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Books that defined – and redefined—sexuality.


Literary erotica has been there since centuries. However, there are some timeless erotic classics. Here, some of the don’t-misses.

Kama Sutra (4th century A.D. circa):

Sage Vatsyayana’s original version, is an incredible treatise on sexual ethics, mores and techniques. It’s the mother of all sexual tomes and a great rebuttal to all who think the West corrupts our culture. Can we truly believe Vatsyayana’s chapter on "How to seduce a married woman" was a mere academic exercise?

The perfumed garden by Shaikh Umar Bin Mohammed Al Nefzawi, (16th century):

A Persian version of the kama Sutra. Good editions have lovely reproductions of medieval Persian erotic paintings. Worth it for the visuals.

Chinese Pillowbooks No one author (compiled roughly after the 4th century A.D.):

These miniature volumes of erotic paintings and instructions were placed under the pillows of newlyweds, Great for gifts.

Gita Govinda, by Jayadev, (12th century):

This devotional poetry to Lord Krishna is one of the most erotic works ever written. The poems detail every touch, taste, sound and smell of lovers.

Justine by Marquis de Sade (17th century):

A tale of a virtuous orphaned beauty forced out into the world by circumstances, is delightfully turned on its head by the nutorious Marquis. It’s written in sensitive, beautiful prose.

Poetry by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (post Restoration 17th century):

It marks the most explicitly erotic moments of English literature. Deliciously wicked, wildly adventurous and with humourous descriptions of seduction, foreplay and copulation.

Fanny Hill, The Memoris of a Woman of Pleasures, by John Cleland. (18th-19th century)

A European classic, it traces the life of a prostitute until she re-encounters her one true love and lives happily, albeit dully, ever after. It glosses over sado-masochism, homosexuality and prefers to focus on straight sex.

Delta of Venus Trilogy by Anais Nin (early 20th century):

The Delta of Venus, Little Birds and A Spy in the House of Love from the essence of Anais Nin’s erotica, who was possibily one of the best women to write on the subject. A must-read.

The story of O, Anonymous (1950-1960):

Treated with disdain by feminists, this anonymous novel explores the link between feminine subjigation and sexual fulfilment. Many of O’s responses strike a chord in many a woman.

Fear of flying by Erica Jong (Early’70s):

This is where the "zipless fuck" originated. The landmark feminist novel about a woman’s exploration of her own sexuality is actually a dud in terms of erotica. The author is too busy with her political agenda. Alas!

Emmanuelle by Emmanuelle (‘60s-‘70s):

This is more soft-porn. The series narrates the wild, quite improbable although autobiographical sexual adventures of Emmanuelle.

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