorship. They knew that we'd learn to censor ourselves.
The book that horrified me the most was a nonfiction account of the bombing of Hiroshima. I read it when I was about 8 (lying next to the radiator) and I still, to this day, have nightmares about that. I've been a rabid peacenik ever since. Sometimes getting a good shock as a child can be a valuable lesson. There is No way I would ever accept or condone dropping a nuclear weapon on Any country.

And all those sex and drug books I read? Did they shock me? Sometimes, but I learned to ask questions. I never had a child out of wedlock, never became a drug addict, and live a perfectly normal life with my husband of 25 years. And I have no hang-ups about sex at all - I write for Ellora's Cave.
I like to think it was the freedom to read whatever I wanted that contributed to my being so open minded today.
PS - my kids can read whatever they want.

Kim said...

Definitely 'Forever', by Judy Blume, which I read when I was about 14. Of course, by then I'd read everything else she'd written. There was also something by Harold Robbins that I'd found in the zillion books my mother owned (I can't remember the title, but I think it was made into a movie with Pia Zadora. Am I dating myself??) It was a lousy book, but I think it was pretty graphic in spots. Mom also read VC Andrews, but the interior covers freaked me out too badly for me to get past.

And then I, too, discovered Jackie Collins (the Lucky series)... but by then it was a lost cause.

As for my kids, I let them read whatever they want. I hate the fact that the library in my daughter's school only lets certain grades pick from certain shelves, but at least they aren't trying to ban Mark Twain yet.

Conduit said...

I read 'The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged Thirteen and 3/4' when I was in fact thirteen and a half and remember passing it back and forth between friends, all of us laughing hysterically at mentions of random erections and sprouting pubic hair.

Amid the snigger inducing smut in this book, it did a better job of letting me know what I was in for than all those 'educational' films we had to watch at school. It's amazing this book was written by a mature woman (Sue Thownsend), seeing as it perfectly captures the agony of puberty for an uncool boy entering his teens. I know it helped my a lot at the time.

I don't know about the rest of the world, but this book was MASSIVE in the UK during the eighties, even spawning a TV series. Thownsend has written a few sequels, but the ones I've read didn't quite come up to the standard set by the first, but then, what could?

Bill, the Wildcat said...

Unfortunately for me, I didn't read much as a kid (I've made up for that as an adult), but I recall a few "interesting" moments in at least two books. One was QUEEN OF SORCERY (Book Two in David "Firestarter" Eddings' "Belgariad" series). The other was Piers Anthony's BEARING AN HOURGLASS. As an adult, I realize those were rather tame, but I was a sheltered child raised in the "Bible Belt."

As for why books focused on sex or sexuality are stigmatized... That's a tough one. The Victorian Age really wasn't that long ago, so I suppose it's not surprising that people are still somewhat prudish about such things. There's also the fact that sex scenes rarely advance a story's plot. Even if the relationship of the characters involved in the sex scene plays a part in the overall storyline, the characters just aren't doing anything that advances the story. It's all that stuff leading up to the sex and the repercussions of it that usually keep things moving. A "How to Have Sex for Dummies" scene in a book can get rather boring after about ten pages of the players doing nothing but each other.

cm allison said...

Okay, I'm going to date myself here: books I read from 8 to 16 I thought of as "racy" at the time..
anything by Harold Robbins, "The Egyptian", the "Angelique" series, "East of Eden", much of R.A. Heinlein. Considering my parents let me ready anything I wanted (my book reports in fourth grade included "Hawaii", "Thomas a'Beckett", "The Red Robe") I would bounce from the above to "The Black Stallion". Bookcase at home is as eclectic even now. But that's is what makes reading FUN!

Catherine Avril Morris said...

Maia by Richard Adams!!! I read it when I was about 14, so plenty old enough to be interested but still naive enough to be a bit scandalized. Ooooh-wee, I used to reread the sex scenes over and over--very thrilling. :)

Anonymous said...

Valley of the Horses by Jean Auel - definitely.

Judy Blume - Wifey.

My mom's entire Sidney Sheldon collection (rest his soul!) - got in trouble for trying to hide "Bloodline" :-)

Tawna Fenske said...

When I was six, my mother found me sprawled on their bed poring over their illustrated copy of "The Joy of Sex."

It was all downhill from there.


Barbara Sheridan said...

I read The Godfather when I was in 8th grade and passed it aroung to a bunch of my friends and of course when the movie came out a few months later we decided that we were going to go on the opening day--we didn't know if they'd let us in because back then to get in with an R rating you had to be 16 or 17.

We lucked out with a bored college kid at the box office who didn't care as long as we had the cash in hand to pay for the tickets.

You never saw a giddier bunch of teenaged girls than we were when we actually got to see Sonny Corleone boinking his mistress up against a door while his sister's wedding reception was going on downtairs.

The Beautiful Schoolmarm said...

gI spent so much time in middle school and high school reading Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, along with a steady diet of greek mythology and tragedies that I didn't even consider most contemporary literature. I remember rereading "The Three Musketeers" and being very suprised at how many of the male characters had lovers--I didn't catch the references the first time through.

A friend of my mother gave her a box of books when I was a junior. I found the one romance novel (I don't remember the author or name) and WHOA! What a wake up! I still remember that scene, though I can't recall anything else about the book.

I didn't read another until my junior year of college, though, when I was a live-in nanny for an English professor. She had the world's largest private romance collection (almost all historical and very informative).

From a teaching perspective, I do get frustrated with good YA novels that have a lot of sex/drugs in them because I can't give them to kids without putting my job on the line.

Amie Stuart said...

LOL@TAwna! Sorry, that was funny.

Sheesh--Sydney Sheldon, VC Andrews and Jacqueline Susanns' (who will hopefully forgive me for butchering her name) Valley of the Dolls (which I still remember with much fondness *sigh*) and oh gosh, Rosemary Rogers

Kelly Swails said...

I read all the Judy Blume books, but the ones I remember most are "Tiger Eyes," "Then Again, Maybe I Won't," and "Deenie."

V.C. Andrew's "Flowers in the Attic."

My dad turned me one to Stephen King when I was a freshman in high school and I haven't turned back.

katiesandwich said...

I'm gonna go out on a limb and probably get yelled at...

I'm not sure what you have in mind when you say sexuality has been stigmatized. In a sense, I agree that it has, and I think the reason is because sex has been cheapened. To some, sex is just a fun, meaningless thing you can do with anyone you've known for ten minutes, and because of that, some people see sex as dirty--cheap. And then some of these people get all up in arms about seeing sex ANYWHERE. Well, Terry Goodkind is my favorite author, and there's sex in his books, so I'm not crusading against it. But I don't like frivilous sex, though I'm not going to harp on anyone else's choice in literature.

However (here's where I'll get yelled at), I don't see what so wrong with a little censorship when it comes to what my kids read. They're two and one, so I'm not worried about it yet, but I'm not going to overlook porn when they're fourteen. Parental censorship has gotten a bad rap because some partnes are control freaks. For them, it's a means of keeping their children in complete control, not allowing them to choose their own interests or think for themselves, and that's a gross abuse of their parental authority. But keeping an eye on your kids' bookshelves isn't always evil.

julie wright said...

Mine were: Judy Blume's Forever and Paul Zindel's My Darling My Hamburger. The "awakening" for me wasn't a good one. It left me queasy and uneasy and definitely unhappy. I was sorry I'd ever read the books and not because my parents said anything about it and not because I was a prude, but because I felt like my mind had been wrongfully and unwantedly manipulated. As an adult author writing for youth I've determined that I won't ever put sex scenes in my books. I write as my good friend Lee Modesitt writes:
1-If you've had sex, you know I cannot write it as it really is, regardless of my talent as a writer.
2-If you haven't had it, you sure as hell shouldn't be learning about it from me.

Jenny Rappaport said...

katiesandwich, you've pretty much hit it right on the head, about my views on sex in books being stigmatized. Overall, I think I'm talking more about romance and erotica here, but there are a ton of people out there that feel that literature like that is immoral, which I just feel is wrong. Sex is a natural part of human existence, and for it to be explored in books, as a coherent part of a story, makes sense to me. Lori has a great explanation about why erotica is becoming more popular nowadays, which involves feminism, among other things. I don't want to take credit for her neat views on it though, so I'll see if I can get her to write up about it on her blog.

As for censoring what your kids read, I don't see anything necessarily wrong with that, as long as it's not overdone. My parents were fairly liberal with my brother and I, when we were children, and we were pretty much allowed to read whatever we wanted. I have never, ever read at "age level", so knowing what books are appropriate for children of a certain age is hard for me.

I read JANE EYRE and did a book report on it in fourth grade. I was reading the Sweet Valley High series, when I was maybe 7 or 8. I read HAWAII (and a ton of other Michener) when I was eleven. I know that I was reading CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR by the time I was 13.

There are only two times that I distinctly remember my mother trying to censor my reading habits. The first was when I was about 11 or 12, and my older cousin gave us a bunch of Harlequins and FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC to read; my mother took away the Harlequins (they're probably in the attic somewhere still) and let me keep FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC. Around the same age, my mom finally took down her boxes of books from the attic, and I was exposed to all sorts of interesting and weird things, like THE ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TEST, many Richard Brautigan novels (which I did not like at all), and several books on sexual politics. My mom had kept them in the attic until I was old enough to read them, she said, pretty much.

Anonymous said...

Lady Chatterley's Lover, when I was 11, in Dutch. It said on the back cover that the book was banned in England and I thought that meant it had the answer to life and the Universe. About halfway through I realized that it was banned because of the sex. I found it boring. Although later, in University, one of my professors said I had an unusually good understand of DH Lawrence.

That same year, the school library wouldnt let me read Anna and the King of Siam. Apparently I wasnt old enough to read that.

Katey Coffing, Ph.D. said...

Judy Blume's Forever and Wifey. Quite a step up from Superfudge and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing! =-)

Kim said...

Katiesandwich, I couldn't agree more. I don't think that deeming something as appropriate for your kid is censorship. After all, you know your children and what they can or can't handle better than anyone. That's called being a good parent and I'm all for that. And knowing what's on their bookshelf is kind of like knowing who their friends are, what music they're listening to, and what's going on in their lives. That's what you're supposed to do as a parent.

That said, I do, however, have a problem when someone ELSE decides what MY kid can and can't read. It's not anyone else's call aside from mine or their dad's. It's the same reason why I don't agree with album stickering and movie ratings. Even if a movie is PG, I read reviews and talk to people who've seen it before I decide whether my daughter can see it. But for someone to tell me I can't because it's obscene or whatever, well, they're stepping over the line there.

It should be left up to each parent how much sex/drugs/violence they want their kid exposed to, and they need to see in what context such subject matter is used.

word ver - qzfurfp - I've been getting some real gigglers over the past few days~ :)

James Dashner said...

For me it was the obvious sexual tension between Chet and Frank in the Hardy Boys books.

Okay, not really. Definitely Stephen King. I read "It" when I was ten I think, and there's a lot in there. I'm sure it's a coincidence that I went on to read every King book I could get my hands on.

Sorry, but I find it somewhat odd that Judy Blume used the same name to write stuff for little kids and then for older, mature teens and adults. Caught many a kid unawares, including me. Not that I was complaining....

Rashenbo said...

I read Clan of the Cave Bear in the 8th grade. I read several of my mother's Harlequin Temptations in the 6th grade... I also read several of my father's Gor books... I was probably in the 6th or 7th grade. It was definitely naughty!

littlebirdblue said...

And here, I thought I was going to be the only one with

MAIA (Catherine! you strike again, Grrrl!)

And The Gor Books (hey, Rashenbo!).

And Heinlein, for sure for sure (Friday!)

Also, I was a foreign exchange student to Denmark in the tenth grade (--is that still a child? I didn't *feel* like one--). I was living in a small town, and desperate for books in English. I began to read the entire English language section of the biblioteket (the library) left to right. I ended up reading Maia, Lolita, Rubyfruit Jungle, Fanny Hill, and every single Erica Jong book (my favorite was The Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones).

Quite a year.

whitemouse said...

I remember my mom read Maia and then burned it afterward, so we kids wouldn't get our hands on it.

A few years later, I picked it up at a bookstore and read a little out of curiosity.

I found icky and left it where I found it. Really, she needn't have bothered.

katiesandwich said...

Jenny, thanks for responding and clearing things up for me. And on a completely different note, am I the only person here who hasn't read any VC Andrews or Clan of the Cave Bear?

Julie Wright, "My Darling, My Hamburger" was a bad experience for me, too. Isn't that the one where the girl has an abortion? I was thirteen when I read it, and my parents had never explained to me what abortion was, so I definitely wasn't ready for that.

Jordan Summers said...

I've never read V.C. Andrews or Clan of the Cave Bear, although the latter was explained in a writing class I had my freshman year of high school. (My guess is my teacher snuck that one by, bless his heart.) Like so many others, I read Judy Blume. I also read a book called Ghost Fox. Can't remember who wrote it, but it made such an impression on me that I decided to write romance. *ggg* Later found out it wasn't a romance novel at all.

As for sex not forwarding a story, that only occurs if the scenes are written poorly. :) Three of the best authors at moving a story forward through sex scenes are Emma Holly, Angela Knight, and Alison Kent.

Sten Düring said...

From Sweden here.

I have to say the topic makes me smile.
I'm more used to a general attitude that goes: Is the kid reading without an explicit order? Good!

Having a chat with us kids if we wondered about something was just considered good tone.

For some peculiar reason I believe most parents were fully able to realize that reading juicy books stole time that non-reading teenagers used to drink themselves to a stupor.


Colleen Gleason said...

Well, the Judy Blume books for sure--especially FOREVER.

And I remember flaunting the fact that in 8th grade I was reading the book called The Bastard. In a Catholic school, no less. LOL.

I didn't get into really dirty books until I found Bertrice Small, must've been in late high school. Woohoo.

Anonymous said...

V.C. Andrews and Kathleen Woodiwiss.
My parents never monitored what I was reading but the school did. Silly because I went to the public library instead.
And, just for the record, I want to noted that I had a child out of wedlock and I don't think its because of what I read or because I am a bad person.

Jenny Rappaport said...

Oooh, colleen gleason commenting on my blog! How neat! Your book is one of the ones that I want to pick up to read this year. =)

kiwi said...

Shame on you all! I have flagged this page with blogger as containing objectionable content.

P.S no one's mentioned Gabaldon, particularly, 'a private matter' ... too common?

Anonymous said...

And no one else read (and passed around in the lunchroom) Shirley Conran's "Lace"? Goodness, that book was...educational.

barkingkitten said...

My goodness--how about Judith Krantz? I read Scruples when I was around 12. It OPENS with Billie making it with the pilot flying her back from her hubby's funeral.

Sheldon's The Other Side of Midnight....

More Krantz. Judy Blume, of course. And who could forget Harold Robbins' Goodbye, Janette? Gosh, it was trashy.

My tastes have changed for the better since.....

Nathalie Mallet said...

Okay, when I was about twelve, I got my grubby little hands on my mom’s copies of VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and THE LOVE MACHINE by Jacqueline Susann. Now that’s trashy! :O