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literature

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

     
Erotica and Pornography  
 
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The stories collected by John Patrick (b. 1943) in such anthologies as Unforgettable (1994) are additional evidence of the vitality of the trend toward shorter forms. Patrick's own widely admired voyeuristic stream-of-consciousness novellas recounting life in the video porn industry have been collected in one volume as Angel (1991).

Less well-controlled than the fiction in the slick gay magazines and the anthologies are the sometimes even more exciting although often crudely written reminiscences of S.T.H. (Straight to Hell), periodically collected in book form by Boyd McDonald (1925-1993).

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The unashamed raunchiness of these nonprofessional writers often expresses a highly developed political consciousness, at least as nurtured by McDonald and framed by his social commentary.

Fritscher began his career in pornography as editor of another such true-confessions magazine, Man to Man. Other amateur writers, constrained by copyright laws, circulate in a thriving underground gay pornographic stories about "Star Trek" characters and contribute to "gayzine" publications.

Lesbian Pornography

Of genuine lesbian pornography, there can be no history as such before 1969. Because straight men double their pleasure by fantasizing about two women at the same time, down the centuries there are innumerable scenes of woman-with-woman eroticism in straight pornography and even works focused on such material.

But since women in general have preferred a romantic rather than a carnal view of sexuality, writings about women intended to arouse them to interest in other women are scarce and also not easy to identify amid the pseudonymity of most woman-with-woman historical pornography. Such historical material may have helped some lesbians of the past understand their own desires.

The lesbian pulp novels of the 1950s and 1960s certainly helped many women define themselves, but they are for the most part not explicit, and to the extent they are, their explicitness is not directed to women's sensibilities.

Lisa Henderson describes the quality that defines the character of genuine lesbian eroticism as explicit material empowered by "framing." Woman-with-woman material genuinely intended for lesbians addresses the psychological issue of power and control by reassuring the reader that submissive acts are voluntary not capitulatory and that danger is only play.

This character of lesbian pornography has undoubtedly emerged in part because of the problematic nature of pornography in general for many women.

Nevertheless, in the last decades of the twentieth century, women have gone beyond the overt but not sexually explicit lesbianism of Odd Girl Out (1957) by Ann Bannon (b. 1932) and begun to write erotically about relationships with other women without the reticent romantic fantasy of Challenge (1924) by Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962) or Orlando (1928) by Virginia Woolf (1892-1941), without the apologia of a novel like The Well of Loneliness (1928) by Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943), and without the intention of stimulating the male reader of Delta of Venus (1969) by Anaïs Nin (1903-1977).

The breakthrough novel giving unapologetic lesbian subject matter mainstream respectability is Rubyfruit Jungle (1973) by Rita Mae Brown (b. 1944). But although censorable by traditional standards and reassuring by modern ones, this is in no sense an arousing work.

The tendency among women is still toward a more romantic approach to sex, discrediting the insistent emphasis on sexual mechanics and visual detail that distinguishes gay male pornography today in particular and much pornography by and for men in general throughout history.

The Naiad Press is committed to publishing such romantic lesbiana; this press has also made available to the general lesbian reading public Lifting Belly, the erotic but sometimes childish evocation of her domestic life that Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was not able to publish in her own lifetime.

Some major voices of a new lesbian eroticism have emerged. In light-hearted adventure novels like Dancer Dawkins and the California Kid (1985) and Dead Heat (1988), Willyce Kim (b. 1946) includes perhaps more story and less sex than is usual in male material, but as The Feminist Bookstore News suggests, her works "make clear the difference between merely describing lesbian relationships and delighting in them."

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