Pearls in the Raw - Victorian Erotica Rediscovered

Sep 10, 04:43 PM

  Pearls in the Raw
Victorian Erotica Rediscovered

Interesting word – voluptuous. It suggests ample or full, and in the broader sense, given over to the satisfaction of sensual desires. That is no doubt why “The Pearl” is described as “A Journal of Facetiæ and Voluptuous Reading.” “The Pearl,” an underground journal published in Victorian England from July 1879 to December 1880, is an erotic treasure chest. It is one of many such treasures I discovered while writing “Sins and Secrets,” an erotic novel set in Victorian London.

The research for “Sins and Secrets” took me into the shadow of the Victorian libido. Not only did I have to study the Victorian household, the functioning of gas lights, the complex hierarchy of the British peerage and the many layers of clothing (which had to be frequently removed), I also had to delve into the darker side of the Victorian psyche.

The sexual repression of the Victorian age did not repress sexual desire. Quite the contrary. The popularity of erotic literature, the glut of prostitutes and the proliferation of brothels are historical testament to the sexual appetites of the time. Publicly denouncing sexual behavior did not stop the private exploration of intimate cravings. Such activities as canings, voyeurism, exhibitionism and illicit sex were commonplace, but always hidden. No one spoke of it, but most found partners to indulge their favorite fetish.

Another Victorian classic, “My Secret Life,” first published between 1888 and 1894, was banned for a hundred years because of its explicit content. A Victorian gentleman chronicled his lascivious exploits, using the pseudonym Walter.  Walter’s erotic stories are still considered perverse and often pornographic, even with its reissue as part of the Wordsworth Classic Erotica series.

The most interesting aspect of my immersion into Victorian sexuality is discovering the similarity to today’s avarice and taboos. Here we are, in the 21st century, still struggling with the same desires and the same denial that those desires exist. Even with the overt use of sexual images in advertising and with the seeming sexual freedom we are said to enjoy, there still exists an air of repression surrounding sexual activity. It is permissible to be titillated by pictures and innuendo, but when the libido demands more, society says uh-uh, shaking their puritanical finger under our noses.

With the current popularity of erotic romance and the explicit nature of the work, we are once again expressing our desire in words. We really want to be doing it. Much like the Victorians, we find our pleasure where we can. Sometimes that is actual experience and other times it is solely within our imaginations. Erotic literature, be it Victorian or contemporary, serves the same purpose. It provides an outlet for sexual feelings which certainly exist, but often cannot be overtly expressed.

We all crave the thrill of a licentious tryst. The danger, the excitement and the titillation of such encounters, be it now or in Victorian London, are the same. Victorian erotica speaks to the modern libido just as surely as it enticed the nineteenth century reader. The intoxicating agitation of sexual excitement is timeless.

P.F. Kozak

For further reading – available online (sexually explicit):

“The Pearl”            http://thepearl.tailfeatherz.com
“My Secret Life”   http://www.my-secret-life.com/

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